WSAR NEWS Archives for 2020-04

The Search For A New Fall River Police Chief Begins Tonight

Fall River Mayor Paul Coogan is appointing a seven member advisory committee to begin the process of selecting a new Fall River Chief of Police.

 

That process will begin tonight conducting interviews with three internal contenders whoo all currently are members of the F.R.P.D. 

 

There was no specific mention as to who will comprise the advisory committee. The Coogan Administration did say the seven members are “a cross section of the community.”

 

Members of the committee include law enforcement officials, health care workers, neighborhood leaders and members of the faith-based community. 

 

Due to the Coronavirus the interview process will not be conducted in a public forum as media is not allowed to attend.

Durfee Alumni Association Recognizes Two Distinguished Graduates

The Durfee Chimes, a publication of the B.M.C Durfee High School Alumni Association announced their two new distinguished alumnus in Robert Karam and Joseph Marshall. 

 

Karam, a 1961 graduate is principal owner of the Karam Financial Group and co-owner of SNE Broadcasting and Bristol County Broadcasting. 

 

He is also the Director of Depositors Insurance Fund, Chairman of AD Makepeace Board of Directors and former Director of Savings Bank Life Insurance. 

 

Karam received his bachelor’s degree in business administration from UMASS Dartmouth in 1967. 

 

He has devoted much of his time in the local community and received numerous awards for his service to Fall River and the surrounding area. 

 

He is a former Chairman and Vice Chairman of the Board of Trustees for the University of Massachusetts as well as for the school’s Memorial Health Care System in Worcester as Chairman. 

 

He has been awarded honorary degrees from Umass and the Southern New England School of Law. 

 

In 1995, he was awarded the Regional Leadership Award by the New Bedford Chamber of Commerce as well as the Outstanding Citizenship Award of Greater Fall River by their Chamber of Commerce back in 1987. 

 

In 2013, Karam received the uAspire First One Award from a non-profit group ensuring financial assistance and tools to all young people.  

 

Joseph Marshall is a graduate of the 1965 class. He attended Bristol Community College in 1975 and received an associates degree in business. 

 

Then, four years later he received his bachelor’s from UMASS Dartmouth in financial management analysis. He is also a graduate of the Dale Carnegie Institute.

 

In 1975, Marshall began to work for a large independent insurance agency as a sales representative. 

 

He began selling life and health insurance before obtaining the qualifications to pivot his work to financial and retirement planning for his clients. 

 

In 1988, Marshall founded his own financial services company in J. Marshall Associates in an attempt to educate the local small business market as well as the senior population. 

 

His goal is to teach planning to avoid financial disaster. He has over 500 clients. 

 

He has also served as President of the Fall River Office of Economic Development; Chairman of the Board of Assessors; President of the Bristol Community College Foundation; Founder of the Prince Henry Society and most recently President of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall Committee.

Mary Sahady on Fall River's New Fireboat

Fall River’s Interim City Administrator and Chief Financial Officer joined WSAR this week on The Marc Dion Show. 

 

Mary Sahady discussed a number of things including an update on how the city’s new fireboat and its six-figure price tag will ultimately be paid for through multiple avenues upon delivery.

 

"It's approximately 156,000 dollars,” she said. “There are some turn backs that are available in the fire budget that Chief Lynch is utilizing. He also has two small special revenue funds that he is taking from."

 

The city’s Emergency Medical Service Director will also be footing a portion of the bill. 

 

"Director (Tim) Oliveira is using some of his surpluses,” Sahady said. “I think it's about 28,000 dollars of his surpluses to fund the fire boat as it will be used by both E.M.S and the fire department."

 

Fall River’s C.F.O told WSAR that Fire Chief John Lynch was told to find the funds for the new boat within the confines of the fire department budget.

 

"In this particular case, the Fire Chief was given the direction, if you will, to find it in his expenses and his budget," Sahady explained. 

 

The city council made it clear they were not pleased finding out about this expense out-of-nowhere at their most recent council session.

Governor Baker Addresses Upcoming May 4 Date

The Coronavirus pandemic in the Commonwealth has put a halt to all non-essential businesses. 

 

The first week in May was the target date for the state to mark on the calendars in terms of potentially phasing normal life back in Massachusetts, or at least discussing it. 

 

As we creep closer towards that infamous May 4 date next Monday, Governor Charlie Baker over the weekend addressed the fluidity of that time frame. 

 

"The key metric here is not May 4,” he said. “That's where the emergency order went through and it went through there because we felt it was important to send a pretty clear message to people that certain businesses would be deemed essential by the federal government and by the Commonwealth, just as other states did.” 

 

Baker continued, “but we wanted to make clear that we didn't want people to think there would be reopening tomorrow or the day after or the day after."

 

The Massachusetts Governor emphasized that the thought in early April was to be prepared for a predicted surge of COVID-19 cases, which came a bit later than expected.

 

"May 4th was based on our assumption that we were going to be in the surge at some point in early April,” Baker said. “The surge has been a bit later than that.”

 

The Governor said a pair of steps need to be taken before considering moving along with the reopening of non-essential business. 

 

“Any decisions we make with respect to reopening are going to require two things - number one, the same thing it requires almost everywhere else which is some drop in hospitalization rates and some evidence that we are in fact over the hump,” Baker said.

 

“And the second is putting in the rules for reopening and re engagement in place which I will have a lot more to say about next week," he continued.

New Intensive Care Unit Facility At St. Luke's Hospital

A brand new Intensive Care Unit has joined the Southcoast family in New Bedford at St. Luke’s Hospital and is ready for operations. 

 

The new state-of-the-art facility cost 14 million dollars and is located on the fourth floor of St. Lukes. It adds 16 beds in various 440 square foot rooms.

 

The timeline had to be moved up about a month early to accommodate the projected surge in COVID-19 cases. 

 

Once the pandemic comes to its much anticipated conclusion the original I.C.U will be repurposed for surgical patients. 

 

Staff will remain physically distanced during this time. An advanced video monitoring system with transitional screening windows are part of the new design. 

 

The integration of this new unit is part of the ongoing process Southcoast established to give St. Luke’s level 2 trauma center status. 

Sixth Confirmed COVID-19 Case In The Bristol County House Of Corrections

The Bristol County House of Corrections had its sixth case of the COVID-19 virus this week.

 

The officer in question left work immediately after becoming ill in the early morning hours of Sunday April 19. He was in the midst of a third shift control room assignment.

 

All of those who have tested positive are employees of the facility. 

 

A nurse, a K-9 officer and another corrections officer have fully recovered and returned to duty while a mental health professional and two other officers are expected to fully recover, as well. 

 

There have been eight prisoners who have tested for the virus and all have proven to be negative. 

 

Over the past month, both officers and prisoners have all been issued face coverings in the form of masks with facilities having been disinfected thoroughly.

Governor Baker & The Importance Of Face Coverings

The Governor of Massachusetts is asking all Commonwealth residents to wear a mask as a means of protection, both for yourself and those you come into contact with.

 

Charlie Baker said at his daily noon press briefing on Wednesday that if social distancing is an issue for you, utilizing a face covering is almost necessary.

 

“Our recommendations with respect to masks and face coverings for those who can’t social distance is basically that you should,” Governor Baker said. “We back up and support every community that has moved more aggressively to make it the equivalent of an enforceable order.”

 

He continued, “I think our view is that it’s much easier and appropriate for locals to enforce those rules over us because they’re there.”

 

The invisibility factor of this particular virus in comparison to something like influenza has made covering up your face almost a staple of society. 

 

It has become the new normal.

 

“This is not like the flu,” Governor Baker said. “If you get the flu, you know it and everybody else knows it. But when it comes to this virus there are a number of people who get it who don’t know it.”

 

The goal here is to create as many hurdles as possible for the virus to spread. 

 

“One of the reasons we made the decision to issue the guidance and the advisory around wearing a mask or a face covering is because the data became pretty clear that the face covering is not just about protecting you from other people,” Baker said. “It’s about protecting other people from you because you could be somebody who has this virus and doesn’t know it.”

 

Fall River administrators have indicated they are not interested in making masks or face coverings mandatory.

Somerset Artist Brian Fox Receives A Nationally Prestigious Award

The United States Sports Academy has announced that a local Somerset resident and nationally recognized artist was named the Sports Artist of the Year in the Painter category.

 

Brian Fox has painted works for some of the more iconic people known around here locally. Between Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski, Mark Wahlberg and Steven Tyler, Fox has established quite the recognition here in New England for his work. 

 

The U.S Sports Academy said Fox has a “meticulous attention to detail and an uncanny ability to capture the iconic expressions of his larger-than-life subjects.”

 

Those larger-than-life subjects include Jackie Robinson, Keith Richards, Michael Phelps, Johnny Depp, Muhammad Ali, Derek Jeter, Pele and so much more. 

 

“Being recognized by a prestigious organization such as the United States Sports Academy is an incredible honor,” Fox said once he learned the news. “I am humbled as I am grateful.”

 

The Somerset resident created the painting for the Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial Wall in Fall River entitled “Forgotten Heroes.” It was presented before Governor Charlie Baker and Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito. 

 

Fox also has a series of werewolf paintings which have created quite the following here locally. 

 

He has held exhibits across the country from Boston to Los Angeles and everywhere in between. 

 

Fox once collaborated with Olympian Jim Craig back in 2010 to create a collection of pieces celebrating the U.S Hockey team's win in 1980 over the Soviet Union. 

 

He was commissioned by a private collector, as well, to produce an original portrait depicting “Miracle on Ice” which was ultimately signed by every member of the team. 

 

The local artist has had fun sharing his work with those who appreciate it. He came up with an idea called the “art drop” in which at various times he has hid a specific painting as a print for someone to find and keep. 

 

He said it was like a "scavenger hunt" in which he would give clues to his followers on his social media. Whoever followed the clues and found the print got to keep it for free. 

 

Fox’s Fall River studio is closed to the public, though he has held various public events to exhibit his works. 

 

You can see some of Brian Fox’s pieces at BrianFoxStudios.com.

 

The prestigous award will be presented to Fox on November 12 later in the year at a free and open-to-the-public event celebrating sports and art. 

Governor Baker Talks New Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Program

Commonwealth residents who are ineligible for regular unemployment benefits can now apply online for the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Program known as the P.U.A Program. 

 

Governor Charlie Baker made the announcement this week. 

 

“This is a federal program that came about as part of the CARES Act which we supported,” he said. “It’s designed to provide unemployment insurance to self-employed people like contractors, consultants, and the so-called gig economy community.”

 

This P.U.A Program will provide up to 39 weeks of unemployment benefits to those unable to work due to the COVID-19 virus but also ineligible for regular or extended benefits.

 

This will include self-employed workers, independent contractors, as well as gig economy workers.  

 

“All of whom are people who work and make a living but none of whom participate in the traditional unemployment insurance system because they don't have a W-2 or a regular job with a regular employer," Baker said.

 

You can apply online if you qualify at www.mass.gov/pua.

Mayor Paul Coogan On New Fireboat

The Fall River Mayor is currently looking for information on who the individual is that ultimately signed off on a new fire boat for the city. 

 

Amid everything else going on in the world pandemic-related, Mayor Paul Coogan has been on a hunt for who gave the go-ahead on a boat in which the city is on the hook for in the form of 157,000 dollars. 

 

Apparently, it was never presented to the current or the former city council as discovered in the latest session last week. 

 

"I went through the old city administrator's office the other day and flipped through old folders seeing if I could find something but I didn't," Mayor Coogan said.

 

Mayor Coogan joined WSAR for his weekly Friday conversation with Alan Zarek and explained how he first learned of the boat. 

 

"I heard about it at a meeting with the fire chief and Mary Sahady,” he said. “I knew nothing about it. It just came up one day. The Chief had said 'can you pick up the difference on the fireboat?"

 

"And I said, what boat? I had never been told anything about it,” according to the Mayor.  

 

Coogan told WSAR the nine councilors seem poised to dive in. 

 

“Council looks like they're ready to dig into it,” he said. “We had meetings with the councilors and I explained it to them that we're not familiar with it. I still have not seen any agreement or papers on it. I guess we'll see how it plays out."

 

This boat, in particular, replaced one that had service time in both Boston and New Bedford and delivered to the city four years ago.

How Will Fall River Pay For Its New Fireboat?

The Fall River City Council is looking for answers as to where 157,000 dollars will be located to pay the city’s share of a new fire boat.

 

The financing was never approved or brought before the nine councilors in 2018, according to those in attendance at the latest council session. 

 

Council discussed a transfer of just over 28,000 dollars from the EMS Stabilization fund into the Port Security fund during its first finance meeting in over two months.

 

Councilor Shawn Cadime asked Fall River Fire Chief John Lynch about a 25 percent share of the boat and how it would be paid for.

 

Lynch responded, "at the time, the administration wasn't in favor of using our funds. They were looking for other ways so at that point I was looking at different avenues for our portion. One of them was state money because sometimes they will appropriate funds like this."

 

Lynch continued and told Cadime about a grant the department accepted towards the two-year process of designing and constructing a new fire boat. 

 

"We already accepted a grant and the money,” the Chief said. “The boat was being built and will take a two-year process."

 

Cadime and Lynch then engaged in a discussion about the lack of funding, as well as the lack of communication. 

 

"I understand that,” Cadime said. “But Chief, my issue is that we accepted a grant without the necessary funding associated with it. To me, that's financially irresponsible and from a management standpoint it doesn't make any sense.”

 

The City Councilor continued, “so here we are, we have a boat and we're trying to figure out where the twenty-five percent is. I don't care what administration it was, that's just bad management across the board. I don't know how we allowed this to take place."

 

Lynch then talked about the requested transfer of funds.

 

"We have found the money,” he said. “Part of the money is right before you. There's 28,000 dollars transferred  from the EMS stabilization fund to the Port Security fund."

 

Cadime argued that the city has enough issues without trying to secure 157,000 dollars as a pandemic continues. He also argued the development of the waterfront is still leagues away. 

 

As the discussion continued, Councilor Linda Pereira indicated where she believed the fault lies in terms of miscommunication.

 

"If there's blame, it's on the previous administration because it is not the first thing that was ever snuck by the council,” she said. “And you know it. At this point, we already have the boat and have purchased it and now we have to come up with the money.” 

 

“Was this the right way to handle it?” Pereira rhetorically asked. “Absolutely not. I agree with Councilor Cadime that this should not have been done this way. The former city administrator coming to council should have brought this to light and it didn't happen." 

 

Council President Cliff Ponte also chimed in. He directed the interim city administrator in Mary Sahady to inform department heads that they need to come forward if there are other spending issues that had not been present beforehand.

 

"I take absolute exception to the fact that this council was not properly notified as well as the other city council in 2018,” he said. “Please, make sure that that memo goes out tomorrow to all department heads that if anything happens it comes before this council before the next meeting."

 

Chief Lynch said training on the boat will take about six weeks to complete. It will cost at least 5,000 dollars annually for maintenance and any repairs.

Fall River YMCA Creates Mobile Food Pantry For Those In Need

The Fall River YMCA has partnered with the Greater Boston Food Bank to provide a mobile food market in the city as food pantries begin to close down, due to the ongoing pandemic.

 

Fall River YMCA Executive Director Stephanie Mancini has taken charge in this incredibly generous endeavor in such a dire time. 

 

“Essentially, we have taken the food pantries outside,” Mancini said. “There’s a few food pantries that have had to temporarily close in the city. We are able to distribute food in a safe way keeping social distancing measures in place.”

 

Every other Thursday, beginning today, between 11 a.m and 1 p.m in the YMCA parking lot Mancini will be joined by YMCA members and volunteers getting those in needs food and supplies.

 

They will also hold various mobile markets on a handful of Saturdays in the future. Supplies will run out though and sometimes before 1 o'clock so be advised if you are going down. 

 

Mancini wants to make it clear that if you are in a tough spot during these unprecedented times there will be no questions asked if you show up and want groceries. 

 

The only information asked of you will be your name, zip code, and then the number of adults, number of children and number of senior citizens living within your home. 

 

Everyone volunteering will be wearing the proper gear in masks and gloves. Those using the drive-through service won’t have to touch a thing. 

 

“People will be able to put the food in their trunks and off they go,” Mancini said. There will also be a walk-up service for those who need it.

 

About 25 grocery items will be placed in every bag including other things in need.

 

“We had a gentleman drop off some hand sanitizer which is slim pickings lately and putting those in our grocery bags, as well.”

 

Local businesses have also lent a hand to the YMCA. 

 

 “Blount seafood has donated a ton of soup today including different chili, chowder and broccoli and cheddar,” Mancini said. “We also have Gold Medal Bakery who has donated bread. They are located of course here in Fall River.”

 

The YMCA Executive Director does not want anyone to be apprehensive about inquiring.

 

“In total, we have serviced over 1,100 or so people,” Mancini told WSAR. “Some people unexpectedly lost their job because of the virus. People are afraid to ask for food but we’re here and we make it very easy to do so they don’t feel embarrassed to ask.”

Revenue Shortfalls In Fall River Due To Pandemic

At the first Fall River City Council session since the month of February, the fallout of the current pandemic and how it affects city business was discussed.

 

The Interim City Administrator and Chief Financial Officer Mary Sahady told the nine councilors that shortfalls would start showing up in the FY-20 budget. 

 

"Going forward into FY-2020 and its fourth quarter, we are looking at anticipating some shortfalls in revenue line items," she said.

 

The fiscal year has one quarter left to run, says Sahady. She talked about which revenue line items would be impacted by the Corona virus pandemic. 

 

"The one in particular we'll be experiencing a shortfall in is our motor vehicle taxes,” she said. “In the fourth quarter of last year, we collected about 1.8 million dollars. The second commitment hasn't even hit the taxpayers, yet. It will be going out later this month.”

 

The shortfall number could reach seven digits. 

 

“We will anticipate about a million dollar shortfall in motor vehicle taxes," said Sahady.

 

There are a plethora of other revenue streams for the city that have taken quite the hit in the last handful of weeks.

 

"In addition, we will have a shortfall in both the marijuana excise and marijuana impact fee,” Fall River’s Chief Financial Officer told councilors.  “As well as parking fees with certain other revenue line items."

 

Councilor Shawn Cadime inquired about the deficit that solid waste took. 

 

Sahady responded this way, “we are expecting about a 400,000 deficit in that line. Some of it is tonnage and some of it is a rate increase."

 

The Interim CIty Administrator said that city administrators are also attempting to cover COVID-19 expenses in the form of reimbursement.

A Governor Baker Update

As of Monday, there are 146 cases of the Corona virus in Fall River with those involved in isolation. 

 

Bristol County is sitting just under 1,400 cases while the total overall number, statewide, is at 26,867.

 

Over 122,000 individuals have been tested in the Bay State with the death toll now at 844.

 

The question of schools reopening this year remains across the country and in the Commonwealth. Tentatively, May 4 is a date to target for the possible reopening of various things closed in the last handful of weeks. 

 

Governor Charlie Baker said those discussions continue. 

 

"We said that at some point this month we would make a decision with respect to schools, and we will,” he said. “Officials spend a lot of time talking to their colleagues in local government, primarily superintendents and school committees."

 

Alternative learning online and through public broadcasting as well as take-home work has been a staple for continuing education during this time in Massachusetts.

 

The fear is that a surge in the state is coming later on in the month. Governor Baker is being incredibly cautious during this time.  

 

“We all believe that there should be a planful process with respect to what happens next,” he said. “We're talking to people right now about what that might look like."

 

The Governor does not believe this will be ending any time soon, 

 

"I really don't want people to start to think today that this is over,” Baker said. “I want people to realize that today is the beginning of what we expect will be a very difficult period. That's why we're busy putting up thousands of extra beds, staffing those extra beds and equipping extra beds to make sure that our healthcare system is adequately supported and able to deal with the surge."

Over 25,000 COVID-19 Cases In The Commonwealth

Bristol County now has 1,327 confirmed cases of the COVID-19 virus, as of Sunday afternoon.

 

According to the Department of Public Health, the number of deaths in the Commonwealth  sits now at 756 with 340 of those succumbing in long-term care facilities. 

 

The number of confirmed cases statewide is now at 25,475. 

 

Fall River Mayor Paul Coogan along with his administration are doing everything they can to guide their city through this crisis. 

 

Chief of Staff Ann O’Neil Souza spoke to WSAR about how the Boston Food Bank and city administrators are making sure those with issues getting groceries or medicine have been able to find assistance. 

 

"The Boston Food Bank has been very generous to the city of Fall River,” she said. The YMCA has been supported by them. They have a grab and go for individuals who are housebound and can't get out to pick them up.” 

 

The Director of Veterans’ Services Ray Hague has been at the focal point when it comes to that. 

 

“Because he has his drivers, Ray Hague who normally takes vets to their appointments and Council on Aging, is using his services to make sure these things get done,” O’neil Souza said to WSAR.

 

The Fall River Public School District has also been feeding thousands of kids and those in need while schools have been closed.

First Fall River City Council Meeting Since February

For the first time since February, the Fall River City Council will meet in the Government Center Atrium next week on Tuesday.

 

The meeting will be closed to the public but available to view online and on channel 18 on cable television.

 

Citizen’s input will need to be e-mailed to City Clerk Allison Bouchard by 5 p.m on Tuesday to be included in the meeting. 

 

The sixth floor will provide an update on the COVID-19 virus while a third quarter budget discussion will also commence as part of the finance committee. 

 

The Council on Aging will get five new members and Attorney Bill Kenney will also be reappointed to the position of City Planner. 

 

One of the priority matters on the agenda will be proposed Fall River Municipal Water and Sewer rates for FY-21. 

 

Among the four resolutions on the agenda, one asks the Committee on Ordinances and Legislation to provide means by telecommunications to continue operations. 

 

A second resolution authored by Michelle DIonne will seek to request Comcast to lower rates for cable TV and other services during this ongoing pandemic.

Almost 100 COVID-19 Cases In Fall River

Fall River confirms that they have 91 cases of the COVID-19 virus, as of Thursday afternoon. Those involved have been sequestered to isolation. 

 

The Department of Public Health is reporting that 7,447 tests were conducted with nearly 95,000 now in total.

 

Statewide, there are a total of 18,941 cases as 2,151 were added on Thursday. 

 

In Massachusetts, 503 deaths have occurred as a result of the virus adding 70 new cases yesterday.

The National Guard Helps Fall River After 3rd Consecutive Day Of 4 New COVID-19 Cases

Fall River added four more COVID-19 cases on Wednesday for the third consecutive day ina row. 

 

The entire state of Massachusetts, according to the Department of Public Health, held over 6,100 tests on Wednesday bringing the total number of Commonwealth residents tested to 87,511.

 

Bristol County has a total of 835 confirmed cases of the virus while that number statewide sits 

at 16,790 as of Wednesday afternoon.

 

There were 77 deaths on Wednesday in the state. 433 Massachusetts residents, in total, have died as a result of the virus.

 

Also, on Wednesday the National Guard delivered PPE supplies to the city of Fall River’s Emergency Management Division which will be distributed to the city’s public safety personnel. 

 

The packages, unloaded by city administrators and National Guard members, were delivered to various firehouses and police headquarters. Supplies include masks, gloves and hand sanitizer.

Braga Bridge Work During The Week Of April 13

The Massachusetts Department of Transportation is announcing that it will be conducting  routine bridge inspection on the Braga Bridge.

 

The work will begin Monday April 13 and be completed in one week with weather permitting.

 

Inspection work will be performed daily between 9 a.m and 3 p.m. Single lane closures in the right travel will be required at times to perform necessary work.

The Latest COVID-19 Numbers In Bristol County

As of Tuesday afternoon, Bristol County in Massachusetts had 768 confirmed cases of the COVID-19 virus with a death toll thus far of 12 as a result of the pandemic. 

 

The state itself has 15,202 cases with the death toll now at 356.

 

The Department of Public Health confirmed over 81,000 people have been tested in Massachusetts with nearly 500 conducted on Tuesday. 

 

The city of Fall River is now at a total of 70 confirmed cases of the virus adding four on Tuesday for two consecutive days in a row. 

 

In a conversation with Physician in Chief at Southcoast Health Doctor Dani Hackner, he said the Commonwealth, for now, has enough ventilators. 

 

"The states are acquiring additional ventilators and those will be distributed by region on a basis of need,” he said. “Southcoast, at this time, has adequate ventilators but you never know and you always want to prepare. There is a lot of collaboration on that front."

 

Dr. Hafner told WSAR the number of severe cases of the virus is not slowing down around here. 

 

"It's already changed,” he said. “Unfortunately, we have even seen some deaths. We have a number of folks in the ICUs. We are seeing some very severe cases and that percentage is rising."

 

A spike in the number of cases is expected by physicians and health care providers later this month.

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