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  Volume No. 14 Issue No. 7 July 2017  

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    Rabbits galore
    Stitchers of Grace … Community Church
    Library district offers new online ed program
    Calhan center fills youth needs
    CDOT holds second meeting on corridor study
    The history of April Fools’ day
    Building and real estate update
    Ellicott town hall meeting
 
  Rabbits galore
  Jeff Bowles

   Spring brings a surge in local wildlife populations: coyotes, foxes, deer and owls; and plentiful rabbits and hares. Ellicott Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in Colorado cares for about 2,000 injured or sick animals annually — which includes 400 to 500 rabbits.
   
   The common varieties of rabbits — cottontails and the much larger jack rabbits — breed in numbers relative to the size of their predator population. In other words, fewer predators signal an increase in rabbit sightings.
   
   According to lifescience.com, there is a difference between the hare and the rabbit. In general, rabbits are smaller than hares, and rabbits tend to live in areas with forests or shrubs, and dig underground burrows or make nests in small depressions in the ground. When they are born, rabbits eyes are closed and they don’t have hair.
   
   “In contrast, hares do not burrow underground. They usually live in open areas, such as deserts or prairies, and have their young in simple nests on the ground.” Hares are born with fur and open eyes.
   
   Contrary to popular opinion, rabbits and hares rarely multiply in large numbers, unless circumstances permit it.
   
   “They really manage their own population with respect to the available resources,” said Donna Ralph, executive director of the wildlife center. “Keep in mind that rabbits and every other species only reproduce the numbers that can be supported by the natural environment.”
   
   The center often sees rabbits that have been hit by cars or attacked by other animals like cats. Because rabbits can wreak havoc with farmers and gardeners, they are often poisoned by humans.
   
   “We discourage poison in any form,” Ralph said. “People put out d-CON, which is a blood thinner, and it kills just about everything. It doesn’t break down in the environment, so we see a lot of beneficial species like hawks and owls in jeopardy.”
   
   More passive environmental controls like hardware mesh or odor-based repellants are much better. Ralph said it is better to create a situation that does not appeal to the “nuisance wildlife.” She cited a website — http://urbanwildliferescue.com — that offers ideas for “humane solutions” to wildlife issues.
   
   Ralph is passionate about another issue that affects wildlife. People often purchase domestic breeds of rabbits this time of the year and then end up dumping the rabbits in public parks and other areas when they realize the cute, little Easter bunny is a huge responsibility. These rabbits are domestic and do not bode well in an unrestricted environment. Ralph said the center only takes wild rabbits and the Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region has only so much space; plus, they don’t necessarily find the domestic rabbits before the animals meet their demise.
   
   “It’s one of our biggest problems … two to four weeks after Easter, when our phone is ringing with people finding these poor defenseless rabbits with no survival skills,” Ralph said. “People get rid of them when they realize bunnies aren’t cats.”
   
   Easter should be about chocolate bunnies only.
   
   In addition to wildlife rehabilitation, the center provides educational programs to the community. Education programs include information on handling wildlife. Ralph said the less contact with wildlife the better. Although it is largely a myth that animals will reject their young if humans have handled them, it’s important to proceed with caution because many species harbor diseases that can be transmitted to people and pets alike.
   
   Also, Ralph said many times animals appear injured when they are not, and genetic factors are more common than most people realize. Animal parents reject their young for many different reasons, but it is often because they’ve sensed an issue with the offspring that cannot be corrected.
   
   “For us, it’s a lot of education all the time,” Ralph said. “Because people just don’t know. We live in an area full of people from other regions and parts of the country. So, even though we’re repeating ourselves all the time, we have a new audience all the time.”
   
   The Ellicott center serves a vast area, from Pueblo to Boulder. They do take in wildlife and provide resources year-round. However, they are not funded by any agency and donations keep them afloat. “We need donations or we’re going to have to shut down. Without donations, we cannot provide these services, and we’re at a point right now where our donations are lower than they’ve ever been.”
   
   March marks the beginning of an eight-month increase in animal activity, which means the center at 23350 State Highway 94 in Ellicott, Colorado, could use community support.
   
   For more information and details on donating or volunteering, visit the center’s website at https://ellicottwildlife.com. Also, check out the Facebook page, where the center posts information and photos of their animals.
  
Ellicott Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in Colorado cares for about 2,000 injured or sick animals annually — which includes 400 to 500 rabbits. Photo submitted
 
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  Stitchers of Grace … Community Church
  Jeff Bowles

   Every March for the last four years, Grace Community Church has delivered handmade pillowcases to organizations in need, both locally and abroad. The project got its start in 2014, after Linda Tate read a magazine article on sewing for charity.
   
   That same year, Tate went on a mission trip to Central America; and, after returning home, she and several others formed the Stitchers of Grace group. They made and sent about 140 pillowcases to Casa Angelina, an orphanage located in central Guatemala.
   
   In 2015 and 2016, the group also took pillowcases to Children’s Hospital Colorado, Springs Rescue Mission and The Salvation Army. On March 14, 2017, Grace Community delivered 234 pillowcases to these same organizations. The most notable recipient might be Children’s Hospital Colorado, which also commissions small bags each year for young patients to fill with “beads of hope,” tokens of appreciation for having gone through tough medical procedures.
   
   In addition to the organizations in the Pikes Peak region, Casa Angelina in Guatemala still receives its fair share of pillowcases. The Casa Angelina orphanage in Guatemala is run by What Matters Ministry.
   
   Tate said patients and parents alike are often delighted to see something cheerful. “Stitchers of Grace feel very blessed to receive such awesome support,” she said. “Being in the hospital or in a homeless center isn't easy. Helping others is why we're on this earth.”
   
   Local businesses such as Walmart and Jo-Ann Fabrics have donated time and materials to the project, and the local community has been overwhelmingly supportive, some pitching in as well. The Stitchers have received gift cards, sewing accessories and bolts of fabric. Tate said she is especially grateful for individuals who donate materials; without them, the project would not be feasible.
   
   The Stitchers’ efforts have grown annually. Work begins shortly after Christmas; Tate chooses a pattern and pillowcase type that can be easily duplicated. After cutting enough fabric, she hands out special “kits,” and the Stitchers of Grace get to work. As a way to pass the cold winter months, Tate said it is both enjoyable and gratifying.
   
   “This is God’s ministry, not ours,” Tate said. “We’re just his tools. We try to pray for the people receiving the pillowcases, because that’s important. More than anything else, it’s a fun project.”
   
   The larger goal has always been to provide comfort and joy to individuals in need, but one of the primary messages the Stitchers hope people take away from their efforts is that the scraps most people discard don’t need to be thrown away. They can be repurposed and put to good use. The pillowcase makers have even recycled their own leftovers, handing them out to churchgoers who use them to craft handmade dog beds.
   
   “I hope it reminds the community of ways to reach out to others,” Tate said. “Sometimes, it doesn't cost anything to make someone's day brighter. Repurposing fabric is a great way to share what we really don't need.”
  
Stitchers Grace Community: The Stitchers of Grace from Grace Community Church present pillowcases to the RJ Montgomery Salvation Army Homeless Center; from left to right Diane Duran; Shari David; Gene Morris, director of RJ Montgomery Salvation Army Homeless Center; Linda Tate; and Lynda Carner. Photo submitted
 
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  Library district offers new online ed program
  By Lindsey Harrison

   On Feb. 27, the Pikes Peak Library District officially launched its Career Online High School program, an online high school diploma and career certification program. The program is open to residents, age 17 and older, who live within the library district’s service area. The applicants must have completed eighth grade, according to the PPLD website.
   
   Teona Shainidez-Krebs, adult education manager for the PPLD, said the COHS is not a GED diploma program but rather a high school equivalency program, so students will receive an actual high school diploma upon successful completion of the COHS. “Right now, the Pikes Peak Library District adult education provides high school equivalency classes for a GED, English as a second language classes and one-on-one tutoring sessions,” she said. “The COHS is a great addition to all the programs we are already offering.”
   
   Shainidez-Krebs said there is a screening process for anyone interested in participating that includes a self-assessment test and a prerequisite course. Potential students must complete the course with a 70 percent or higher grade; and, after that, they take a placement test, she said. Finally, a panel interviews each application to determine if they qualify for the program, Shainidez-Krebs said.
   
   In the first round of classes, three individuals received scholarships to participate in the program. The Pikes Peak Library District Foundation and the Friends of the Pikes Peak Library District provided funding for the scholarships, which allowed each student to participate free-of-charge, Shainidez-Krebs said.
   
   “Upon successful completion, students have a high school diploma and a career training certificate of their choosing,” she said. Certificates include child care and education; certified protection officer; certified transportation services; office management; homeland security; general career preparation/professional skills; retail customer service skills; and food and customer service skills.
   
   The average time to complete the COHS is 12 months, although the current session will take about 18 months, Shainidez-Krebs said. The time involved depends on how many high school credits a student transfers to the COHS when they begin, which could be as many as 14, she said. In that event, the program could take as few as five months to complete.
   
   “Individuals who are not eligible for COHS can participate in our other options,” she said. “There are other resources as well like our high school equivalency prep classes. We understand that people have different needs and learning styles, so that is why we offer unique paths for them to get their education; and the COHS is just another way to empower them.”
  
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  Calhan center fills youth needs
  By Jason Gray

   The Calhan Youth Education and Recreation Foundation is banking on eastern El Paso County's teens. Literally banking, because the newly remodeled teen center is located in the former Farmers State Bank building. FSB donated the building on Bank Street in Calhan to house and fund the group's programs.
   
   The center resulted from the efforts of educational professionals and civic leaders in the Calhan area. “We were thinking it would be great if we can have a teen center in Calhan,” said Larry Troesh, CYERF board member and Calhan high school teacher. “They realized they were both working on it. The students came up with more ideas for putting it together, and everything fell into place.”
   
   The initial funding for the facility came from donations from the Calhan United Methodist Church, and FSB donated the entire property but left the center with an option to sell part of the land. “They allowed us to sell off parts to fund the director position,” Troesh said.
   
   Kevin Acre, the center's director, saw a need for youth programs and a teen center as the supervisor of the El Paso County Sheriff Office special operations section. “When teens are out and about past curfew, nothing good can come of it,” Acre said. “Based on my history in law enforcement, I worked with a lot of teen programs that got them off the street and into something they can grow with and be proud of. I foresee a big drop in crime among teens because of what we have here.”
   
   Youth programs beyond sports are often neglected in rural communities, Troesh said. “It's part of the motivation behind this,” Troesh said. “In a small town, there's a thousand things to do for sports, but not a lot for the arts and music.”
   
   When there are long distances between things to do for teens, or even between neighboring homes, teens might find themselves in negative peer pressure situations. “With rural areas, things are spread out,” Troesh said. “There is often a lot of alcohol use because neighbors may not see what is going on. With a central location, things can be more controlled and a safer environment.”
   
   The center has been open for about a year. In March, they hosted a grand re-opening after remodeling the center to add a dance floor and new electrical systems. “Right now we have a large HD (high definition) television with Netflix and Xbox One,” Acre said. “We also have air hockey and a professional karaoke machine for karaoke nights. Outside we have volleyball with a basketball hoop coming soon. We're going to have outdoor and indoor movie nights and barbecues.”
   
   CYERF is partially student-run, and the adult coordinators plan to gradually turn more leadership over to the teen members. “It's going to be all student run,” Acre said.
   “That's the vision because the kids have the pulse on what they want to see and what is going on out there. So I want them to really, as a group, come together with solutions and projections.”
   
   The board is made up of at least 20 percent teens, according to the group's rules, Troesh said.
   
   Maddie Troesh, one of the teen board members, said she appreciates having the arts outlet for her talents. She plays the guitar and sings at the center every Friday night. “It's fun to come here and perform. A live band is more interesting for kids than just playing radios,” Maddie Troesh said. “If different bands from the schools wanted to get together, it'd be awesome to have a battle of the bands region-wide.”
   
   The center sees 20 to 25 teens on a regular basis, and is open to the thousands of teens anywhere in eastern El Paso County. “We want to make sure students from other school districts, and their parents, will know that it's a resource for them as well,” Acre said. “Our worst fear is that no one realizes we're here, and it dies out.”
   
   “We want only good things to come out of here, not negative things,” Troesh said.
   
   Hours of operation, calendar of activities and additional information about the center is available at their website at http://cyerf.org.
  
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  CDOT holds second meeting on corridor study
  By Lindsey Harrison

   On March 2, the Colorado Department of Transportation held the second public meeting on the U.S. 24 Planning and Environmental Linkages Study at the Falcon Legacy Campus in Falcon. According to the CDOT website, the purpose of the study “is to identify and recommend transportation projects to improve regional and local mobility, improve intersection operations and enhance safety for all users along the corridor.”
   
   Andrew Stecklein, CDOT project manager, said the overall study is about 65 to 70 percent complete, and the portion in which projects and alternatives are identified is about 50 percent complete. The alternative selection process is done in a three-level decision-making matrix to narrow down the list from every possible option to the projects that will actually be undertaken, he said.
   
   “We are in the second level of the matrix, which means we are continuing to refine the alternatives,” Stecklein said. “We are still really honing in on the Highway 24 corridor as a whole system, from Powers east to the county line. The purpose is to evaluate that area as a complete system so that we can better integrate the projects with the projects the county might have in their sights, or private developers might have in their sights.”
   
   Stecklein said this process will allow CDOT to compete for funds in the long-term view, as opposed to dealing with problem situations as they arise. Having a plan that encompasses the entire Highway 24 corridor means the department has taken into consideration plans from other entities like El Paso County, Peyton, Ramah and Calhan; and received approval from the Federal Highway Administration before applying for funds, he said.
   
   “The PEL process that we are following is a federal process,” Stecklein said. “The federal government is contributing the vast majority of funds for most of our projects. They will not want to give away money for a project they know nothing about.”
   
   At the meeting, CDOT started with a presentation about the study and then directed everyone into small groups for a question-and-answer session. Stecklein said CDOT members knowledgeable in various areas of expertise were on hand to address the groups.
   
   Additionally, CDOT provided roll-out strip maps that focused on a different segment of the highway, Stecklein said. Within each section, additional information showed what each alternative project would look like, with two-to-four different views per segment, he said. “People could walk around and draw all over the maps to spell out exactly what they thought would be the most appropriate option, what they personally would like, or to highlight other areas they had not had a chance to let us know about,” Stecklein said. “We will never stop asking for those comments.”
   
   The Judge Orr intersection is a big concern for many people, he said. “We also had lots of comments about needing four lanes between Falcon and Peyton.”
   
   Stecklein said CDOT welcomes additional comments any time because the projects that result from the study have to be well-received by the public; he said those comments and concerns are at the forefront during the decision-making process.
   
   The next public meeting about the U.S. 24 PEL study will be held in June, and the department plans to present the first draft of the study recommendations.
   
   For additional information about the project or to submit a comment, visit the project’s website at http://codot.gov/projects/us-24-pel-study.
  
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  The history of April Fools’ day
  Breeanna Jent

   Characterized by silly practical jokes, April Fools’ Day has a rich history of prank-pulling since the tradition gained mass popularity at the start of the 18th century.
   
   “Celebrated” annually on April 1, fun-loving jokers have been seizing the opportunity to pull playful jokes on their friends –- and sometimes their foes –- for hundreds of years.
   
   Sometimes called All Fool’s Day, there are many theories to explain April Fools’ exact origins.
   According to a History.com article titled, “1700: April Fools tradition popularized,” “Some historians speculate that April Fools’ Day dates back to 1582, when France switched from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar. ... People who were slow to get this news, or failed to recognize (that) the start of the new year had moved to Jan. 1 … (those who) continued to celebrate it during the last week of March through April 1 became the butt of jokes and hoaxes.”
   
   Infoplease.com expanded on this explanation in its article titled, “April Fools’ Day: Origin and History” by David Johnson and Shmuel Ross. Johnson and Ross said that pranks ... ranged from “sending them on ‘fool's errands’ or trying to trick them into believing something false. Eventually, the practice spread throughout Europe.”
   
   But there are problems with this widely accepted explanation, according to Johnson and Ross theory.
   
   “It doesn't fully account for the spread of April Fools' Day to other European countries,” they wrote.
   
   They point out that the Gregorian calendar “was not adopted by England until 1752,” when “April Fools' Day was already well-established there by that point.” Another issue is the lack of “direct historical evidence for this explanation” — instead, there is only conjecture.
   
   According to history.com, “Historians have also linked April Fools’ Day to ancient festivals such as Hilaria, celebrated in Rome at the end of March involving people dressed up in disguises.” Also, the website states that April Fools’ Day could have been tied to the vernal equinox or first day of spring in the Northern Hemisphere — at a time when Mother Nature fooled people with “unpredictable weather.”
   
   Regardless, the popularity of April Fools’ Day caught on rapidly throughout Britain in the 18th century, and has continued to be celebrated across various countries and cultures.
   
   Scotland celebrated April Fools over two days, characterized by “the hunting gowk (a cuckoo bird and a symbol for a fool) ... and people were sent on phony errands,” according to history.com. Day 2, or “Tailie Day” involved pranks played on people’s derrieres such as pinning fake tails or “kick me” signs on them.
   
   In her article titled “April Fool’s [sic] Day,” posted to the Irish Cultures and Customs website, Bridget Haggerty explored the Irish and Celtic traditions surrounding April Fools’ Day: “A common practical joke was to send someone to deliver a note that read ‘send the fool further [sic].’ In many places, these 'fool's errands' would be accompanied by a verse for the recipient, which said, ‘Don't you laugh, and don't you smile, send the gowk another mile.’”
   
   Khaled Ahmed, in his article titled, “Origin of April Fools’ Day,” published April 4, 2012, in the Pakistani newspaper “The Express Tribune,” wrote the following: “Iranians play jokes on each other on the 13th day of the Persian New Year ... which falls on April 1 or April 2. This day, celebrated as far back as 536 BC, is called Sizdah Bedar and is the oldest prank tradition in the world still alive today.”
   
   Ahmed also wrote that the “Flemish tradition is for children to lock out their parents or teachers, letting them in only if they promise to bring treats the same evening or the next day.”
   
   Some make the claim that April Fools’ Day is malicious and misleading, like “The Atlantic Wire” reporters Jen Doll and Rebecca Greenfield, who refer to April Fools’ Day as “hell” in their April 1, 2013, article titled “Is April Fools’ Day the Worst Holiday,” published on “Yahoo! News.”
   
   “It’s not a real holiday. It’s creepy and manipulative,” Doll and Greenfield wrote. “It’s just a day in which everyone agrees to be foolish” and no one “(feels) good about anything. It’s a day in which we are … sort of rude ... and even a little bit nasty. Is there any kind, loving, generous April Fools’ Day joke?” they asked.
   
   “No,” Doll and Greenfield said: “Because an April Fools’ Day joke is based on making someone else look stupid.”
   
   On the other hand, Ashley Macha finds the humor associated with April Fools’ Day is healthy. In her article, “Why April Fools’ Day is Good for Your Health,” posted April 1, 2013, on health.com, she wrote, “Laughing can have a positive effect on brain activity and relieve stress and anxiety. Laughing may also be good for your heart; it has a beneficial effect on blood pressure and heart rate, as well as relaxes your blood vessels, which could reduce strain on the heart.”
   
   April Fools’ Day gained its popularity because the collective human race enjoys a good laugh -sometimes at another person’s expense. So, just be wary of everyone, and make sure the pranks don’t cause heart attacks — that would not be healthy.
  
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  Building and real estate update
  By Lindsey Harrison

   Taylor Acres
   The El Paso County Board of County Commissioners approved a request by Taylor Living Trust for a minor subdivision that would allow three single-family residential lots on a 15-acre property zoned residential rural. The site is located west of Black Forest Road at the intersection with Brentwood Drive, about one-half mile north of Shoup Road; and is within the Black Forest Preservation Plan. The request included two 5-acre parcels, a 4.776-acre parcel and 20 feet of dedicated right-of-way for EPC.
   
   El Paso County Fairgrounds
   The BOCC approved a resolution to recognize revenue and appropriate expenditures for $50,000 from the EPC Fairgrounds Corp. to the EPC community services department to fund the following projects: racetrack barrier fencing; refrigerators; portable sound system; county fair –- Colorado Pro Rodeo Association rodeo/concert; 4H fair programming support; county fair entertainment support; fairgrounds programming support; and queen program support.
   
   The commissioners also approved a purchase order and contract to Sedlak Electric for electrical work at the fairgrounds’ Owens Livestock Pavilion for $42,360.
   
   The county commissioners also approved a purchase order and contract to H.E. Whitlock Inc. for $64,052.40 to purchase a pre-engineered steel pavilion for the fairgrounds.
   
   Peyton Junction
   The BOCC approved a request by Peyton Junction LLC to rezone 1.4 acres from agricultural to commercial community zoning. The property is north of Highway 24, south of Main Street and west of Front Street in Peyton; and is within the Falcon/Peyton Small Area Master Plan. Currently, a single-family home and three buildings used for commercial uses sit on the property. The commissioners also approved a $500 partial refund for fees already paid by the applicant.
   
   Bent Grass
   The county commissioners approved the final release of a letter of credit for the public improvements of a detention pond in the Bent Grass East Commercial Filing No. 2 for $21,802.80. All of the improvements have been completed and inspected.
   
   Judge Orr Box Culvert Improvement Project
   The BOCC approved a memorandum of agreement with Daniel S. and Tia D. Ferguson Family LLLP, associated with the Judge Orr box culvert improvement project. The commissioners also approved a non-exclusive permanent easement and a temporary construction easement agreement from the Ferguson family for construction, drainage, slope, maintenance, repair, replacement, operation, ingress and egress related to the project.
   
   The county commissioners also approved a similar temporary construction easement from Nyla R. Ritz for the same scope of work related to the project.
   
   Oil Well Road Bridge Replacement Project
   The BOCC approved a construction contract and purchase order with Jalisco International Inc. for $1,399,395.70 for the Oil Well Road Bridge Replacement Project. The Oil Well Road Bridge, located about 10 miles east of Calhan and 2 miles south of Harrisville Road, is an aging timber structure constructed in 1935, which has reached its useful service life.
   
   Holtwood Road Bridge Replacement Project
   The commissioners approved a construction contract and purchase order with SEMA Construction Inc. for $2,219,508.35 for the Holtwood Road Bridge Replacement Project. The Holtwood Road Bridge is located about 13 miles south of Simla and about .8 miles north of Corona Road. The bridge, constructed in 1935, is within the designated FEMA floodplain and has failing girders and pilings.
  
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  Ellicott town hall meeting
  Main concerns: roads and growing marijuana
  By Lindsey Harrison

   On March 18, El Paso County Commissioner Longinos Gonzalez Jr. co-hosted a town hall meeting at the Ellicott Community Center with Paul Lundeen, Colorado state representative for House District 19. EPC Sheriff Bill Elder, District Attorney Dan May, EPC Clerk and Recorder Chuck Broerman and Jim Reid, EPC executive director of public works, also participated in the town hall.
   
   Each participant addressed the more than 100 citizens in attendance and informed them about their respective departments. Then, they opened the floor to listen to citizens’ concerns and provide feedback and answer questions.
   
   A major concern pertained to the conditions of the roads in Ellicott and the surrounding rural areas. Reid said the problems are the result of a lack of funds budgeted for county road maintenance. Additionally, the maintenance vehicles are getting older and worn, but the budget has only allowed for fleet replacement in the last two years, he said.
   
   Marijuana growing operations and the effects on crime rates were also brought up at the meeting. Elder said a bill has been introduced through the House of Representatives, House Bill 1220, that would limit the amount of marijuana plants a person can grow on a residential property to 16, unless the local jurisdiction allows for more plants.
   
   “El Paso County has already limited the number of marijuana plants a person can have to 12, so they were already trying to limit marijuana growing the best they could back when it was legalized,” Longinos said.
   
   In the future, Longinos said he will hold monthly town hall meetings in various locations throughout his district, which encompasses about half of the entire county.
   
   Lundeen said he feels the town hall meetings are a great way to make sure everyone’s voice is heard. “This is a demonstration of why local (control) is better,” he said.
  
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