Sunday, 25 February 2024

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LAKE COUNTY – As the state does battle in court over its decision to divert transit funding from agencies around California, Lake Transit Authority is receiving more than $1.1 million in federal stimulus funding which will help it bridge a critical funding gap.


Caltrans announced this week that Lake Transit was among several rural North Coast transit agencies receiving more than $3 million in funds from the American Recover and Reinvestment Act of 2009.


Lake Transit Authority received the most of any North Coast transit group, with an award of $1,113,956 for replacement buses and to catch up on preventative maintenance.


In Del Norte County, Redwood Coast Transit was awarded $484,529, the city of Arcata received $220,000, the city of Eureka was awarded $150,000, Humboldt Transit Authority was awarded $519,516 and Mendocino Transit Authority received $606,000.


Caltrans reported that, statewide, $34 million was awarded to 77 rural agencies.


Lake Transit General Manager Mark Wall said they began monitoring the stimulus bill at the start of the year. He said they talked to Congressman Mike Thompson's office in order to try to influence the bill.


At the same time, they were trying to find a way to close the funding gap after the state diverted all transit funding.


“We lost 100 percent of our transit funds,” he said, which amounts to about $500,000, or 25 percent of the agency's operational budget.


Overall, the award equals nearly a third of the agency's 2009-10 budget, which includes $2,025,000 for operations and $1.5 million for capital, Wall said.


Actually applying for the stimulus funds was much like the process of applying for regular federal grant funding, which Lake Transit receives every year. “The process was similar but a little more complex this time,” Wall said, with more reporting, required monthly, on these funds.


The stimulus money included no operating funds, but it did provide preventive maintenance, some of which Lake Transit was having to take from its operational budget. Wall said that helped them make their budget this year.


A total of four applications were required to get all of the funding, Wall said.


Wall said they received $205,946 for three smaller, paratransit buses and $205,000 for preventive maintenance.


They also were able to apply for intercity funding because they operate routes outside of the county, he said.


Lake Transit received $360,000 to replace four of its larger buses, $24,000 for equipment such as radios and $120,000 for bus shelters.


“We did pretty well,” he said.


Wall said they're now in the process of having to “hurry up and spend it.”


He said Caltrans was swamped with those and other grant applications from around the state. Phil Frisbie of Caltrans' District 1 office in Eureka said those applications are being processed in the agency's Sacramento office.


Wall said Lake Transit is kind of in “survival mode,” so looking into purchasing hybrid buses is off into the future.


He said their priorities are to keep everything operating, replace the buses that need to be retired out and put in bus shelters.


If they hadn't received the federal grants, said Wall, “We would have had to cut a couple of bus routes,” and the lack of funding for vehicles could have led to reliability issues.


“So this is essential to us,” he said.


Battle over state funding continues


Despite the fact that voters approved statewide propositions such as 116 and 108, which allocated funds to transportation, the governor and the legislature diverted the funds away from agencies like Lake Transit, said Wall.


At the beginning of the year, Lake Transit was told it would receive $501,000 from the state transit system, an amount which had grown from $285,000 several years before due to the inflation in gas prices. The laws included an increase for agencies based on inflation.


“When gas prices go up suddenly, transit agencies naturally pay a lot more for fuel,” and the demand for ridership grows, Wall said.


Wall said Lake Transit's ridership grew significantly when gas prices peaked, and they've kept many of those riders even after prices dropped.


The California Transit Association sued the state over the fund raid and won. The Schwarzenegger administration appealed, but the Third Appellate Court upheld the ruling and declared the public transit funding raids illegal.


The case has since been submitted to the California Supreme Court, said California Transit Association spokesman Jeff Wagner.


Wagner said it's estimated that the state has taken nearly $4 billion since the association filed its suit in 2007.


He told Lake County News that the association has yet to be notified about whether the California Supreme Court will hear the case. The court typically observes a 60-day self-imposed deadline to decide on appeal petitions, and the deadline is fast approaching, since the state's appeal was filed on Aug. 11.


If the court does accept the case, a decision could occur around March 2010, but he said it's conceivable there could be a delay in action to buy the Legislature and administration another budget cycle to get their house in order.


Wagner said the association has been advised the the court can't compel the Legislature to repay the money that it has taken, although state officials have indicated that they would be liable for the funds. “We’re not certain how the court might ultimately rule on that aspect of things,” he said.


That leaves the association in a holding pattern for now, he said.


Wall said if the appellate court decision is upheld, Lake Transit is owned more than $1.4 million in back funds.


“We need that money,” he said.


“When we look ahead another year or so, we get out to 2011, and we may be cutting service, because this federal money will be gone,” he said.


Lake Transit is currently in the process of implementing some new changes, including adding service to its route three, from Clearlake to Calistoga and St. Helena. People wanting to travel back and forth to Napa County will find that they have more schedule options, including Saturday operations.


In addition, Lake Transit has taken their route one, from Clearlake to Lakeport, and made it into two routes. One of those routes, route eight, is a Lakeport loop that runs every two hours. The main route one won't see a real change, Wall added.


He said those changes should soon be included on Lake Transit's Web site, www.laketransit.org/ .


E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at http://twitter.com/LakeCoNews .

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The Konocti Challenge will circle Lake County this Saturday, October 3, 2009. Courtesy photo.

 

 

 

 

LAKEPORT – A great way to enjoy Lake County is from a bicycle, and this weekend it's once again time to saddle up for the annual Konocti Challenge.


The 19th annual event will take off from Lakeport on the morning of Saturday, Oct. 3, with rides for all ages and fitness levels.


“It's a great way to see the county,” said Rotarian and Ride Director Jennifer Strong.


Strong said the Konocti Challenge is the only event that showcases nearly all of Lake County. The only area the ride doesn't extend to is Middletown.


The Konocti Challenge is one of the biggest annual fundraisers for the Lakeport Rotary, which took the event over from the Lakeport Regional Chamber of Commerce about 12 years ago, said Strong.


She and a dedicated committee of five work on the event year round, with all of the Lakeport Rotarians working the event itself.


Strong said the event usually nets between $8,000 and $10,000 for the club, although last year was particularly good, with the challenge bringing in $12,000 that was used for the Rotary's local efforts.


“All of the funds raised go to an extremely good cause,” she said.


Last year's ride also drew 450 participants from all over California and a total of eight states, Strong said.


They have high hopes for another great event this year, with beautiful fall weather in the 70s expected Saturday, according to Strong.


The ride has four courses, all of which start and end at the Lakeport Yacht Club at 15 Fifth St., said Strong.


“There's something for everybody,” she said.


The courses include a 19-miler for families which leads down to the Gnarly Dude Ranch on Steelhead Drive, and which includes Rotary escorts for children riding without their families; a 30-mile course that winds through the resort and vineyard sections in Big Valley and Lakeport; a 65-mile adventure course along the lakeshore; and the endurance-testing 100-mile course around the lake, then up Cobb Mountain.


Riders in the 30-mile course leave between 8:30 a.m. and 10 a.m., while 65- and 100-mile riders leave between 7 a.m. and 8:30 a.m.


The 100-miler is a serious ride for avid cyclists that includes 6,200 feet of climbing. “It's rated as extremely difficult in the cycling world,” said Strong.


Helping keep riders on track will be six rest stops along the way, run by local nonprofit groups including Hospice Services of Lake County, Clearlake Rotary, Early Lake Lions, Operation Tango Mike and People Services, Strong said.


The rest stop groups compete for votes from riders, with whoever wins getting a $500 donation from Rotary. Strong said Operation Tango Mike won last year.


Along with rest stops, there will be about 12 to 15 vehicles on the road to pick up riders and assist with flat tires, Strong said. “There is a lot of support for the ride.”


After the ride, Kenny Parlet of Lakeview Market will host a barbecue back at the Lakeport Yacht Club, Strong said.


She explained that riders can sign up online at the event's Web site, www.konoctichallenge.com , until Thursday at 8 p.m. They also can sign up at the Lakeport Yacht Club from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Friday and on the morning of the event.


For more information visit the Web site or call Strong at 707-349-0815.


E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at http://twitter.com/LakeCoNews .

LAKE COUNTY – A 22-year-old Clearlake man who escaped from the Lake County Jail earlier this month has been arrested.


Herbert Alexander Preston was arrested by the San Francisco Police Department this past Saturday, Sept. 26, according to a Tuesday report from Capt. James Bauman of the Lake County Sheriff's Office.


Preston had escaped from the jail on Sept. 6. He'd last been accounted for by jail officials at about 9 a.m. that day as he and a group of fellow inmates were going to church services at the jail, according to Bauman's initial report on the escape.


About an hour after Preston was seen heading to church, sheriff's deputies received a report of a male subject swimming in Clear Lake and getting out of the water wearing denim clothing and boots that matched the clothing issued to minimum security inmates. The man was seen in the Lafferty Road area in north Lakeport, but deputies were unable to find him.


Bauman said the Lake County Jail was notified Saturday that Preston had been arrested in San Francisco. Preston was booked at the San Francisco County Jail on Saturday on fresh misdemeanor charges of illegally possessing a motor vehicle master key and giving false identification to a peace officer, as well as the arrest warrant for his escape from the Lake County Jail.


Further details of Preston’s arrest in San Francisco are currently unavailable, Bauman said.


Preston will remain in custody in San Francisco until extradited back to Lake County to answer for his escape charges, said Bauman.


On July 29 Preston was arrested by Clearlake Police and booked into the jail on charges of vehicle theft, receiving stolen property, and hit and run. Bauman said Preston also has a pending warrant out of Sonoma County and an open case with the Santa Rosa Police Department.

LOWER LAKE – After much anticipation and hard work by people around the county and country, the very first “People's Choice Wine Awards” will be held this Saturday, Oct. 3.


Hosted by the Lake County Winery Association at Six Sigma Ranch and Winery, the competition will determine the winners in the first ever, comprehensive judging of Lake County wines.


The competition will culminate in a tasting that will take place from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Six Sigma Ranch and Winery, 13372 Spruce Grove Rd., Lower Lake.


Kaj Ahlmann, chairman of the Lake County Winery Association, said the competition is a great way to spread the word about Lake County's outstanding wines.


The contest is in two parts, the first of which took place in August when a panel of professional wine judges narrowed down the field of 168 wines down to 38 of the best that Lake County has to offer.


The prestigious panel of judges, made up of wine experts from around the country, included Steve Heimoff of The Wine Enthusiast Magazine; Deborah Parker Wong of The Tasting Panel Magazine; Traci Dutton of Culinary Institute of America; Doug Frost, master sommelier and master of wine; Chris Sawyer, “sommelier to the stars”; Tom DiNardo, sommelier and wine appraiser; Bob Foster, California Grapevine Newsletter; Alan Goldfarb, AppellationAmerica.com; Mike Dunne, Sacramento Bee; and Martha Dunne, Winegigs.com.


The second part of the competition is where the “people’s choice” aspect is engaged, and that is what is taking place this Saturday.


The public is invited to come and judge for themselves the best of what Lake County's wines. Attendees of the inaugural event will have the opportunity to blind taste all 38 of the judges’ nominations.


In addition to the finalists there will be 20 other wines to sample which earned from the judges awards of distinction.


Food will also be available, provided by Teo’s Lakeside Bistro, Nice; Main Street Pizza, Lakeport; Bigg's 155 Diner, Lakeport; and Twin Pine Casino's Manzanita Restaurant, Middletown.


Tickets are $25. You must be 21 years of age or older to purchase.


For more information, call 707-994-4068 or 707-355-2762 or visit www.lakecountywineries.org .


Ross A. Christensen is Lake County News' food and wine writer. Follow him on Twitter, http://twitter.com/Foodiefreak .

SONOMA COUNTY – A Kelseyville teenager arrested earlier this year for the shooting death of a Santa Rosa man will not be prosecuted for the murder, with another man now facing the primary charges in the case.


Santa Rosa Police arrested 17-year-old Marco Antonio Meza April 8, two days after the alleged driveby shooting of 18-year-old Luis Suarez, as Lake County News has reported.


Arrested with Meza, a suspected Sureno gang member, was Fernando Mendoza of Santa Rosa, who police said at the time was arrested for a parole violation.


But on Tuesday the Sonoma County District Attorney Stephan Passalacqua reported that a “continuing and cooperative investigation” between his office and the Santa Rosa Police Department had led to a first-degree murder charge being filed against the 21-year-old Mendoza, and the murder charge against Meza being dropped.


“Our office and the Santa Rosa Police Department consider not only incriminating evidence, but exonerating evidence, as well,” Passalacqua said. “When new evidence surfaced, we jointly investigated it thoroughly, resulting in not only the dismissal of a murder charge against one person but the issuance of an arrest warrant on the person we believe is responsible.”


Passalacqua said Mendoza also faces special allegations related to benefiting a criminal street gang and personal use of a firearm. Mendoza is due to be arraigned on the charges Oct. 15, with Deputy District Attorney Troye Shaffer assigned to prosecute the case.


Meza, whose name was previously released by police in connection with the case, was not named specifically in Passalacqua's Tuesday statement.


The initial investigation – led by Santa Rosa Police Det. Brad Connors and Sgt Steve Fraga of the Violent Crimes Investigation Team – focused on the teenager, who Passalacqua said sent incriminating text messages to a third party claiming that he committed Suarez's murder.


However, based on the new evidence, an arrest warrant was issued for Mendoza and the murder charges were dismissed on Sept. 23 against Meza, who faced being tried as an adult, Passalacqua said.


While Meza no longer faces the murder charge, he's facing charges related to the case that are now pending in juvenile court, Passalacqua reported.


Passalacqua's office said the juvenile proceedings are confidential under California law and cannot be disclosed to the public.


E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at http://twitter.com/LakeCoNews .

LAKE COUNTY – The 19th annual “Make A Difference Day” will be marked this month.


Billed as America's largest day of doing good, Make A Difference Day is scheduled to take place on Saturday, Oct. 24.


The Lake County Office of Education’s AmeriCorps program is holding its 10th annual “Make A Difference Day” food drive on that date from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.


The event is a collaboration between the Lake County Office of Education’s AmeriCorps Program, the Lake County Hunger Task Force, Catholic Charities and the Lake County Community Action Agency.


During the years the food drive has collected and distributed more than 25,000 pounds of nonperishable foods within Lake County.


All donations are distributed to local families though the Lake County Community Action Agency in Clearlake and Lakeport, Catholic Charities based in Middletown, and all Lake County senior centers.


Volunteers will be collecting food at Hardester's Market in Middletown, Cobb and Coyote Valley; Safeway in Clearlake and Lakeport; Ray's Food Place in Clearlake; Red & White Market in Clearlake Oaks; Sentry Market in Nice; and Bruno’s Shop Smart and Grocery Outlet in Lakeport.


If you are interested in volunteering for this or one of the many other opportunities available here in Lake County, call your local AmeriCorps office at 707-263-6291 for more information.

LOWER LAKE – The victim of a fatal crash that occurred late last week near Middletown has been identified.


Albert Gene Brandon, 47, of Lower Lake was the victim of the crash, which occurred early on the morning of Sept. 25, according to Capt. James Bauman of the Lake County Sheriff's Office.


Brandon died when his vehicle went off of Butts Canyon Road, a mile and a half east of Highway 29, then overturned and hit a utility pole, as Lake County News has reported.


The California Highway Patrol investigation found that Brandon was wearing his seat belt and his car's airbag had deployed.


E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at http://twitter.com/LakeCoNews .

MENDOCINO COUNTY – Two Lake County residents were among 38 people arrested or charged last week during a series of marijuana sweeps around Mendocino County that netted more than 49,000 illegally grown marijuana plants.


Hallie King, 19, and Anthony Crisanti, 37, both of Nice, were among those arrested, according to a Monday report from Lt. Rusty Noe of the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office.


Noe said that from Sept. 22 to 24 a large multiagency marijuana eradication and investigation operation took place, with the raids led by the Mendocino County Sheriff's marijuana investigative team and COMMET.


Assisting in the operation were agents from the Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement, Campaign Against Marijuana Planting, Drug Enforcement Administration, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, California Parole and Mendocino County Probation, Noe said.


Approximately 49,091 marijuana plants were taken during the eradications, according to Noe's report.


Noe said the raids were a result in a series of investigations of large scale marijuana growing operations in the Laytonville area. The investigations were from citizens reports as well as cases developed from over-flights conducted by law enforcement.


In addition to King and Crisanti, those charged with cultivation and possession of marijuana for sale included Stephen McKernan, 33, of Laytonville; James McLean, 28, of Philadelphia; Pedro Vasquez, 37, of Springfield, Ore.; Stephen Caverly, 60, of Santa Rosa; Shawn Caverly, 21, of Kailua, Hawaii; Denise Hoge, 24, of Willits; Frederick Gaestel, 20, of Beuville, New Jersey; Ryan Zembo, 19, of Roseville; Joseph Hahnz, 42, of Sacramento; Micco Chahte, 32, of Vacaville; Chelsea Garner-Prohs, 27, of Riverside; Jessy Greulich, 29, of Willits; Canadian citizen Erin Doncaster, 23; Scott McKendrick, 25, of Crested Butte, Colo.; Peter Laskarin, 36, of Steamboat Springs, Colo.; Robert Zacharda, 43, of Lancaster, Penn.; Edwin Smith, 45, of Reno; Kenneth Murray, 48, of Willits; Thomas Gorman, 47, of Willits; Kenneth Zabkar, 59, of Petaluma; Jeffrey Daily, 53, of Laytonville; Anthony Lazzaro, 25, of Trafford, Penn.; Thomas Castell, 33, and Jennifer Struckholtz, 28, both of Ukiah; Stephen Bernes, 51, of Fairfax; Lauren Kaplan, 44, and Eric Kaplan, 44, both of Laytonville; Brian O'Callaghan, 24, of Hutto, Texas; Dana Burke, 33, of San Ramon; Alfred Donahue, 62, of Oakland; Chris Lemay, 40, and 61-year-old Nickolas Skarlatos, both of Castro Valley; Nicholas Theriano, 62, of Oakland; and Daniel Marinello, Luis Alvarez and Mendoza Diaz, ages and places of residence unknown.


All subjects arrested were booked into the Mendocino County Jail. Noe said some of the suspects have not been arrested with charges pending.


Noe said four search warrants were served in the Spy Rock, Iron Peak and Woodman Canyon areas on Sept. 24. Agents arrested six individuals, eradicated 4,931 marijuana plants, and seized 80 pounds of processed marijuana and 2 ounces of hashish.


During the service of the warrants the COMMET team and CAMP were working a large marijuana garden in the Branscomb Roaad area on Campbell Hawthorne property, where Noe said they eradicated 30,139 marijuana plants.


On Sept. 23, five search warrants were served in the Spyrock Road, Blue Rock Creek (George Washington Rock), and Island Mountain areas. Noe said 5,610 marijuana plants were eradicated, 14 arrests were made, and two guns and $12,980 in assets were seized. In addition, 95 pounds of processed marijuana and 30 pounds hashish was seized.


The property on Island Mountain was reported due to the suspects taking large amounts of water from the Eel River, Noe said. Chelsea Garner, Jessy Greulich, Erin Doncaster, Scott Mckendrick, Peter Laskarin and Robert Zacharda were arrested at the site with 552 large marijuana plants. A large pump feeding a 4-inch pipe was pumping water to a series of large tanks from the Eel River to provide for the marijuana operation.


California Department of Fish and Game was on scene to investigate the water diversion. The Mendocino County District Attorney's Office has committed to the review of this case for environmental crimes, Noe said.


During the service of the warrants COMMET and CAMP were working in the Island Mountain area and eradicated 4,277 marijuana plants from a large grow operation, he said.


On Sept. 24, three search warrants were served on Bell Springs Road and Dos Rios Road. Noe said 3,582 marijuana plants were seized and 21 people were arrested. There were 12 guns seized as well as 123 ponds of processed marijuana and 4.5 grams of cocaine.


During the operation there was one injury as a officer had a minor injury vehicle accident, Noe said.

CLEARLAKE – The District Attorney's Office is leading an investigation into a shooting involving a Clearlake Police officer.


The shooting occurred Wednesday morning, according to District Attorney Jon Hopkins.


A man at a residence on 33rd Avenue was injured in the shooting, Hopkins said. The officer was not hurt.


The names of the officer and the victim haven't been released.


Clearlake Police Chief Allan McClain and Lt. Craig Clausen didn't return calls for comment on Wednesday.


However, Hopkins said his office is now in charge of the incident, including releasing information about it.


“We've actually taken over the investigation because it's an officer-involved incident,” said Hopkins, which is part of a protocol that's invoked when such situations occur.


“It was Chief McClain's request that we come in and investigate the case,” he said.


Four of Hopkins' investigators were on scene since Wednesday morning, along with two state Department of Justice criminalists assisting with processing the scene under a search warrant, Hopkins said. He joined them in the afternoon and stayed until the evening.


Hopkins said he anticipated scene processing continuing into the night, with interviews also taking place Wednesday and into Thursday, although interviews could possibly take longer.


He was not prepared to release specifics about the incident or what led to the shooting, explaining that he is still verifying information and didn't want to comment preliminarily.


“That will be part of our investigation, getting all that information so it's accurate,” hes aid.


He said Clearlake Police officials have been present during the investigation, and some evidence may be stored with that agency.


Hopkins said he couldn't estimate when the investigation would be concluded or the results released.


The last officer-involved shooting the District Attorney's Office was called in to investigate took place at York's Mobile Home Park on Old Highway 53 in June 2008, as Lake County News has reported.


In that case, 63-year-old David Vestal was shot after allegedly pointing a shotgun at officers.


That investigation – which wasn't released until this past February, seven months after the incident – found no wrongdoing on the part of the officer.


Vestal's daughter, who was present at the incident along with her young son and boyfriend, later filed a lawsuit against the city which was paid by the city's insurance carrier.


E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at http://twitter.com/LakeCoNews .

LAKE COUNTY – With the county's purchase of land on top of Mt. Konocti now in escrow, the department that will oversee the land is beginning the work of forming a new committee that will oversee development of a master use plan.


Public Services Director Kim Clymire said Tuesday that the county is seeking applications from community members interested in taking part in the Mt. Konocti Focused Master Plan Development Committee.


He said the group will develop a master plan with policies and procedures for use for the more than 1,500 acres on Mt. Konocti that the county is currently purchasing from the Fowler family for a day use, nonmotorized trails and a county park.


The county entered into escrow on Sept. 15 for 1,344 acres, with escrow scheduled to end in November. Last year, the county purchased the 176-acre Buckingham Peak site, the location of several telecommunications towers, as Lake County News has reported.


Clymire said the park is scheduled to officially open in the spring of 2010. A master plan – or at least a draft master plan – needs to be developed in the interim to govern the park’s use.


He said that applications for representatives from several groups are being solicited and appointments will be made by the end of October with the first meeting in November.


They include:


  • A recreation users representative;

  • Two fire management representatives – one from Cal Fire and Kelseyville Fire Protection District;

  • An environmental tribal representative;

  • A flora and fauna representative with a degree in biology, botany, or related field;

  • A Bureau of Land Management representative;

  • A Land Trust, Sierra Club or Redbud Audubon Society member representative;

  • A representative from the Countywide Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee;

  • A seller's representative;

  • A Public Services Department representative.


For an application, contact the Public Services Department at 333 2nd St. in Lakeport, or call 707-262-1618.

 


 


 

CLEARLAKE OAKS – The public is invited to a Clearlake Oaks Community Town Hall meeting, hosted by District 3 Supervisor Denise Rushing, set for next week.


The meeting will take place at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 7, at the Clearlake Oaks Moose Lodge, located at the "Y" junction of Highway 20 and Highway 53.


Topics will include an update on the community's redevelopment efforts, county projects and issues, Clear Lake, community group updates and announcements and an open forum


Free tables will be set up for local groups, businesses or organizations wishing to distribute informational literature.


For more information contact 707-263-2368 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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