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Orleans County

3 county legislators headed to White House meeting on Thursday

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 21 August 2018 at 5:45 pm

Lynne Johnson

ALBION – Three Orleans County legislators will be at a meeting at the White House on Thursday for county officials from New York State.

Legislature Chairwoman Lynne Johnson of Lyndonville, Legislator Don Allport of Gaines and Legislator Skip Draper of Shelby will leave Wednesday for the meeting and will return on Friday.

Because of the White House meeting, the County Legislature’s meeting scheduled for Wednesday was moved up to today.

Johnson said the county leaders will be meeting with “White House leaders to be determined.”

All three legislators had to pass background checks by the Secret Service.

“It should be interesting,” Johnson said about the session. “It’s the chance of my lifetime.”

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Republican leaders expect to soon pick Collins’ successor on the ballot

Photos by Tom Rivers: Erie County Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw, left, speaks with Ed Morgan, chairman of the Orleans County Republican Party, during the GOP summer picnic on Sunday at the Archer’s Club by the Oak Orchard River in Carlton.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 20 August 2018 at 10:34 am

Ortt, Hawley are both pursuing position along with about a dozen others

CARLTON – It will be an intense next 10 days for Republican Party leaders in the eight counties that are in the 27th Congressional District.

They will be interviewing about 10 candidates this week who want to replace Chris Collins as the GOP candidate on the ballot in November. The Republican leaders want to narrow the field to three candidates by the end of the week and then, in about 10 days from now, pick a final candidate.

“It’s very complicated,” Ed Morgan, the Orleans County Republican Party chairman, told Republicans on Sunday during the summer picnic at the Archer’s Club.

Ed Morgan, chairman of the Orleans County Republican Party, addresses about 100 people who attended the summer picnic on Sunday at the Archer’s Club. Carlton Highway Superintendent Kurt Van Wycke is in back at left.

Collins suspended his re-election campaign after being indicted on Aug. 8 for insider trading. He faces charges of securities fraud, wire fraud and making false statements to the FBI.

Morgan said the congressman should be considered innocent until proven guilty. Collins has suspended his re-election campaign, and Republican leaders want to remove his name from the ballot.

It’s too late in the process for the usual candidate nominations or primaries. That leaves it to the eight county chairmen to find a replacement, but Morgan acknowledged the Democratic Party leaders are expected to mount a legal challenge to keep Collins on the ballot.

“All of this could go haywire because the Democrats will take it to federal court and the judge could decide in October that Chris Collins has to stay on the ballot,” Morgan said.

If a sitting state legislator is picked to replace Collins on the ballot, the Republicans would then have to find another candidate to run for that state seat.

“It could be a trickle-down effect where we might have to fill other seats,” Morgan said.

State Sen. Rob Ortt and State Assemblyman Steve Hawley are both interested in serving as the Republican candidate for the 27th Congressional District.

It would also be risky for a state legislator to pursue the Congressional spot because a judge could decide Collins is the candidate. State Assemblyman Steve Hawley and State Sen. Robert Ortt both want to be considered to take Collins’ place on the ballot. They can’t be on the ballot for two positions. They could be picked to be the Congressional candidate only to have Collins stay on the ballot, and then they couldn’t run for the Assembly or State Senate.

Erie County Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw stopped at the Orleans County Republican Party picnic on Sunday. He doesn’t have an election in November for his current position. He could run for Congress this November without requiring Republican leaders to find a replacement for him to run as comptroller.

“I don’t have an election so there would be nothing lost,” he said about state legislators who would have to relinquish their position. “I’m the best bet and I’m the safest bet.”

Mychajliw is a former investigative news reporter in Buffalo.

“My job was holding politicians accountable, both Democrats and Republicans,” he said about his previous career as a reporter.

He has already been elected comptroller three times in Erie County, where Democrats outnumber Republicans.

“I’m battle tested,” he said. “I’m ready to get in a brawl with Nate McMurray.”

McMurray is backed by the Democratic Party. He is the current Grand Island town supervisor. His campaign has been given more media attention since Collins was arrested, and the McMurray said his fundraising in the few days after Collins’ arrest topped the totals in the previous months.

McMurray and Democratic Party leaders say Republicans shouldn’t be able to swap a different candidate for Collins so late in the political calendar.

“We’re going ahead with the process because of time,” Morgan told Republicans at the picnic. “Our opponents couldn’t have picked a better time to put us behind the 8 Ball and I have no doubt in my mind they did that.”

State Assemblyman Steve Hawley greets Republicans on Sunday in Carlton at the Republican Party’s summer picnic.

Hawley, the local assemblyman for more than 12 years, is pursuing the Congressional seat because he said he has been encouraged to pursue the position by so many business owners, residents and organizations such as Unshackle Upstate and the National Federation of Independent Business.

“That’s why I’m interested,” he said. “It’s about the people and businesses of Western New York.”

He said his background as a small business owner with his insurance company and also from his days in farming make him a good fit to represent the district, which includes all of Orleans, Genesee, Wyoming and Livingston and portions of Erie, Monroe, Niagara and Ontario counties.

It’s a heavily agriculture district. Hawley said he already knows the farming issues and other concerns in the rural communities.

“I know how things work because I’ve been there,” he said. “Right now we need some stability and calmness (in the Congressional position).”

Hawley said he would hold frequent town hall meetings if he was elected to Congress. Collins has been criticized for not holding those type of events.

“It’s about being open and transparent with the people,” Hawley said.

State Sen. Robert Ortt joined the Republicans for lunch before heading to Warsaw for another GOP gathering.

Ortt has been in the State Senate for about four years with a district that includes Orleans, most of Niagara and the western portion of Monroe counties. Normally, candidates for Congress spend at least a year working on the campaign.

“Most congressional races are marathons,” Ortt said. “But this is a sprint over 60 to 70 days.”

If he is picked the candidate he said he would be all over the district.

“Whoever works the hardest” will likely win, Ortt said.

After meeting with Republicans Sunday at the Archer’s Club, Ortt, Hawley and Mychajliw left to see Republicans in Warsaw, Wyoming County. Then there was another GOP event later in the evening in Niagara County.

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Household hazardous waste event was popular today

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 18 August 2018 at 6:06 pm

Photos by Tom Rivers

ALBION – Employees from Environmental Enterprises Inc. in Cincinnati move drums of household hazardous waste today at the Orleans County Highway Department.

About 240 residents participated in a household hazardous waste drop-off today in Albion. The county has organized the event the past four years and hires Environmental Enterprises Inc. to take away the hazardous household products.

The event is chance for residents to dispose of automobile batteries, propane tanks, oil-based paints, solvents, polishes/waxes, aerosols, pesticides, fluorescent bulbs, adhesives & resins, motor oil & filters, acids, corrosives, antifreeze and other household hazardous waste.

Numerous propane tanks were dropped off by residents.

The county will pay Environmental Enterprises Inc. about $20,000 to take about the hazardous household waste. The state will pay half of the expense. The final cost will be determined after all the materials are weighed.

Last year residents dropped off about 10,000 pounds of paint.

Jim Bensley, left, is the county’s director of planning and development. He helped run the event today.

The collection event doesn’t include explosives, pressurized tanks, ammunition, PCBs, pathologic waste, infectious waste, radioactive waste, syringes, pharmaceuticals, computers and electronics.

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Henry Smith will end tenure as county’s representative on Transportation Authority

Photo by Tom Rivers: Henry Smith, center, speaks during a ground-breaking ceremony on June 28, 2017 for a new transportation facility for the Regional Transit Service in Orleans. The new $4 million facility is nearly done on West Academy Street in Albion. Smith is joined at the ground-breaking by from left: David Callard, former Orleans County Legislature chairman; and Bill Carpenter, CEO of Rochester-Genesee Regional Transportation Authority, parent organization of RTS Orleans.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 9 August 2018 at 8:22 am

Former county legislator pleased with new transportation facility in Albion

ALBION – Henry Smith, a former Orleans County legislator, will be stepping down on Dec. 31 as the county’s representative on the board of directors for the Rochester-Genesee Regional Transportation Authority.

Smith said the RGRTA has shown its commitment to Orleans County, purchasing new buses, modifying services and building a new $4 million transportation facility on West Academy Street in Albion, next to the Orleans County Highway Department.

The new building could be ready later this month or in September, Smith said.

“I’m very, very proud and excited about what we’ve been able to accomplish over the years,” he said.

He has served in the unpaid position for  decade. He went to the RGRTA offices before the county had the public bus service and pushed the agency to come to Orleans. It started operations in the county in 2003.

It was originally called Orleans Transit Service or OTS. Now it’s RTS Orleans and serves about 40,000 riders a year.

“I went to RGRTA and told them we needed a bus system,” Smith recalled. “I felt it was important because not everyone has an automobile and they still need a vehicle to get to appointments and to jobs.”

With the new 13,000-square-foot transportation facility nearly done for RTS Orleans, Smith said he has accomplished his main goals for the agency. The new $4 million facility puts RTS in a better position to grow the service in the county.

The facility will include eight indoor bus bays, three bus maintenance bays, a vehicle wash bay, storage for parts and materials, administrative office space, a break room with kitchenette, and designated parking.

Federal aid funneled to the state will pay 80 percent or about $3.2 million of the cost, while the state pays 10 percent and RTS pays the other 10 percent.

“I’ve been there long enough and feel I’ve accomplish enough especially with new facility going in,” Smith said. “I wanted to see that brought to fruition.”

The County Legislature has recommended two people – either former State Assemblyman Charlie Nesbitt or current Orleans County Planning and Development Director James Bensley – to be considered by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to represent the county on the RGRTA board.

Smith said he enjoyed advocating for the county in the role.

“I worked hard and tried to represent Orleans County to the best of my ability,” he said.

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Ride 4 Life will return for 3 days in September

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 3 August 2018 at 9:13 am

Photo by Tom Rivers: Scott Caraboolad, center, and his motorbike stunt team perform in early October last year on East State Street in Albion, in front of about 300 people by the Orleans County Courthouse. Ride 4 Life will return Sept. 13-15.

A group of local pastors took a chance last year in welcoming a group of motorcycle stunt riders to the county for shows at local schools, as well as community performances in Albion and Medina and a big event at the Orleans County 4-H Fairgrounds.

The stunt riders impress with their acrobatics on the motorcycles. They also brought a message of overcoming addiction.

Scott Caraboolad, the lead rider, also shared about his Christian faith during the community performances in Albion and Medina, as well as the “Hopefest” at the Fairgrounds, which was attended by about 1,500 attended.

Tim Lindsay, pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship, didn’t know what to expect with the motorcycle riders. They won him over with their sincerity in their message, and their ability to captivate a crowd with the wheelies and other tricks they do on the motorcycles.

File photo: Scott Caraboolad speaks to Holley students after a stunt show last October.

Lindsay is a member of Pastors Aligned for Community Transformation, which includes pastors from about a dozen local churches. They worked to bring in Ride 4 Life last year and will have Caraboolad and his team back from Set. 13-15.

PACT worked with other local agencies to welcome the motorcycle riders. PACT has been part of forums on the opioid addiction in Orleans County and has urged people to become coaches in assisting people through recovery.

“Our goal is to keep people who are vulnerable to drug addiction from going down that path,” Lindsay told the Albion Rotary Club on Thursday. “People who are in drug addiction we want to give them some hope and connect them to resources.”

Ride 4 Life will perform stunt shows at some of the local schools and share a message about making good choices. The stunt riders will also be featured during a 6 p.m. show on Sept. 13 in Medina’s Canal Basin, 6 p.m. on Sept. 14 in Albion on East State Street in front of the courthouse, and during “Hopefest” from noon to 6 p.m. on Sept. 15 at the fairgrounds.

The Hopefest will also include a classic car cruise-in with free admission. For information about the car show, call 585-590-0777.

Lindsay said PACT has a long-term goal of developing a community care center in the county for people fighting addiction.

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22 kids from Orleans go to Salvation Army camp

Photo courtesy of Andrew Szatkowski: Long Point Camp in Penn Yan hosted 22 children from Orleans County for five days. The kids came back on Tuesday.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 1 August 2018 at 9:30 pm

There was a big increase in the number of children from Orleans County who attended a Salvation Army in Penn Yan from last Thursday until Tuesday.

There were 22 kids ages 6 to 12 who attended the camp from the county, up from six last year.

“There isn’t one kid who didn’t absolutely love it,” said Andrew Szatkowski, who volunteered to help families fill out the forms electronically.

The change from submitting the forms by paper to electronics was a difficult barrier for many families. Szatkowski was trained to do the paperwork and met with families at local public libraries to get the forms submitted online to the Salvation Army.

Szatkowski attended Camp Troutburg, a former Salvation Army camp in Kendall, when he was a kid and he said it was a big highlight of his childhood. He wanted others locally to have a similar experience.

He and his wife Sara served as chaperones for the bus ride there Thursday and then back to Orleans County on Tuesday. Szatkowski also was at the camp on Monday when he joined his brother in serving 300 Chick-Fil-A meals to the 170 campers and staff. Jimmer Szatkowski opened a Chick-Fil-A in February in Cicero near Syracuse. Jimmer donated the food on Monday.

Photo by Tom Rivers: Andrew Szatkowski of Medina helps unload a bus from Community Action that brought the kids back from camp on Tuesday. Szatkowski helped sign up many of the children for camp, and was a chaperone on the bus ride there and back.

Szatkowski pushed to have more local children attend the camp. Several people stepped up to help with the effort.

Brenda Jo Nanni of Holley knitted soap bar bags for each of the campers and gave them each a small toy in case they felt homesick. Someone also gave each camper a new pillow, pillowcase and travel kit.

Mackenzie Sullivan, a registered nurse and nursing supervisor from Orleans Community Health, donated her time as nurse to check medications before children left for camp to ensure all kids were set to go. Community Action also helped to sign up kids, scan documents, and provide facilities and direction.

Dirk Climenhaga, a staff member at Hoag Library in Albion, also helped sign up four children for the camp.

Szatkowski’s wife Sara, besides serving as a chaperone, checked medications and helped comfort kids who were homesick.

Szatkowski said the children gained confidence during the time away, overcoming some initial fears about being away from home. At the camp they went fishing, took swimming lessons, used a lower-ropes course, played Gaga ball, attended church and enjoyed other activities.

“The ride home was easy,” he said. “They all slept.”

The camp was free to the children who attended with some of the Red Kettle donations going towards the cost.

Szatkowski would like to double the number of children attending the camp next year from Orleans County. The most from the county is 41, which was about a decade ago.

“This place provides a safe, loving, and fun environment,” Szatkowski said. “They were happy. They loved it.”

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Preservation League tries to rally support for historic canal vessels

Posted 31 July 2018 at 4:31 pm

Press Release, Preservation League of New York State

Photo by Tom Rivers: This photo from October 2015 shows the Tug Urger when it was in Albion.

ALBANY – The Preservation League of New York State is seeking support for its efforts to protect the historic Tug Urger and other Erie Canal vessels that provide an authentic link to the past.

The League recently learned that the New York State Canal Corporation, under the New York Power Authority (NYPA), has plans to beach the tugboat Urger, flagship of the Erie Canal and beloved “teaching tug.” This vessel has introduced thousands of school children and members of the public to New York’s navigable waterways, reinforcing the role of the Erie Canal in making New York the Empire State.

Tug Urger used to travel up and down the canal system for school field trips and public events. Now the Canal Corporation and NYPA want to pull it from the water and make it a dry-land exhibit at a NYS Visitor Center off the Thruway in Montgomery County. NYPA’s plans would permanently disable the Urger and prevent it from returning to service.

The League is launching an advocacy campaign to call attention to the plight of the Urger and to call on the Canal Corporation and New York Power Authority to work with stakeholders to develop a plan for the fleet of historic canal vessels, more than a dozen of which are slated to be scuttled off Long Island to create artificial reefs for sport fishing and recreational diving.

According to Jay DiLorenzo, president of the Preservation League, “The Erie Canal is an engine for recreation and tourism with significant economic benefits for canal communities, businesses, and New York State. The Preservation League has been working for years to help communities in the Erie Canal Corridor address their unique preservation challenges and revitalize canalside assets.”

Through more than $600,000 in grants, technical services, workshops, awards and the Industrial Heritage Reuse Project, the Preservation League has helped individuals, not-for-profits and municipalities throughout the canal corridor. Loans from the Endangered Properties Intervention Program (EPIP) have added more than $300,000 in support.

“As we mark the 100th anniversary of the Barge Canal, it seems like a remarkably poor time to remove historic resources from the National Historic Landmark NYS Canal System,” continued DiLorenzo.

“It’s hard to imagine the future of the canal system without Tug Urger and other significant historic vessels on the water,” said Bob Radliff, Executive Director of the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor. “These vessels convey the sense of New York State pride, stewardship, and heritage that are integral to a thriving, living waterway.”

According to Dan Wiles, president of the Board of Directors of the Canal Society of New York State, “The 1901 Urger already had a storied career even before plying Barge Canal waters in the 1920s, serving as a fishing boat on Lake Michigan. As one of the State’s maintenance workhorses, its presence overlaps nearly all of the years of the Barge Canal, now celebrating its centennial. It has been appreciated by generations across these many years and across New York State. It is one of the essential links between that past and the future. We all need it to continue this mission on the waterway, being shared by communities throughout the canal corridor.”

In addition to the effort to save the Urger, the League is also calling on the Canal Corporation and New York Power Authority to work with stakeholders to develop a plan for the remainder of the fleet of historic canal vessels, which currently numbers 57.

More information and a petition is on the Preservation League’s website at www.preservenys.org/save-the-urger.

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Addition taking shape at County Administration Building

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 30 July 2018 at 5:17 pm

Photos by Tom Rivers

ALBION – Contractors have been busy the past three months working on an addition to the County Administration Building.

These photos taken this afternoon show progress with the $10 million project that will add 23,000 square feet to the complex on Route 31.

Construction is expected to take about 15 months until the building is ready for about 50 employees from the Health Department, Board of Elections, information technology department and the County Legislature’s office and staff.

The new space will include a meeting room for the Legislature with about 60 seats. The current Legislative chambers has about 30 seats and is one of the smallest municipal meeting rooms in the county.

The building will be connected to the current Administration Building with the addition on the south side. There are currently about 125 people working out of the building for the Department of Social Services, Office for the Aging, Job Development, Tourism, Planning and Development, Department of Motor Vehicles, and Personnel.

A temporary traffic light helps with the traffic flow through the construction zone.

Holdsworth Klimowski Construction of Victor is the general contractor for the project.

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Orleans County coroner leading state association in combating opioid crisis

The New York State Association of Counties and the NYS Association of County Coroners & Medical Examiners created a public service announcement about the opioid crisis.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 27 July 2018 at 2:20 pm

‘These are loved ones. They’re not just statistics. They are someone’s son, daughter, father or uncle. These people are individuals. Yes, they are drug users who overdosed, but they are people first. They are someone loved by others.’ – Scott Schmidt, Orleans County chief coroner

ALBION – An Orleans County coroner has pushed a state-wide association to sound the alarm over the opioid crisis.

Scott Schmidt, chief coroner for Orleans County, also serves as president of the NYS Association of County Coroners & Medical Examiners. That organization has partnered with the New York State Association of Counties in producing a public service announcement an ad, warning about the opioid crisis and giving a list of signs for loved ones to see if someone is suffering from addiction.

Scott Schmidt

The new “See the Signs, Save A Life” campaign debuted last month with the PSA available to television stations throughout the state and also to be shared on social media.

“The rationale behind this PSA was simple: We as Coroners, Medical Examiners and Funeral Directors are tired of watching people die senselessly,” Schmidt said in a news release about the campaign. “While we aren’t on the front lines of this epidemic, (such as Fire and EMS personnel,) we are on the front line working with families in the aftermath as the last responders.”

In Orleans County, seven people died from opioid overdoses in 2017 and 224 people were admitted into chemical dependency programs last year from Orleans, Schmidt said Wednesday in a presentation to the County Legislature.

The county has 42,847 people, according to the 2010 Census. Genesee County, population 60,029, had nine people die of overdoses and 404 enter chemical dependency programs.

Niagara County, population 216,469, has about five times as many people as Orleans. Niagara had 88 die of overdoses, nearly 13 times as many as in Orleans, and 1,362 go into chemical dependency programs, Schmidt said.

Monroe County, another Orleans neighbor, has 744,874 residents, 17 times the population in Orleans. Monroe had 220 die from overdoses, more than 30 times how many died in Orleans.

Schmidt said the epidemic is leaving a death toll throughout the state and country. And many families didn’t realize their loved ones were using drugs.

“We are often the recipients of the overwhelming and often times heart-wrenching displays of grief and violent emotion because we are the ones with the answer that no one wants to hear,” Schmidt said. “‘Your loved one died of a drug overdose.’ The far-reaching effects of a drug overdose death are mind blowing.”

The Association of County Coroners & Medical Examiners wants to show the effects of lethal substances with an “in-your-face” approach, hoping to save lives, Schmidt said.

The crisis leaving victims as young as teen-agers to senior citizens, he said.

“It’s scary stuff,” he told county legislators. “It’s nothing to mess around with.”

He praised efforts of Orleans County Sheriff Randy Bower to expand treatment programs in the jail for addicts, and to develop a transition program so they have support when they leave the jail.

Local law enforcement has also been mapping overdoses to try to identify clusters where people are overdosing and dying, so law enforcement can concentrate efforts in those areas.

Schmidt emphasized that every person who dies isn’t just a number.

“These are loved ones,” he said. “They’re not just statistics. They are someone’s son, daughter, father or uncle. These people are individuals. Yes, they are drug users who overdosed, but they are people first. They are someone loved by others.”

Schmidt is a funeral director with the Christopher Mitchell Funeral Homes of Albion and Holley, the Merrill-Grinnell Funeral Homes of Albion and Holley, and the Bates, Wallace and Heath Funeral Home of Middleport. He has served as a coroner since 1990.

Lynne Johnson, County Legislature chairwoman, praised Schmidt for pressing the issue locally and throughout the state.

“The opioid crisis continues to devastate Orleans County,” she said.

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David Schubel to retire after 27 years as county attorney

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 26 July 2018 at 2:20 pm

Photos by Tom Rivers: David Schubel of Medina thanks Orleans County legislators for a special recognition award on Wednesday in honor of his 27 years as county attorney.

ALBION – David Schubel was praised on Wednesday for his wisdom and research the past 27 years in helping the county work through numerous contracts, agreements and other issues.

Schubel is retiring as the Orleans County attorney on Aug. 17. He is currently the longest-serving county attorney in the state, said Lynne Johnson, the County Legislature chairwoman.

“He has been a great resource for the legislators,” Johnson said. “He was always there for me.”

Schubel of Medina is turning 70 next month. He will continue working full-time in private practice for Webster, Schubel & Meier in Medina. Schubel also is part owner of the SK Herefords cattle operation in Shelby.

“You’ve earned the respect of your colleagues,” Johnson said. “We all owe you a debt of gratitude.”

He has worked 45 years as a lawyer. He said serving as an municipal attorney was a goal when he was in law school at the University of Buffalo.

The Legislature appointed Kathy Bogan of Medina to succeed Schubel, effective Aug. 20. Her appointment is through until Dec. 31, 2019.

Schubel said the county will need to be “creative” in the future responding to mandates from Albany.

“The county will face a lot of challenges that are up and coming,” he said.

Lynne Johnson, chairwoman of the Orleans County Legislature, said Schubel has provided invaluable insight to county officials.

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