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Gillespie City Council Meeting August 8: Chief of Police Decision Delayed

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The meeting was called to order by Mayor John Hicks at 6:02pm. All aldermen of Gillespie were present at the August 8 meeting.

John Hicks responds to Lisa's concern.

First order was to approve all reports as stated in the packet. Reports included were City Clerks’ report, Treasurer’s report and Police report. All reports were approved as stated without discussion.

After a motion to open the floor to visitors by Frank Barrett, Lisa Huffman questioned the council about a late fee on her water bill on her 310 Handy Street property. “I am here to understand how I can be charged of an unpaid bill from one of my renters,” Huffman said. Huffman had no idea about the unpaid bills. The water on Handy street was turned off on April 19 and she has occurred several penalties and was just notified on June 28. Huffman did not understand how she could be responsible on a bill she had no idea about. The bill was billed to her tenant. The tenant moved out on May 1. Huffman was charged $57.81 in late fees on a $12 bill “I knew nothing about.” Hicks assured the council that many of the bills were before the move out date. He went on and told Huffman, “It is the cities policy, it was the way it was set up. We do not send the landowner the bill.” The City of Gillespie bills the property where the water is being utilized. Huffman did not understand why Gillespie takes this approach. The renter was persistently late on her water bills while she was in the Handy property. The council made no changes to the bill and advised Huffman to call the City Clerk’s office to ask about unpaid bills.

Lisa Huffman explains the problem.

The council then went into executive session for about an hour and then took action again. New business and old business was on the table.

  • First, Loure May was nominated for the water plant operator by Dave Tucker and was agreed by the council on a 7-0 vote.
  • The council then delayed the decision to hire a chief of police for one more month. The decision was tabled by the council.
  • Under other business, the council has been discussing a case with an alley in town. The council voted 7-0 that the alley is not to be vacated due to Illinois Power, Frontier, and cable access.
  • The council then moved on to a motion made by Barrett to draw necessary documentation for a revolving loan application.

The council then moved on to committee reports. The council has talked about changing the sidewalk policy, but there was no action taken. In light of all the water breaks on Broadway, the road “should go back in concrete,” Hicks said, “Our concrete budget is pretty well shot this year.” The policy should still be changed on sidewalk policy, Hick told the council. “The building inspector should look at it at least once or twice to make sure it done right,” Hicks said. The only other problem Hicks had was with the water billing and landowners. Many landowners are still moving residents in and out without changing their renter’s names. Many do not have the house inspected like it should be. The suggestion was taken to a committee and will be brought back to the table at a later date.

Jared DePoppe then read the treasurer’s report for the month of July. 6 junk titles will be received soon by the city, DePoppe advised. The second page of the report discusses ordinance issues DePoppe has received since intern chief. He has resolved 10 of 14 issues, and he is working on the rest of them. He assured the council all should have a good outcome except one. The council is aware of the single one, but other than that one dealy, DePoppe can be able to get the rest resolved quickly. So far, everyone has been compliant with DePoppe. However, DePoppe was unsure of his authority to hire part time police officers as they are down to one slot to cover, and it has been tough for many officers. DePoppe has tried to keep the overtime minimal, but has been rough with a vacancy. Only 10 hours of overtime was paid on the last pay period. Gus Ottersburg then advised DePoppe to talk to him or Mayor John Hicks before hiring any officers. John Hicks then commended DePoppe on a great job he is doing as intern chief.

A city wide cleanup was under discussion for the fall. Hicks said if they can come up with money, they would like to host one. It could cost up to $10,000 and the city does not know where to pull the funds from.

Gus Ottersburg then advised the council that many of the police cars are getting over 100,000 miles on them and one is currently down due to a wiring problem. It may be tough, and possibly even out of the question for new vehicles, but council members have been looking up grants for replacement cars. DePoppe advised the council that the department could get by without one car, it might help a bit.

Frank Barrett thanked Coach Burns and Coach Borgini for their volunteer work at the lake. The football program volunteer their time for the city each year. Frank also stated he wanted power ran to cabins on the other side of the lake, if it is not at the cities expense.

The mayor then approved all bills to be paid and the meeting was adjourned.

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Benld City Council approves $1.5 million appropriations ordinance

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City resident Ben Marcacci appeared briefly before the council to propose a program to install public art pieces along the Benld-Gillespie Bike Trail.

The Benld City Council on Monday night approved a $2.2 million appropriations ordinance governing municipal spending for the current fiscal year. Council members also approved a previously tabled business license for a tax preparation service, agreed to advertise for bids for grading work at the new Benld Sports and Recreation Park, and approved a long-delayed lease for the Benld Post Office during the panel’s regular monthly meeting at city hall.

Though required by law, the appropriations ordinance is not a budgetary device. It sets spending limits for various line items for the fiscal year. In practice, most municipalities spend less than the amounts appropriated.

The appropriation approved Monday night includes $639,390.25 in proprietary funds (sewer and water funds, Motor Fuel Tax funds, and other funds that can be spent only for the purposes for which they were collected) and $1,514,612 in general funds, for a total appropriation of $2,153,002.25. The newly approved appropriation ordinance is $140,571 less than last year’s ordinance.

The $638,390.25 appropriated for proprietary expenditures compares with $1,018,820 appropriated last year. The new ordinance appropriates $165,315.50 for Sewer Department expenditures, compared with $382,320 last year, which included funding to complete the city’s sewer improvement project. A total of $318,074.75 is appropriated for the Water Department, compared with $501,500 last year. A total of $155,000 is appropriated for trash pick-up, compared with $135,000 last year. Motor Fuel Tax expenditures are capped at $111,000, compared with $105,000 last year.

The appropriation for General Funds, breaks down as follows: $272,060 for Police Protection, compared with $257,260 last year; $271,457.50 for Maintenance, compared with $171,075 last year; $208,394 for City Property, compared with $144,059 a year ago;  $41,891 for Administration, compared with $36,300 last year; $35,000 for legal fees, which is unchanged from last year; $17,450 for the city’s annual audit, compared with $15,900 last year; and $1,500 for the city cemetery, compared with $1,400 last year. The ordinance appropriates $1,200 for unemployment insurance, $7,859 for city parks, $3,500 for the public library, and $1,500 for the municipal band, all of which are unchanged from last year.

The appropriation also caps expenditures at $650,000 for development of a new sports complex on the former site of Benld Elementary School. The amount represents proceeds of an Open Spaces Land Acquisition and Development grant administered by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

The new ordinance was unanimously approved on a motion by Finance Chair Jerry Saracco, seconded by Ald. Dustin Fletcher.

TAX PREPARATION BUSINESS LICENSE

After tabling action last month, the council voted 4-1 to approve a business license application of Ed Rieffer, who said he planned to open a tax preparation service at 207 East Central Avenue. The council tabled the issue last month because Rieffer was not present to address questions the council had about the nature of his planned business. Rieffer’s application identified the business, called Fast Cash Now, as “taxes and loans.” Council members deferred action out of concerns that Rieffer planned to open a pawn shop or pay-day loan business.

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Appearing before the council Monday night, Rieffer said he is a licensed tax preparer and planned to operate a tax preparation service at the address. He added that he “might” buy and sell real estate, using the storefront as a base of operation, and confirmed that one of his primary reasons for establishing a business is to facilitate renovating and renting three apartments in the building. City ordinance requires an operating business on the ground floor for any building on Central Avenue renting second floor apartments.

City Attorney Rick Verticchio initially recommended approving the business license.

“We told him before that we didn’t know what kind of business he wanted to start,” Verticchio said. “He’s told us that now. He’s going to prepare taxes and possibly buy and sell real estate.”

Rieffer told the council he bought the building for $5,000 and intends to renovate the structure to serve as an office and rental property. The building currently has broken windows and a frequently unsecured back door, all of which Rieffer said he planned to address contingent of the council’s approval of his business license. He said he wanted to do something downtown because “Benld is basically a ghost town.”

“If this town is a ghost town, why do you want to open a business here?” Ald. John Balzraine asked.

Rieffer said he wanted to do something to help “build up” the community. He said he plans to make his swimming pool installation business a part-time concern in order to devote full-time to the tax preparation service.

City Attorney Rick Verticchio asked if Rieffer plans to have the business open throughout the year, or if it will be open only during tax season. Rieffer said the tax preparation license requires him to be open a minimum number of hours per year. He produced a tax preparer’s license that he secured through Jackson Hewitt for the 2022 tax season. Under questioning by Verticchio he acknowledged he does not have a current license, nor is he licensed to buy and sell real estate. Rieffer said, however, that he plans to obtain both certificates before opening.

“You came to this council and told them you’re certified,” Verticchio said. ‘Then you tell us you didn’t renew your certification last year. I don’t think it’s inappropriate for the council to ask you to show them that you’re certified to do taxes now.”

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“I don’t see why he has to have a license right now for us to approve a business license,” Ald. Fletcher commented. He said the city’s ordinances would empower the city to inspect the building and apartments, and to revoke the business license if Rieffer fails to meet his commitment to the city.

“I think we should table this until he actually has his tax license or real estate license,” Ald. Saracco indicated.

“I’m not going to spend more money on the building without approval,” Rieffer responded. “I’m not going to start work until I get approval. I’ll cut the grass and board up the windows, and let it rot.”

Ultimately, the council approved the business license contingent upon Rieffer securing a license to prepare taxes and subject to city inspection of the premises in compliance with city ordinances. Council members voted 4-1 to approve the business license with Ald. Balzraine voting “no.”

“I want to tell you why I’m voting ’no’,” Balzraine told Rieffer. “I don’t trust you, pure and simple.”

GRADING BIDS

On a motion by Ald. Fletcher, the council voted unanimously to advertise for bids for grading work at the new Benld Sports and Recreation Complex on the former site of Benld Elementary School. The action is contingent upon the city engineer delivering drawings and bidding specifications for the project within the next two weeks.

Mayor Jim Kelly said HMG Engineers were working on plans to minimize the amount of grading and excavation needed to prepare the site for ball fields and other amenities. In the meantime, he said two bids have been received for playground equipment, both of which are less than the engineer’s estimate.

POST OFFICE LEASE

By a unanimous vote, the council agreed to enter into an agreement to lease a building on East Central Avenue to the U.S. Postal Service.

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The lease had been in limbo for several months as City Attorney Verticchio negotiated with the Postal Service to reach the final terms. A major sticking point was a provision carried over from the previous lease requiring the city to provide snow removal service, although the city never fulfilled that aspect of the previous contract.

The new five-year lease retains the snow removal provision and will start Oct. 1, 2025. Under the currently lease, the city receives $3,300 annually. Under the new lease, the city will net $4,794 after paying the Postal Service’s lease broker’s fee.

PUBLIC ART PROPOSAL

City resident Ben Marcacci appeared briefly before the council to propose a program to install public art pieces along the Benld-Gillespie Bike Trail, creating an “art trail” people can experience on bike or by walking. Marcacci, who creates art himself in his Benld-based studio, said he spoke with Rick Spencer, who teaches welding at Gillespie High School, and that Spencer expressed interest in involving students in the project.

Marcacci said he has traveled extensively in connection with his job to 87 countries and countless small communities, many of which turned to art to attract visitors and enhance the quality of life for local residents.

“What brings people in is art,” he said. He cited Casey as an example of a small community uniting to create public art pieces to attract visitors. Casey gained notoriety as the home of the “world’s largest” wind chimes, world’s largest golf tee, world’s large mailbox and other “world’s largest” attractions. “Casey is two miles off the interstate, we’re three,” Marcacci said.

Ald. Balzraine expressed concerns about vandalism.

“That would be taken into consideration,” Marcacci said, adding that the sculptures he makes are made from quarter-inch steel. “I’d be more concerned about people climbing on them.”

Marcacci said the council would have approval of subject matter for all the sculptures. Additionally, he pointed out other communities have had success with public art projects ranging from murals to sculpture parks or art trails.

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“Other people are doing this, guys,” he told the council.

PUBLIC NUISANCES

Following a 20-minute executive session, the council took action to declare as public nuisances properties located at 200, 209 and 211 East Central Avenue. In a separate action, the council voted to declare 215 East Central Avenue a public nuisance, and tabled consideration of acquiring the property.

BUILDING INSPECTOR SALARY

Voting 4-1, the council approved a measure to increase the building inspector’s compensation from $40 per inspection to $55. Ald. Saracco cast the sole negative vote, later explaining he had concerns about the number of inspections performed.

Mayor Kelly asked aldermen to make a list of properties in need of inspection and turning it over to the building inspector.

“That was my concern,” Saracco said. “That’s why I voted ’no’.”

OTHER ACTION

  • Set a special meeting for 3 p.m., Monday, June 24, to discuss possible uses for the city’s $51,000 share of a multi-community Climate and Equitable Jobs Act grant administered by the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.
  • Thanked the Italian Club for purchasing a new stove for the city park pavilion.
  • Approved purchase of $5,559.60 in materials for the Maintenance Department.

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Gillespie Police Report: June 9-15, 2024

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SUNDAY, JUNE 9, 2024

An officer was dispatched to Gillespie Police Department to speak with a couple in reference to a civil issue.

An officer was dispatched to Gillespie Police Department and spoke with a female in reference to a civil issue.

An officer was dispatched to the 300 block of East Elm Street in reference to criminal trespassing to property.

An officer was dispatched to the 400 block of West Easton Street in reference to a theft.

An officer was dispatched to First Street in Gillespie in reference to a noise complaint.

An officer was dispatched to the 300 block of South Street in reference to a well-being check.

An officer was to the 300 block of East Chestnut Street in reference to reckless driving.

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An officer was dispatched to the 400 block of South Main Street in reference to a dog at large.

An officer was dispatched to the 10,000 Louis Lane at Gillespie Lake in reference to a 911 call.

An officer was dispatched to the 900 block of First Street in reference to a noise complaint.

An officer was dispatched to the 400 block of Montgomery Street in reference to a domestic disturbance.

An officer was dispatched to the 500 block of Dorsey Road in Mt. Clare in reference to a suspicious circumstance.

MONDAY, JUNE 10, 2024

An officer was dispatched to the 200 block of West Oak Street in reference to a theft.

An officer was dispatched to Welfare Park in reference to a suspicious vehicle.

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An officer was out in the 300 block of North Macoupin Street in reference to a well-being check.

An officer was dispatched to Macoupin Street and Walnut Street in reference to a suspicious male.

An officer was dispatched to the 400 block of North 7th Street in Benld in reference to a civil issue.

An officer met with a male at Gillespie Police Department in reference toa theft in the 200 block of West Oak Street.

TUESDAY, JUNE 12, 2024

An officer was dispatched to the 400 block of West Easton Street in reference to criminal damage to property.

An officer was dispatched to the 600 block of North 6th Street in Benld in reference to a burglary.  John A. Crisel, 62, of Benld was arrested for burglary.

An officer was dispatched to a business in the 400 block of South Macoupin Street in reference to discovered property.

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An officer was dispatched to the 600 block of Burton Street in reference to a well-being check.

An officer spoke with a male at Gillespie Police Department in reference to harassment by telephone.

An officer was out with a male in the 100 block of North Macoupin Street in reference to a well-being check.

An officer was dispatched to the 400 block of East Walnut Street in reference to a dog at large.

WEDNESDAY, JUNE 12, 2024

An officer was dispatched to the 100 block of Park Avenue in reference to found property,

An officer was dispatched to the 300 block of Park Street in Benld in reference to a medical assist.

An officer was dispatched to the 1000 block of South Madison Street in reference to an ordinance issue of trash accumulation.

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An officer was dispatched to the 500 block of East Elm Street in reference to a dog at large.

An officer was dispatched to Gillespie Police Department to speak with a female in reference to identity theft.

An officer was dispatched to Gillespie Police Department to speak with a male in reference to a child custody issue.

An officer was dispatched to the 600 block of West Wilson Street in reference to an alarm sounding.

An officer initiated a traffic stop at Springfield Road and Illinois Avenue in East Gillespie. A 16-year-old female from Benld was issued citations for speeding and operating an uninsured motor vehicle.

An officer was dispatched to the 200 block of Henry Street in reference to a reckless driving complaint.

An officer was dispatched to Route 4 and Dorsey Street in Benld in reference to reckless driving.

An officer was dispatched to the 100 block of East Chestnut Street in reference to an alarm sounding.

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An officer was dispatched to the 300 block of North 7th Street in Benld in reference to a 911 call.

THURSDAY, JUNE 13, 2024

An officer was dispatched to a business in the 200 block of Southern Street in reference to a burglar alarm sounding.

An officer was dispatched to the 400 block of West Baker Street in reference to illegal burning.

An officer was dispatched to the 700 block of North 6th Street in Benld in reference to a well-being check.

An officer was dispatched to the 400 block of West Baker Street in reference to a domestic dispute.

An officer was out at 4th Street and Hickory Street in Benld in reference to unwanted solicitors.

An officer was out in the 100 block of East Wilson Street in reference to a camper parked on the sidewalk.

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An officer was dispatched to the 200 block of North 4th Street and the 200 block of East Locust Street in Benld in reference to a 911 call.

An officer was dispatched to Route 4 and Staunton Road in reference to reckless driving.

An officer was dispatched to Adams Street and Virginia Street in East Gillespie in reference to a medical assist.

An officer was dispatched to the 300 block of East Walnut Street in Benld in reference to juvenile issues.

FRIDAY, JUNE 14, 2024

An officer was dispatched to the 100 block of Richard Street in reference to a domestic dispute and criminal trespass.

An officer was dispatched to the 100 block of South Macoupin Street in reference to a well-being check.

An officer on normal patrol in the 400 block of Charles Street found a car door open.

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An officer was dispatched to Gillespie Police Department to speak with a female in reference to fraud.

An officer was dispatched to the 700 block of North Hard Road in Benld in reference to theft of a motor vehicle.

An officer was dispatched to the 1000 block of South Macoupin Street in reference to criminal damage to property.

An officer was dispatched to the 200 block of West Charles Street in reference to a security check.

An officer was dispatched to Oregon Street and Broadway Street in reference to an item falling out of a truck onto the roadway.

An officer was dispatched to Gillespie Police Department to speak with a male in reference to a child custody issue.

An officer spoke with a female at Gillespie Police Department in reference to a burglary in the 100 block of East Dorsey Street in Mt. Clare.

An officer was dispatched to the 700 block of Gillespie Street in reference to criminal damage to property.

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An officer was dispatched to the 100 block of South Macoupin Street in reference to a well-being check.

SATURDAY, JUNE 15, 2024

An officer initiated a traffic stop at Broadway Street and LJ Avenue. Evan T. Webb, 19, of Benld was issued citations for improper use of evidence of registration, no valid registration, operating an uninsured motor vehicle, and possession of cannabis in a motor vehicle.

An officer was dispatched to the 300 block of South Illinois Street in Benld in reference to a domestic dispute. Josh N. Danis, 39, of Benld was arrested for resisting or obstructing a police officer.

An officer was dispatched to the 400 block of South Main Street in Benld in reference to criminal trespass.

An officer was dispatched to the 400 block of Broadway Street in reference to harassment and neighbor dispute.

An officer initiated a traffic stop at Hard Road and Mt. Clare Drive in Mt. Clare. Jessica J. Woyan, 34, of Bunker Hill was arrested for improper use of registration, no valid driver’s license, and expired registration.

An officer was dispatched to the 300 block of South Street in reference to a suspicious person.

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An officer was dispatched to the 600 block of West Baker Street in reference to an ordinance issue of illegal burning.

An officer was dispatched to the 200 block of West Hickory in Benld in reference to a well-being check.

An officer was dispatched to the 400 block of East Elm Street in reference to a 911 call.

An officer was dispatched to the 600 block of Broadway Street in reference to a noise complaint.

An officer was dispatched to a business in the 900 block of North Hard Road in Mt. Clare in reference to a medical assist.

An officer was dispatched to the 900 block of First Street in reference to a noise complaint.

All subjects are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

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Macoupin County man arrested on child pornography charges

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Attorney General Kwame Raoul charged a Macoupin County man with dissemination and possession of child pornography. The case is part of Raoul’s ongoing work, in collaboration with federal law enforcement agencies and local law enforcement officials throughout Illinois, to apprehend offenders who download and trade child pornography online.

The Attorney General’s office charged David Crane, 34 of Brighton, in Macoupin County Circuit Court with one count of dissemination of child pornography of a victim under 13 years old, a Class X felony punishable by up to 30 years in prison; and 10 counts of possession of child pornography, Class 2 felonies, each count punishable by up to seven years in prison. Sentences must be served consecutively and are ultimately determined by the court. Crane is currently detained at the Macoupin County Jail. His next court appearance is July 9.

“Children who survive exploitation can face a lifetime of trauma, which is why we must help them receive justice by holding the offenders who commit these horrific crimes accountable,” Raoul said. “I will continue to work with state and local authorities to ensure these individuals are unable to victimize other innocent children.”

Raoul’s investigators, along with officers from the Brighton Police Department, Macoupin County Sheriff’s Office and the Illinois State Police (ISP) South Central Illinois Drug Task Force conducted a search of Crane’s residence in the 600 block of Brown Street in Brighton on June 13. Crane was arrested when investigators discovered evidence of child pornography.

“Illinois State Police special agents continuously investigate cases where there is evidence of child sexual abuse, and we will do everything in our power to arrest predators and protect our children and youth,” said ISP Director Brendan F. Kelly.

Raoul’s office is co-prosecuting this case with the Macoupin County State’s Attorney’s office.

The public is reminded that the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

Raoul’s office, with a grant from the U.S. Department of Justice, runs the Illinois Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force that investigates child exploitation crimes and trains law enforcement agencies. The task force receives CyberTips, or online reports of child pornography, from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Over the last several years, CyberTipline reports have steadily increased. In 2023, reports to the ICAC increased by 46% over 2022.

Illinois’ ICAC Task Force is one of 61 ICAC task forces throughout the country and is comprised of a network of more than 185 local, county, state and federal law enforcement agencies. Since 2019, the Attorney General’s ICAC Task Force has received more than 46,150 CyberTips and has been involved in more than 755 arrests of sexual predators. Since 2006, the Attorney General’s ICAC Task Force has been involved in more than 2,145 arrests of sexual predators. The task force also has provided internet safety training and education to tens of thousands of parents, teachers, students and law enforcement professionals.

Attorney General Raoul is reminding the public that child sexual exploitation can be reported online at cybertipline.com and child abuse at dcfsonlinereporting.dcfs.illinois.gov. In addition, local child advocacy centers can be found at childrensadvocacycentersofillinois.org.

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Assistant Attorney General Jenifer Peck is prosecuting the case for Raoul’s High Tech Crimes Bureau.

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