Dual alcohol referendums pass on local ballot

Election 2018, News
Towns County alcohol

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Voters in Towns County were given an option on the Nov. 6 ballot to accept or reject a referendum that would allow licensed establishments to serve alcohol-by-the-pour. A total of 66.67% of citizens favored the decree, with 33.33% opposing the mandate.

A second referendum appeared on the ballot for voters residing within Hiawassee city limits, classified as a “brunch resolution” which will permit Sunday alcohol sales to begin at 11 am rather than 12:30 pm. The brunch resolution was accepted by 61.41% of voters. A total of 38.59% rejected the brunch bill.

Hiawassee attempted to include a liquor store referendum on the November ballot by collecting the amount of signatures necessary for an allowance. A state requirement to include the referendum on the ballot stipulated that 35% of valid registered voters from the 2016 General Primary election, currently residing within the jurisdiction, must add their names to a petition in a show of support. The computed amount was set at 233 signatures. Of the 304 signatures collected, 181 voters were verifiable by the Board of Elections. The package store petition contained 56 duplicate names, while 64 signatures were shown to be attached to individuals not registered to vote, residing outside of the city limits, or deceased.

Hiawassee aspires to garner the amount of signatures needed to include a package store referendum on a future ballot.

 

Author

Robin H. Webb

Robin can be reached by dialing 706-970-8491 or contacted via email at Robin@FetchYourNews.com

Councilman Motions to Repeal Franchise Ordinance on Election Night

News, Politics
Hiawassee City Council

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Hiawassee City Council held their Regular Session shortly before the 2017 election polls closed on the evening of Nov. 7. A first reading to rescind the Franchise Ordinance, confirmed by Blue Ridge Mountain EMC to result in an additional line item on the future bills of Hiawassee citizens and businesses, was added to the agenda by Councilman Jay Chastain Jr.

The motion to repeal the controversial mandate was seconded by Councilwoman Rayette Ross.

Councilman Kris Berrong opposed the motion and declined a request for comment.

The motion passed 2-to-1.

Mayor Pro-Tem Ann Mitchell said in hindsight that she wishes the Council would have had more time to consider it.

The ordinance was adopted during Special Called Meetings held Aug. 8 to 11, 2017, less than a week after former Pro-Tem Liz Ordiales stepped down to run for Mayor.

“I’m really sorry this has become a community football,” Mayor Pro-Tem Mitchell told the community-packed room, “but it is a source of revenue that almost everyone in the state takes advantage of.” Mitchell suggested a public meeting to discuss the issue further, stating a second reading date is undetermined.

The crowd migrated to the Board of Elections building, located adjacent to City Hall, after the Council meeting adjourned to await the highly anticipated election results..

Liz Ordiales won the Mayoral post with a 70 percent lead over her opponent, Barry Keith Dearing. Ordiales’s crowd of supporters were overjoyed with the results, offering hugs of congratulations to Hiawassee’s newly elected Mayor.

Incumbent Councilman Jay Chastain Jr. lost his seat to Patsy Owens who garnered 62 percent of the votes.

“It is obvious the voters of the city of Hiawassee wanted a change,” Chastain said. “I wish the newly elected Council members the best. I want to thank the citizens for their 12 years of support.”

Nancy Noblet was elected to Post 5, securing her seat with a 55 percent lead over Anne Wedgewood.

Amy Barrett, the sole unopposed candidate in the race, will replace Post 1 Councilwoman Rayette Ross who chose to not seek re-election.

Liz Ordiales responded to FYN’s request for comment on her victory:

“Thank you for your support throughout this campaign,” Ordiales wrote. “It is a privilege and an honor to be a representative of our great city. I will not let you down and will always put Hiawassee first! Let’s get to work!”

Hiawassee City Council will be sworn into office on January 1, 2018.

Author

Robin H. Webb

Robin can be reached by dialing 706-970-8491 or contacted via email at Robin@FetchYourNews.com

*UPDATED* Hiawassee City Council Election Results

News, Politics
Hiawassee Election

HIAWASSEE, GA – The 2017 Hiawassee City Council election has concluded. The results are as follows:

 

Mayor:

Liz Ordiales   212 – 70%

Barry Keith Dearing   91 – 30%

 

Post 1:

Amy Barrett – 100%

 

Post 2:

Patsy Owens   180 – 62%

Jay Chastain Jr.   111 – 38%

 

Post 5:

Nancy Noblet   162 – 55%

Anne Wedgewood   131 – 45%

 

Author

Robin H. Webb

Robin can be reached by dialing 706-970-8491 or contacted via email at Robin@FetchYourNews.com

Hiawassee Mayoral Candidates Appeal to the Voters before Tuesday’s Election

News, Politics

HIAWASSEE, GA – Fetch Your News contacted the Mayoral candidates in the City of Hiawassee race and offered a final opportunity to appeal to the voters before Election Day arrives on Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2017.

Neither candidate was permitted to review their opponent’s response prior to publication.

 

Candidate Liz Ordiales responded as follows:

My platform for this campaign has remained unchanged.  As my card states: Better financial management, create infrastructure to support controlled growth and continue my efforts to make Hiawassee a better place to live.  There are still many efficiencies that can be implemented in every department to create financial savings.

Correcting our existing infrastructure is critical to Hiawassee.  Sewer and water system upgrades are essential to allow residential as well as commercial growth.  We are in the process of upgrading our sewer plant and will look to expand the water plant in the future.

Citizen safety is also a top priority.  Ensuring that fire hydrants are maintained, flushed and tested are critical for public safety.  We have developed Standard Operating Procedures that will be followed. Our police department will continue to attend training sessions and ensure they have the equipment needed to perform their jobs.  I will continue to enhance our sidewalks, streets, lighting, etc. in order to allow for more walk-ability in our city.

Attracting and providing more events in our town is also critical to keep our businesses vibrant and engaged. I would continue to support events on the square as we have done with Moonshine Cruiz-in block party, Light up Hiawassee for Christmas, pickleball events during larger tournaments, etc.

Liz Ordiales

I am NOT an advocate for higher taxes. I have never voted to raise taxes in my two years with the City as a City Council member and interim Mayor.  I believe with financial efficiencies and controlled economic development we will be able to maintain low taxes.

In closing, I will put Hiawassee first as a FULL TIME Mayor without the expense of a City Administrator or City Manager.

Thanks –

Liz Ordiales

 

Candidate Barry Keith Dearing responded as follows:

If elected as Mayor of Hiawassee, my number one priority is to rescind the Franchise Fee Tax. This tax was proposed incorrectly and was presented to the public incorrectly. My opponent has stated on record that this fee will only cost the city residents approximately $20,000 which is incorrect. This will cost the city residents and businesses in the City, including the churches and hospital over $124,000 a year.

At the last city workshop, there was discussion of doing away with the current retirement plan and going with a “cheaper” plan for the city and less retirement for the employees. I disagree with the proposed plan that my opponent requested the GMA to propose. I will stand up for our city employees and fight for what’s right and what is in their best interest. I will not take away their retirement that they deserve.

I will work hand in hand with our current businesses to make sure they have the resources they need to grow and stay within our city. I will also encourage and work with new businesses that want to open in our City.

I will work to get the grants needed to repair failing infrastructure and make sure that all of our infrastructure is prepared for our growth that will come.

As Mayor, I will complete the Mayor’s Park so it is beneficial for our tourism and for our local citizens.

I will work with Chamber of Commerce directly to promote tourism for our city. I will make our square an eventful place for more activities and walk-ability. I will work hard to capitalize on growth utilizing our natural resources and beautiful mountains and Lake Chatuge.

Remember, I have children in this community that work, go to school and plan on raising families here just as we are doing. As Mayor, I would like to see more youth activities that encourage our young adults to be more involved and have a part in our City activities and our City government. After all, they are our future.

I will work closely with our City Police Department and make sure they have what is needed to protect themselves, our citizens and families in the city.

For the record, I have never mentioned doing away with the City of Hiawassee Police Department. Also, I have heard this multiple times and to clarify, I have not ever mentioned hiring a City Manager.

I will be transparent and will make sure the citizens of our community know exactly what the city is doing at all times. I will work closely with our county to make a strong relationship.

As I mentioned in the Candidate forum, I understand that the Mayor of Hiawassee is a full-time position. I stated “it is more than a 40 hour week job and I am committed to the task at hand.”

Barry Dearing

Barry Keith Dearing

Thank you to all the citizens and business owners within the entire community that have shown such great support and positive energy during this campaign. Please encourage your neighbor, family and friends within the city to VOTE on Tuesday, Nov. 7, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Board of Elections.

God Bless you all,

Barry Keith Dearing, Mayoral Candidate

 

 

Fetch Your News has followed the 2017 Hiawassee City Council race since its inception. Additional articles can be found on our site. Count on Fetch Your News to provide the election results on the evening of Nov. 7.

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that attracts more than 300,000 page views and 3.5 million impressions per month in Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. – FYNTV attracts approximately 15,000 viewers per week and reaches between 15,000 to 60,000 per week on our Facebook page. – For the most effective, least expensive local advertising, call 706-276-6397 or email us at advertise@FetchYourNews.com

 

 

Author

Robin H. Webb

Robin can be reached by dialing 706-970-8491 or contacted via email at Robin@FetchYourNews.com

Liz Ordiales Defends City Ordinance, Jay Chastain Jr. Questions Decision

News, Politics
Hiawassee Mayor

HIAWASSEE, GA – In an appearance on Friday, Oct. 27, 2017, at the Movers and Shakers, EMC Director Roy Perren confirmed BRMEMC is required by state law to accept the Franchise Ordinance approved by Hiawassee City Council during Special Called Meetings on Aug. 8 to 11, 2017.

Director Perren explained the controversial “tax versus fee” will be passed along to Hiawassee citizens in the form of an additional line item on future bills. Based on an average of 897 kilowatt-hours per residence, BRMEMC members can expect to see an increase of $55.00 per year in charges. Businesses within the city limits will also see their rates rise.

“[The estimate] is skewed low because of part-time residents,” Roy Perren said. The EMC Director referenced the City’s ordinance as a fee, not a tax enacted by the Council. BRMEMC will hold their first Open Meeting on Nov. 16 at 6:00 p.m. at their facility in Young Harris. A two-day notice of public attendance was stipulated by Mr. Perren.

Liz Ordiales Hiawassee

Liz Ordiales at October 2 Candidate Forum

“This ordinance was to impose a Franchise FEE to the BRMEMC for the use of our City Right of Ways. It is state law that municipalities can imposed this FEE.  Of the 535 cities in Georgia, 98 percent collect these fees,” Mayoral candidate Liz Ordiales maintains.

“This ordinance was passed by the entire City Council and was completed while I was not a part of the leadership of the city. Councilman Chastain DID vote for this ordinance to move forward,” Ordiales emphasized in an email sent to Fetch Your News on October 31.

The controversial ordinance was adopted less than a week after Ordiales stepped down as Hiawassee Mayor Pro-Tem, a decision made in order to seek election as the “City’s CEO.” Although no longer officially in office, Ordiales continued to volunteer her time steering the Council’s course.

Councilman Jay Chastain Jr. expressed regret toward approving the decree in numerous interviews conducted by Fetch Your News.

“The ordinance moved too fast during Special Called Meetings. I was under the impression it wouldn’t affect the citizens or business owners,” Chastain explained. “All I heard was how great this would be for Hiawassee, how the City would rake in fees from [BRMEMC] and it seemed like a good thing. Once I understood it would affect the people, I wished I had been given the time to look into the details beforehand. I voted yes, but knowing what I know now makes a world of difference.”

Jay Chastain Jr

Jay Chastain Jr. at October 2 Candidate Forum

Councilman Chastain says the ordinance played a role in his decision to endorse Ordiales’s opponent, Barry Keith Dearing.

“Barry wants to do the right thing. He wants to repeal it. Tax or fee, whatever you want to call it, at the end of the day it will cost the taxpayers,” Chastain says.

Fetch Your News was not notified, per law, of the Special Called Meetings in which the Franchise or Planning-Expansion Ordinances were adopted. Chastain voted no to the latter, but was outvoted by the Council.

Invitations to discuss the approaching Hiawassee City Council election were extended to all candidates by Fetch Your News.

Follow FYN for continued coverage of the 2017 election. Count on us to broadcast results on November 7.

 

 

Author

Robin H. Webb

Robin can be reached by dialing 706-970-8491 or contacted via email at Robin@FetchYourNews.com

Hiawassee Mayoral Candidate, Liz Ordiales, Rebukes Allegations

News, Politics
Liz Ordiales

HIAWASSEE, GA – In a fiery email sent to Fetch Your News (FYN), Hiawassee Mayoral candidate Liz Ordiales repudiated allegations published October 27, 2017, by the said news outlet which cited several different concerns from fellow candidates, alongside the endorsement of her Mayoral opponent, Barry Keith Dearing, by Incumbent Councilman Jay Chastain Jr.

‘”I have never, I repeat NEVER been accused of any wrong-doing during my presidency at the Towns County Fire Corps. This article I believe has been altered since it originally appeared. It originally stated I was the Vice-President, which is a position I have never held. These accusations are unacceptable lies and are a direct attack on my character,” Ordiales wrote. The Mayoral candidate went on to claim libel and defamation of character.

Fetch Your News caught the error referencing Ordiales as Vice-President, rather than the former President of the Towns County Fire Corps, soon after publishing and accepts responsibility for the slight inaccuracy. The mistake was promptly corrected once discovered.

Cindi Daves, a proponent of Ms. Ordiales, began in an email to FYN, “What happened to the day and age when news reporters were required to vet their stories BEFORE they print them?”

Two additional supporters responded in a similar fashion, adamantly defending Ordiales.

In an email entitled “Retract the Jr. Chastain Allegation,” Liz Ruf wrote, “Mr. Chastain is totally out of line, has no evidence and is attempting to negatively sway this election at the last minute and found easy prey through your news service. You should make this right immediately.”

LaJean Turner wrote in part, “Homework was obviously not done on this article before publication.”

Homework was, in fact, conducted. Fetch Your News does not allude to accusations without extensive research and substantial discovery.

In a 2013 letter written by former Vice President of the Towns County Fire Corps, Ken Bryant, the following allegations were cited as reasons Mr. Bryant chose to vacate his position under President Ordiales’s leadership:

  • No or Improper Board voting – for example, failing to hold a formal vote on the resignation of Dewaine Olson (Secretary/Treasurer);
  • Failure to appoint a financial controller or Treasurer with sufficient accounting background in a reasonable amount of time;
  • Board meeting minutes were inaccurate, incomplete, altered and manipulated to change the record not reflective of the truth;
  • Board member expenditures were approved arbitrarily and with no impartiality, in accordance with no clear and consistent policy.   In one case, retroactive policies were applied to a selected case and expenditures over prior authorization were not enforced in another;
  • Negative comments were made about the dual control board member signature required on fund raising account checks, which is as a matter of best practice with entrusted funds;
  • I was asked by President Ordiales to pre-sign several blank fund raising account checks;
  • No vendor selection process for several significant external relationships and/or expenditures;
  • Lack of planning – for example, a membership drive was planned on a date with a significant community conflict with another public service organization;
  • Requests for significant budget expenditures (more than 25% of total budget) for non-existent needs and for non-existent members;
  • Unilateral decision making – a decision to drop the annual calendar as a fundraising tool without board discussion or a vote (eventually over ruled by Chief Floyd);
  • Mismanagement of the historical web domain address that caused the loss of ownership and resulted in several months without a web presence;
  • Mismanagement of the previous website that resulted in the impounding and loss of use of the archived history of the Fire Department including events, activities, photos, member accomplishments, etc.;

Former Vice President Bryant also referred to “a comment, reflective of attitude, by President Ordiales on the record in a meeting stating, ‘I know we are here to help the Fire Department, but we have to take care of ourselves first.’”

The general media, as well as local officials, are listed as recipients on the resignation. A decision was made to publish the allegations in full based on the elected position the candidate hopes to fill.

Fetch Your News sent a copy of the 2013 letter to candidate Ordiales for review and provided an opportunity to respond in full.

“I would like to address the accusations made in the article published 10-27-17.  Those allegations were made by a disgruntled Towns County Fire Corps officer in 2013, who clearly demonstrated that he had joined this group for financial gain. That became evident upon his refusal to release the www.townscountyfirecorps.org website, which he is still in control of after 5 years. This prompted the Towns County Fire Corps to create a new website www.tcfirecorps.org When his invoice for website management was declined, he resigned from this position and wrote the letter of accusations,” Liz Ordiales stated.

“I suggest that interviews be conducted with Fire Department personnel to further identify the facts on this situation.  During my time with the Fire Corps, we have generated well over $250,000 of which 100% of those funds were spent at the discretion of the Town County Fire Chief.”

Fetch Your News contacted Towns County Fire Chief Harold Copeland on the evening of October 30, 2017, requesting a response. “Liz has done a great job raising funds for us. We truly appreciated it,” the Fire Chief said in a phone conversation, “but I’m unwilling to endorse anyone. I’m here to serve the municipalities, to protect from a life-and-property standpoint. I’m happy to serve everyone. I wish both candidates the best of luck.”

*UPDATED* Former Vice President of the Towns County Fire Corps, Ken Bryant, responded to FYN’s request for comment. Mr. Bryant stands by his decision to resign due the reasons listed in his letter addressed to board members, local officials, and the media. Mr. Bryant, a former federal agent and current fraud investigator, has submitted numerous additional documents related to his claims.

Mr. Bryant has since written a Letter to the Editor.

Follow Fetch Your News for additional coverage of the 2017 Hiawassee City Council election.

Election Day is November 7.

 

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that attracts more than 300,000 page views and 3.5 million impressions per month in Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. – FYNTV attracts approximately 15,000 viewers per week and reaches between 15,000 to 60,000 per week on our Facebook page. – For the most effective, least expensive local advertising, call 706-276-6397 or email us at advertise@FetchYourNews.com

 

Follow Fetch Your News for additional coverage of the 2017 Hiawassee City Council election. Election Day is November 7.

 

Author

Robin H. Webb

Robin can be reached by dialing 706-970-8491 or contacted via email at Robin@FetchYourNews.com

Councilman Jay Chastain Jr. Endorses Barry Keith Dearing in Hiawassee Election

News, Politics
Jay Chastain Jr

HIAWASSEE, GA – Hiawassee Councilman Jay Chastain, Jr. has publicly stepped forth to announce his endorsement of Hiawassee Mayoral candidate Barry Keith Dearing less than two weeks prior to election day.

The 12-year incumbent tells Fetch Your News that Mr. Dearing has his full support.

“I’ve known Barry for ages. He’s a fine man. There’s no doubt he entered the race because he wants what’s best for the City’s future,” the Councilman says.

Councilman Chastain, a lifelong resident and Paramedic of 31-years, met with candidate Dearing on the morning of Thursday, October 26, at McConnell Baptist Church during a newly initiated prayer breakfast to offer his blessing.

Barry Keith Dearing, a fourth generation local and the longtime CEO of VanKeith Insurance, says he appreciates Jay Chastain Jr.’s approval.

“He’s a good man and he’s committed to not only the Council, but to the community as a First Responder. I’m honored,” Dearing confided.

When pressed, both conservative candidates affirmed it’s neither the mayoral opposition’s lifestyle nor the fact she isn’t a “local” – the admitted concern Liz Ordiales raised at the Council forum – but the core issues that matter.

Of concern is the controversial imposition of the newly adopted BRMEMC Franchise Tax, confirmed to adversely affect the future budgets of Hiawassee citizens.

The recently passed planning-expansion ordinance, opposed by Councilman Chastain during a Special Called Meeting shortly after Pro-Tem Liz Ordiales announced her candidacy, is also an issue of debate.

Questionable decisions the former council member made while serving as President of the Towns County Fire Corps, including allegations of the alteration of Meeting minutes and the mismanagement of funds, and an initial attempt to reject the now-popular Mayors’ Park, have also put Ordiales in the hot seat.

Chastain’s decision to outwardly support mayoral candidate Dearing emerged unexpectedly during a community prayer meeting hosted at McConnell Church. The breakfast, sponsored in partnership with the Towns County Sheriff’s Office, is an initiative of Sheriff Chris Clinton to unite residents with local law enforcement and first responders.

Councilman Jay Chastain, Jr., the son of a slain Towns County Sheriff whose life ended while serving the community in 1974, expressed his heartfelt approval of Barry Dearing as Hiawassee’s next Mayor.

“I want to see Hiawassee thrive economically and I believe it will. I want the residents to know where I stand, local or move-in. It’s beside them,” Chastain parted before rushing off to arrive on-time for his role as a veteran Medic.

Fetch Your News has followed the 2017 Hiawassee City Council race since its inception.

Follow Fetch Your News for additional coverage of the November 7 election.

*UPDATE* Feature Image has been replaced.

 

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that attracts more than 300,000 page views and 3.5 million impressions per month in Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. – FYNTV attracts approximately 15,000 viewers per week and reaches between 15,000 to 60,000 per week on our Facebook page. – For the most effective, least expensive local advertising, call 706-276-6397 or email us at advertise@FetchYourNews.com

 

Author

Robin H. Webb

Robin can be reached by dialing 706-970-8491 or contacted via email at Robin@FetchYourNews.com

Candidates Clash as BRMEMC Rejects City of Hiawassee Tax

News, Politics
Hiawassee election

Hiawassee, GA – In a letter addressed to Hiawassee City Council, Blue Ridge Mountain EMC reached a decision to reject the 4% Franchise Tax adopted by the City of Hiawassee during Special Called Council Meetings held between August 8-11, 2017.

BRMEMC General Manager Jeremy Nelms confirmed the assessment would be included as an additional line item on the future bills of customers had the ordinance been accepted, “paid solely by BRMEMC members residing within the City of Hiawassee.”

Mayor Candidate Barry Keith Dearing brought the recently passed ordinance to the public’s attention at the Hiawassee Council Forum on October 2, 2017, simply saying the ordinance was “an unclear thing that needs to be told.”

Former Hiawasee Mayor Pro-Tem candidate, Liz Ordiales, refuted Dearing’s claim, stating the ordinance was not a tax, defining it as a “fee” imposed on BRMEMC.

Ordiales accused Dearing of running a dishonest campaign in a social media rant on the morning of October 7, writing his allegation of taxation were “all lies,” adding if Dearing couldn’t win on his own merit, he shouldn’t “play the game.”

Mayor Candidate Ordiales responded to FYN’s request for additional comment the following day, “This is NOT a tax on the citizens of Hiawassee.  This is a fee that 524 out of 535 cities in Georgia collect from their utility company.  The fee is for the EMC to use City property to provide their services to our citizens,” Ordiales emphasized in an email.

The BRMEMC rejection, addressed to Councilman Kris Berrong on October 4, went on to explain the denial is due in part to the City’s desire to collect back “tax fees” from the start of the 2017 calendar year, 8-months prior the adoption of the Franchise Tax ordinance. BRMEMC also stated the fee amounts to double taxation as the facilities used to provide fiber and cable services to consumers are the same which supply electricity.

Mayor Candidate Dearing stated this evening, “Keep in mind, this was not BRMEMC’s idea. [The people] deserve to see the truth,” attached to a copy image of the letter issued by BRMEMC.

Despite a direct media request by Fetch Your News (FYN) to receive notification of Special Called and Emergency Meetings, FYN was unaware of the August 8-11 Franchise Tax motion and its subsequent approval. Government agencies are required by Georgia’s Open Meeting Act to provide advance notice to the public, as well as all requesting news outlets, specifically if their frequency of publication is above that of the legal organ.

Early voting for Hiawassee City Council begins next Monday, October 16.

The election will take place on Tuesday, November 7.

Updated information on the controversial ordinance is available.

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that attracts more than 300,000 page views and 3.5 million impressions per month in Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. – FYNTV attracts approximately 15,000 viewers per week and reaches between 15,000 to 60,000 per week on our Facebook page. – For the most effective, least expensive local advertising, call 706-276-6397 or email us at advertise@FetchYourNews.com

 

 

Author

Robin H. Webb

Robin can be reached by dialing 706-970-8491 or contacted via email at Robin@FetchYourNews.com

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