Monday, Jan 30th

vegetablesAt the opening of the January 24 meeting of the Village Board Mayor Jane Veron wished everyone a Happy Lunar New Year, the year of the rabbit, and said, “2023 is predicted to be a year of hope. ‘

She reported that trustees were holding meeting with Village Department heads to review their budget needs for the coming fiscal year. In addition to the budget, Trustees are focused on road conditions and will hear a report from the Department of Public Works on a road survey next week. She also warned residents to heed the new Village speed limit of 25 mph and said signage has been installed.

In other news, the Village is considering a contract from a firm in Connecticut to bring a farmer’s market to Scarsdale Village to be held on Sundays in Scarsdale Village from June to November. Trustees also scheduled a public hearing on a code amendment to allow retailers to sell goods on the sidewalks of the Village. Work continues on schematics for the pool renovation and for plans for traffic and sidewalks in the Village center.

Heathcote Bridge Repair

Village Manager Rob Cole reported that the repair project for the Heathcote Bridge will soon be put out to bid. Specifically he said, “Following a review process that involved both NYS and federal agencies, the Village has received authorization to bid the Heathcote Road Bridge Reconstruction project. We are on target for a bid opening on March 2, with an award in late March or early April. The construction timeline will be fleshed out with the successful bidder, though it should be noted that Superintendent Coleman and his team continue to place priority on project completion following the shortest possible timeline.”

Property Tax Exemption

A public hearing was held on a resolution to increase the minimum income level for property tax exemptions for seniors and the disabled. Village Assessor Victoria Sirota explained that the proposed resolution raises the income level from $29,000 up to $50,000 for a 50% exemption and on a sliding scale for those with incomes between $50,000 and $58,0000.

The school board opted to increase the exemption for school taxes for those earning up to $50,000 but did not include exemptions for medical expenses. Unreimbursed medical expenses could be considered for those earning above $58,000 The consideration would allow those to qualify for the exemption if they earn more than $50,000.

Public Comments

Bob Harrison spoke about tax increases and said the county would have no tax increase this year. He also said the Village had understated the amount of interest income they would receive in the proposed Village budget for next year.

Liaison Reports

Trustee Ahuja said the Personnel Committee of the Board of Trustees is looking for diverse candidates to fill vacancies on Village Boards and Councils.

Public Hearings

Trustees agreed to hold a public hearing on February 14, 2023 on a code amendment to allow retailers and café owners to utilize sidewalks to sell goods, foods and beverages and to place tables for the pick-up or drop off of goods in these areas.

The Board approved a resolution to hold a public hearing on a new law regarding illegal connections to the sanitary sewer system. The new law would require those who do a property improvement of more than $100,000 or sell their home to obtain certification by an appropriate professional that their sewer lateral and plumbing do not contribute inflow or infiltration in the village sanitary sewer system or contain significant defects or lack maintenance.

Tax Cap Override

The Board passed a resolution to allow them to adopt a budget that requires a real property tax levy in excess of the tax cap, if needed. Trustee Lewis explained, “This does not mean that the board is going down that path – just that they can.”

Appointment to the Committee for Historic Preservation

The Board approved the appointment of Sherry Geer to the Committee for Historic Preservation for a term vacated until April 2025.

backhoeIt seems like a major disconnect. All around us, our roads have been torn up by Con Edison as they work to upgrade the gas lines in Scarsdale. Yet at the same time we learned that the New York City Council has banned the use of gas in new buildings, effective 2024 and that there is a bill before the NYS Senate to “mandate all-electric buildings after 2023, except in cases where local permitting authorities determine they're not feasible, which may depend on the availability of equipment and labor.”

After Con Ed spent years encouraging users to convert from oil to gas, new research has shown that “Indoor gas stove use for cooking is associated with among children and is prevalent in 35% of households in the United States (US).” In addition, fossil fuel combustion, mostly for heating, is responsible for about 13% of greenhouse gas emissions in the US, according to 2019 figures from the US Environmental Protection Agency.

However, here in Scarsdale, Con Edison has undertaken a major 5 year project to replace the gas lines. This is a tremendous undertaking and ultimately the costs will be underwritten by users.

We asked Alan Drury, a spokesperson for Con Edison about the ongoing gas line installation and the potential ban on usage and here is what he said: “There is no disconnect. We support a transition away from fossil fuels and are taking numerous steps in that direction. Needless to say, it will take the region years to complete such a large and complex transition. In the meantime, we must continue to invest to keep the gas system safe and reliable. It’s essential for natural gas customers (particularly those who rely on natural gas for heat and might be vulnerable due to age or health issues) to have reliable service, particularly on the coldest days of the year”

Asked for a comment, Village Manager Rob Cole said, “Because Con Ed is regulated by the New York State Public Service Commission (PSC), with funding mechanisms and approval for their proposed major capital projects authorized through that oversight process, your questions are best addressed to the PSC; we note, however, that the disruptive gas main project predates recent discussion of phasing out gas appliances.”

Cole continued, “Staff are unable to comment on rules and regulations passed by NYC, though we note media reports that Governor Hochul had recently expressed support for a similar statewide ban that would begin phasing out a majority of such gas appliances in 2030. If the NYS codes change, we would need to comply, of course.”

I wondered what the men who are installing the pipeline in front of my house thought and stopped one to ask. He threw up his hands and said, “They tell us to rely on electric, but the grid is inadequate to power our area. So once there’s an outage, everyone will ask, what happened to our gas service?

HarwoodBuildingWith the advent of the new year, we asked local leaders for their hopes for 2023 in Scarsdale. Here are their thoughts:

Interim Scarsdale Schools Superintendent Andrew Patrick

As 2023 begins, I am looking forward to further strengthening the critical connections and partnerships between our schools and our community. Since the start of the school year, our faculty, staff, administrators, PTAs, and PTC have worked hard to restore cherished activities like field trips, reestablish opportunities for parents to visit classrooms and deliver programs, and reimagine the ways our community plays a role in student learning. These connections are critical to our mission of serving the whole child, and they illustrate the meaning of the phrase, "it takes a village!" I am also looking forward to successful project collaborations with the Village in a number of areas, and to a productive budget process. However, what I anticipate above all else in 2023 is for each and every Scarsdale student to meet or exceed their goals, to learn, and to rise to fulfill the incredible potential they possess.

Scarsdale School Board President Amber YusufAmber

I hope this year that I can continue to do the things I love: give back to my community, support my friends, care for my family, and make time for myself.

I look forward to an exciting year ahead for our District. The past few years have presented a series of challenges, and once a new permanent superintendent is in place, I envision new opportunities and channels for growth for students and enhanced professional learning and collaboration for faculty and staff.

Mayor of Scarsdale Jane Veron

I enter each new year with hope and optimism. It is our strong desire that residents feel deeply connected to our community; that they can conduct their lives protected and secure; and that they have myriad Veronopportunities for fun and fulfillment. Designing a wonderful new seasonal pool complex remains a high priority for this year as well as instituting traffic and safety measures, local economic development advances and land use improvements. We will also continue to pursue other quality of life initiatives. As we embark on 2023, we will nurture what makes Scarsdale great and adapt and evolve to ensure we remain the very best place to live.

NYS Assembly Member Amy Paulin

I’m feeling very excited and hopeful about 2023. I love my job. It gives me the opportunity to help and solve problems for the people in my community. In 2023, I hope even more constituents reach out to my office for help on the many issues that we can assist with personally and legislatively – please email me at paulina@nyassembly.gov

I’m thrilled to have Edgemont in my district, starting just this week. I’ve already worked closely with the residents in Edgemont and filed a Amy Arms Folded Best copybill to stop illegal cannabis sales happening on Central Ave. Together we will work hard to get that passed in 2023. Please keep the bill ideas coming Scarsdale and Edgemont - you are my inspiration!

I was just appointed NYS Assembly Health Chair and will work hard make sure everyone in our area, and in New York State has access to high quality and affordable health care. I'm hopeful that we can address the issues raised by my constituents such as problematic nursing homes, inadequately funded hospitals, and access to reproductive health care - just to name just a few.

I am also hopeful that the legislature can pass meaningful legislation in 2023, and plan to be a loud voice. The legislature needs to address increased street crime, domestic violence, human trafficking and repeat offenders.

I would be remiss in talking about my hopes for 2023 if I didn’t mention my beloved Mets, which have made a great acquisition in Carlos Correa, and resigned two of my favorites - Brandon Nimmo and Edwin Díaz. Like every Mets fan, I’m eternally hopeful, dream of ’69 and ’86, and feel that this could really be our year to make it there once again.

President of the Scarsdale Forum Susan Douglass

First, we hope to have safety be a higher priority in Scarsdale -- let's work to eliminate pedestrian encounters with cars, or car crashes, in the downtown area or anywhere else in town. This will require reworking East Parkway and Spencer Place, Crane Road, Popham Road, Sprague Road and other "hot spot" areas. Traffic enforcement must be a priority.

Second, we need to stop gas-powered leaf blowers and leaf vacuuming. Let's be innovative leaders in environmental practices and save budget allocations at the same time.

Third, it's time for a dog park. Maybe 2023 will be the year when it comes to pass.

Lastly, we want to create many opportunities for Scarsdalians to share events, music, food and fun together. We have a wonderful community with people of all ages.

Scarsdale Conservation Advisory Council Michelle SterlingChasePark

2023 could be the year where everyone in Scarsdale participates in the Scarsdale Food Scrap Recycling program and gets to zero waste. All of us on the CAC are committed to not just caring about the environment but taking steps to do something about it. Fortunately we can do our part right here in Scarsdale. If you food scrap, and recycle everything that can be recycled, you will have hardly any waste. I’m hopeful that in 2023 we can all take a pause and think about the blessing of having clean air, water and soil. To us on the CAC it’s our foundation. I’m so appreciative for the thousands of residents that are out there with the CAC, taking action, and in that way making great sustainability achievements happen. I hope that everyone can get on board – please email composting@scarsdale.com to sign up for food scrap recycling or with any recycling questions. We’re happy to help!”

Publisher Scarsdale10583 Joanne Wallenstein

And for me: here is what I would like to see.

I am hopeful that the Con Edison moves swiftly on the gas pipeline replacement project so that I can get out of my driveway and out of Greenacres. Ditto to work on the Heathcote Bridge.

41HamptonEntrySecond: I would like the Village Board to take some meaningful steps to address home size and height restrictions, historic preservation, subdivisions and lot coverage to work toward stemming the crowding of our neighborhoods and the strain on our resources. Building two oversized houses in place of one results in more curb cuts, street crowding, diminishment of pervious surfaces and the destruction of trees, ultimately leading to flooding. The only people who benefit are the developers. It’s time for the Village Board to put the rights of current homeowners before the ambitions of our local builders.

Last, I hope that the Village can reach consensus on a plan to renovate the Scarsdale Pool Complex so that we can all continue to enjoy this community gem.

Do you have hopes for 2023? Please contribute them in the comments section below or email them to scarsdalecomments@gmail.com and we’ll add them to the article.

Happy New Year everyone!

GardenRoadsite2Developers are proposing an 8 home subdivision in a wetlands on Garden RoadThere was promising news from the` Village Board about eating options in the Village at their first meeting of the new year. The Mayor announced the “imminent” opening of the long awaited One Rare Steakhouse in the space formerly occupied by Zachys on East Parkway. The restaurant, from the owners of Ben and Jack’s Steakhouse on East 44th Street, will feature dry aged steaks, pasta and seafood.

The Mayor also said that the owners of Martines on East Parkway plan to open Mimis -– an artisanal gelateria, serving gelato, waffles and hot lava cakes. The new shop will be at 51 East Parkway in the space once held by Webster Bank.

With little discussion, the Board also passed two amendments to Village code regarding permeable vs. impervious surfaces for lot coverage and another regarding grading for stormwater management. However residents who live in a sensitive drainage area near Garden Road were not satisfied that these changes would do enough to safeguard their homes. See below:

Budgeting Software

In an update from Village Treasurer Ann Scaglione, she unveiled new budgeting software called ClearGov, which will be accessible to Village personnel as well as the public via a link on the Village website. The software will enhance the budgeting planning process by permitting Village staff and trustees to track iterations of the Village budget, by department as it evolves.

Village Manager Rob Cole congratulated Scaglione on the implementation and said this new software was a substantial improvement over previous practice and should be easy to navigate for trustees and the public. Trustee Ahuja suggested that the Village produce a video tutorial on how to use this new software.

Speed Limit

Cole discussed the implementation of the new speed limit, which will be lowered to 25 mph on most streets throughout the Village. He said new signage will be posted at the end of the month and the Village will undertake education to inform the public of the new law. In the interim, he suggested that everyone get used to the lower limit by driving at a maximum speed of 25 mph.

Tax Cap

In other business, the Board approved a resolution to allow the passage of a budget which exceeds the tax cap, if necessary. According to the Village Treasurer, the Village must stay below a 3.28% increase in order not to exceed the cap.

Security at Village Hall

Trustees approved $392,000 for access control and security improvements at Village Hall plus $27,000 for electric work for a total of $419,824.

Gifts

The Board accepted two gifts – one for the police department and another for the fire department.

Gifts are as follows:

The Bowman Family Foundation gave $2,000 to the Police Department for projects selected by the Police Chief and approved by the Village.

Sang Han of Paddington Road gave a $1,000 donation to the fire department for training of career firefighters and volunteers.

Village Election

The Board passed a resolution to hold the village election for Mayor and Trustees on Tuesday March 21, 2023 from 6 am to 9 pm at Scarsdale Public Library.

Bonds

The Board approved a resolution to issue $1,709,472 in bonds to purchase trucks and equipment for use by the Department of Public Works.

Lot Coverage

The Board approved a resolution to amend Village code to “align the runoff curve used to determine whether a surface is permeable or impervious with the predominant soil type on a property.”

Stormwater

The Board approved an amendment to Village code to limit the changing of grades which will encourage the maintenance of natural topography and natural water flow to avert flooding of neighboring properties.

Letters

Some did not think that the two resolutions regarding lot coverage and stormwater did enough to safeguard their properties.

Helen Maccarino wrote to the Village Board regarding a proposed 8 home subdivision at 80 Garden Road, now referred to as “The Gardens.” Her letter says, “ The Gardens" is an enormous project covering over 6 acres, the equivalent of nearly 5 football fields. If you are unfamiliar with the plan, it calls for clear-cutting hundreds of trees, raising the terrain by approximately 4 feet, and installing a retaining wall just 6 feet from the adjacent property lines. Not only is there no APB, there is a retaining wall instead of a "tapered slope", a wall that runs the length of the entire site. The subdivision plan also ignores the findings of NYS Dept of Environmental Conservation which the Chapter 254 code cites prominently from the outset. The NYS DEC states that clear-cutting and terrain-raising risks altering drainage patterns across property lines, cause erosion and "have significant impact on the health, safety and welfare of the community."

Another letter was received from the law firm of Mintzer, Mauch PLLC who represents a group of 29 residents who would be affected by the development on Garden Road. They urged the Board to adopt a temporary moratorium on the processing of development applications within sensitive drainage areas while the Board makes substantive changes to land use code.

graveldrivewayThe Village Board held public hearings on three resolutions that address building code, lot coverage and stormwater at the meeting on Tuesday night December 13, 2022.

Many of the changes to the code were quite technical, and both trustees and the public struggled to completely understand their underlying meaning.

There was much discussion about a resolution amending chapter 310 of the zoning code regarding drainage issues which amends lot area coverage requirements for pervious and impervious surfaces.

Explaining the code revision, a memo from the Assistant Village Planner explains,

“The current draft proposes lowering the runoff curve from 94 to 80 to align the runoff curve with the gravel runoff curve depending on the hydrological soil classification. The runoff curve number would change depending on a property’s predominant soil type in accordance with the chart below:

Class A 76
Class B 85
Class C 89
Class D 91

The goal is to allow gravel as the least pervious surface eligible to be exempt from lot coverage. This will eliminate the loophole of impervious pavement with drainage ditches on either side being considered permeable, and not included in lot coverage. Permeable pavers and porous pavement can qualify if they meet the new standard.

By way of explanation, black top is the least pervious surface and has a runoff curve of 98 with soil Class A being the most permeable. The lower the number, the more permeable the soil. Under the new code, gravel can be used on any surface to make it qualify as permeable. Village Planner Greg Cutler explained, “this ties impervious surfaces to soil composition. Gravel would be the most impervious surface that would be considered permeable.”

Cutler added, “We looked at what the runoff curve was for gravel in each soil classification. It runs A through D. This classification depends on the property. For soil classification D, you have a higher rate of run off. Class A drains really well. It allows you to use the same coverage on any soil – it levels the playing field for all properties. Gravel surfaces are considered pervious for lot coverage and impervious for stormwater requirements.”

Bob Harrison asked if Har-Tru tennis courts would be treated as pervious or impervious under this new law and Frank Diodati replied, “If it is a Har-Tru court that is on a gravel base, we are accepting Har-Tru as a permeable material. A permeable clay surface would still qualify as permeable and would not count as lot coverage.”

Trustee Mazer asked, Will pervious asphalt no longer be an option moving forward? How many have been installed? Diodati said that pervious asphalt may still be permitted depending on what is underneath. He estimated that a dozen such surfaces may have been installed this year.

Village Engineer Dave Goessl said, “The intention is not to create pre-existing non-conforming lots. The code amendment will outline soil composition and subsurface soils beneath the surface to percolate. Soil classification, proper engineering and proper product selection will all demonstrate surfaces conducive for permeability and therefore exempt from lot coverage.”

Trustee Mazer said, “The idea is to promote additional drainage into practice,” and Trustee Gans said, “the code change puts soil classes and runoff curve numbers into code.”

Resident Doug Ulene said, “I have quibbles with two aspects of the amendment: Lot area coverage matters for aesthetics, drainage and monetary reasons. I think the drainage issue is , are you absorbing your fair share of water? You won’t get credit for the area outside of the quadrangle.”

He added, “The proposed amendment allows people who are on non-conforming lots to swap driveways for pools. This will allow people to swap things and then get variances. Variances run with the land. A patio should not be swapped for a tennis court – or a tennis court for a pool.”

Last he said, “Instead of monkeying around with minor changes, the Village should make major statutory changes to build homes in the flood zones up – and large to give builders incentives. I live at 7 Cayuga Road.”

Village Planner Greg Cutler responded, We have eliminated the ability to swap surfaces for a pool, tennis court, patio etc.”

Stormwater Runoff

The Trustees next addressed proposed changes to the concerning stormwater runoff in adjacent property buffer areas. The new code would prevent disturbing the land in property buffers without the approval of the Planning Board. It creates a requirement for site plan approval by the Planning Board and update items that must be included in the stormwater management plan.

Village Engineer David Goessl explained, “There is currently no provision about the regrading of properties in the Village Code, though some applicants are required to submit a stormwater management plan and this case the engineering department looks into the whole proposal. But those that don’t require a stormwater management plan would require proposed slope changes to go before the Planning Board. About the definition of slope, this would prevent the building of a retaining wall in the middle of a tapered slope with a steep drop off on the other side. Also, this new process would not eliminate a review by the Village Engineer.”

Some felt these code changes did not go far enough.

Helen Maccarino of 83 Cushman Road said, “I was told you tried to strengthen the law after the flooding that occurred after Hurricane Ida. I see that though you tried to strengthen the law, there is still a slippery slope that allows those who want to change their lot to do so with the provision that they go before the Planning Board to do so. They allow you to bypass the Engineering Department and go directly before the Planning Board. I found confusing that you quote the DEC when talking about the risks of changing and raising terrain and clear cutting.

These two activities were proposed for a development literally in my backyard and I was buoyed by the fact it was cited but there are no restrictions on clear cutting and no restrictions on how high you can raise the terrain. Where I live the soil is primarily clay and there is a high water table. So any land disturbance automatically redirects the groundwater table somewhere else. Anywhere you dig a hole it will fill with water, and if you put something in that hole like a basement, it will force the water to go somewhere else. When we have these storms the hydrostatic pressure can force the water into surrounding homes. The water has to go somewhere and it will force its way into our basement, which happened to us. And we were helpless. There is nothing you can do. It seeps in from the ground.”

“Also – the term “tapered slope” is not defined. Without this definition it seems loosey goosey to me. It can be 10 degrees or 65 degrees.”

“Finally – there is the role of infrastructure to handle the water. In my neighborhood, it tends to flood. The slopes feed down into this area. The infrastructure needs to be replaced or improved before you allow for more development.”

Shari and Joel Beckman from 75 Garden Road echoed Helen’s comments. Shari said, ”We have also experienced flooding and I am quite concerned about the lack of specificity about flow and elevating property for any potential builder to come in and create a setting where you have houses perched up high to avoid flooding, and neighbors who will clearly become flooded if the storm is serious enough and there is no other outlet. Without the specificity of the slope and rise, it leaves it very questionable that this would be an official way to go. I would like the board to consider that before moving forward on this proposal.”

Last, the Village was required by state law to amend building code to require minimum standards for administration and enforcement of the NYS Uniform Fire Prevention and Building Code and the Energy Conservation Construction Code. Since the state required the adoption of this new code by December 31, 202022, By law it must be adopted by December 31, 2022, so the Board held the public hearing and passed the resolution to approve it at the same meeting.

The Board approved a resolution to authorizing members of all public bodies of the Village of Scarsdale to participate in public meetings via videoconferencing, pending the passage of a policy that will be approved by the Village Board in January.

The Village Board issued a permit to the Scarsdale Creche Committee to place a Creche in Boniface Circle and a permit to Chabad to place a menorah in Boniface Circle and hold a menorah lighting ceremony on December 18, 2022.

In other business, Bob Harrison a 42 year resident of Scarsdale asked the Village to maximize the return from the investment of the unassigned fund balance.

Village Manager Rob Cole thanked Superintendent Coleman and the Public Works team that cleared the leaves from the streets this year.

Read the resolutions and code amendments here.

At the opening of the meeting, Mayor Jane Veron made the following comments:

As the year is coming to a close, we, here in the Village, are busily preparing for 2023-2024 and beyond. Earlier this evening, as part of our budget planning, we took a comprehensive look at the Village’s capital needs. Board and staff decided to accelerate these investment discussions because our capital needs will require multiple conversations during the budget cycle. For years, we had been deferring important investments, both in infrastructure and key assets. You might recollect that last year, we allocated capital to begin playing catch up on our fleet. DPW vehicles are necessary to repair our roads, pick up trash, and perform other critical public services, as our aged trucks and other equipment have become unreliable and expensive to continue repairing. That’s just one example of many. To ensure Scarsdale remains a great place to live, we need to continue to confront our needs and reinvest in our future.

One of the major capital projects that we’ve discussed over the past 18 months is our beloved pool complex. Built in 1968, the pool complex has outlived its useful life and is existing on borrowed time. In our extensive outreach efforts, our community unequivocally affirmed their commitment to the pool, and we will most definitely replace our community gem. At our fall meeting, the consultants from Lothrop Associates developed two high level concepts based on our survey results: the first, a year round facility and the second, a seasonal pool complex. Since that meeting, the Pool Special Assignment Committee, comprised of Trustee Ahuja, Trustee Brew, and myself along with Village Manager Cole, worked with the consultant team and conducted independent research, gathering information to determine whether a year round pool facility was viable for Scarsdale. At last week’s work session, findings were presented to the full board for discussion. As a threshold matter, the Board had to evaluate whether the Village could absorb the financial requirements and operational complexities of a year round facility. As stated in our press release issued Wednesday, December 7, “the Board came to a consensus that the construction and operating costs would be prohibitive, and that the financial commitment necessary to build and operate a year-round facility could limit the Village’s funding flexibility and capacity for other critical infrastructure and budgetary needs. Simply put, the financial risk exceeds the threshold that our Trustees, as responsible stewards of public funds, are able to accept…Scarsdale will now move forward with our consultants, Lothrop Associates to develop schematic design for a renovated seasonal pool complex. The Board looks forward to working with community groups and Scarsdale residents to shape and refine an appealing pool complex that best serves all members of our community, while preserving and honoring the essence of the pool experience, with its distinctive natural setting and easygoing, welcoming feel. It is our goal to provide all of Scarsdale with a sense of inclusion and belonging.

That special Scarsdale ethos was on full display in our Village Center earlier this month during our magical Light the ‘Dale event. With estimates of 2000 people in attendance, Light the ‘Dale offered something for everyone with a full program of festive music and activities, all thanks to our dedicated Village staff who managed every detail. Lights sparkled on our tree and menorah and the Village Center was packed with young families, empty nesters and seniors, all enjoying one another’s company, As I said in my remarks, “if we build it, they will come”, and Scarsdale does not disappoint. When given the opportunity to come together, side by side with neighbors, family and friends, we show up and together we create lasting memories. As this year winds to a close, we await with eager anticipation all that is in store for Scarsdale in 2023.

On behalf of the entire Board, we wish you and your family a joyous holiday season and very happy new year.

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