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December 12, 2009 - 6:36pm

Lack of timely snow removal downtown aggravates merchants

posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, downtown, BID.

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It's a complaint I heard from Downtown Batavia merchants last winter, and a sore subject that came up at a BID meeting over the winter -- snow piled up along Main Street. Now merchants are grumbling again after the first big snow storm this year.

The big mounds make it exceptionally hard for customers to come downtown, park on Main and walk into a business. Generally, when the snow is piled up like it is, only the driver can get out of a car and then must walk a half a block or more in traffic to the nearest opening to gain access to the sidewalk -- and then walk back to the business he or she wants to enter.

Ken Mistler, who is opening a gym at Main and Jackson in a few weeks, is also concerned about the practice of city public works crews piling up snow right in the middle of the parking lot behind his building. The large pile can take up as many as 20 parking spaces, and with several popular businesses on Jackson, that doesn't leave much parking room left with convenient access to those businesses and the gym.

He said he isn't worried about his customers walking some distance to get into the gym -- they are, after all, into fitness -- but he is concerned that the additional parking his gym requires means that customers of the Jackson Street businesses will find it harder to park and face longer walks.

Those 20 or so spaces are much needed, Mistler said, so he suggested the snow be piled behind the empty Latina's market, not in the middle of the most used parking area off Jackson.

City Manager Jason Molino said the city is constantly reviewing snow plowing and removal procedures, but removal is not a priority during a storm and can only be accomplished as manpower and equipment availability dictates.

"Our first priority, when we have a snow storm like yesterday, is to make sure the thoroughfares are clean, the major arteries in the city are clear, and then the side streets and then we get into snow removal," Molino said during an interview on Friday.

At the BID meeting this summer, Board President John Roche said downtown merchants need to be vocal about letting City Hall know that they want to see snow removal become more of a priority this year.

We'll see what happens.

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Tom Gilliatt
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Aggravated merchants?! How about the merchants that don't shovel there sidewalks? Thank GOD I'm not handy capped or anything.
Bea McManis
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Snow removal from the sidewalk in front of Bank of Castile was addressed at the Meet and Greet the Candidates at 400 Towers the last week in Sept. Although the sidewalks are cleared in front of the Towers, the sidewalk in front of Bank of Castile is not cleared. Those from the Towers, and others, are forced to walk in the street until they reach the driveway to the shopping mall. This is legitimate safety issue, especially for those using walkers; mobile chairs, and parents with children in strollers or buggies. When discussing this, Frank Ferrnado told those at the Meet and Greet that he will personally bring this up to the powers that be and if it wasn't shoveled he would personally take a shovel and do it himself. The sidewalk is totally covered in 2' of snow and not cleared. Frank was nowhere in sight to check on it or to bring his shovel to "personally" clear the walk.
Tom Gilliatt
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Bea I walk by there today and your right the sidewalks were clear until you get to that bank.
Howard B. Owens
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The merchants I'm talking with most often happen to be the ones who shovel and salt in front of their stores regularly, and, btw, happen to also sweep in front of their stores in the summer.
Bob Price
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City Church was cleaning in front tonight-however,basically all I saw in front of the businesses from Liberty to Court Street were mounds of snow....hopefully they can find their benches whenever they decide to clean out the sidewalks. We went to Main St. Pizza last night-couldn't park in front,or else the passenger doors would hit the snowbanks-luckily we found one on the side. Yeah,city not too bright piling all the snow up behind the businesses in the Court Street plaza-they should push it to the lot by the loading docks at the east end of the old Latinas building-does the city have any of the big pusher boxes for their front end loaders that most private contractors have nowadays?They want businesses downtown,but find ways to decrease amount of available parking space.....
Matt Scott
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Ok, All of you are talking about downtown Batavia sidewalks and parking lots. Whipee!! What about out in front of McDonald's, KFC and Payless and the rest of the merchants down on the west side of town? They sidwalks are not cleared and there are poeple that have to walk in the road or walk in knee deep snow to get around. I had to walk in the road from KFC all the way down to the parking lot by the Sport of Kings. Also, when I wanted to cross the street to go to Tops, I had to walk in the road again because there was a pile of snow about 2 1/2' tall on the sidewalk. Also, I saw a person in a power wheelchair out in the road because of the sidewalks not being cleared. Why doesn't the city or the town of Batavia ever clear the sidwalks on this end of town? If they ever do, it's just before we have another snow storm or a real heavy snowfall. Or better yet, why don't the "young employees" that work at McDonald's and KFC go out and clear the sidewalk in front of there places.
Peter O'Brien
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I just don't want the city coming by with its side walk plow. Everytime they come by my house I have to re-shovel the driveway. And its always a day or 3 after the storm. And no I am not going to clear the sidewalk in front of my house until my snowblower is working again.
Wayne Speed
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Perhaps the city could leave it in the streets. Or they could hire a second crew to remove the snow from the curb area. Buy more trucks and front end loaders and dump it in the creek. I wonder how much additional taxes you folks would like to pay? By the way - why isn't Bank of Castile cleaning the sidewalk in front of their establishment? Isn't there a city ordinance that requires that?
Bea McManis
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I think anyone who doesn't clear thier sidewalk (with or without a snowblower) should be held liable if a person is hit by a vehicle in front of their property. By refusing to clear the sidewalk, people are forced into the street. I would think that the Bank of Castile should be responsible for clearing that sidewalk. They don't. As far as the sidewalk plow is concerned, the little snow it leaves in a driveway is minimal. Neighborhoods have changed. There was a time when kids would clear sidewalks as a good will gesture to another neighbor (payment, if any, was a bonus and not expected). They also contributed to the safety of their own family by making sure sidewalks and driveways were shoveled. I have a feeling that those days are gone forever.
Howard B. Owens
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Wayne, if people aren't shopping in downtown stores because access is difficult, then there's less tax money being collected. Keeping the snow from mounding up in front of these businesses probably pays for itself.
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While the City does plow sidewalks, when they get time, it is the property owners responsibility to clear them. That's the way it has always been, but we have come to count on the City to do it for us. They use to have 3 sidewalk plows, but now they have two. And they have not hired more workers either Remember, we all saw on this site how everyone wants fewer city employees, less overtime, and lower taxes. This is what happens when you get what you want. Things take longer to get done.
Howard B. Owens
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Just to be clear -- the issue is not the sidewalks (though there is a distinctly separate issue with some merchants not clearing their own sidewalks). THE issue is the mound of snow between the sidewalk and the curb.
Dave Meyer
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Oh...so the merchants are aggravated? Well that's all well and good, but what about the residents who have to drive on the streets? Forget about the snow removal downtown. WHAT ABOUT THE STREETS!?!?!?! It's not as if this recent storm (or any other for that matter) wasn't well predicted. It seems as though the DPW has a policy of simply not plowing the streets at all until AT LEAST 10PM no matter how much snow falls and no matter how well they know when the storm is going to happen. Example. I arrived home from work last Thursday ~ 5:30. My street (Ross St.) had not been plowed at all - ALL DAY. Cars had been driving on the streets and packing down the 'base' into 4 - 6 inches of rutted ice. So then, when the streets ARE finally plowed, the plows can't remove the base that's been packed down. So what's the solution to that? Let's dump a bunch of salt on it and make 4 - 6 inches of slush. It's ridiculous! And it happens EVERY TIME there's a major snowfall. Here's a proposal for DPW for the next time we have a major snowfall. When the snow starts to fall, let's send the plows out before the snow gets ass deep in the streets and try to KEEP UP with the snow fall and keep the streets fairly clean. Yeah...that might mean that streets might have to be plowed more than once but isn't that one of the responsibilities of DPW? Just a thought.
Howard B. Owens
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As Jason said -- and it makes perfect sense -- the main roadways are the priority. And the plows do hit them quickly and they do a great job of keeping them clear, which is appropriately the priority. Other than that, you're making this an either/or thing. Snow removal downtown is not a "during the storm" or even "immediately after" issue. It's a false dilemma to pit snow removal downtown vs. residential street plowing. When you talk about taxes and expenses, I personally don't want to pay for all the extra equipment and crews it would take to keep the main road AND the residential streets clear at the same time. That's just an impossible thing to ask, unless you want the city to spend a hell of a lot more money.
Chelsea O'Brien
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People have a choice when walking around the city after a snow storm. If the sidewalks are not taken care of a person can either walk in the snow, or in the street. It is incredibly difficult to take care of sidewalks (let alone our driveway or doorways) when no one is home during the storm. I realize it's the city's responsibility to clear snow from streets first, and then take care of the businesses downtown, but if the residents can't get into or out of their houses, then the businesses won't see people. With two adults working full-time and going to school part-time, we're rarely home (and/or awake) when the snow falls. Priority one is the driveway, then our emergency exits, and then the sidewalk. If that means our sidewalk doesn't get taken care of until days after a storm, so be it. It would be fantastic if the sidewalks were plowed by the city, but I realize roads and then downtown come first. Is there a planned area for the city to put the snow? For example, the city of Rochester pushes snow into the river to get it off the streets.
Lorie Longhany
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If all merchants on Main St clear their portion of frontage there is still the problem of the mounds of snow that pile up at the curb and that's the first deterrent for patrons with vehicles. Where in the world do the merchants move there sidewalk snow to? It's added to the piles the plows have pushed at the curb. Let's face it, a good deal of patrons can't traverse a two, three or four foot mountain of snow and will opt for a drive-thru (fast food) or business outside downtown with larger parking. So unless the local governments remove the snow banks or merchants cut large, clean paths from each parking spot (an arduous task when the banks are high and the snow is heavy), that snow pile sends patrons to a more convenient and maybe not so local establishment. If it takes two, three or more days to clear those piles you can bet that's lost revenue to merchants. This is something I see and hear about in Le Roy from a couple of business owners I know. Local governments should make removal of the snow mounds within business districts as much a priority as getting it off the streets during a storm. I'm talking after the storm but not days later. Pedestrians, who I see an awful lot of in Batavia, need safe sidewalks as opposed to the streets as they travel from point A to point B. It makes sense for everyone to cooperate. Property owners should do their part, too. Pedestrians in the streets is an accident waiting to happen. There are many people in Batavia that don't have cars and are disabled. They need to get to Aldi's, the bank and other businesses for their essential needs. They should have a safe passage on the sidewalks.
Howard B. Owens
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Chelsea, again, nobody is talking about snow removal during a storm, or even immediately after -- but it should be removed in a reasonable time frame. Here we are three days after the storm, and the snow is still piled up (well, I haven't been downtown since last night). Lorie put the issue very well.
Tom Gilliatt
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H you should start a new thread on side walk snow removal and this way people can post which places are not shoveling there side walks ya nothing like those merchants reading it and let them decide what they should do and with that said how about the privately owned snow plows that push pills of snow onto side walks! Nothing like flexing the power of The Batavian.
Bob Price
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The city does have a dumping spot-Chapins parking lot,way in the back.Dump the snow in the creek?That's not the brightest idea-think of how polluted the snow is from the parking lots,on top of all the salt.I went by some businesses on Main St. last night-they weren't as busy as they usually are.
Mark Potwora
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Main Street is a state road.New York State is the one who should be responsible for snow removal on Main..They created the mess by dividing the road in half..The merchants should take there complaint to the state..City plows should be taking care of all side streets..State routes.33 clinton and pearl st.,5 main st.,63 ellicott st.,98 oak st.is there problem..Why should the city take care of these Routes...
Beth Kinsley
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Chelsea says "People have a choice when walking around the city after a snow storm. If the sidewalks are not taken care of a person can either walk in the snow, or in the street. It is incredibly difficult to take care of sidewalks (let alone our driveway or doorways) when no one is home during the storm." According to the City Code, you have 24 hours following a storm to clear your sidewalk. From the City Code: Responsibility. The owner, occupant or lessee of any lot or lands adjoining any public sidewalk shall keep the same free from snow, slush or ice. In case of failure or neglect to comply with this requirement within 24 hours following any storm depositing such snow, slush or ice, such may be removed by the Department of Public Works at the direction of the Director of Public Works... Work performed by Department of Public Works. Any work performed by the Department of Public Works pursuant to this section shall be charged against the property owner and shall be billed and collected by the Clerk-Treasurer. Such charge shall be a lien on the adjoining realty to the same extent as city taxes, and may be included in the general city tax roll and enforced in the same manner as other city taxes. All actual items of work, including labor and materials, plus an administrative and supervisory expense of 50% thereof, shall be charged; provided, however, that the minimum charge for each occurrence shall be $5 per lot or parcel of land. My daughter has to walk 1.5 miles home from school and I really appreciate the homeowners and businesses that clear their sidewalks.
Bea McManis
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Beth, Does it say anything about fire hydrants? We always cleared the one in front of our house because I thought there was a directive to do so. I appreciate that people lead busy lives. We were also a famiy with two working full time jobs and going to school. I wasn't aware that the city code could be dismissed for those reasons, or for the fact that we needed sleep. Drats, look at the hours of sleep we could have racked up! Expecting the elderly, or childen to walk through the snow or in the street so that we could get sleep just didn't cross our minds.
Beth Kinsley
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Bea - I'm not seeing anything about that in the code. It does say that they are to be maintained by the Water Bureau and tested and painted annually by the Fire Department. I wonder if they really paint them every year. And I agree - I am a single mother who works at least 40 hours a week but I still have to ensure that my property is safe. I wouldn't want anyone having to walk in the street because I don't care for my property. My neighbor was kind enough to do the sidewalk in front of my house and I paid a young man to do my driveway, walkway and steps.
Bob Price
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Well,most sidewalks TODAY are still not cleared-looks like kids will be walking in street again tomorrow.Just wait till end of week if those sidewalk piles aren't cleared-all the rain,plus below freezing temps will make nice ICE piles......glad I don't live in city.....
Bea McManis
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Bob, You are right. As stated in another post: "People have a choice when walking around the city after a snow storm. If the sidewalks are not taken care of a person can either walk in the snow, or in the street." So, almost a week after the storm, sidewalks are not cleared by homeowners. This is the old, "they are in their position because they CHOOSE to be" mindset. If the kids CHOOSE to go to school then they have the choice to either walk in the street or push through the piles of snow/ice. "Priority one is the driveway, then our emergency exits, and then the sidewalk. *****If that means our sidewalk doesn't get taken care of until days after a storm, so be it.*******" Apparently there are many who reside in the city who think the same. Those, who CHOOSE to walk a week after the storm do so at their own risk.
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Posted by Mark Potwora on December 13, 2009 - 12:47pm Main Street is a state road.New York State is the one who should be responsible for snow removal on Main..They created the mess by dividing the road in half..The merchants should take there complaint to the state..City plows should be taking care of all side streets..State routes.33 clinton and pearl st.,5 main st.,63 ellicott st.,98 oak st.is there problem.. Why should the city take care of these Routes... Isn't that what localism is all about, Mark? Someone, on here, should know if the city, towns and county contract out to the state to plow. I know the counties plow the state roads to their county limits.
Beth Kinsley
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I think I'll CHOOSE to keep my daughter home from school until spring.
Mark Potwora
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Bea if the county plows state roads and the city plows state roads ,what roads does the state plow.....
Richard Gahagan
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Hey I can't find my shovel OH thats right never mind forgot gaw gummit don't even have one.
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I hope in August I remember to say "Can't find my air conditioner, oh yeah, I don't have one."
Bea McManis
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Posted by Beth Kinsley on December 13, 2009 - 3:02pm I think I'll CHOOSE to keep my daughter home from school until spring. Beth, That was my issue, years ago when the school would announce that due to weather the bus students would not be picked up, but the walkers were to come to school. The same problem then. Sidewalks not shoveled and kids walking to school in the street. The school board saw dollar signs walking through the doors, not kids. So, I decided I'd be the judge of when it was safe for my kids to walk to school. Finally, they came up with a plan that the school would be open, for walkers, if the sidewalks were plowed by the city. It worked great for years. Too bad the plan was abandoned.
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Posted by Mark Potwora on December 13, 2009 - 4:10pm Bea if the county plows state roads and the city plows state roads ,what roads does the state plow..... Good question, Mark. Maybe someone, here, knows. Other than the thruway, I can't think of roads that the state plows.
Howard B. Owens
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Well, the state plows were out on Route 262 the morning of the storm, because one of them got stuck in a ditch (at least that's what I remember hearing on the scanner).
Lucille Van Son
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I work in the Town of Batavia and the State plows go by there. I think they start at the city limits.
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I believe they plow the Indian Reservation Bea.
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Mark, Some Cities, villages, Towns and Counties have maintenance agreements with the State to plow State Highway. These agreements benefit the local governments by subsidizing their plowing operations. You may not agree, but this is a good thing. In regards to, "They (the state) created the mess by dividing the road in half." Not true! The project that reconstructed Main Street was a "pass through project". In this type of project, engineering consultants are hired to work with the municipality to design and build a project. What you see on Main Street was a streetscape in the City's Comprehensive Plan. It was the City that requested this, not the State. The State's main role was to distribute the monies and insure it was designed and built to state standards. Regardless of how Main Street configuration came about, I think it looks great! So what if we get a few storms a year that clog things up. This is Western New York, I wouldn't want it any other way. Except we could use less regulation and taxes.
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Even though I don't walk through the sidewalks in the winter much, I side with Peter regarding the plowing. I live on an apartment complex across from Blondies. I left around noonish on Thursday, ran out to Bethany for something, ended up in a ditch to avoid a head-on collision on the way back, got back into Batavia around 3:30, then stopped by a friend's house because his car was having problems. I left his house around 5 - 6. There's two entrances into the complex. They're rather narrow and both used as exits. The company managing the complex never had anyone plow the driveway at all during the day, so there was a good foot of snow on the driveway. The first entrance was blocked by a taxi cab that had tried to leave. He apparently abandoned his car and left it there. So I go on to the second, which really wasn't an entrance anymore. The plows had a good pile of snow up against it. I drive a '95 Subaru Legacy. It's not all too powerful, and the all-wheel drive technology isn't true 4-wheel. Thankfully, there wasn't any traffic coming in either direction. I did a 180 into the other lane, backed up, and floored it into the entrance. Got stuck, backed up, and went at it again. Eventually, I got through and had to navigate through several cars stuck sporadically around the complex over to my building. Several hours later, I found out that the guy above me with a really nice Cobalt was stuck trying to get back in. I went out and helped push him back out into Main St, went back inside, cooked myself some venision strips for my girlfriend and I, then called it a night. While this wonderful story doesn't exactly cover problems with sidewalk plowing, it does illustrate the problem it causes. If sidewalks are to be plowed, the snow should be removed soon after.
John Roach
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Mark, I know the State takes care of 98 North and South of the City, and 63 out of the City.
Lorie Longhany
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Chris, you illustrated in your storm story what we as citizens of a community do when a storm hits -- 'we help one another'. We help ourselves by shoveling our driveways so we can get to work the next day. And we may even go over and pitch in with a neighbor, who we may not know very well, and help her out. We help our neighborhood and community by shoveling the sidewalk in front of our property. We even tend to go way outside our comfort zone and reach out to a total stranger. Like the story a friend told on Saturday about the stranger with the 4-wheel drive who stopped to see if she was alright as she was pulled off to clear her wipers of ice. She then told him she had to get off the main drag because her destination was a back road and he offered to drive out in front of her to make sure she got there safely. I live in the country. We don't have sidewalks that we're responsible for. I do, however, live on Rte 5 -- very busy and lots of plow activity during and after a storm. The plows push the snow back into our cleared driveway. We in turn have to go out and unplug all that heavy, salt and sand filled road snow so we can continue to get out of our driveway. We complain about it to each other, but we both know that the busy state road must be cleared so that the masses can keep moving. It isn't about me. It's about keeping the larger community mobile. My point is that as a community we pull away from the 'me and I' mentality and shift to 'we and us'. What's better for the greater community? The crisis of a storm helps us make this shift and most of us quickly make the transition naturally because we want to help our fellow neighbor or even the stranger that we've never met. Here's the wikipedia entry for the word 'community'. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Community It's fascinating to see that the book "Bowling Alone" has an entire paragraph. Storms teach us how to interact with each other again.
Tom Gilliatt
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Ya Howard your right the merchants in main there do take care of there store fronts but try walking down between old mother chicken and fish to Kwik fill on Ellicott st and you'll see what I mean and down were Bea lives the Bank next door is at fault too. Between those two places if it isn't someone not shoveling the side walk it's a snow plows that pushes piles of snow onto the side walks.
Howard B. Owens
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I drove past that section of Ellicott St. this morning and some teen was trying to wade through the slush in front of Chistina's -- what a mess.
Tom Gilliatt
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Ya and that hair salon place down there is a mess too out front.

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