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Orleans County

State boosts funding for Sheriff’s marine patrol in canal

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 11 December 2018 at 11:51 am

Photo by Ginny Kropf: The schooner Lois McClure is accompanied by the Orleans County Sheriff’s marine patrol in August 2017. They are rounding the bend under the State Street bridge in Medina.

ALBION – The State Canal Corporation is increasing the funding it gives the Orleans County Sheriff’s Office for marine patrol services in the Erie Canal.

The county will be paid $12,500 for marine patrols on the canal in 2018-2019. That is up from $10,000 the previous year. The county first received $8,000 for patrols by boat in 2016.

The agreement also includes patrol services on canal trailways.

The County Legislature approved the agreement between the Canal Corp. and Sheriff Randy Bower. The agreement is retroactive and covers the time period from April 1, 2018 to March 31, 2019.

In addition to patrolling the canal, Bower said the funds allow the Sheriff’s Office to bring in deputies for special events along the canal, including the recent Parade of Lights in Medina, which was preceded by fireworks from the canal.

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Addition to County Administration Building expected to be complete in May

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 10 December 2018 at 8:24 am

Photos by Tom Rivers

ALBION – The 23,000-square-foot addition to the County Administration Building is shown in late November. The county broke ground on the $10 million project in April.

The construction work is expected to be complete in May with employees likely to be moved in the following month.

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

The addition will be used by 50 county employees from the Health Department, Board of Elections, information technology department and the Legislative office and staff. The building will be connected to the current Administration Building with the addition on the south side.

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.

There are currently about 125 people working out of the building for the Department of Social Services, Job Development, Tourism, Planning and Development, Office for the Aging, Department of Motor Vehicles, and Personnel.

The County Legislature approved a maximum bond of $10,063,881 for the addition to the building on Route 31, behind the nursing home. The bond is expected to be about $6.5 million due to grants for the project. The county has already been approved for a $3,682,748 state grant towards the project and State Sen. Robert Ortt also secured a $200,000 state grant.

The larger state grant includes funds to create space at the neighboring Mental Health Building for a primary doctor from Oak Orchard Health.

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Leadership Orleans celebrates graduation of first class

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 8 December 2018 at 3:24 pm

Provided photos

LYNDONVILLE – Leadership Orleans on Friday graduated the first class of the program with a celebration at the White Birch Golf Course in Lyndonville. Pictured in front, from left, include: Kelly Kiebala, chairwoman of the steering committee; Kaitlyn Delamarter, executive director of United Way of Orleans County; Lisa Tombari, executive assistant for Talis Equity: Kathy Hodgins, director of treatment services for GCASA; Nadine Hanlon, clerk of Orleans County Legislature; and Jackie Gilbert, owner/vice president of Darrell’s Place.

Second and back row, from left: James DeFilipps, deputy for Orleans County Sheriff’s Office; Doug Farley, director of Cobblestone Society & Museum; Patrick Weissend, vice president and branch manager of Tompkins Bank of Castile; Nick Nesbitt, owner/manager for Nesbitt Fruit Farms & Nesbitt Bros. LLC; Steve Hicks, financial advisor with Brighton Securities; RJ Linder, credit representative for Farm Credit East; Brett Kast, orchard manager for Kast Farms; Robert Batt, executive director of Cornell Cooperative Extension in Orleans County; Eddie Moss, director of computer services for Orleans County; Ed Fancher, executive director of Community Action of Orleans & Genesee; Josh Mitchell, funeral director with Christopher Mitchell Funeral Homes; Mike Ryan, manager of operations for RTS Orleans; Tim Hollenbaugh, service manager/sales for Bentley Brothers, Inc.; Eric Watson, president of Watson Enterprises; Jessica Root-Olinger, manager for Dale S. Root Trucking LLC; Heidi Truschel, community relations manager for the Arc of Genesee Orleans; and Skip Helfrich, Leadership Orleans director.

Eddie Moss, director of computer services for Orleans County, speaks on behalf of the class and thanked supporters of the program.

The debut class comes from a cross section of the community, including law enforcement, government department heads, farm owners, agency directors and other business leaders. The program picked residents who have demonstrated leadership abilities, interest in community affairs, and a commitment to Orleans County’s future.

Each month the group learned about a different sector of the community, including government, arts and culture, volunteerism and non-profit organizations, community health, tourism and recreation, agribusiness, economic & workforce development, and education.

The class met Thursday for a retreat to recap the year. This brainstorming session includes Marlee Diehl, front left, and Nadine Hanlon, and Nick Nesbitt, back left, and RJ Linder.

Charlie Nesbitt, left, and Skip Helfrich, Leadership Orleans director, welcome people to the graduation program. They acknowledged sponsors and supporters of the program.

Nesbitt also received a special recognition for helping with recruitment and fundraising for the first class. Peggy Marone, director of Leadership Genesee, also received a special recognition award for helping to develop the curriculum and build the organizational structure for the program in Orleans County.

The second class of 25 participants will start next month.

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Cooperative Extension honors ‘Friends’

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 5 December 2018 at 5:47 pm

Photos by Tom Rivers: Marsha Cook, left, receives an award as an outstanding 4-H leader from Kristina Gabalski, 4-H program leader. The meeting was held at the new Lures Restaurant & Bar at the Bald Eagle Marina on South Lakeland Beach Road.

KENDALL – The Cornell Cooperative Extension of Orleans County held its annual meeting on Tuesday night and honored many supporters of the agency.

John Curtin was named “Friend of the Extension” for donating 4.5 acres of woodlots by the fairgrounds near Wood Road. The Extension may use the wooded area for a nature trail, outdoor camping and perhaps other uses,” said Robert Batt, the Extension executive director.

Having the land creates many possibilities for the agency, Batt said.

The Extension also named Brett Ross a “Friend of the Master gardeners.” Ross grows thousands of day lilies on East Shelby Road near the Millville hamlet in Shelby. He donates many varieties of day lilies to the Master Gardeners’ plant sale in September, said Katie Oakes, the Master Gardener coordinator. Ross and Curtin were unable to attend the annual meeting on Tuesday.

There are 15 master gardeners who led about 300 people in classes and workshops the past year. The master gardeners were also at numerous community events.

The 4-H program named an outstanding 4-H leader. Marsha Cook of Albion has been the leader of the Super Kids Club the past five years. She has been helping in 4-H for more than decade. Her son Brandon, 18, is aging out of 4-H but daughter Hollee, 7, will be involved for several more years.

“It’s good the kids,” Cook said about 4-H. “There’s more to life than textbook learning.”

She likes the hands-on projects through 4-H. Cook is an active fair volunteer, including in the weeks leading up to the fair helping to make sure the grounds are in tip-top shape, said Kristina Gabalski, the 4-H program coordinator.

“Marsha is always ready to step up and help wherever she might be needed in the 4-H program, including help with the annual holiday workshops in advance of the Holiday Fair,” Gabalski said.

Robert Batt, executive director of the Cornell Cooperative Extension, thanks supporters of the agency. He also led a trivia contest at the annual meeting.

Several 4-H leaders marked milestone anniversaries of service this year, including: Kayla Sucy and Marsha Cook for five years; Merri Mathes for 10 years; Barb Kurzowski for 20 years; and Sara Johnson for 30 years.

“Their guidance, care and dedication have helped shape so many young lives,” Gabalski said about the 4-H leaders. “There would be no way to provide 4-H programming to the youth of Orleans County without them.”

There are 454 youth, ages 5 to 19, enrolled in the 4-H program, with 89 leaders and volunteers.

The 4-H’ers had more than 3,000 exhibits at the Orleans County 4-H Fair, which was attended by over 24,500 people during the fourth week of July.

There are now three schools – Kendall, Medina and Lyndonville – with afterschool 4-H clubs.

The Extension also elected five people as members of the board of directors.

• Ben Flansburg is president and co-owner of BCA Ag Technologies, a precision farming company that specializes in GPS and precision control of agriculture equipment. He also is active with the Barre Volunteer Fire Company.

• Jose Iniguez is a fruit grower and co-owner of Fish Creek Orchards in Waterport.

• Christopher Oakes of Medina is the production manager for LynOaken Farms in Lyndonville.

• Joseph Sidonio of Holley is a Marine veteran and self-employed n the mining and quarrying industry. His daughter Amelia is active in the 4-H Rabbit Raisers and the Senior Council.

• Zach Welker of Medina breeds, shows and markets registered Holstein genetics in addition to helping as Sk Herefords, where his wife Alana is a partner. Welker is a co-leader and barn superintendent of the beef/dairy club, and a board member for the Animal Welfare/Market Auction Committee as well as the Fair Committee.

Three board members who are finishing their terms and leaving the board were commended for their service. They include Kathy Harling, Patrick Woolworth and Tim Kirby.

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EDA has to shut down revolving loan fund

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 5 December 2018 at 4:02 pm

Agency pushes to get out final loans before March 31 deadline

New York State is closing the revolving loan funds administered by local development corporations, including one through the Orleans Economic Development Agency.

The economic development agencies throughout the state have until March 31 to approve funding through the accounts.

The Orleans EDA has approved many loans for small businesses the past 17 years since the fund was created. The state first approved $320,000 for the Orleans EDA to loan to small businesses in 2001.

Jim Whipple, the EDA chief executive officer, said the agency has a great record of repayment. The loans are offered at 75 percent of the lowest prime rate. They go to new small businesses that would typically have a hard time getting financing from a bank.

“We’re hoping the state comes up with another of doing these,” Whipple said today. “Ours has been very successful. It is very helpful to start-up businesses.”

The EDA would only makes loans available to business owners who completed a Microenterprise Assistance Program that offers advice and expertise for running a small business. About 500 people have completed MAP the past 20 years.

Three recent graduates have the local OK for loans through the revolving loan fund. That includes $35,000 for Heather Collella, who operates DC hauling; $40,000 to Richard T. Gallo Sr., who operates Gallo’s Hauling; and $15,000 for Bonnie Heck, owner of Herbalty Cottage in Medina.

Those loans were approved by the County Legislature last week and need state approval for a final OK.

The County Legislature last week agreed to have the county administer the fund’s repayments and income in the future.

Whipple said additional loans may be approved before March 31.

He is optimistic the program will return through the Orleans EDA.

“We’re going to be out of the loan business, but we will be back,” Whipple said. “I guarantee it.”

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County approves $125K study for possible regional water system

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 4 December 2018 at 4:50 pm

Photos by Tom Rivers: Barre has a water tank that serves water users in Barre and Albion.

ALBION – Orleans County and many of the local municipalities will work together with a consultant on a study of the water infrastructure in the county and the possibility of creating a regional water system.

The County Legislature last week approved spending $125,000 for the Wendel firm to complete a water efficiency study. The county expects to receive about $75,000 in state funding for the project, with the county paying $30,000 and other municipalities kicking in $20,000.

“The county wants to maximize the water resources in the county,” Chuck Nesbitt, the county chief administrative officer, told local municipal leaders during a recent meeting about the study.

The study will take an inventory of all the water infrastructure in the county, as well as the personnel devoted to maintaining water lines and running water plants.

The study may show the need for new transmission lines to move water to spots in the county that would be ideal for economic development.

County and municipal officials expect the study will show potential cost savings and efficiencies that will reduce costs and increase capacity. There may be opportunities for sharing services with water meter reading, water billing, and potentially water distribution system repairs.

During meetings with village and town officials, county leaders said this isn’t a precursor to a takeover of the village and town water systems. They would each keep their own infrastructure. One scenario could have a water superintendent overseeing the systems in more than one jurisdiction and a water department focused on fixing leaks and maintaining the system.

Currently each town has a highway superintendent who also functions as the water superintendent. Many of those superintendents are nearing retirement and may not be easy to replace, especially with the licenses needed to serve as water chief.

Gerald Summe, executive vice president of Wendel, met with the Albion Village Board on Oct. 10 and urged the board to participate in the study. The board approved contributing $2,000 to the cost.

“Manpower and skill sets is probably one of the biggest challenges you’re seeing,” Gerald Summe, executive vice president of Wendel, told local officials during a recent meeting.

Creating a regional water system in the county would improve the chances for state and federal funding to maintain and upgrade water treatment plants, and also the transmission lines, Summe told the local officials.

“If you work together you put yourself in a better position to get grants,” he said.

The Village of Albion is currently the main water provider in central Orleans with its water plant in Carlton, using water from Lake Ontario. Albion provides about 1.7 million gallons of water daily for 15,000 customers.

The Village of Lyndonville has a smaller water plant with about 2,200 customers and 400,000 gallons daily. Holley uses water from a well, and is supplemented by the Monroe County Water Authority. The MCWA is the primary supplier in eastern Orleans, with Albion serving a portion of Murray.

The Niagara County Water District is the water supplier for the Village of Medina and most of Shelby and Ridgeway.

The 10 towns have a series of water districts all with varying debt service rates. If the municipalities went to regional system, the debt would stay with each district. There could, however, be more customers to spread out the costs for upgrades to a local water treatment plant and for running new transmission lines to get water where it needs to go.

One scenario could have a single administrator of the water system, while the towns and villages share staff for maintaining the water systems.

Summe said there are significant grants available to help upgrade the water systems in Orleans County. But the first step is doing a study to provide an “economic justification” for the funding.

The Albion Village Board voted to contribute $2,000 to the study. Board members said they would welcome more grants to help upgrade its water plant.

Wendel said it’s likely the state will contribute about $47,500 in a grant through the Local Government Efficiency Program and $25,000 through the New York State Energy and Research Development Authority (NYSERDA).

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County wants to welcome more campground visitors

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 3 December 2018 at 3:58 pm

Dawn Borchert

ALBION – Orleans County has 1,150 campsites and wants to welcome more visitors to stay at those sites.

The Orleans County Legislature last week approved spending $5,500 for a three=page ad in a directory through the Campground Owners of New York.

The state “I Love New York” funds will pay for half of the ad, while three local campgrounds and the County Tourism Department share with the cost.

“Camping is a big industry and Orleans County is going to be part of it,” Dawn Borchert, the county’s tourism director, told county legislators last week.

A report last year from Tourism Economics said camping is a $1.2 billion industry in the state with 350 privately owned campgrounds with 30,000 campsites. There are also 16,000 campsites in state and municipal parks.

The campground report, based on 2015 data, counted 11,500 total jobs related to the campground industry in the state.

The campground directory includes 175,000 copies, Borchert said.

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County saved $180K by building small bridge itself

Provided photos: The Orleans County Highway Department installs six precast deck slabs that Highway Department workers poured themselves for the culvert in Ridgeway.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 30 November 2018 at 8:52 am

ALBION — The Orleans County Highway Department built a 18-foot-long culvert that opened to traffic last week on Culvert Road in Ridgeway.

The project was a first for the Highway Department, which built the concrete slabs and did the work building the short span. Doing the project in house saved the county about $180,000.

The project cost $197,408 and that factors in the cost for county employees and equipment. (Take out the employee and equipment costs, and the county spent about $120,000.) If the project had been bid to a contractor it would have cost $379,000, county legislators were told on Wednesday by John Papponetti, an engineer with Labella Associates.

Papponetti has helped the county do an inventory of its culverts and bridges. His report about five years ago showed a daunting task for the county, particularly with its culverts.

“Orleans County is definitely behind the 8-ball when it comes to our infrastructure,” Papponetti told county legislators on Wednesday.

The county bought precast concrete blocks that the Highway Department set in place for the bridge abutments. Using the precast blocks meant a concrete wall didn’t have to be poured on site.

With bridges, there are often state and federal funds to help with those projects. Culverts, which are small bridges between 5 and 20 feet long, typically are funded solely by the county.

In Orleans, there are 87 culverts, and Papponetti said 60 to 65 “need attention.”

The projects can cost several hundred thousand dollars, without state or federal assistance. Orleans tried a new approach to culvert projects this year by doing the work itself with its Highway Department. The county employees made six big concrete slabs that became the deck for the new culvert. The department made the forms and poured the concrete for the six slabs, doing that work from March through May when the schedule allowed.

Then the Highway Department did the construction work, setting precast concrete blocks for the bridge abutments. The deck slabs were set on top, and the county then added a membrane on top, followed by asphalt, and then guardrails.

The county needed to rent a crane for a half a day to set the concrete slabs for the deck. It also rented a melting pot for the membrane. Otherwise, the county did the entire project with its own workers and equipment.

“This is a good start,” Papponetti said. “The workers did a good job. They were a great group of people to have out there.”

This photo shows the Highway Department making one of the six concrete slabs that were used as the deck of the bridge.

The culvert was closed to traffic for about three months and reopened last week. Papponetti and Jerry Gray, the county highway superintendent, deemed the work a big success.

“It’s open and it’s back to traffic,” Gray told county legislators on Wednesday. “It will probably be there for 80 years.”

Gray said the county learned from the experience and can find more efficiencies in the future.

He said the Highway Department is up for the challenge of doing the projects.

“This is the first one,” he said. “In the future, we can take some time off (the projects). You can take that money and get two bridges for the price of one.”

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County approves $71 million budget with 2.5% tax increase

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 29 November 2018 at 11:41 am

Orleans cites state mandates, community college hikes for budget strain

Photos by Tom Rivers: Chuck Nesbitt, the county’s chief administrative officer, goes over the budget during a public hearing on Monday. The County Legislature approved the budget unanimously on Wednesday.

ALBION – The seven-member Orleans County Legislature on Wednesday unanimously approved a $71,031,480 budget for 2019. The budget increases spending by 1.86 percent with taxes going up by 2.51 percent.

Although the tax levy, what the county collects in taxes, increases by 2.51 percent or by $419,921, from $17,150,323 to $17,570,244, the tax rate will go up 5 cents or 0.5 percent, from $10.05 to $10.10 per $1,000 of assessed property.

The county could have increased taxes by 2.60 percent and still stayed within the tax cap.

“We have put forward a strong budget for you, a fiscally sound budget that will support infrastructure, stay under the tax cap and keep the county running for another year,” Lynne Johnson, County Legislature chairwoman, said at Monday’s public hearing at the courthouse.

The county continues to feel the strain of funding many state mandated programs, from Medicaid to indigent defense legal services, public assistance for adults and families, preschool special education, youth detention and other programs required by the state but needing local taxpayer dollars.

Those mandated programs account for 93 percent of the tax levy. That percentage has been dropping. It was 116 percent in 2013, and has fallen to 111 percent in 2014, followed by 105, 100, and 98 in 2018.

One of those programs has been on the rise. The county pays about a third of tuition for community college for residents of Orleans. The average community college chargeback rate has increased by nearly $1,000 in the past three years, from $2,932 to $3,846 and will cost the county $1.9 million next year.

Chuck Nesbitt, the county’s chief administrative officer, presented the budget during a hearing on Monday. He said county taxpayers pay less in taxes than in nearly all counties in the state.

The $769 per capita in taxes in 2017 in Orleans ranks 55th lowest of the 57 counties, Nesbitt said, while total government expenditures are 51st in the state out of 57 counties, Nesbitt said, citing data from See Through NY.

The budget hearing on Monday in the main courtroom at the County Courthouse didn’t draw any comments from the public. The hearing was mainly attended by county officials.

Other highlights of the 2019 budget include:

• A 23,000-square-foot addition to the County Administration Building is under construction. A new bond payment for the project begins next year at $437,629 for that project. There are two major obligations being retired in 2020 for the courthouse and 2022 for the radio system that should begin to relieve that pressure going forward, Nesbitt said. Those two payments account for $683,693 in the 2019 budget.

• The budget funds 430 positions and includes some additions. The Sheriff’s Office has added a School Resource Officer at the Kendall and Lyndonville school districts, with each district paying $100,000 for the deputy. Buildings and Grounds is adding an employee to assist with Solid Waste and Recycling as well as additional maintenance, and the District Attorney’s Office has budgeted for an additional part-time assistant DA to cover new duties related to Raising the Age of Criminal Responsibility.

• The dome for the Orleans County Courthouse needs $140,000 in repairs. County officials have set aside the funds in the 2019 budget.

• The county will maintain funding to several outside agencies in 2019. The Cooperative Extension receives the most funding of an outside organization at $240,000. That is the same as 2018. Other funded organizations include the Orleans Economic Development Agency at $190,000, up from $180,000 in 2018; Soil and Water, $92,500, same as 2018; Four public libraries, $10,000, same as in 2018; Mercy Flight $5,000, same as 2018; Sportsman’s Federation, $4,000, up from $1,000; and GO Art!, $3,000, same as 2018;

• The budget also includes 2 percent raises for the seven county legislators. Their pay will go from $17,778 to $18,133 for the chairwoman, $13,442 to $13,711 for the vice chairman, and $11,850 to $12,087 for the other legislators.

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$6 million state grant will upgrade Orleans emergency communications

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 28 November 2018 at 12:24 pm

New radio towers will be added in Lyndonville, Kendall

ALBION – The state has approved a grant for nearly $6 million for Orleans County that will add two new radio towers and make other upgrades to the county’s emergency communications system.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the $5,897,141 grant this morning. The grant will pay for new 180-foot-tall towers in Lyndonville and Kendall, as well as technology to connect separate radio systems and new radio channels to strengthen communications between multiple jurisdictions and agencies.

The county will also add radio equipment to the Holley water tower to improve coverage in the Holley area.

The project will fund software and other upgrades for the system, which serves firefighters, law enforcement, highway employees, probation and some other municipal workers in the county.

The system currently has poor coverage in the Holley area, along Lake Ontario and some other isolated locations in the county, especially in buildings with thick walls.

The county in August submitted a grant application through the 2018 Statewide Interoperable Communications Targeted Grant through the NYS Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services Office. The state is allowing a maximum of $6 million per county for the grants.

Tim Warth, a consultant for the county with Radio Technologies, said in August that Orleans is one of 10 counties in the state identified as “in need.”

The proposed project would also improve interoperability with neighboring counties, allowing personnel to cross county boundaries and still have a radio signal.

The two new 180-foot-high towers in Lyndonville and Kendall would enhance coverage by the lake, and allow a lower strength signal so Orleans isn’t interfering with Canada’s system, Warth said.

The county currently has towers in Shelby on Maple Ridge Road by the Medina water tank, on Countyhouse Road in Albion by the Emergency Management Office and on Route 31A by the Clarendon Highway garage.

The county would like to have the tower in Lyndonville on West Avenue and in Kendall at the firemen’s field near the Town Hall.

“It’s a huge effort, a great effort by our consultant and the county communications committee,” said Dale Banker, the county’s emergency management coordinator. “It will enhance our emergency communications, especially at the Kendall and Lyndonville schools. It’s almost doubling our capacity.”

The new Lyndonville tower would allow for a connection with Niagara County, which received a $6 million grant and is looking to add a tower in Barker. The Kendall tower or the Holley site could allow a connection with Monroe County’s system, Banker said.

“A big part of these grants is interoperability,” he said. “The state wants neighboring counties to communicate with each other.”

The towers have a generator and small shelter. Banker said the county may pursue another grant when this project is complete to add a tower in Carlton by the town highway building on Route 98 and an additional tower in Albion by the Public Safety Building.

The state today announced $32 million for seven counties to improve emergency communications.

“In emergency situations, it’s critical that first responders have the resources they need to quickly and efficiently respond to calls for help,” Governor Cuomo said in a statement. “This funding will allow counties to continue to upgrade and improve their emergency communications systems and in the process create a stronger, safer New York for all.”

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