Police search for tire dumpers
Haven Hospice suffers
at hands of suspects
This is the vehicle photographed as it pulled a trailer loaded with old discarded tires, which were dumped behind Haven Hospice. The hospice has to pay for disposal fees as a result, according to information provided by the Chiefland Police Department.
By Jeff M. Hardison © Jan. 31, 2023 at 10:12 a.m.
CHIEFLAND – The Chiefland Police Department is searching for the criminals who committed illegal dumping behind the Haven Hospice Attic, next to Save-A-Lot in Chiefland.
To see the whole story and more photos, go to the POLICE PAGE.
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Super Bowl contest's final day
By Jeff M. Hardison © Jan. 31, 2023 at 8:12 a.m.
JEMLANDS – HardisonInk.com is celebrating its 13th year of existence effective Feb. 1. The daily news website is having a Super Bowl Contest that started on Jan. 26.
To see how to play and win a $25 gift card to Subway, look on the CALENDAR PAGE. This contest runs through today (Tuesday, Jan. 31). The ad to find the football today is available to find now.
Jeff M. Hardison, sole proprietor of HardisonInk.com, commented on the game.
“Inky the cat Hardison continues on her daily training schedule for selecting winners in contests,” Hardison said. “I know many people have seen these selection videos over the years. That selection of the winning name remains on the calendar for Feb. 2 – Groundhog Day, the day after the website turns 13 years old.”
To see Inky the cat Hardison choose a Christmas Cash 2021 winner, and to hear the cat say "Murp," watch and listen to the video by clicking HERE.
Flea Market Gets New Owners
Sam and Annetta Ireson of St. Petersburg stand in front of the Chiefland Farmers Flea Market on Saturday (Jan. 28). They bought the flea market from Sonny and Lydia Griffeth a few weeks ago. Sam Ireson said he plans to make the flea market even better than it is now.
Story and Photos
By Jeff M. Hardison © Jan. 28, 2023 at 12:12 p.m.
CHIEFLAND -- Sam and Annetta Ireson of St. Petersburg bought the Chiefland Farmers Flea Market earlier this month.
Margie Weyhrauch of Chiefland is a vendor at the Chiefland Farmers Flea Market for three weeks now, as of Jan. 28. ‘The people of Chiefland and the surrounding area are going to be pleased when they visit the Chiefland Farmers Flea Market,’ Weyhrauch said.
Previously owned by Sonny and Lydia Griffeth, the flea market is an institution in the Tri-County Area of Levy County, Dixie County and Gilchrist County.
To read some of the previously published stories and see some of the previous photos published in HardisonInk.com since 2017, click on the underlined words below. (There are more from years even further in the past. The potential exists for more in the future, too.)
April 28, 2021
Flea Market Changes and Remain The Same
Sept. 27, 2020
Chiefland Farmer’s Flea Market hosts Fix Them All and Dr. Natalie Isaza
Nov. 15, 2019
Debbie's Veggies Thrives
July 20, 2019
Chiefland Farmers Flea Market thrives in its 20th summer
Jan. 21, 2017
Flea Market Personnel save The Dragonfly
(By the way, this unmanned aerial system has gone to drone heaven, and the DJI Mavic Pro has the same nickname -- Dragonfly. There were other Dragonfly versions up to Dragonfly7 or so, too.)
Cedar Key celebrates
nation's first 2023 Arbor Day observance
City distributes 100 trees to residents
Cedar Key Vice Mayor waves as Cedar Key residents John McPherson and Brenda Wise hold a tree and a bag, and City Commissioner Nancy Sera stands by. As a part of Cedar Key’s Heritage Tree Program, Vice Mayor Colson and City Commissioner Sera braved overcast skies and chilly temperatures to observe the nation’s first 2023 Arbor Day on Saturday, Jan. 2. Aided by an army of volunteers, Colson and Sera distributed 100 potted saplings to local residents.
Story and Photo Provided
By Heather Lang of Cedar Key City Hall
Published Jan. 25, 2023 at 9:12 a.m.
CEDAR KEY -- Florida is the first state in the United States to celebrate Arbor Day.
Floridians celebrate Arbor Day in January because many trees are dormant (not actively growing) and lose less water through transpiration (evaporation of water from leaves) this time of year, according to the University of Florida's Institute of Agricultural Sciences.
As UF IFAS has noted, celebrating Arbor day in January helps make plants easier to transplant without putting them through too much stress. In celebration of Florida’s Arbor Day, individuals are encouraged to do their part in helping to reduce air pollution, conserve energy, and beautify Florida by planting trees.
Jim Fleming, Cedar Key resident and owner of Tropical Traditions Wholesale Nurseries in Newberry, supplied the city with an assortment of Silver Magnolias and Crepe Myrtles for the event. Arriving fresh from Fleming's nursery, this inventory joined the City’s provided Cedar saplings.
Volunteers from Cedar Key School’s FFA, under the supervision of coordinator Rachel Wetherington, unloaded the delivery van and provided “heavy lifting” assistance to participants throughout the event.
“We put an ID tag on each tree,” Vice Mayor Colson said. It contains the species and the date. My favorite part of the tag is the quotation on the backside, The one who plants trees, knowing that he will never sit in their shade, has at last started to understand the meaning of life.”
City Commissioner Sera spoke about the program, too.
“Permit fees collected from the removal of trees and vegetation are dedicated to the future cost of maintenance of protected Heritage Trees situated on City property and the annual cost of purchasing and planting new trees like those in this project,” Commissioner Sera said.
The Arbor Day project not only included the saplings but fertilizer, potting soil, water-absorbing crystals and complete planting instructions. Each recipient’s tree was identified on a city map by its planting site.
Levy County Legislative Delegation
shows veteran legislators ready to serve
All 67 Florida Counties’
Supervisors of Elections Oppose
D- Two minutes before the start of the Levy County Legislative Delegation Hearing on Jan. 20 in Bronson, this is the view of the audience as seen from behind Rep. Chuck Clemons.
Story and Photos
By Jeff M. Hardison © Jan. 22, 2023 at 7:12 p.m.
BRONSON – Florida House of Representatives Speaker pro tempore Chuck Clemons (R-Newberry, Dist. 22) and State Sen. Keith Perry (R-Gainesville, Dist. 9) heard from some of their constituents Friday (Jan. 20) at the Levy County Government Center in Bronson.
Florida House of Representatives Speaker pro tempore Chuck Clemons (left) and State Sen. Keith Perry listen to people.
Nature Coast (Levy County) Business Development Council Executive Director Scott Osteen (left) and Central Florida Electric Cooperative General Manager Denny George are seen in the audience before the start of the hearing. George spoke to legislators about two matters that day – fiberoptic Internet infrastructure and helping foster children, single moms and others.
Bronson Mayor Robert Partin (front and center) and Cedar Key Mayor Heath Davis (seated behind Partin) and others are seen moments before the meeting starts.
The four people seen here before the meeting are (from left) Levy County Emergency Management Assistant Director Rick Rogers, who filled the vacancy when David Peaton went to Alachua County Emergency Management, Levy County Director of Maintenance and Construction Jimmy Jones, who led the county’s construction team to revitalize the former Bronson High School to serve as the Levy County Government Center, Levy County Supervisor of Elections Tammy Jones, and Levy County Tax Collector Michele Langford, who is continuing a tradition of service to Levy Countians, just as her predecessor former Levy County Tax Collector Linda Fugate served the public.
Both Sen. Perry and Rep. Clemons are veteran lawmakers. Perry previously served in the Florida House of Representatives as a representative of the people of Levy County. Clemons has a long career of public service to constituents in Dixie County, Gilchrist County and Alachua County in the Florida House before redistricting.
Cedar Key Volunteer Fire Department Firefighter and Chaplain Phil Prescott provided the invocation and Bronson Mayor Robert Partin led everyone in the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America.
The hearing was at least slightly less staid than some of the previous annual legislative hearings in Levy County, with both legislators joking a bit with constituents. Nevertheless, several serious matters were covered. Significant funding requests for help from the state government by the county and municipal governments were plentiful.
After a two-year hiatus where the previous two annual hearings were held in Williston, the former residence listed by former State Rep. Joe Harding (R-Williston, R-Ocala), the hearings returned to the county seat of Levy County – Bronson.
Former Rep. Harding, who once served in the Florida House for the district that then included Levy County, was recently indicted for allegedly violating federal laws, and although he ran without opposition in the new district where he moved – District 24 – after his new listed residence went from Williston to Ocala, he resigned to focus on defending himself from federal prosecution.
As a result of the subsequent executive order by the governor, a special election shall be held on March 7 for Florida House District 24.
There are five Republicans and one write-in candidate who qualified to replace former Rep. Harding via the special election for the Florida House of Representatives District 24 seat, according to records in the Florida Department of State.
Those candidates for House District 24 are Justin Albright (R-Ocala), Ryan Chamberlin (R- Belleview), Robert "Foxy" Fox (Write-In-Ocala), Jose Juarez (R-Ocala), Stephen Pyles *R-Ocala), and Charlie Stone (R-Ocala).
Stone is a former representative who helped the people in Levy County and other parts of District 22 when that area included his residence. Stone was elected and then reelected until he could not serve any more due to term limits.
Previous annual Levy County Legislative Delegation Hearings, before the two most recent yearly ones in Williston, were held in Bronson at the Dogan S. Cobb Municipal Building. Both former Rep. Stone and former Rep. Perry appeared in the Dogan S. Cobb Municipal Building in the past.
While Clemons has served a number of years in the Florida House, this is his first term representing the people of Levy County.
By contrast with that municipal building in Bronson, the meeting room of the Levy County Commission in the Levy County Government Center is significantly larger. The Levy County Government Center’s meeting room once served as the auditorium for the former Bronson High School.
Thanks to work predominantly completed by the Levy County Maintenance and Construction Department, under the leadership of Director Jimmy Jones, the former school administration building and auditorium now serves as office space for Levy County Tax Collector Michele Langford, Levy County Property Appraiser Jason Whistler and the Levy County Board of County Commissioners’ staff.
The 2023 Levy County Legislative Hearing lasted more than an hour. Both legislators reminded all listeners that this hearing is one time when they can speak with them.
Both men have staff members who can help every constituent to be heard by them after this event. This public hearing is not the end-all for those state leaders hearing from their constituents in 2023.
The Florida Legislature starts its regular 60-day session on March 7 to create laws and work with the state budget.
Rep. Clemons said that in the 2022 Legislative Session there were 3,400 bills presented and from that there were 230 passed. Clemons said he reads each bill before he votes on them.
Levy County Supervisor of Elections Tammy Jones
Levy County Supervisor of Elections Tammy Jones shared insight with the legislators about what the Florida Association of Supervisor of Elections plan to present to state leaders this session.
Levy County Supervisor of Elections Tammy Jones provided a message to let the leaders and the general public know there is a problem with a new law related to mail-in-ballots.
Voter security is foremost on her list, Jones said.
On Tuesday (Jan. 17), Florida Secretary of State Cord Byrd spoke about the recent 2022 elections, Jones said.
“Florida is the gold standard in elections,” Jones said Secretary Byrd declared. Jones concurs with Byrd, she said, and she thinks this high standard results from the Florida Legislature enacting laws to protect voting.
Jones wants Florida to remain as the gold standard for the nation.
She asked the two men to use her as their source for information about voting needs in Florida.
She provided both state leaders with a folder regarding the vote-by-mail process that the state government is seeking to change.
Gov. Ron DeSantis signed into law Senate Bill 524. Section 31 of that bill addresses voter privacy, election integrity and access for the vote-by-mail process.
A workgroup was commissioned by Leon County Supervisor of Elections Mark S. Earley to look at SB 524 Section 31.
Earley is the president of the Florida Association of Supervisors of Elections, which is comprised of all 67 elections supervisors in Florida.
This workgroup was chaired by Pasco County Supervisor of Elections Brian Corley, and its members were FASE President Earley, Citrus County Supervisor of Elections Maureen Baird, Brevard County Supervisor of Elections Tim Bobanic, Columbia County Supervisor of Elections Tomi Brown, Clay County Supervisor of Elections Chris Chambless, Polk County Supervisor of Elections Lori Edwards, Lake County Supervisor of Elections Alan Hays, Flagler County Supervisor of Elections Kaiti Lenhart, Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections Julie Marcus, Putnam County Supervisor of Elections Charles Overturf, Broward County Supervisor of Elections Joe Scott, Bradford County Supervisor of Elections Amanda Sefang and Miami-Dade County Supervisor of Elections Christina White.
This committee completed a written report, which it has provided to Florida Secretary of State Cord.
Section 31 of 2022 Senate Bill 534 is going to require personally identifiable information (PII) such as driver license numbers, and the last four digits of Social Security numbers, to be visible on the external part of envelopes used to mail ballots.
A suggested method of adding a flap to that envelope to hide that information will cause delays by supervisors of elections in counting those ballots. That suggested flap will slow down the vote-counting process by forcing much more manual envelope opening.
The report from the state’s supervisors of elections notes, too, that mail ballots must be received by 7 p.m. on Election Day. Any additional time required to verify PII will result in delays of reporting election results.
Delays of reporting election results cause the public to question the veracity of votes.
Additionally, requiring voters to provide PII introduces another opportunity for error. Supervisors of elections cannot quantify how many voters may write their information illegibly or who may return certificate envelopes without the required PII.
The report notes that a skeptical public already expresses concerns regarding identity theft and postulating that bad actors discard ballots from competing political parties.
Section 31 may exacerbate this by adding new concerns that bad actors could remove the concealment flap to steal voters’ identities.
The committee concluded that the provisions within section 31 would result in delays that will rankle the respective election stakeholders -- to include the voters, the public, the media and the candidates.
Unanimously, Florida supervisors of elections view this legislative proposal in Section 31 as unnecessary and lacking adequate feasibility for implementation.
Therefore, with regard to the tenets of section 31 contained in Senate Bill 524, the work group -- and for the record, all 67 supervisors of elections in the state of Florida -- oppose legislative efforts to implement this provision of Florida law.
This report was noted to have been submitted to the Florida Secretary of State on Jan. 10.
College of Central Florida Dr. President James Henningsen
Before Jones spoke, there was other action.
That started after Rep. Clemons announced that Sen. Perry would be the chairman of the 2024 Levy County Legislative Delegation Hearing, with the two men voting for that.
Rep. Clemons introduced College of Central Florida Dr. President James Henningsen as the first speaker.
Clemons, who serves as the Vice President of Santa Fe College, understands the schedule needs of Dr. Henningsen and hence placed that college president at the front of the agenda for this hearing.
College of Central Florida President Dr. James Henningsen speaks to the state legislators. The college president will be speaking to other state leaders, too, because CF has campuses in other districts.
The College of Central Florida (CF) is the only higher educational facility in Levy County, Dr. Henningsen said.
The CF curriculum is very focused on workforce matters, he said. in regard to workforce education, the college wants to expand its law enforcement training capabilities, he said.
There are some buildings on the Ocala campus that are more than 50 years old, and they have passed their useful lifespan, Henningsen said.
He is hoping the Florida Legislature can help CF obtain a 30,000 square-foot building to replace the five old ones current used for law enforcement and corrections training.
Another request from CF is for the state to help with its Emergency Medical Services and Paramedic training classes. Renovations to an existing structure will help in the plan for expanding these offerings.
The CF president said those two requests are set for the Public Education Capital Outlay (PECO) projects listing.
Dr. Henningsen said the 28 college presidents of the State University System have approved a new funding formula. This formula includes weighting for projects related to workforce higher education, such as for law enforcement and healthcare trades and professions.
Levy County Property Appraiser Jason Whistler
Levy County Property Appraiser Jason Whistler said he is just some weeks into his first term as the leader in this office.
He thanked the two men for their part in the Florida Legislature where the exemptions for widows, widowers, disabled people ranging from $500 to $5,000 helped people in need in Levy County.
This was the first increase of those exemptions in Florida since 1968, Whistler said,
These are exemptions from appraised taxable value in regard to ad valorem property taxes. Levy County and other counties in Florida are continuing to tax everyone with service fees for ambulance service, fire service, solid waste disposal, where people with lower incomes are paying a higher percentage of their net revenue in contrast with the people who have higher incomes.
Whistler said in the past year there were 1,580 people who were able to take advantage of these appraised taxable value exemptions, which are beyond the standard homestead exemption.
Levy County Tax Collector Michele Langford
Levy County Tax Collector Michele Langford, like everyone who spoke to Clemons and Perry, said she was grateful for their service to the people.
Levy County Commission
(from left, standing) Levy County Commissioner Tim Hodge, Commissioner Desiree Mills, Commissioner John Meeks (and speaking at the podium) County Commission Chairman Matt Brooks address the state legislators for Levy County. (Commissioner Rock Meeks was absent.)
County Commission Chairman Matt Brooks told the legislators that Levy County would like the Emergency Operations Center to be remodeled with a 9-1-1 Center as part of that project the cost estimated currently is $13.6 million.
Brooks said the county is willing to put in $2.6 million for the project if the state will fund the rest.
This would greatly improve Levy County’s readiness as a coastal community, Brooks said.
Another priority for Levy County, Chairman Brooks said, is access to high speed Internet service. Central Florida Electric Cooperative has started a fiberoptic project and the county endorses any help the state can render in this regard.
Another county-endorsed project is the Waccasassa Water and Wastewater Cooperative. This is a venture with the City of Bronson, the Town of Otter Creek, the City of Cedar Key and certain unincorporated parts of Levy County between those three municipalities.
A company based in China, JOINN Laboratory, buying 1,400 acres in unincorporated Levy County raised red flags.
Brooks said the County Commission has heard repeated concerns that the lab could build a primate research facility.
Rep. Clemons said the governor and legislature are aware of the issue, and the state is ready to assist if needed.
Regional Water And Sewer Project
Bronson Mayor Robert Partin tells the legislators about a water and sewer project where the City of Bronson hopes to provide water and sewer service to the Town of Otter Creek, the City of Cedar Key and unincorporated areas like Rosewood and Sumter between those two cities. Joining Mayor Partin were Cedar Key Mayor Heath Davis, and Cedar Key Water and Sewer District Superintendent James McCain and CKWSD Board of Directors Member Joe Hand. This $116 million pipeline and other infrastructure is in the planning phase, with a couple of years’ worth of work already invested in it. Some grants have been sought already, and more will be sought in the coming years to fund this multiphase project.
Bronson Mayor Robert Partin said the Waccasassa Water and Wastewater Cooperative is coming to be.
He wanted the state leaders to know that the cities and the county are conferring to move forward with a project where water can be sent from Bronson, and wastewater can be sent from the outlying cities for treatment at an expanded facility in Bronson.
Joining Mayor Partin were Cedar Key Mayor Heath Davis, and Cedar Key Water and Sewer District Superintendent James McCain and CKWSD Board of Directors Member Joe Hand. Partin said he had anticipated Otter Creek Mayor Russell Meeks to be at the hearing, but that mayor did not make it that day to Bronson.
Partin said the Suwannee River Water Management District, Commissioner John Meeks and Commission Chairman Brooks and several other have been working together on the project to take water from wells serving Bronson and send it to these other municipalities and parts of unincorporated Levy County.
The other plan is to reduce septic tanks and provide central sewer from the cities and other areas by transporting wastewater back to Bronson for treatment.
Cedar Key’s Needs
Cedar Key Mayor Heath Davis begins telling the state legislators about the needs of Cedar Key, where the state may aid the city, especially the volunteer fire department.
Cedar Key Volunteer Firefighter Phil Prescott (left) and CKVFD Chief Robert Robinson are seen at the hearing. Chief Robinson, the only paid member of this department, says the CKVFD has the only ladder truck in the whole county. It needs to be replaced. The city’s taxpayers and donors to the volunteer fire department need state aid to get a replacement.
Cedar Key Fire Chief Robert Robinson said Cedar Key is a small city that has some big city issues.
The chief said the department needs a $1.2 million ladder fire truck. This is a lot of money for the 700-plus residents to generate, he said.
Cedar Key alone has about $192 million worth of structures, Robinson said. The ladder truck is the only one in the county, and the closest help for fire suppression is at least 30 minutes away.
Chiefland Fire Chief Dwayne King shares with the state leaders how the state can help this city’s fire department.
Fanning Springs Mayor Trip Lancaster speaks to the state leaders.
The City of Fanning Springs Mayor Howell E. “Trip” Lancaster III gave the state leaders an update about a wellsite the city was trying to expand.
The City of Fanning Springs is part of the Nature Coast Regional Water Authority. The Nature Coast Rural Water Authority was initiated by Gilchrist County School Board, the Gilchrist County Board of County Commissioners and some cities. It was expanded to include the City of Fanning Springs, Cross City, Dixie County and Levy County.
Chiefland opted out becoming part of the group years ago.
Inglis Mayor Michael White says he is not much of a public speaker as he addresses the state representative and state senator.
Williston Seeks Help
Williston City Manager Terry Bovaird lets Rep. Clemons and Sen. Perry know that he has every department head from the city, as well as the president of the City Council to answer any questions they have.
Williston City Manager Terry Bovaird said the City of Williston needs an improved 9-1-1 Emergency Response Center. The estimated cost of that now is $400,000.
Williston is having lift station issues with its central sewer service. The project costs for improvements to three lifts stations are Fugate Lift Station - $1.8 million; Acree Lift Station - $1.4 million; and Russell Lift Station - $1.4 million.
The Williston Fire Rescue Station is combined with the Williston Police Department. That structure has been repaired due to a sinkhole issue.
The current building is of 1991 vintage.
The new facility envisioned by the city would be located on city owned property near the Williston Municipal Airport. It would be hurricane hardened and serve as a secondary emergency communications center for Levy County emergency services.
The project cost for that is $5.4 million.
Hurricane hardening is needed for the relatively new Williston City Hall, Bovaird said. The estimated cost for that is $50,000.
Finally, the other project with a cost of $750,000 is natural gas powered electric generators upgrades for the lift stations.
Williston’s central sewer service moves about 450,000 gallons of wastewater a day, across 20 miles of gravity mains, 19 lift stations and 11 miles of force main.
The city manager explained that the current stock of backup generators in Williston is the data with huge hit inadequate for emergencies, and now is the time to add these is natural gas powered electric generators upgrades for the lift stations.
Williston Fire Chief Lamar Stegall and Williston Municipal Airport Manager Benton Stegall are in the audience prepared to answer any questions about those departments in the city. The police chief, public works and utilities department directors were on hand at the hearing, too.
Yankeetown Mayor Eric Erkel is seen here speaking to the Levy County Legislative Delegation. Mayor Erkel took the oath of office on Feb. 25, 2022, and it has been noted that he has a desire to make the town work in favor of the residents.
Central Florida Electric Cooperative General Manager Denny George speaks about the fiberoptic program initiated to help people in this part of Florida.
Gina Dickey, Coordinator, Title IX Part A, of the McKinney-Vento Program/Families in Transition, (left) stands with Central Florida Electric Cooperative General Manager Denny George to speak with the state leaders about homeless children, as well as methods that show success as well as hope for the future to help them and others.
Central Florida Electric Cooperative General Manager Denny George spoke to the Levy County Legislative Delegation about two matters.
First there was an update about the fiberoptic lines set to be appearing soon on poles in the Tri-County Area.
Then he joined Gina Dickey, Coordinator, Title IX Part A, of the McKinney-Vento Program/Families in Transition, where George was acting as the president of the Friends of Children of North Central Florida (FOCNCF) and the North East Florida Educational Consortium (NEFEC) for the stated purpose of securing transitional housing that will support homeless families with school age children for the purpose of creating more secure homes so that children can perform better.
The ultimate goal is to ensure that these families (parents) obtain the correct support and that these children do not enter the foster care system.
To see more extensive coverage about these two matters, visit the archived story from the Dixie County Legislative Delegation, where both issues were shared with those state leaders. Click HERE to see that whole story and photos.
Among the many other people with matters for the Levy County Legislative Delegation to consider were Jack H. Schofield II and Dan Hilliard with Withlacoochee Aquatic Restoration Inc., seeking help for the restoration of the flow of water through the lower Withlacoochee River.
Urban, commercial and agricultural development have replaced natural and cover in large areas of the surface and groundwater basins the contribute water to the lower Withlacoochee wherever study area. These intensive human activities occupy a combined 25 percent of the contributing surface water basin affecting this portion of the river and 60 percent of the groundwater basin feeding water to the rainbow river.
WAR would like periodic flushes of the river to remove accumulated sediment and filamentous algae. WAR provided the state leaders with recommendations for restoration of the river, based on studies by Wetland Resources Inc.
Both of these leaders understand that water is Florida’s most precious natural resource, and they have worked and succeeded in helping restore many natural springs – even to the point where eelgrass that had disappeared from certain riverbeds is returning downstream from springs.
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