New council shows more transparency in city meeting

Community, News

McCaysville, Ga. – The new year brought in new faces to the McCaysville City Council, and these new members wasted no time stepping away from the status quo of city council meetings. 

Council member Gilita Carter brought pause to the meeting’s proceedings early on when a motion was made to “pay the bills for January”.

“I’ve been coming to a lot of meetings and it always comes up, about paying the bills,” Carter spoke to the Mayor and Council, “Well, I often sit there and wonder, what bills? Whose bills?”

In meetings past, a motion would come to pay the city’s bills for the month, followed by a second, and unanimous approval. There was never given any explanation or break down of what these bills were or an amount to be paid.

Carter, who is assigned to look at city financials, continued, “We (the city) did operate at a loss and we need to look closely at these things and keep track.” She followed this statement by reading a detailed list of the monthly bills to be approved broken down by department.

The department totals for the month were as follows:

  • Administration – $1,633.37
  • Police Department – $17,190.74
  • Court – $519.50
  • Street Department – $1,272.94
  • City Park – $1419.39
  • Water and Sewer – $15,971.69

After completing the list of bills due, Carter questioned, “Have all of these, to this point, been approved? Is there anything on here that had to go before prior approval?”

McCaysville City Clerk Nancy Godfrey clarified the spending process of the city for new council members: “We do have a policy or resolution in place that anything over $500 is supposed to be approved by council.”

“The water department is different. All of those things don’t have to come before the council because they’re chemicals that are required to treat water,” Godfrey explained, but added that there was one item in the department’s bills that was questionable.

No representative from the Water and Sewer Department was present to give insight to council about this item.

McCaysville Chief of Police Michael Earley was present and did explain his department’s bills that had a total over $500.

One of these bills in particular accounted for the bulk of the department’s expenditures for the month. $11,300.87 was requested to pay Resurgens Orthopaedics.

This item was easily explained by Earley. Resurgens Orthopaedics is where suspect James Larry Parris, Jr. was treated after the officer involved shooting that took place in Aug. 2019.

“Once, you discharge your weapon on someone, they automatically become in custody,” Earley explained and continued, “so we assume all of their medical bills from that point forward and while they’re in jail.”

There were a few more items listed for the police department that had needed prior council approval. Council member Jason Woody questioned Earley, “Was it in the budget to purchase those items?” 

Earley answered Woody that all purchases were in the budget and offered to code his budget showing where each line item is taken from.

In the police department bills was an invoice for $702.08 for new tires (including balancing and mounting) for a Tahoe.

While Earley agreed that moving forward he would seek approval on expenditures over $500, he added, “There’s a few things in a police department that, if we have a few blow outs on our vehicles, I can’t wait to get tires for a vehicle. I have to get our vehicle back on the road.” 

Earley suggested that he meet with council to go over necessities for the department and get an ongoing pre-approval of certain items that his department needs to function immediately, so that if need arose he would already have the go ahead to purchase.

Council agreed to this suggestion by Earley.

Moving forward the City Council agreed that all department purchases over $500, that is nonessential for the department’s continued operation, would need to have prior approval before spending can take place.

Author

Natalie Kissel

Natalie@FetchYourNews.com

McCaysville : Are taxpayers on the hook for $342,459.35 in lost grant money?

Community, Featured Stories, News

McCaysville, Ga. – Reimbursement of grant money, or lack thereof, was a major point of discussion at the Jan. McCaysville City Council meeting, and based on the discussion, taxpayers could be on the hook for over $300,000 in park renovations.

“Mayor, I hate to beat a dead horse, but have we got our money back for the park yet?” former Council Member Rodney Patterson spoke during public commentary.

The approved grant for the City of McCaysville from Georgia One was in the amount of up to $500,000 and was to be used for improvements to the city park. According to the grant the city is responsible for any initial costs and if guidelines are properly followed, the city would be reimbursed for monies spent.McCaysville, Georgia, City Council, City Attorney, Mayor, Georgia One, Grant, Revitalization Committee, Park, Thomas Seabolt, Rodney Patterson, Cortney Stuart, Ann Williams, Reimbursement, Gilta Carter, Jason Woody, Larry Collis, Susan Kiker, Sue Beaver

McCaysville City Attorney Cortney Staurt stated that the grant had very “specific guidelines” and while she personally had not had any involvement with the grant process, she is aware of the issues being faced with getting reimbursement.

“There are reasons that it has been denied, or is in the process of being approved, that is a better way to put it,” Stuart spoke to the citizens and council,  “The quick answer is, they (Georgia One) need more information. It needs to be resubmitted with the correct information, and then at that point we will know whether or not they approved it.” 

If not approved, tax payers could be shelling out $342,459.35 to cover the costs of work already completed and this amount according to Patterson was never approved by the council to be spent: “I’m still trying to figure out how you (Mayor Seabolt) spent $342,459.35 out of the city budget and never got approval for it.”

The grant outlines that any jobs over $100,000 must be put out to bid. The city, however, used a sole source provider to complete these jobs. The jobs were finished and paid for in Sep. 2019.

“That didn’t happen,” Stuart said of the city receiving bids but added, “My understanding, there were bids, they just wasn’t submitted to the city.” 

Now the city is in the process of tracking down these possible bids in order to resubmit paperwork for reimbursement.

So how did the City of McCaysville end up in this predicament?

According to Patterson and Stuart, there was a series of missteps that took place in the process.

Initially Paragon Consulting Group, Inc. a company out of Griffin, Ga., was hired to oversee the work done at the park, but several people felt that their spending was more than necessary, and upon the recommendation of Mayor Thomas Seabolt and citizen Ann Williams, Paragon Consulting Group, Inc. was let go.

“I was opposed to ever hiring Paragon in the first place,” Stuart spoke on this move and added of who took over the project, “In my opinion I think the Revitalization Committee is great but they should not have that power and they have too much power right now. They have way too much power. They are making council decisions and they should not be able to.”

While Stuart stated that the Revitalization Committee is “not a bad thing”, she did feel that specific guidelines need to be publicly made clear to the committee, namely that they cannot purchase on behalf of the city and that all purchases should be approved by the city council: “I’m not saying the Revitalization Committee is bad. I’m saying, somehow, all this money got spent and the council didn’t approve it.”

“It has got us in problems,” Stuart acknowledged about the actions taken by the Revitalization Committee without City Council oversight.

Another point of contention surrounds Ann Williams, who was paid $15,000 by the city for continuing the grant writing process.

It was noted during commentary that Williams was paid out of General Fund money that would not be reimbursed and that she had subcontracted the work to a person in Blairsville.

On the subject of Ann Williams receiving the grant writing contract, Stuart shared her opinion, “I do know that she got a contract. Which I was completely opposed to.”

Patterson questioned Mayor Seabolt about Williams and the possibility of the city not being reimbursed, “Does she got to pay back the $15,000 if we lose the grant? Or did we just give it to her?”

City Council plans to meet with the Revitalization Committee to discuss moving forward on city improvements in the future and establish clear guidelines between the two groups.

The city is also in the process of gathering more information to resubmit to Georgia One in hopes that the $342,459.35 will be reimbursed.

When questioned directly by Patterson about when the city will see the reimbursement, Seabolt simply replied, “I’m working on it. It will come. Just don’t worry about it.”

Author

Natalie Kissel

Natalie@FetchYourNews.com

McCaysville Mayor Seabolt criticized over job performance

Community, News

McCaysville, Ga. – The final 2019 meeting of the McCaysville City Council was anything but business as usual, as conversations aimed at the Mayor became heated and accusations came to light.

Council member Rodney Patterson, who ran against Mayor Thomas Seabolt in the recent city election, used his last meeting with the council to “clear his conscious”. Patterson brought to the forefront some of the issues that he felt the re-elected Seabolt was not being completely transparent about.

The first of Patterson’s reveals were the Mayor’s reimbursement filings for the use of his personal vehicle to conduct city business. According to Patterson, Seabolt had turned in $2,055 in claimed vehicle expenditures last year.

McCaysville, Georgia, City Council, Mayor, Police, Thomas Seabolt, Rodney Patterson, Richard Wagner, Attorney, Cortney Stuart, Sue Beaver, Beavers Home Improvement, Tamberlyn Tanner, Park, Budget, CDL, Illegal, Expenses, Michael Earley, Park, Restrooms

Mayor Thomas Seabolt received criticism at the Dec. 2019 City Council meeting.

“That’s equivalent to 822 gallons of gas at $2.50 a gallon,” Patterson said explaining his concern and added, “That’s 12,335 miles at 15 miles per gallon.”

Patterson questioned Seabolt if he had done that many miles in less than a 2 square mile city. Seabolt responded, “I might have. I don’t know.”

Seabolt pointed out that the amount also covers “wear and tear” on the vehicle and that he had adhered to the City Charter when turning in his expenditures.

Council member Richard Wagner came to Seabolt’s defense stating that the expenditures also cover vehicle insurance: “I don’t think it’s being abused at all.” 

“I’ve never turned in no expense,” Patterson retorted, stating that he has used his personal vehicle for city business as well,  “I figured the $200 a month (city council salary) they give me was fair enough for me to do my traveling.” 

Patterson then turned his attention to recent renovations being completed at the city park. $28,000 was set aside for renovations of the park’s restrooms. This remodel was to include five toilets and one urinal.

Beavers Home Improvement was put in charge of the job and the city did manage to stay under budget only spending $23,346. However, renovations were not done as expected. Patterson pointed out that the restrooms ended up only having 3 toilets and one urinal, and that no insulation or heating and cooling were put into place, so the restrooms could not even be left open during the Winter months due to the threat of freezing pipes.

A citizen in the audience, a former plumber with over 30 years experience, chimed in on the restroom issue.

“I’ve never seen a job that was done so shabby,” the citizen addressed Seabolt speaking of pipes being installed at improper heights and the lack of quality of the fixtures.

The citizen went on to express his feelings on the possibility of nepotism playing a role: “This man is not a plumber. He is not a qualified contractor. He’s not licensed, but yet he gets a job to go down there and gets paid by the city and his mother’s on the council. This is not right.”

Wondering why the job wasn’t inspected before payment was given the citizen summed up his feelings by stating, “I’ve never in my life seen my tax dollars thrown down the drain like I did down there.”

Although the restroom remodel came in under budget, the park budget itself is $42,459 over the original $300,000 agreed upon by council to spend. Patterson asked Seabolt why the city had not been reimbursed through grant money for the amount spent on the park, and wondered if the city would see the reimbursement at all. Patterson felt the bid process was not done properly by the city and this could disqualify them for reimbursement.

Lastly, Patterson questioned why city employees were driving a Class A vehicle without a CDL license. 

According to the United States Department of Transportation, a Class A CDL is required to drive tractor-trailer, or combination vehicles that have a gross combined weight rating of 26,001 pounds or higher with the towed portion of the vehicle that weighing more than 10,000 lbs.

“Why did we not send them to Tri County?” Patterson questioned about the licensing, saying that he had brought this issue to the council before and it was brushed aside. “I just want to know why our employees is driving around illegally in a CDL Vehicle, and there is not a single employee in the City of McCaysville that is licensed to drive it.”

Patterson pointed out the liability to the city and asked City Attorney Cortney Stuart what would be the end result if there were an accident in the vehicle without proper licensing. Stuart replied, “It’s a problem.”

Seabolt also took criticism from citizens in the audience. 

Tamberlyn Tanner addressed the workload that McCaysville Chief of Police Michael Earley has taken on. Earley gives monthly updates at City Council meetings, and usually these updates pertain to more than just police business.

In these updates Earley will often speak of upkeep taking place within the city. It is clear from the updates that Earley is the point of contact on many projects including roadwork, bridge inspection, and city infrastructure.

Tanner expressed that these responsibilities should fall on the Mayor and not the city’s Chief of Police.

“How are you supposed to do your job plus do his job?” Tanner spoke to Earley and then turned to Seabolt, “You’ve added things on his plate that you should be doing and you should be taking care of, not him.”

Tanner said that Earley’s main concern should be to protect and serve the citizens of the city, and wonders how he can continue to do so when new responsibilities are being added to his plate regularly.

This turned into a heated debate between Tanner and Seabolt about Seabolt’s inability or unwillingness to handle the responsibilities of mayor with Seabolt finally stating to Tanner, “I’m not going to sit here and listen to you.”

“Well, you will because I pay taxes here,” Tanner replied. 

Seabolt offered no further explanations or defense during the public comments and adjourned the meeting.

 

 

Featured Image : Previous McCaysville City Council meeting. (L-R) Rodney Patterson, Richard Wagner, Thomas Seabolt, and Larry Collis

Author

Natalie Kissel

Natalie@FetchYourNews.com

Sunday Alcohol Sales Pass, McCaysville Election Results

Election, News

McCaysville, Ga. – Polls have closed and votes have been tallied in the City of McCaysville 2019 General Election.

The hot topic on the ballot for this 2019 election was Sunday alcohol sales within city limits. The proposal and reading of the new ordinance was met with little opposition and overwhelming favor at public hearings and City Council meetings.

Georgia, McCayville, Alcohol, Sunday, Election, Early Voting, City Hall, Mayor, City Council, Larry Collis, Sue Beaver, Gilta Carter, Jason Woody, Susan Kiker, Steve Stanley, Tamberlyn Tanner, Nathan Turpin, Rodney Patterson, Thomas Seabolt, Attorney, Cortney Staurt

Although, there appeared to be little opposition to the new ordinance the final count of the votes told a different story with the votes being split on the yes/no question.

Ordinance 19-08-13 currently reads that a licensed establishment within city limits would be allowed “Sunday sales of malt beverages and wine for consumption on the premises”.

These sales can include beer or wine (hard ciders will also be allowed) on Sundays between the hours of 12:30 p.m. and 11:45 p.m.

Voters ultimately decided to allow these sales with a final tally of:

  • Yes (in favor) – 90
  • No (opposed) – 87

Thomas Seabolt will remain as Mayor of McCaysville, beating out opponent Rodney Patterson. Incumbents Larry Collis  and Sue Beaver will also remain as members on the City Council. Newcomers Gilta Carter, Susan Kiker, and Jason Woody will take the three seats vacated by previous council members.

***These election results are unofficial until being certified by the Secretary of State’s office***

ELECTION RESULTS

MAYOR

  • Thomas Seabolt – 117
  • Rodney Patterson – 63

CITY COUNCIL

  • Jason Woody – 146
  • Gilta Carter -131
  • Larry Collis – 122
  • Susan Kiker – 120
  • Sue Beaver – 112
  • Steve Stanley – 93
  • Tamberlyn Tanner – 48
  • Nathan Turpin – 69

Author

Natalie Kissel

Natalie@FetchYourNews.com

Early voting begins in McCaysville

Community, News

McCaysville, Ga. – Voters will have a lot to decide in the upcoming Nov.5 election in the City of McCaysville. Early voting officially opens Monday, Oct. 14 and will run through Friday, Nov. 1. 

Early voters can cast their ballots at the McCaysville City Hall, Monday – Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The hot topic on the ballot for this 2019 election is Sunday alcohol sales within city limits. The proposal and reading of the new ordinance was met with little opposition and overwhelming favor at public hearings and City Council meetings.

Ordinance 19-08-13 currently reads that a licensed establishment within city limits would be allowed “Sunday sales of malt beverages and wine for consumption on the premises”. 

These sales can include beer or wine (hard ciders will also be allowed) on Sundays between the hours of 12:30 p.m. and 11:45 p.m.

Establishments, serving alcohol, who stay open beyond 45 minutes of the allowed alcohol sales time window are subject to legal action. No alcohol sales will be allowed on Christmas Day in city limits.

Voters will be asked to answer yes or no to the following question:

“Shall the governing authority of the City of McCaysville Georgia be authorized to permit and regulate Sunday sales of distilled spirits or alcoholic beverages for beverage purposes by the drink?”

Georgia, McCayville, Alcohol, Sunday, Election, Early Voting, City Hall, Mayor, City Council, Larry Collis, Sue Beaver, Gilta Carter, Jason Woody, Susan Kiker, Steve Stanley, Tamberlyn Tanner, Nathan Turpin, Rodney Patterson, Thomas Seabolt, Attorney, Cortney Staurt, Ballot

Incumbent Thomas Seabolt (L) will face Challenger Rodney Seabolt (R) for the seat of Mayor.

McCaysville City Attorney Cortney Stuart clarified that the current ordinance will not allow for the sale of hard liquor even though wording on the ballot suggests otherwise. Staurt explained that by law the term “distilled spirits” had to be included on the ballot.

“Distilled spirits is liquor,” Staurt said explaining the wording,  “however, in the City of McCaysville, now as the ordinance stands, there is only malt beverages and wine allowed inside the City of McCaysville.” 

Staurt did confirm that future councils would have the option of amending the alcohol ordinance to allow liquor sales.

New faces will also be seen on the City Council following the 2019 election. Current council members Tommy Quintrell and Richard Wagner will not be seeking re-election. Council member Rodney Patterson will also be vacating his seat in his bid to become McCaysville’s next mayor.

In total at least 3 seats on the 5 person council will be vacant for newcomers. Voters will decide the next 5 members by popular vote and will have the following to choose from:

  • Larry Collis (Incumbent)
  • Sue Beaver (Incumbent)
  • Gilta Carter
  • Jason Woody
  • Susan Kiker
  • Steve Stanley
  • Tamberlyn Tanner 
  • Nathan Turpin

Voters will also need to decide between incumbent Thomas Seabolt or challenger Rodney Patterson for seat of Mayor.

The General Election will be held Tuesday, Nov. 5. Voters can cast their ballots at McCaysville City Hall on the day of the General Election or during the designated early voting times.

 

 

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that covers Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. FYN attracts 300,000+ page views per month, 3.5 million impressions per month and approximately 15,000 viewers per week on FYNTV.com and up to 60,000 Facebook page reach. If you would like to follow up-to-date local events in any of those counties, please visit us at FetchYourNews.com

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Natalie Kissel

Natalie@FetchYourNews.com

McCaysville to add full-time officer after recent events

Community, News

McCaysville, Ga. – With growth comes crime, and McCaysville is not immune to this statistic. McCaysville Chief of Police Michael Earley made a plea to city council to help him keep the citizens of the city safe.

“I know we just passed the budget, but I am asking the council to help me out,” Earley began as he asked council members to find funds somewhere in the budget to hire another full-time officer for night shift.

The McCaysville Police Department is currently comprised of only 6 full-time officers with the remaining force being part-time. 

McCaysville, Police, Fannin, Shooting, Officer involved

James Larry Parris, Jr., age 51, is the alleged gunman who caused McCaysville Police to use lethal force.

August has been the busiest month that the department has experienced. Earley laid out statistics for the month stating that the department received 53 dispatch calls, 121 phone calls, 15 walk-ins, and 68 vehicle stops.

Among the calls to come in during the month of August, Earley referenced one in particular that reinforced his feelings that the city and his department would be safer with another full-time officer. This incident made statewide news as an officer involved shooting.

Patrolman Bill Higdon was first to arrive on the scene of an unstable gunman holding 3 citizens hostage. According to Earley, Higdon, alone on the scene, screamed into the radio for backup as the suspect was actively discharging a weapon inside the home.

Earley stated that he does not want his officers working alone on night shift. Being in pairs will provide extra security to the officers and enable them “to effectively protect the citizens of this city that we live in”.

“I know this is going to take more money and I don’t know where that money is going to be found, but if you all would consider trying to find that money somewhere,” Earley said about the need for another full-time officer, and added, with visible emotion, about the night of the hostage situation, “We came out ahead and lives were saved that day and we all went home safe. This is just one event that could very easily happen again.”

Council member Rodney Patterson answered Earley immediately addressing fellow council, “I think we could find it in the budget for him to have help.” 

Patterson also made mention that the purchase of 3 new body shields at a price tag of $300 a piece would add to the safety of the force.

“I think if our chief needs something then we try to get it for him,” Council member Sue Beaver agreed with Patterson.

Patterson made the motion for a full time officer to be added to the police force and for the purchase of three body shields, council member Richard Wagner gave a second and the council voted unanimously in favor.

Earley mentioned the possibility of moving a part-time officer to the full-time position. This hire would save the city money in that the officer would already have the necessary training to fill the full-time spot.

Author

Natalie Kissel

Natalie@FetchYourNews.com

McCaysville holds public hearing for proposed budget

Community, News
McCaysville, Georgia, Ga, Budget, 2019, 2020, fiscal year, city council, mayor, Larry Collis, Sue Beaver, Rodney Patterson, Richard Wagner,Tommy Quintrell, Thomas Seabolt, SPLOST, Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax, Administration, Police Department, Street Department, City Park, Municipal Court, Water Distribution, Sewer, Water Treatment Plant

McCaysville, Ga. – The McCaysville City Council held a public hearing on Aug. 29 to discuss the city’s 2019 – 2020 budget.

Read by McCaysville Mayor Thomas Seabolt, the resolution to adopt the 2019 – 2020 budget was met with no opposition by citizens who were present for the hearing.

According to the proposed budget the City General Fund is projecting a revenue of $1,455,526.00 and projecting expenses to be $1,455,526.00. Similarly the city’s Water and Sewer Service is projecting a revenue of $2,105,450.00 and projecting expenses to run $2,105,450.00.

These projections give the City of McCaysville a balanced budget for the 2019 – 2020 fiscal year that will end June 20, 2020.

“I think the budget’s wonderful,” Councilmember Sue Beaver shared her opinion of the proposed budget noting that the city needs everything that is in the expenditures in order to function.

Points of interest in the budget include the following departments:

Administrative proposed budget : $234,259.00

Police Department proposed budget : $585,047.00

Street Department proposed budget : $245,615.00

City Park proposed budget : $374,250.00

Municipal Court proposed budget : $16,355.00

Water Distribution proposed budget : $1,614,995.00

Sewer Collection and Disposal proposed budget : $389,455.00

Water Treatment Plant proposed budget : $101,000.00

 

General Fund projected revenue : $1,455,526.00

 

SPLOST projected revenue : $333,020.00

SPLOST Capital Outlay proposed expenditures : $202,500.00

The proposed budget for the City of McCaysville 2019 – 2020 fiscal year is expected to be voted in unanimously on Sep. 10 at the councils’ next regular monthly meeting.

Author

Natalie Kissel

Natalie@FetchYourNews.com

McCaysville Police respond to the growth of the city

Community, News

McCaysville, Ga. – The City of McCaysville continues to grow with renovation and innovation taking over the small town. This growth brings about economic opportunity and aesthetic upgrades, but with the good also comes the bad. Simply put, anytime you have more people, you will see a rise in crime.

The City of McCaysville Chief of Police Michael Earley spoke to city council members about the workload of his department and the role that law enforcement is playing in keeping the city safe.

Officer Bill Higdon receives officer of the month in March.

Currently the police department has 16 employees, some of which are full-time and others part-time.  Of these employees the city boasts three specialized certified instructors, an arson investigator, a criminal investigator, a hostage negotiator, an FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) certified sniper, and a full tactical team.

“Our town, as we know, is undergoing a continual growing cycle,” Earley stated explaining the need for the growth in his department and adding, “which deserve the most professional protection needed to best serve the citizens, business owners, and tourists.”

Last month, May 2019, the McCaysville Police Department responded to 41 dispatch calls, 228 phone calls, 23 walk-ins, and 92 vehicle stops. This resulted in 41 citations being given, 4 arrests being made, and 46 warnings being issued.

The Criminal Investigation Division currently has several open investigations including a case of statutory rape and a case of burglary with warrants expected to be issued soon.

Earley also made mention to a drug related case, “We are actively pursuing a drug investigation with acid / heroin.”

Appointed to Chief of Police on March 16, 2016, Earley gave the stats for the department since his time in that position: “Since my appointment, we have made 100 misdemeanor arrests, 40 felony arrests, and of that number 56 were drug arrests.”

The department, also since that Earley’s appointment, has issued 654 uniform citations and currently have 14 active investigations and 28 active pending warrants.

“Last year alone our department answered 1660 for services from the Fannin County 911 center,” Earley spoke highly of his staff’s work.

Earley compared these numbers to the statistics of previous years. In 2015 only 11 arrests were made for the entire year, and the previous year of 2014 only saw three arrests.

“I appreciate everything you all have done for me and helping me bring the police department where it needs to be. I feel very confident in what we have as a police department now,” Earley addressed the McCaysville City Council for their role in making the department “a professional law enforcement agency”.

Council member Sue Beaver replied to Earley, “Speaking on behalf of the council, thank you. You do a great job for us.”

Author

Natalie Kissel

Natalie@FetchYourNews.com

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