May 23, 2014 • Vol. XXXVII, No. 9

Relaxed and Ready Grads

The Skagway High School Class of 2014 reclines at the start of their graduation ceremony, which was held outdoors for the first time. This is Skagway, so there was wind, but it was a gala event. See our annual grad photo spread on pages 6 and 7 of our print edition.

Photo by Katie Emmets

Brief daycare closure highlights growing need for services


Little Cherubs Daycare was able to reopen Monday after five days of no childcare services, which put the parents of the 20 children in a bind.
On May 14, an Alaska Department of Health & Social Services employee made a follow-up visit to the Skagway daycare run by resident Linda Calver and found no change in health and safety concerns pointed out the week before. Calver was also operating with 20 children, eight more than the licensed amount.
Staci Collier of the department said the concerns won’t be made public until a report is filed.
Little Cherubs is the only year-round childcare service offered in Skagway and the only one that takes 0–1 year olds.
Little Dippers Learning Center only operates in the summer months and has a larger facility and is licensed for 30 children ages 1-12.
The issue of closing Little Cherubs was discussed at length at the May 15 Skagway Borough Assembly meeting with more than 15 people there to lend their support to “Grandma Linda,” as Calver is affectionately known within the community. She also was recently recognized with this year’s Family Childcare Center of the Year Award by a statewide association.
Mother-to-be Margeaux Ljungberg told the assembly that Skagway is in the midst of a baby boom, which makes infant-aged child care especially necessary.
“Grandma Linda was told I was pregnant almost 20 minutes after my mother was told because she has severe limitations on how many infants she can take,” she said, receiving a room full of laugher. “If you know your stuff, and I’ve been warned, you tell Grandma Linda and get your ass on that waiting list.”
Ljungberg told the assembly that about five babies were born in the winter and another five babies are due in the fall. With the amount of babies Skagway has seen in the last couple years and the amount of babies that will be born in the coming year, Ljungberg said, something needs to be done.
“And as someone who’s worked at the Skagway School since 2007, I can say that every kid who goes to Grandma Linda’s is awesome. hat’s a testament to her right there. “
Skagway resident Mark Larsen said he is a stepparent to a recent graduate of Skagway School and the parent of a child he hopes to be a graduate of the school in the future.
“Pivotal to that happening is, well frankly, daycare,” he said. “Pretty much in all my time here it’s been an issue and we’ve talked about what it takes to attract families to Skagway and keep them here.”
Affordable housing, he said, seems to be an issue that is beyond the control of the municipality and quality year-round jobs is also an issue that needs to be addressed.
“Year-round quality daycare is another one of those issues that’s going to make a huge difference in attracting and keeping young families with children year-round,” he said. “Linda Calver’s been here doing that, making a difference. I’d like to lend my voice in support of her and encourage the municipality to consider new ideas in providing or supporting year-round daycare for young families so that we can live here and so we can support the school,” he said.
Linda Calver, who sat in the back, got up to thank the assembly and those who came to the meeting to speak on her behalf. Her sentiment was met with a round of applause.
After hear citizens present, Mariana Moreno-Goodwin and Judie Klemmetson from the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services also thanked the community for coming to support Grandma Linda because they were in Skagway to do the same thing.
Though Moreno-Goodwin was the state employee who discovered Calver was out of compliance with her license and self-proclaimed “bearer of bad news,” she said she was working with Calver to get her license reinstated but also addressed Skagway’s affordable and available childcare issue. Moreno-Goodwin added that the state has seen a major Skagway childcare shortage coming for a long time and has bas been active in trying to come up with solutions.
“We’re hoping that we can brainstorm and look at facilities, but also really address what your concerns are,” she said. “You all know what your conditions are with your demographics, as well as with the affordability of child care, as well as with the qualifications of the staff available and identifying individuals within your community that want to become professionals within that field.”
Moreno-Goodwin said it’s really important for Skagway to have “more than one Grandma Linda.”
“Grandma Linda has been around for quite some time, and she’s done incredible work, but I think it’s time for you all to mentor some new Grandma Lindas,” she said.
After Calver won her award this year, she said she intends to retire as soon as the business can be transferred to someone else.
Mayor Mark Schaefer received a call from a parent while Little Cherubs was being shut down May 14 and knew it was going to be an issue of great importance.
Though he knows something needs to be done in the way of providing more childcare, Schaefer said there are two major problems going forward: a space to hold the program in and the appropriate people to run it.
“I’m sure it’s a money issue,” he said of the lack of interest of Skagway residents. “You’re not paying those people very much to watch those kids.”
Later in the meeting during the second reading of the FY15 proposed budget, Schaefer said he thinks it would be a good idea to designate $80,000 in addition to the $20,000 the municipality already splits between Little Cherubs and Little Dippers.
“We might not need to use it, but I want it to be there in case it’s needed,” he said. Assemblyman Tim Cochran asked Moreno-Goodwin and Klemmetson how long it would take for someone to get the proper qualifications to begin a new childcare program in Skagway.
“We’re in need of something now, and the bureaucratic process, as you know, doesn’t happen overnight,” he said.
Though the process seems dense, it’s not, Moreno-Goodwin said, adding that it could go as quickly as 30 days, and perhaps less if a location is identified already.
As part of the approval process, interested parties must become CPR certified, have the location inspected by the fire marshal, identify the age-range of children in the program and identify the location the program will be held. The age range dictates what is needed for the building, and identifying a location determines the tier of licensure, which determines the capacity.
A personal home, the first tier, allows for eight children with one childcare provider of age 18 years old or older. A group home, the second tier, allows for up to 12 children with two childcare providers 21 years old or older.
At the assembly meeting, the Skagway School was being discussed as a possible location while school is out for the summer.Having a large facility like the school could allow for up to 30 children.
Little Dippers, which has a large, childcare-intended facility in a municipal building, has four full-time employees and one part-time employee who comes in when needed to ensure the childcare company is staying within its ratios at any given moment.
Children up to 18 months old require a ratio of five children per one provider, ages 19-36 months require a ratio of six children per one provider, preschool aged children require a ratio of 10 kids to one provider and elementary aged children require a ratio of 14 kids to one provider.
While a provider could be approved in less than a month’s time and a potential location has been identified, the process can’t start until a community member shows interest in childcare.
While Little Cherubs is able to operate again, there were still eight children who had to be turned away in order for Calver to be compliant.
Moreno-Goodwin and Klemmetson said they are hopeful that residents in the Skagway community will come forward with interest and left some informational packets and licensing applications at City Hall.

HDC changes promised after heated appeal


After a heated Historic District Commission appeal highlighted flaws in the commission’s application process, the Skagway Borough Assembly is taking a closer look into HDC operations in an attempt to streamline the timeframe it takes to make a decision.
On April 24, the Skagway Borough Assembly acting as the Board of Appeals unanimously upheld an HDC decision to not grant the application for an awning on Dennis and Nancy Corrington’s Alaskan Ivory II building.
Beginning in September, the application process took about seven months to complete, during which time there was miscommunication, missed communication and application items were missing.
The HDC ultimately denied the request because it was unclear if the awning would meet the 8-foot height requirement from the boardwalk. There were also awning measurements that didn’t add up.
No matter what the height was when it first went up, Dennis Corrington said the awning could be adjusted and raised up to the required 8 feet off the boardwalk, but HDC representatives said required drawing they submitted had awnings that were lower than 8 feet.
Toward the end of their discussion, Nancy Corrington told the Board of Appeals this was no longer about an awning, it was about the process, an abusive use of power and favoritism.
“Quite frankly, I don’t care if we get an awning or not,” she said. “It’s about having to go through this time after time after time.”
She went on to say HDC chair Su Rappleye interjected her personal opinion into her decision-making throughout the process saying that she didn’t agree with plans because she didn’t think they would look good.
“To me it’s a power trip and I think the assembly needs to do something about it and now before people start selling businesses,” Corrington said.
Assemblyman Gary Hanson was the HDC liaison to the assembly when the awning permit was submitted in September.
Hanson told other assembly members that the application was incomplete when it came to the table in October and was missing a fabric swatch of the awning material. Hanson went on to say the HDC didn’t make contact with the Corringtons till December.
Because of other complications such as the HDC calling the Corringtons’ St. Louis house instead of their cell phones when they were in Seattle during a January meeting, and a fabric swatch not being picked up from the post office by the permitting official in time for the February meeting, the communication between the two parties was put off till March – when the HDC denied the Corringtons’ application because there were too many unknown factors.
Assemblyman Jim Sager said he finds the process the Corringtons went through to be “atrocious.”
“This is a process that is clearly broken, and the subjective and arbitrary interpretation of code and enforcement is another issue we’ll have to talk about at a different time, but the commissioners were just doing the job they were taught to do, and the bottom line is they haven’t gotten what they asked for yet. At this time I don’t see how we can overturn their decision.”
The decision to uphold the HDC decision passed unanimously 5-0, with Assemblyman Dan Henry absent.
After the decision was made on the appeal, the board gave everyone in the audience a chance to speak.
Multiple residents and business owners took the stand and gave accounts of similar interactions with the HDC, which one person referred to as the “Hysterical District Commission.”
They also praised the husband and wife duo for doing a good job with their buildings and testified that they have seen a prejudice towards the Corringtons from the HDC.
Former Mayor Tom Cochran said he supports the couple and what they have done for the community.
“I sympathize with Dennis and Nancy,” he said. “They’ve had a target on their head for the last 20 years, which I’ve seen in many instances especially with the Historic District Commission.”
Cochran said the prejudice toward the couple inadvertently extended to local contractors that missed out on winter work because of delays in decisions from the HDC.
But during the appeal, HDC member Lacey Chandonnet said the decision not to allow them to construct an awning had nothing to do with prejudice.
As a business owner herself, Chandonnet said she wanted the Corringtons to be approved for the awning because it would help.
“Their buildings look great,” she said. “They’ve done a great job in the Historic District. The bottom line is we didn’t know if they awnings were going to be eight feet tall.”
She also reiterated that the 8-foot-tall height requirement was that of the municipality’s not the HDC.
In a separate interview, Rappleye said she had no prejudice toward the Corringtons, and echoed Chandonnet’s concerns about the application.
Other business owners, suggested the code should be a little less stringent, as tourists won’t know the difference between fonts and colors that were and were not available during the historic gold rush period.
After nearly three hours of discussion, Mayor Mark Schaefer decided it would be best to send the matter to the Civic Affairs Committee for further review.
Superintendent Mike Tranel of Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park attended the meeting on May 14 to offer some opinions on how the application process could be improved.
Tranel said the park and muncipality are closely entwined, he wrote in a letter addressed to Mayor Schaefer.
“In my observation, there are probably some changes needed to be made in the process,” he said.
Tranel noted that the HDC’s decisions are by and large part reversed by the Board of Appeals and the Corringtons’ request was the only decision upheld in his recent memory.
The other issue Tranel observed with the process is the length of time it takes to get through an application and suggested the HDC find better more effective ways to communicate with business owners about what is needed and what the expectations are regarding applications before they come to the HDC with incomplete applications.
Tranel suggested the HDC put the list of application requirements in plain language online so business owners know what to come to the meeting with when they are ready to move forward with their request. He also suggested they could complete the application online. He also said the municipality could produce a user-friendly, plain language code that could be drawn up by a historical architect, HDC members and the borough attorney.
Civic Affairs member and assemblyman Dan Henry said he doesn’t think a lack of understanding of the code is the problem.
“Looking at the code can be somewhat of a complex thing, but it’s really simple to take a look at the other buildings in the Historic District and know what you can and cannot do,” Henry said, adding that it’s clear a replica of Notre Dame couldn’t be constructed downtown.
Civic Affairs and assembly member Spencer Morgan sat on the Planning and Zoning Commission prior to becoming an elected official and is familiar with municipal codes and the application process.
Morgan suggested that the application process start with municipal permitting official David Van Horn “who knows the codes better than anyone.”
Business owners could sit down with Van Horn so he could give opinions and offer advice on what needs to be worked on before they submit their application to the HDC, he said adding that it would speed the application process up and could potentially result in an answer from the commission within two meetings.

Gateway Project engineering goes out to bid


The Skagway Borough Assembly on May 15 approved issuing a request for proposals for Gateway Project engineering, but not without a spirited discussion about whether a project cost estimate should be part of the scope of work.
The idea for moving forward with engineering came out of a March Skagway Port Commission meeting. Commission chair Tim Bourcy said a conceptual design was the logical next step in the Municipality of Skagway and White Pass & Yukon Route’s Memorandum of Understanding process, so Skagway residents can see what municipal officials have been planning for the last couple of years.
The RFP contains information about the history of the facility, site information on the proposed project, and it outlines a timeline in which they will receive a completed 100 percent drawing on March 15, 2015.
At the meeting, Assemblyman Gary Hanson said he thinks determining a Gateway Project total cost should be included in the engineering services RFP, perhaps in conjunction with the preliminary 75 percent design drawings and updated design report that are due August 18.
“If we are planning to have the whole project to go out to vote, I believe to make an informed decision people should know how much it’s going to cost,” Hanson said, referring to the proposed lease between the municipality and White Pass set to go before voters this fall.
Assemblyman Dan Henry, however, questioned Hanson’s request saying it doesn’t matter what the project costs, because he said the municipality isn’t paying for it.
“If it’s $100 million, $500 million, we’re not paying for it,” Henry said
But Hanson said he didn’t understand why Henry would say that.
“The project has municipal and state money in it,” Hanson said. “There’s a $5 million municipal bond, and the last estimate I saw has $6.5 million from surplus cruise excise tax, so now we’re up to $11.5 million from the municipality.”
Henry said the surplus excise tax funds come from the state, so it’s technically not taxpayer money. Mayor Mark Schaefer added that the municipality told the Department of Commerce years ago that it would spend the state excise tax funds on the Gateway Project, and the department has it listed in its report. Once funds are designated, they cannot be spent on anything other than the original intent.
Henry added that the public doesn’t get to vote on what the excise tax funds are spent on.
“The responsibility of the locally elected official is to inform the citizen of this community who pays property tax and sales tax what their taxes are going for,” Henry said. “How funds are being dispersed that we get from other sources, I don’t see as a voting issue.”
Though he understands there will be only a $5 million contribution to the project from the municipality, Assemblyman Spencer Morgan said he thinks having a cost estimate would help the public to be more informed when voting on the lease.
“If the premise behind the MOU is to do the Gateway Project, why shouldn’t they understand the cost and the scope of the project,” he said.
But Henry interjected saying his statement was incorrect.
“We’re not going for a vote of the people to go through with the Gateway Project, the reason we are forced to go to a vote is because of the size of the lease agreement that would be with White Pass,” Henry said.
Morgan said most of the people he’s spoken with think the reason for the proposed new White Pass lease is to complete the Gateway Project, to which Henry agreed.
“Most of the people I’ve talked with and discussed the project are like ‘what is this going to cost us’?” Morgan said. “I understand it’s not coming out of the city’s funds, but part of the contract we’re dealing with is White Pass having to fund some of that, so there are aspects of the project people would like to know what the total cost is going to be even thought it’s not going the a cost to the tax payer.”
One item of concern in the MOU for Skagway residents is the remediation of the ore basin and what Skagway will contribute versus the already established $2 million White Pass as a responsible party will contribute under the proposed new tidelands MOU.
Though it was estimated as a $4-to-$5-million job by the municipality and a company who specializes in dredging, there is no concrete total or specifics of how extensive the remediation will be. Details on how the payments will be handled will be included in the proposed White Pass lease document.
But Henry said he wants to make sure everyone is clear on what money is being spent on the Gateway Project and where it’s coming from.
Henry said he’s concerned about the funds for the project being acurately represented.
“If you just throw on there that it’s going to cost the city $5 million and $6.5 million — that’s $11.5 million — that’s not accurate,” he said. “But someone reading it is going to go, ‘My God, we’re spending $11.5 million, I thought all the money was coming from somewhere else. Well I’m not voting for this because I don’t want any of the money I pay in sales tax and property tax to go to this project’.”
Mayor Mark Schaefer said the likely path going forward with the project would be to get the design done and put it out to bid with the given amount of money the municipality has.
As of now, the state has designated $10 million for the Gateway Project, the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority is prepared to bond $65 million, and Skagway has bonded $5 million, and $6.5 has been designated in surplus excise tax funds.
Assemblyman Tim Cochran said he doesn’t know if the funding totals need to be included in the RFP, but he thinks it should be listed somewhere the public can see it.
“I see justification for something like that in the paper or on the website because, as you’ve seen in the past, social media brings light to issues that shouldn’t be issues and misinformation gets perpetuated,” Cochran said. “People come in here and they’re talking about stuff that just isn’t relevant and just isn’t true. The city’s money is a $5 million bond — that’s it, but there are people that will confuse that and raise the issues that ‘we don’t want to do this, White Pass needs to be pushed out, whatever’ and they will use that as a platform.”
Assemblyman Steve Burnham said it’s a pretty standard procedure for the architects to include a total project cost estimate with their design report, and he added that in-the-works municipal public safety facility building architect Bettisworth North Architects and Planners Inc. also included how much the total would increase if not built right away.
Schaefer added that Sally Smith from U.S. Senator Mark Begich’s office was recently in town and told Schaefer there is another round of federal funding coming up for ports and harbors.
“She’s totally versed in this project and what it is, and she understands the implications to this region and she’ll let us know what the status is,” he said. “We can potentially get another $10 million.”

Draft tidelands lease gets first review

The Skagway Borough Assembly met in an executive session May 16 to discuss the proposed White Pass and Yukon Route railway waterfront lease that was drafted from a Memorandum of Understanding between the railroad and the Municipality of Skagway.
The assembly has instructed Borough Manager Scott Hahn to send the 43-page lease document back to borough attorney Bob Blasco for corrections and Blasco will then forward it on to White Pass.
“In my impression, it was very much in line with the MOU,” said Mayor Mark Schaefer.
Schaefer said he is very happy with the document and how it ensures protections for Skagway.
Bob was very diligent in making sure he was protecting the municipality,” Schaefer said. “He works for the municipality, and he’s here to protect us; he’s in the family.”
Schaefer said he doesn’t know when the lease will be ready for a vote, as the document could take a while to move back and forth between the two parties, but he personally doesn’t see it taking too long to make the document public.
“When we get it back from the company, we might be able to get the lease off the table after a quick look at it in executive session,” he said.
The municipality will then need to hold a couple meetings to discuss the lease and educate the public on the terms. The lease will also need to become an ordinance in which it will need to pass two readings before it can go to a vote.
Both Schaefer and White Pass President John Finlayson spoke about the MOU at a May 8 Skagway Chamber of Commerce luncheon prior to the assembly receiving the lease.
Finlayson reiterated that the MOU is a hot topic in town and is a big deal for both the municipality and White Pass.
Though it sounds cliché, Finlayson said, signing the lease would be a win-win for both parties.
“What a win-win is not is a quick fix, and it’s not about being nice and giving the other guy what he wants,” he said. “It’s not so much about the existing pie and who gets the biggest piece. It’s about growing the pie and working in collaboration to build a bigger piece.”
In order to come up with the win-win situation both parties needed to be nice enough to listen to the other party, but confidant enough to speak up for itself. The process wasn’t about being tenaciously cunning and cutthroat, it was about opening up and discussion viable solutions, he said.
“So why should White Pass be concerned with the municipality winning with this lease,” Finlayson said. “We are very concerned because we have 200 employees who live in town and we want to see them provided with the best services, and we want to continue to operate in a healthy, viable town.”
Finlayson said the municipality should also be concerned with White Pass having a winning outcome with the new lease because the company employs 200 year-round and seasonal residents, is one of the municipality’s bigger stakeholders and contributes to Skagway’s economy.
And though Finlayson said his company and the municipality have reached a win-win outcome, he would still like to hear any criticisms of the MOU to ensure he’s not missing anything.
“I’m open to listening because we’re not always the smartest ones in the room,” he said to a room full of laughter. “We would like to know if there are any holes in the MOU for either party because I think Mark and I are both open to finding the best deal.”
Schaefer also spoke at the luncheon and reiterated a few of the points of the MOU.
If a new lease is approved, it would last 35 years and the land leased would only be that underneath the Broadway and Ore docks, he said.
The municipality and White Pass would share maintenance cost of the dock, and the municipality would receive all revenue from the north end of the structure where the ore terminal is located.
Schaefer also said signing the lease would allow the municipality site control of the north end of the ore dock where it would construct Gateway Project, which includes revamping the damaged dock and remediating the ore basin. – KE

STATE NEWS: Ferries are Back in Town!

LECONTE PASSES TEST – Officers from the LeConte visit with Skagway ferry terminal manager Lara Labesky after the ship made a successful docking on May 9, testing out the ramp from the refloated ferry dock. Full service was restored to the dock on May 11. The dock had been out of commission since it sank due to a broken water line on April 24. It was pumped out and refloated five days later, but it took another week to get major systems operational before a ferry could dock. Katie Emmets


Assembly advances trapping ordinance
After almost three hours, the Skagway Borough Assembly passed the first reading of an ordinance that if adopted would regulate trapping within the Borough of Skagway.
Most people who packed the assembly chambers at the May 15 meeting were there to lend their support for one of two drafts. Draft A included provisions that would prohibit leg-hold traps and also prohibit trapping within a quarter mile of the AB Mountain and Lower Lake trails and would also prohibit traps in commonly used municipal areas such as Mollie Walsh Park, Pullen Creek Park, the Yakutania Point and Smuggler’s Cove areas, Seven Pastures, Dyea Point, Dyea Campground, the Dyea Flats and community cemeteries.
Mayor Mark Schaefer voted to break the tie to work within Draft A, with Assemblymen Dan Henry, Tim Cochran and Jim Sager voting no.
After the vote to choose Draft A, the assembly amended the document by unanimously agreeing to move the boundary from the Taiya River Bridge to the West Creek Bridge at the recommendation of Gary Hanson, because there are residents who live between the two bridges who do not want trapping on or near their property. The second amendment was recommended by Assemblyman Spencer Morgan to remove a provision in the ordinance that would require the trappers to put their name and number.
“Someone might come across a trap and see a name they don’t like and break a law and take care of the trap rather than if there was a number they could call the police and they would take care of it,” Morgan said.
With the amendments, the first reading passed unanimously.

School budget approved by assembly
The second reading of the municipal budget unanimously passed at a May 15 meeting with a few amendments including an additional $80,000 that could potentially be used for childcare if needed (see page 1 story).
The assembly unanimously approved the addition of the $80,000 in hopes that it might pay for additional childcare providers.
On May 7, the assembly held a Committee of the Whole meeting in which the Skagway School budget request was considered. Assembly members said they applauded the work of school business manager Cindy O’Daniel and the efforts of the school to keep costs within reason.
With no objection from assembly members, Skagway Mayor Schaefer said the municipality would fully fund the $1,641,155 request from Skagway School.
The final reading of the budget will occur in June, along with the mill rates. – KE

SOUTHEAST CHAMP - ThSHS senior Zack Wassman leaps to victory during the triple jump at the region track meet in Juneau last weekend. He also won the long jump, and freshman Ethan Goebel prevailed in three long distance runs. See story on page 8. Klas Stolpe, Juneau Empir


Outcalt hired as new fifth and sixth grade teacher
The Skagway School Board on May 15 voted unanimously to hire Lillian Outcalt as the new fifth and sixth grade teacher.
School Board President Darren Belisle said the board received 80 applications for the position and four of the applications were from Skagway residents.
“She has 18 years experience, and when we were calling her past references when we hired her as an aide, they were like ‘Oh my God. You guys have her as an aide? Do you realize what you have?’” he said. “She has very good references and she has a very exciting attitude and fits in the same teaching style as is currently in the elementary.”
In his superintendent’s report, Josh Coughan said Outcalt would enhance the teaching staff as well as the student achievement.
The creation of the new fifth and sixth grade teaching position is a result of rising enrollment and a commitment to small class sizes, and along with the small class sizes comes a modification of the elementary school structure.

New dismissal time and preschool schedule
The dismissal time for all students at Skagway School next year will be at 3:15 p.m.
“We are able to provide an extra 30 minutes of instruction per day (85 hours extra for the school year as compared to the current schedule) by virtue of our new positions and some creative scheduling,” Coughran wrote in his superintendent’s report. Another change to the schedule is that four-year-olds will attend preschool every day next year instead of every other day.
“One of my priorities is a commitment to early childhood education and doing everything we can to ensure kindergarten readiness,” Coughran wrote. “One of the ways we will enhance the readiness of our youngest learners is to provide everyday instruction for our 4-year-old preschool.”
Next year, the 4-year-olds will attend Monday through Friday from 9:30 a.m. to noon. The 3-year-old program will continue in a more abbreviated fashion, and they will attend school from 9:30 a.m. to noon Tuesdays and Thursdays from October 7–March 12. – KE

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