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Bourne sponsors bill to lower prices at pumps



Contributed content by the Illinois House Republicans

SPRINGFIELD – State Representative Avery Bourne (R-Morrisonville) is co-sponsoring legislation to provide relief for families being hit by skyrocketing gas prices.

House Bill 5723 caps the sales tax on gas at 18 cents per gallon for motor fuel and 80% of that amount for gasohol and biodiesel blends.

“Runaway inflation and the high price of oil is driving gas prices to levels not seen in years. Illinois is one of the rare states that has a sales tax on gas, so as gas prices increase, the price per gallon becomes even more costly for family budgets and small businesses across Illinois,” said Bourne. “People need relief and this legislation provides real relief to limit the pain at the pump.”

Since the state currently collects sales tax on gasoline as a percentage instead of at a flat rate, it is driving the price for a gallon of fuel even higher and creating an unexpected windfall for the state on the backs of people who can least afford it. The cap placed on the fuel sales tax under HB 5723 would prevent the exponential growth in the tax that is driving prices up by as much as 10, 20 cents, or more per gallon.

Unlike other proposals to limit the rise in fuel prices, HB 5723 targets the sales tax in the state’s General Revenue Fund (GRF) and not the state’s Road Fund. Funds for road projects will be protected by this approach and since the rapid increase in fuel prices is creating an unexpected GRF windfall, capping the sales tax will not have a negative effect on expected state revenues for the year.

“This legislation is a commonsense approach to help families weather this rapid inflation and the General Assembly needs to take action now. Families cannot afford to wait,” said Bourne.

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Community News

Benld Council approves ordinance to require demolition permits




Benld resident Frank Meredith appeared before the council to ask if anything could be done about parking in front of his home and littering.

Benld’s City Council on Monday night voted unanimously to adopt a new ordinance requiring the owners of properties within the city limits to obtain a $250 demolition permit before starting demolition or dismantling of structures.

In addition to the permit fee, permit holders will be required to post a $1,000 bond, which will be refunded upon proper completion of the demolition project, removal of debris and proper clean-up with no claims of property damage or injuries against the city. The city also may retain the bond if the project is not completed within a specified period of time. Permit holders will be required to submit photographs to document installation of proper fencing, and a city official must sign off on debris removal before final cover is installed.

The new ordinance appears to have been prompted in part by issues surrounding the demolition of a one-story brick structure directly across the street from city hall at 208 East Central Avenue, which remains a target of a public nuisance action. Attorney Jono Verticchio, who attended the meeting in the absence of City Attorney Rick Verticchio, said the property owners have been given 30 days to completely clean up the site.

“If it’s not done in 30 days we will get a court order to clean it up ourselves and put a lien on the property,” Verticchio said. That action could lead to the city taking possession of the property at some later date.

Ald. Jerry Saracco noted the building’s foundation is sound and wondered if it could be salvaged. Verticchio advised that if the city takes possession of the parcel, it could opt to leave the foundation in place.

Last month, the council directed the City Attorney to draft the demolition permit ordinance after noting issues with work being done at that time across the street. Aldermen complained that workers were doing demolition work after dark and had provided no fencing or barrier to protect passers-by. A partially demolished wall had collapsed during heavy wind, prompting the city to send in work crews to knock down the remaining structure as a safety precaution.

Following a 15-minute executive session with Verticchio to discuss pending legal actions regarding nuisance properties, the council voted to declare 703 North Main Street, 206 West Hickory Street, and 106 North Fourth Street as public nuisances. The action authorizes the city to give property owners 30 days to abate the nuisance, after which the city could pursue legal action if the properties are not properly cleaned up.

Verticchio reported a hearing has been set for a nuisance action against 615 South Eighth Street, and asked for updated photos and witnesses to present to the court. Aldermen reported the property owner has made progress toward cleaning up the property but is unlikely to complete the clean-up before the hearing.


A public nuisance action against property at 407 North Fourth Street is progressing, although Verticchio said a Macoupin County Circuit Judge ordered the city to restore water service to the residence, ruling the water issue was unrelated to the nuisance complaint.


Also on Monday night, the council voted to amend the city’s housing inspection ordinance to give the city authority to shutoff water service to rental properties whose owners fail to comply with housing inspection requirements. The ordinance also is amended to increase the cost of inspections from $ 75 to $100.

The ordinance basically requires landlords to have their premises inspected whenever a previous tenant moves out and before a new tenant moves in. The inspection, conducted by the city housing inspector, is designed to insure the properties meeting building codes and are safe for human habitation.

Doug Ratterman of HMG Engineers appeared before the council to report results of a street maitenance bid opening held last week.

Failure to comply can result in a $150 fine for a first offense, and a $300 fine for a second offense. For a third or subsequent offense, the fine increases to $500 to $1,000. In addition to the fines, the amended ordinance authorizes the city to shut off water service to the residence upon giving the landlord and tenant five days notice.


On a motion by Ald. John Balzraine, seconded by Ald. Mickey Robinson, the council voted unanimously to accept of bid from Illiana Construction Co., Urbana, to supply bituminous materials for street maintenance. Illiana was the lower of two bidders, and agreed to supply 12,035 gallons of material at a cost of $3.17 per gallon for a total cost of $39,150.95 to be paid with motor fuel tax funds.

Doug Ratterman of HMG Engineers appeared before the council to report results of a bid opening held last week.


On a motion by Ald. Balzraine, the council voted unanimously to purchase a new X-Mark mower at a cost of $10,900 from Sievers Equipment, Carlinville. Mayor Jim Kelly said the new mower was the least expensive option available to the city.

The new mower will replace a piece of equipment the city has used for the past 22 years.


Council members voted unanimously to add an addendum to an agreement to rent city facilities to penalize renters who inappropriately fail to buy dram shop insurance for their event. The addendum is a response to renters who have apparently had alcohol at their event without buying dram shop insurance through the city. Under the new provision, event organizers who fail to buy dram shop insurance when such insurance is needed will lose their deposit.


The addendum applies to renters to engage facilities such as the city park or civic center.


On a motion by Ald. Mickey Robinson, seconded by Ald. Dustin Fletcher, the council declared a 2010 Ford Crown Victoria, a six-inch water pump and a brush trimmer as surplus property and agreed to advertise the items for sale via sealed bids.


Ald. Norm Emmons reported he is continuing to seek solutions to traffic hazards at the Head Start School on Central Avenue. Emmons said the highway in front of the school is heavily traveled during times when parents are bringing young children to the facility in the morning and picking them up in the afternoon.,

Emmons thanked the Police Department for increasing police presence during critical times but he said more needs to be done. “We need to do something,” he said.

Ross Adden, a County Board member from Mount Olive who attended the meeting as an observer, recommended the city contact the County Clerk’s office about the availability of grant money for signage such as signs with flashing lights to alert motorists.

Adden also asked about details of the city’s ordinance governing the use of UTVs in the city limits, particularly the cost of permits. City Clerk Terri Koyne told him the city charges $100 per year for a permit and requires UTVs to be street legal.

Adden said the County Board is considering a county-wide ordinance and he wanted to collect information from individual municipalities.

“I told them (the board), ‘Let’s see what everyone else is doing first’,” he said.



Benld resident Frank Meredith appeared before the council to ask if anything could be done about parking in front of his home and littering apparently associated with his home’s proximity to a bar. Meredith said he and his wife bought a home located diagonally across the highway from the Cabin bar and restaurant.

Meredith said patrons of the bar park along the road in front of his house and he has to deal with a large volume of litter, including a discarded Axe body deodorant can. He said he was concerned that someone might spray his dog in the face with the substance.

Mayor Kelly said the city probably could not address the parking issue since business patrons are allowed to park along the street, even though there is a vacant property nearby. “It’s the society we live in unfortunately,” Kelly said regarding the litter. “People have no pride and we can’t legislate that.”

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Community News

School district apparently eyeing food management service




Bill Fritcher representing Opaa! Food Management said they provide both hot and cold entrees, and schools can tailor offerings to meet their needs and budgets.

Representatives of a food management company pitched their vision for reshaping school lunch and breakfast offerings at Community Unit School District 7 schools during Monday night’s regular monthly meeting of the Board of Education. Later, however, the head cook at BenGil Elementary School expressed doubts about what the company promised to deliver. “They make it sound like it’s all a gravy train,” said Jackie McKinney. “It’s not.”

No action followed a 20-minute presentation by Bill Fritcher, Business Development Associate, and Angie Eden, a food service worker, from Opaa! Food Management, Inc., Chesterfield, Mo. There was no clear indication whether the board or district administration is leaning toward contracting with the company.

Founded in 1978, Opaa! Provides food management services to more than 800 schools in 250 school districts spread out over seven states. The company serves 21 schools in Illinois, including the nearby Staunton, Litchfield, Jersey and Nokomis school districts. The company claims a 97 percent retention rate among its client schools.

Fritcher, a former administrator in the Neoga school district, said the company emphasizes home-cooked foods made from scratch. Opaa! provides both hot and cold entrees, and schools can tailor offerings to meet their needs and budgets. Hot entrees include items such as roast turkey, meatloaf, cheeseburgers, pizzas and spaghetti. The company also serves a variety of cold sub sandwiches. Again, depending upon the details of its contract with a school district, the company can provide a salad bar, along with fresh fruit.

Breakfast offerings can include hot or cold cereal, waffles, biscuits and gravy, and breakfast burritos. Some client schools offer a “breakfast on the go” option where students can grab a breakfast item during the mid-morning hours of the school day. As part of its service, Opaa! would provide an all-day “Gulp Station” with dispensers of lemonade, iced tea and water.

“There’s a lot of local control over menu items,” Fritcher said. “If a school doesn’t want us serving coffee to students, we don’t serve coffee.”

Fritcher said the school district would continue to set pricing for school lunches and breakfasts, collect payments and control the revenue stream. The district also would continue to own food service equipment and facilities. At a minimum, Opaa! would place it’s own employee as a food service manager, but other food service workers can be either Opaa! employees or employees of the school district. In either case, the school district would have final say over who is allowed to work in the school district.

“You’d have control of who is working in the school and is around your kids,” Fritcher said.


According to Fritcher, the company emphasizes presentation.

 “We want the food to look good so kids will eat it,” he said. “We strive to make it enjoyable for the kids.”

Client schools submit photos of daily offerings to the home office for approval, Eden said. As an example, she cited an instance when she submitted a photo from Neoga that included broccoli as a side item. The home office said the broccoli looked too brown and demanded it be replaced with fresher produce.

Fritcher said the company employees an executive chef to create recipes and standards for food served to students. The chef has created a number of streaming videos used to train on site staff.

Key to the operation is a computer program for food management. Eden said the program monitors what food the district has in the freezer and pantry, and adjust menus to best utilize resources on hand. The program also provides a portal parents and students can access to see weekly menus.

A food management contract would be subject to state bidding requirements, according to Fritcher. To start the process, the district would create a Request for Proposals to solicit bids. If Opaa! Is the successful bidder, the company would offer a five-year fixed price agreement, renewable on an annual basis. Either party would be able to end the contract upon a 90-day notice.

During a public comment period, McKinney alleged Opaa!’s promises have not matched reality in nearby school districts. The head cook at Litchfield, she pointed out, quit soon after Opaa! took over. Pizzas and some other food items, she said, do not match the company’s claims.

“We were told this is not about the money, it’s about the choices,” she said. “If you want more options, someone needs to tell us.”


McKinney said she has been employed by the district in food services since 2002. The proposal to hire an outside food management company, she said, comes as “a slap in the face.”

McKinney predicted problems if the district contracts with Opaa!, particularly in the elementary school.

“I don’t see how our kindergarteners are going to be able to carry their own tray and serve themselves,” she said. “They’re going to drop their trays. We get our kids through the serving line in five minutes so they have time to sit down and eat. When they have to make their own tray, how long do you think that’s going to take?”

McKinney also predicted issues with food sanitation when young children with runny noses and/or dirty hands are expected to serve themselves from the food line.

During a public comment period, Jackie McKinney, head cook at BenGil Elementary, alleged Opaa!’s promises have not matched reality in nearby school districts.

McKinney said an outside company cannot be expected to know local students like local food service workers know them.

“I watch for a little boy who comes through my line every day because I know he doesn’t get food at home like he does here,” she said. “We’re here for the kids and I don’t think these people are.”

In a somewhat related matter which could facilitate transitioning to an outside food service, the board accepted with “regret” the retirements of head high school/middle school cook Penny Feeley and GHS/GMS cook Janice Hammann, both effective on June 30.


The board took action on a number of personnel issues following an executive session of about one hour.

In separate actions, the board voted unanimously to rehire the following fourth-year teachers and grant them tenure for the 2024-25 school year: Nikki Jenner, Katie Lievers, Alex Newton, Pete Visintin and Jacob West.


The following non-tenured staff were hired for the 2024-25 school year: school nurse Rachel Bouillon, fifth grade teacher Radeana Gentzyel, speech pathologist Kaylee Collins, special education teacher Jaiden Braundmeier, kindergarten teacher Jessica Yeager, fist grade teacher Sydney Owsley, band teacher Brad Taulbee, chorus teacher Ben McCullough, Tim Biggs, special education teacher Cory Bonstead, and Dalton Barnes.

On a motion by Peyton Bernot, seconded by Mark Hayes, the board rehired the following tenured teachers for 2024-25: Lorraine Strutner, Jody Dunn, Melissa Bussmann, Tracy Hostettler, Darrick Urban, Kara Saracco, Kelly Lyons, Holly Nejmanowski, Jennifer Parker, Anastasia Hobaugh, Cate Plovich, Amy Price, Nickie Barrett, Jessi Luketich, Mindy Savant, Karissa Smith, Beth Sees, Valerie Jubelt, Carrie Scott, Dana Tieman, Marcia Johns, Colleen Favre, Celia Jubelt, Jamie Schmidt, Nancy Schmidt, Lori Emmons, Vanessa Barrett, Amy Geddes, Lisa Ballinger, Amber Allan, Kim Henderson, Christina Blevins, Chase Peterson, Jessica Kelly, Tammy Garde, Nate Heinrich’s, Casey Edgerton, Kyle Lamar, Stephanie Wilson, Elizabeth Thackery, Shanna Conner, Matthew Browner, Jeremy Smith, Rachelle Prough, Jarrod Herron, Jill Stole, Korben Clark, Kayla Wills, Nikki Browner, Kevin McNichols, Katie Orange, Robert Macias, Casey Sholtis, Jennifer Brown, Jeff Nelhs, Mark Goldasich, Troy Barker, Michelle Smith, Holley McFarland, Michael Bertagnolli, Mary Schuette, Nichole Stoecker, Amy Goldasich, David Edgerton, Ashlee Gibbs, Stuart Ringer, Kelly Bully, Whitney Page and Stephanie Bray.

The board accepted “with regret” the retirement of BenGil Elementary teacher Dana Tieman, effective at the end of the 2027-28 school year. The board also accepted “with regret” the resignation for purposes of retirement of GMS paraprofessional  Ella May Roemer, effective at the end of the 2024 fiscal year, and posted the position as vacant.

Board members accepted the resignation of high school paraprofessional Darian Gill, and posted the position as vacant. The board also accepted Gill’s resignation at the GHS/GMS cheerleading coach and posted that position as vacant.

Board members unanimously agreed to post vacancies for the following summer school positions: high school math, English and drivers’ education; middle school math, English and science; and six elementary positions. Additionally, the board posted two summer school food service positions.

The board accepted “with regret” the resignation of long-time GHS head women’s basketball coach Kevin Gray, and posted the position as vacant. The board also accepted the resignation of Korbin Clark as GMS seventh-grade basketball coach and posted the position as vacant.

The board voted unanimously to appoint Elizabeth Eaker as a volunteer assistant dance coach, pending verification of certification and a background check. In separate actions, the board agreed to appoint Foley Seferi and James Bryant a volunteer assistant high school football coaches, pending verification of certification and a background check. 

By a unanimous vote, the board accepted the resignation of district custodian Owen Parker, and posted the position as vacant. The board also voted to post vacancies for two full-route bus drivers for the 2024-25 school year, and hired Billie Bowles as a substitute bus driver, pending verification of certification and a background check.



The board awarded a $62,524 contract to DeLaurent Construction Co., Inc., Wilsonville, to repave five district parking lots. DeLaurent was the low bidder for the project. The contract will be paid from proceeds of a $1.6 million alternate revenue bond sale for capital projects.

Supt. Shane Owsley reported that he is starting to gather estimates for other upcoming projects to be underwritten with bond revenue, including a project to refinish the high school gym floor, a project to reline the all-weather track and a major HVAC project.


On Owsley’s recommendation, the board accepted a list of surplus weight room equipment and agreed to offer the equipment for sale via sealed bids. The equipment, which includes stationary bikes, running machines, free weights, benches, dumbbells and racks, was replaced with new equipment as part of a recently completed project to renovate and re-equip the weight room.


During a District Focus segment, the board recognized high school women’s basketball coach Kevin Gray, who is retiring after a career of 16 seasons. Kevin is pictured with his wife, Elaine.

On a motion by Bill Carter, seconded by Weye Schmidt, the board unanimously approved early graduation requests for Maria Alger, Eliana Barrios-Madison, Owen Baugh, Gage Bonds, Abby Carter, John Q. Halterman, Eva Hidden, Felicia Lambert, Emma Luckshis, Ashley Markulakis, McKenna Montoro, Kaden Reiffer, Abigail Sharp, Jayden Stangle, Cooper Wentler, Ashton Whitlow and Avery Young. The students will be allowed to graduate at the end of their eleventh year of high school at the end of the current school year, provided all graduation requirements have been met.


During a District Focus segment, the board recognized high school women’s basketball coach Kevin Gray, who is retiring after a career of 16 seasons. High School Principal Jill Rosentreter noted that Gray led this year’s team to the Sectional Tournament in Beardstown after winning their first regional championship since 2012. The team also won its first County Tournament since 2002, and celebrated 26 wins—the most ever.

During the Carlinville Rotary’s All-Star Game, Gray was named Rotary’s Coach of the Year.

“On behalf of CUSD 7 and all you former players, we express much gratitude for your many years of service, dedication, leadership, wisdom and professional demeanor on and off the court,” Rosentreter told Gray.

Also during the District Focus, a group of fifth graders told the board about their recent field trip to Busch Stadium, where they learned about practical math applications and other subjects.


In other action, the board:

  • Gave final approval to the 2024-25 school calendar, calling for the first day of school attendance on Aug. 14 with the last day of school set for May 29, or earlier if no emergency days are used.
  • Approved a schedule of board meeting dates for the coming year. The board will meet in executive session at 6 p.m. on the fourth Monday of each month with the open session beginning at 7 p.m. The December meeting is set one week earlier on Dec. 16 to avoid conflict with the winter break.
  • Awarded the annual bid to supply fuel to low bidder M & M Service Co., Carlinville.
  • Voted to renew the district’s annual membership in the Illinois High School Association.
  • Rescheduled the April board meeting from Monday, April 22, to Tuesday, April 23, to avoid a conflict.

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Benld Council enacts ordinance against water meter tampering




Benld resident Katie Jenkins appeared before the council to ask that the city consider establishing a three-way stop at the intersection of Illinois and Dorsey Streets. She said the intersection is a school bus stop and traffic often drives through the area at high speeds, endangering children who are present.

The Benld City Council on Monday night voted unanimously to adopt an ordinance establishing a fine of $500 against the property owner when an incident of water meter tampering is discovered. The ordinance is aimed at deterring property owners or tenants from reconnecting water services that have been disconnected for non-payment.

In other action, the council voted to eliminate the deadline from its agreement to sell the former site of First National Bank to Derek Tiburzi for redevelopment as a business location.

City Attorney Rick Verticchio told the council last month that persons who reconnect water services after they are shut off for nonpayment are technically “stealing” water. The Macoupin County State’s Attorney has been reluctant to prosecute such cases as a criminal matter, however, because it is not possible to prove who reconnected the service beyond a reasonable doubt. The ordinance relieves the city from proving who tampered with the water meter by making the property owner responsible for an ordinance violation rather than a criminal charge.

Under the new ordinance, the property owner will be held responsible whether they or a tenant actually tampered with the meter. Moreover, the ordinance allows the city to add the fine to the water bill associated with the property if it hasn’t been paid within 30 days, and require it to be paid before reconnecting the service. While water service accounts are supposed to be in the tenant’s name, Verticchio said existing ordinances make the property owner ultimately responsible for unpaid water bills.

In a somewhat related matter, the council voted specifically to shut off water service to a home where the owner moved out and allowed a tenant to move in without having a property inspection done and without reassigning the water service account to the new tenant.

“Shut the water off,” Verticchio said after being advised of the situation. “I’ll write you a note saying it’s okay if you want me to.”

Council member John Balzraine moved to shut off water service to the residence in order to have the consensus of the council on record. His motion was approved by a unanimous vote.

The council very briefly discussed measures to enforce the city’s ordinance that requires a housing inspection before allowing new tenants to move in. Verticchio said the city already has an ordinance establishing a fine for evading the home inspection requirement. Under the ordinance, property owners are required to provide the city with the names of tenants or persons buying properties contract for deed. Additionally, property owners are required to have a home inspection done by the city housing inspector and to pay for that inspection to be performed. Failure to comply with any of those requirements is subject to a fine.


“You already have all that,” Verticchio advised.


The council voted unanimously to increase water rates for Benld customers in response to a recent increase imposed by the City of Gillespie, which provides treated water for the Benld system.

“We are getting an increase from Gillespie,” Mayor Jim Kelly said. “Like it or not, we’re going to have to raise our rates. Even with this increase, we still have the second cheapest rate in Macoupin County.”

City Clerk Terri Koyne said a home using 5,000 gallons for water per month will still their bill increase from $76 to $82.50 for water and sewer. The minimum bill for water and sewer will increase to $22.50.

In a related matter, Koyne said the city is still experiencing problems with the U.S. Postal Service delivering water bills, with bills often being lost or delayed in the St. Louis postal hub. She said residents who have not received a bill by the first of the month should call City Hall to find out what they owe.


On a motion by Balzraine, seconded by Mickey Robinson, the council voted unanimously to accept Mayor Kelly’s recommendation to eliminate a deadline from an agreement to sell the former site of First National Bank in the 200 block of East Central Avenue to Derek Tiburzi. Tiburzi was the high bidder to purchase the property from the city in April 2022 after the city condemned the property and razed the deteriorating two-story brick building. Tiburzi agreed to pay $6,000 down plus monthly payments of $1,000 for 24 months for a total purchase price of $30,000.

The original agreement required Tiburzi to erect a permanent building for business enterprise within three years.

Last month, Tiburzi and members of his family appeared before the council to ask for an indefinite extension on the deadline because contractors had advised them the soil was improperly compacted to support a building.


Mayor Kelly said the city’s action eliminates the deadline, allowing Tiburzi to continue to make monthly payments after which he is expected to build a business building as soon as feasible. The only restriction remaining is that Tiburzi build a business facility rather than housing or some other building.


The council took no formal action, but briefly discussed and directed Verticchio to write a draft ordinance regarding permits for demolition projects. The discussion followed an incident last week during which the city was required to bring in a private contractor to finish knocking down a brick building across the street after it became unstable in the midst of workers attempting to raze the structure by hand.

“We have no permit for demolition,” Mayor Kelly told the council. The initial proposal includes a $250 fee for the permit, plus a requirement that the property owner post a $1,000 bond.

Ald. Dustin Fletcher suggested requiring the demolition site to have adequate fencing for safety considerations, and a system to notify the city when workers are on site. If the building on Central Avenue had collapsed, he said, the city would have no way of knowing if workers were trapped under the debris. Emergency workers could have wasted time and effort searching for people who might not even be there.

Fletcher also said exposed basements should be inspected before contractors fill them in to ensure they are not improperly backfilled with construction debris.


Following a 20-minute executive session, the council voted unanimously to declare as public nuisances the following properties: 209 North Illinois, 111 South Sixth, 111 South Main, and 304 North Fourth.


Benld resident Katie Jenkins appeared before the council to ask that the city consider establishing a three-way stop at the intersection of Illinois and Dorsey Streets. She said the intersection is a school bus stop and traffic often drives through the area at high speeds, endangering children who are present.

Mayor Kelly referred the matter to committee and noted that making the intersection a three-way stop would require a new ordinance.


In the meantime, Ald. Fletcher said he would ask the Police Department to patrol the area during times when school buses are picking up and discharging children.


In other action, the council agreed to rent a backhoe from Equipment Share, St. Louis, for 1,584 for one week.

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