Watercooler Stories

Jan. 23, 2008 at 6:30 AM
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For lawns only real grass will do

NEWPORT BEACH, Calif., Jan. 22 (UPI) -- Three residents of a Southern California subdivision have angered their homeowners association by installing artificial turf that won't turn brown and never needs water.

Connie Hollstein, Dave Ewles and Al Presnell installed the turf after years of struggling to keep living lawns green. The Newport Hills Community Association warned them in a letter that they were in violation of bylaws requiring approval of all landscaping changes and telling them that their fake lawns detract "from the beauty and attractiveness of the surrounding area."

"They basically don't care if we have dead grass or dirt -- they just don't want anything that's not real," Hollstein told the Orange County Register.

California has been pushing residents to adopt water-conserving planting or non-planting. While a recent law barred homeowners associations from banning native plants, the lawmakers forgot to protect artificial turf, now used in a number of area parks as well as for home lawns.

Thieves making off with bronze plaques

RIVERSIDE, Calif., Jan. 22 (UPI) -- Bronze plaques honoring Southern California pioneers have been disappearing from a memorial trail.

George Flower, founder of Friends of Mt. Rubidoux Inc. in Riverside, said four of 13 plaques have been stolen, three of them in the past week and a half, the Riverside Press-Enterprise reported. Investigators believe the thieves wanted to melt down the bronze, an alloy of copper and tin, to get the copper, now at a record high price.

"The plaques were bolted and epoxied into the rocks, but they ripped them out with heavy instruments," Flower said.

The plaques were replacements of earlier ones installed by Frank Miller, who owned Mount Rubidoux in the early 20th century. Miller changed his mind about developing the mountain and instead turned it into an inspirational park.

Flower and Jeff Crumbaker, owner of the company that made the replacement plaques and is now working on more replacements, have a solution to the theft problem.

"It's etched in granite instead," Crumbaker said of the memorial he is now duplicating. "We would like to see them keep the bronze, but if the plaques are going to be stolen over and over, it's not worth it."

Roomies receive $100,000 power bill

TAMPA, Fla., Jan. 22 (UPI) -- A pair of wheelchair-bound roommates in Tampa, Fla., said they were shocked to receive an electric bill for nearly $100,000.

Richard Grieshop, who shares a one-bedroom mobile home with Lynda Williams, said he does not believe the Tampa Electric Co. bill is accurate, WFLA-TV in Tampa reported Tuesday.

"I have no idea how I ended up with a $100,000 electric bill," Grieshop said. "There's no way. I don't think anyone uses that in a lifetime."

Both roommates are living on fixed incomes, he said.

Grieshop said the electric company told him on the phone that his power will be turned off if he doesn't pay the $99,999 bill.

However, the company told WFLA-TV the bill was the result of a system error and the pair need only phone customer service again to resolve the issue.

Grieshop welcomed the good news.

"I have cancer of the esophagus. I have problems breathing. I have to have breathing equipment. Lynda's paralyzed; she has to have it for her electric wheelchair," he said.

Mock trial to decide Confederate's fate

PETERSBURG, Va., Jan. 22 (UPI) -- The U.S. National Park Service has announced plans to hold a mock trial to determine whether a Confederate soldier's remains are buried in the wrong grave.

The service plans to hold a mock trial Feb. 13 near Petersburg, Va., to determine whether the remains of Confederate Sgt. Ivy Ritchie were mistakenly buried in a Union soldier's grave with an incorrect headstone, The Charlotte (N.C.) Observer reported Tuesday.

Members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans' Ivy Ritchie Camp 1734 in Albemarle, N.C., contend the soldier's remains were removed from the battlefield at Appomattox Court House -- where the final Virginia battle of the Civil War was fought -- and buried in a graveyard for Union soldiers under the name of Sgt. J. Richie of Company H, 14th New York Infantry.

"To know he's laying up there in a Yankee grave just tears me up. He hasn't rested in a hundred years or more," said Jim Harwood, a member of the group.

The park service refused to exhume the remains, but agreed to hold the mock trial at the pre-Civil War-era Dinwiddie Court House, south of Petersburg, to allow the group to make its case.

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