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Bright and Brief

November 22, 1986

ROCK HILL, S.C. (AP) _ Ted Schiffley was a little surprised to learn that he owes Richland County $2,038,627.83 in taxes.

″I am trying to see when I last gave blood to see if I have some left for the county. And I’m hoping that they will take my firstborn as payment,″ said Schiffley, a power company engineer. He and his wife, Celeste, are expecting their first child.

″When I told my wife, I thought she was going into labor early,″ he said.

Schiffley lives in upstate York County but owns a house in Richland County that he rents out.

The bill on the house, which cost $60,000, was carefully itemized so the Schiffleys knows precisely where their money goes - and goes and goes.

″The county library system is getting $73,535, and I owe $20,363 for fire service,″ Schiffley said. ″I’ve got to pay more than $32,000 for indigent care - and I think I will probably need indigent care after this.″

But the Schiffleys don’t have to worry. Help is on the way.

″If there is anything I do not want, it’s a new baby,″ said Richland County Auditor Pat Antley of Schiffley’s offer to send his firstborn as payment. She blamed the bill on computer error.

″We will soon get a real, live tax bill to them,″ she said. ″I just hope the bill doesn’t come at the same time as the new baby.″

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GLENDALE, Calif. (AP) - The home of the onetime presidential Santa Claus is stocked with reindeer and flocked with snow for the annual bumper-to-bumper procession of holiday sight-seers.

Robert George, 63, has transformed his house into a holiday wonderland with 120 Christmas trees, more than 50,000 lights and a snow-making machine bringing winter to sun-drenched Southern California.

″It’s unbelievable,″ George said Saturday morning, answering the telephone ″Merry Christmas - Ho 3/8 Ho 3/8 Ho 3/8″ George, a retired barber, visited the White House each holiday season for 26 years to be the official Santa under every president from Eisenhower to Carter.

George predicted 40,000 people will see Santa’s Dream World by Christmas. ″It’s an ordinary three-bedroom home but you can’t see anything but Christmas,″ he said. ″It’s bumper-to-bumper around here.″

Ninty-five percent of the trees, ornaments and other expenses were donated, George said, while the rest comes from Santa’s Social Security money.

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STILLWATER, Okla. (AP) - It may be just a coincidence, but about the time the city of Stillwater erected its Christmas tree, the sparrows that had been plaguing the downtown area suddenly disappeared.

City manager Carl Weinaug said he noticed the birds were gone shortly after crews erected the 12-foot Christmas tree, which is suspended 15 feet above the ground.

″Maybe that temporarily unnerved them,″ Weinaug said. ″They have almost disappeared. We were kind of surprised.″

The city had already strung lights on the pear trees where the sparrows were roosting, but Weinaug said those did not seem to trouble the birds, which have outwitted several city attempts to eradicate them.

City officials tried to scare the sparrows away by shooting off cannons and putting rubber snakes and owls in downtown trees, and they tried to kill them with poisoned corn. The birds were undaunted by the cannons and snakes, and refused to take the poisoned bait.

Model airplane owners from Tulsa and Oklahoma City had offered to help by bringing their planes to Stillwater to buzz the trees where the birds roost, Weinaug said. That apparently won’t be necessary, he added.

To prevent the sparrows from returning next year, city workers will trim branches on downtown trees to remove the solid mass of leaves that now provides such a good shelter and perching place, Weinaug said.

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