Commissioners set to vote on Etowah Village

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DAWSONVILLE, Ga. – Two major developments that have attracted heated opposition from citizens will be on the agenda when the Board of Commissioners meets in a voting session Thursday at 6 p.m. in the Dawson County Government Center.

That session will be preceded at 4 p.m. by a work session and executive session.

Dawson Village Partners wants to have about 800 acres at the intersection of Ga. Hwy. 400 and Lumpkin County Road rezoned to accommodate Etowah Village, a massive development that would include 538,700 square feet of retail space, 243,000 square feet of office space and 2,174 residential units in addition to a hotel, convention center and Asian cultural arts center.

Opponents believe such a major development would overburden the infrastructure lead to overcrowding schools and lower property values. Even more important, they believe it will destroy the quality of life they enjoy and that has attracted many others to move here.

And, Dava Hudgins gave commissioners something else to consider at the last public hearing when she said some part of the project would be built on a historic site.

“My ancestors opened a trading post on that site,” she said. “They married Cherokee women. There are Indian mounds there and I know where there are two different Indian burial grounds. It’s not just a flood plain. It is historically important.”

Historic sites are protected by state and federal laws.

Hudgins took Dist. 1 Commissioner Sharon Fausett and Dist. 4 Julie Hughes-Nix to visit the site Saturday. They are expected to report on their findings at Thursday’s meeting.

There is also a request by Judd Hughes to rezone 40 acres on Dawson Forest Road from Residential Agriculture (RA-1) to Residential Multi-Family for the purpose of building a 240-unit apartment complex is less contentious but has drawn a significant amount of opposition.

Other items on the voting session agenda include:

A PR Acquisition, LLC request to update zoning conditions on property near the intersection of Harry Sossebee Road and Lumpkin Campground Road because some of the original conditions no longer apply to the property which was approved for 388 homes;

Consideration of a Dawson County Food Drive spearheaded by the Public Defender’s office;

Consideration of a request by an Eagle Scout to build a Bocce Ball Court at Rock Creek Park for an Eagle Scout project;

Consideration of Amicalola Electric Membership Corporation power easement for the Public Works Complex;

Consideration of No Thru Truck Traffic on Blacks Mill Rd;

Consideration of improvements to Red Rider Road;

Consideration of appointments to the Library Board.

 

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that covers Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. FYN attracts 300,000+ page views per month, 3.5 million impressions per month and approximately 15,000 viewers per week on FYNTV.com and up to 60,000 Facebook page reach. If you would like to follow up-to-date local events in any of those counties, please visit us at FetchYourNews.com

 

 

 

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County legal fees are twice the budgeted amount

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Joey Homans

Joey Homans

DAWSONVILLE, Ga. – Legal services in 2019 will cost Dawson County taxpayers about $250,000 more than what county commissioners had budgeted.

The budget was set at $160,413. But, after four months less than $20,000 remains so the Board of Commissioners were forced to approve an additional $250,000 during Thursday’s commission meeting.

Most commissioners agree the fault does not lie with the interim law firm of Jarrard and Davis. Some blame the overrun on former in-house counsel Lynn Frey who resigned in December due to poor health.

Commissioners Julie Hughes-Nix and Sharon Fausett say Frey frequently did not show up for work and rarely worked an eight-hour day in the office. Both say they told County Manager David Headley and other Board members about the problem in 2017 but nothing was done. They also say that much of the work he was supposed to do was left for Jarrard and Davis to complete.

Julie Hughes-Nix

Nix said, “In the fall of 2017, department heads were saying to me we have an issue. (Frey) isn’t coming to work. He’s not getting the work done. I alerted the rest of the Board to that. I wanted him in the office from 8 until 5 because that’s what we hired him for. I think that was doable. I kept trying to get the attention of the Board but they didn’t have an issue with that. As a result, we let this linger on and this is what we created. If we had addressed the issue in 2017 when I tried to, we would not be in the situation we are in now.”

After the meeting, Fausett said, “We definitely sounded the alarm a long time ago but got nowhere. We made it crystal clear many times that we wanted him in the office five days a week. We even wrote him up on performance evaluations.”

Commission Chairman Billy Thurmond said, “Mrs. (Angela) Davis did say last week that as soon as we cleaned up the remainder of the stuff that is pending, we would see a downward trend.”

Two years ago, county commissioners decided the $180,316 they paid attorney Joey Homans for legal services for one year (2016) was too much. After 20 years of service, they declined to renew his contract and hired Frey to replace him.

But Homans’ fee was a bargain compared to what the county will spend this year and he was on hand to take a victory lap during Thursday’s meeting.

“Two years ago, when you made another appointment other than me after 20 years, you asserted that it was done to save the taxpayers money,” he said. “With this request (for additional funding) your total legal fee will be $410,000.

“The comment that it was done to save taxpayers money, I took as an attack on my integrity and my character. It was an indicator that I was gouging or overcharging. The fact, that legal fees now are twice what they were, I submit, absolves me of that. I submit that what you’re paying for legal services to very competent legal counsel reflects there was no overcharging. There was no gouging. In fact, taxpayers are now paying more.”

 

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that covers Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. FYN attracts 300,000+ page views per month, 3.5 million impressions per month and approximately 15,000 viewers per week on FYNTV.com and up to 60,000 Facebook page reach. If you would like to follow up-to-date local events in any of those counties, please visit us at FetchYourNews.com

 

 

 

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Commissioners approve addition of a $100,000 emergency contingency to the general fund budget

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DAWSONVILLE, Ga. – By the narrowest of margins, Dawson County commissioners voted Thursday to add $100,000 contingency to the general fund budget that County Manager David Headley will have the authority to spend in case of an emergency without receiving Board authorization.

Prior to the vote, Dist. 2 Commissioner Chris Gaines asked for three stipulations:  The expenditure would require dual signatures from CFO Vickie Neikirk and Headley, a maximum amount of $25,000 for each emergency expenditure with an aggregate amount of $100,000 annually and the expenditure be included in the public record at the next Board of Commissioners meeting.

Chairman Billy Thurmond, Dist. 3 Commissioner Tim Satterfield and Gaines voted to approve the contingency.

But Dist. 4 Commissioner Julie Hughes-Nix and Dist 1 Commissioner Sharon Fausett, who wanted Headley on a shorter leash, voted no.

Nix reminded commissioners that the money they spend is not theirs, but belongs to taxpayers and that commissioners should maintain a tighter control on spending.

“I would really like to know up front what it is,” she said. “I’m really guided by the fact that the money belongs to our citizens and we need to be more accountable.”

In other decisions, commissioners voted to approve a Landbridge Development, LLC request to rezone property located between Krystal and the movie theater just off Hwy. 400 from Commercial Highway Business to Residential Multi Family for the purpose of building five apartment buildings with 12 rental units each.

Commissioners unanimously approved Amber Popphan’s request for a variance to the Land Use Resolution that will allow her to build a mobile home on property of less than five acres that was given to her by her father.

The Board also approved a request by Planning Director Jameson Kinley to hire an Alcohol Licensing administrative assistant at a rate of $15.84 per hour.

Two weeks ago, the county received a low bid from CT Darnell to execute a design-build contract for Fire Station 9. However, no contract was awarded and since then, the county discovered it could save as much as $75,000 by entering into negotiations with Darnell. Commissioners unanimously agreed to allow the negotiation to proceed.

The Board also voted 4-0 to approve a local share commitment letter for Legacy Link.

Thurmond read a proclamation to celebrate Arbor Day on April 26. The event this year will be celebrated by the Dawson County Tree Preservation Committee and Keep Dawson County Beautiful planting a tree on April 26th and encouraging others to plant trees across the county.

 

 

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that covers Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. FYN attracts 300,000+ page views per month, 3.5 million impressions per month and approximately 15,000 viewers per week on FYNTV.com and up to 60,000 Facebook page reach. If you would like to follow up-to-date local events in any of those counties, please visit us at FetchYourNews.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Tanner, Gooch discuss bills passed in 2019 General Assembly

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DAWSONVILLE, Ga. – Sen. Steve Gooch of Dahlonega and State Rep. Kevin Tanner of Dawsonville were the featured speakers at last night’s Dawson County Republican Party Meeting at the Bowen Arts Center.

Gooch represents 200,000 north Georgia residents, including those in Dawson, White, Lumpkin, Union and Forsyth counties. The district is made up of about 75 percent Trump voters.

“It’s the most conservative district in the state senate and the third most conservative in the country,” he said. “So, it’s pretty easy for us to go down there and vote a conservative agenda cause that’s who we are and who we try to represent back home.”

Sen. Steve Gooch

He said he had took some heat from liberals for his vote in favor of the fetal heartbeat bill – the bill that bans abortions as soon as a doctor can detect a fetal heartbeat — but added, “I was proud of my vote on that heartbeat bill, saving hundreds of thousands of unborn children. It was probably the best vote I had taken in my nine years in the senate.”

Gooch also talked about passing enabling legislation to create business courts in the state. The legislation will allow businessmen and women to take a case directly to a business court rather than the Superior Court. “A lot of business issues are highly specialized and not many Superior Court judges have business experience,” he said. “In a business court, they would be able to bring in experts that know a lot about the subject matter.”

Another issue he has spearheaded for several years is the expansion of high-speed internet access to rural communities. He and other legislators who understand that high-speed broadband internet service is essential to schools, businesses and hospitals made it a priority this year. They passed legislation that allows power companies and phone companies to begin selling internet service in rural areas.

Rep. Kevin Tanner

Tanner also weighed in on the fetal heartbeat bill, saying, “I have several in Lumpkin County who are very much opposed to that legislation. There is no way I could ever change their mind and I’m very much pro-life and there is no way you could ever change my mind. It’s a moral fiber issue for me.”

Tanner worked hard on getting new voting machines for the state. The bill passed in the House along party lines with Democrats opposed. The new machines, which will cost between $150 million and $200 million, will allow voters to cast a ballot electronically, print out a copy for their approval then scan it to have it recorded.

“I have yet to be able to get my democrat colleagues to give me a reason they would be opposed to that particular machine,” Tanner said. “The reality is (opposition) is coming from the national party that they should oppose the legislation. I will say this, it is proven statistically that the best way to rig or cheat in an election is paper ballots. If you want to stuff ballot boxes and rig an election, paper ballots are the best way to do that. These machines make it very difficult if not impossible for that to happen because if there is an audit, there is a trail we can follow.”

Tanner has been a champion of mental health reform in Georgia which has led to the creation of a behavioral health reform and innovation commission made up of 23 members. Four will be legislators but the majority will be experts in the field of mental health.”

“The problem is once you graduate from a mental health court, there is no follow up,” he said. “If you have schizophrenia, or you have bipolar, or acute depression, you have to be followed your entire life to make sure medication is being taken and you’re not having an episode.”

Last night’s meeting was the first since the election of a new slate of officers at the County Convention. The new officers include Seanie Zappendorf (chairperson), Mike Berg (first vice chair) Pepper Pettit (second vice chair), Dale Smart (secretary) Katie Hulsebus (treasurer) and Norman Samples (committee member at-large).

Among the elected officials who attended the event were Mayor Mike Eason, Commissioners Julie Hughes-Nix, Sharon Fausett, City Councilman Stephen Tolson and former Commission Chairman Mike Berg.

 

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that covers Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. FYN attracts 300,000+ page views per month, 3.5 million impressions per month and approximately 15,000 viewers per week on FYNTV.com and up to 60,000 Facebook page reach. If you would like to follow up-to-date local events in any of those counties, please visit us at FetchYourNews.com

 

 

 

 

 

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Chamber of Commerce wants commercial impact fees reduced

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Commissioner Sharon Fausett

DAWSONVILLE, Ga. – Impact fees dominated much of the discussion at the Dawson County Board of Commissioners work session last week.

Chamber of Commerce President Christie Moore made a presentation and requested commissioners consider reducing impact fees on road projects and fire protection categories to 25 percent. Moore said impact fees are the reason at least one company declined to open a business in Dawson County.

“We’re not here to speak about the residential side,” she said. “We’re here to speak to the commercial side of things. We can’t calculate how many businesses we’ve lost (as a result of impact fees). We can only calculate what we have received. So far only $73,000 has been collected from commercial impact fees. Our concern is not the large businesses like the Olive Gardens of the world. They’re used to impact fees. But it really can hurt some of our attempts to attract other organizations that we really want in our community.”

Moore provided the example of one large fitness center that had planned to build a new facility in the community but backed out when it was learned the impact fee would be $51,000.

Commissioner Chris Gaines

District 1 Commissioner Sharon Fausett challenged the notion that the impact fee was the sole reason the company backed out.

“What would have been their tap fee,” she questioned. Moore said she didn’t know. Fausett said, “But you know it would have been a lot more than that right.”

“It certainly would have been,” Moore said and that is another entity we’ve been advocating with.”

“(Impact fees) are nothing compared to that (tap fee),” Fausett added. “It just seems to me like this is all being blamed on impact fees and I disagree with that.”

District 2 Commissioner Chris Gaines said the announcement that Northeast Georgia Medical Center will open a new hospital at GA. 400 and Hwy. 60 in Lumpkin County will create new opportunities.

“We’ve all continually said we want to diversify our economic base beyond just retail,” he said. “I think we have a great opportunity of attracting commercial office space when it comes to the medical aspect that is going to be ancillary to the hospital. It seems to me (impact fees) are a barrier we’re putting in place that we do control. I think we need to take a good look at this to make sure we don’t miss out on some high paying jobs that can revolve around the new hospital.”

Items discussed during a work session are typically not voted on until they come before the Board in a regular meeting.

 

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that covers Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. FYN attracts 300,000+ page views per month, 3.5 million impressions per month and approximately 15,000 viewers per week on FYNTV.com and up to 60,000 Facebook page reach. If you would like to follow up-to-date local events in any of those counties, please visit us at FetchYourNews.com

 

 

 

 

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BOC needs more time to finalize comp plan

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DAWSONVILLE, Ga. – The Dawson County Board of Commissioners held one final public hearing on the 2018 comprehensive plan Thursday.

The plan is one of the county’s most important documents because it provides elected officials with a road map to use in planning the county’s future. It was developed after months of gathering public input at citizen meetings and in an online survey.

The state requires that a county’s comprehensive plan be updated every five years and approved by the Georgia Department of Community Affairs in order to qualify for Certified Local Government Status and to be eligible for state grants and programs.

Thursday’s discussion centered on whether commissioners should base their zoning decisions on a future land use map, as it has done for years, or consider the character area map approach.

Commission Chairman Billy Thurmond said the character map offers more flexibility in zoning decisions but is less restrictive than the current future land use map.

“That’s the reason we wanted to look at both,” he said.

Dawson County Chamber of Commerce Christine Moore said, “This is a document that people live and breathe every single day. The character area map to us does make the most sense because of the flexibility and control it provides and also because It allows an adaptability to our ever changing economy.”

Tony Passarello, who serves on both the Long Range Planning Commission and Comprehensive Board is Plan Commission favored the future land use map. “It is more consistent and legally supportable,” he said.

He did recognize some changes needed to be made.

As a member of the Dawson Development Authority, Passarello said one comment he hears constantly is “What we are trying to attract is business that offers higher-paying jobs and more professional growth so we can have our children who are being educated in our fine schools can stay in Dawson County. The current land use map we have has not been adjusted to make room for those types of businesses.”

Passarello also whatever plan is selected needs to “reflect the input we have received from the citizens.”

Terri Tragesser, co-chairman of the Long Range Planning Commission, said, “We have more comfort at this point in time with the future land use map. Not because we don’t believe the character area map has value. We just don’t know enough about it to feel comfortable with it. I’ve seen the future land use map in high-growth areas work very well.”

Like Passarello, however, Tragesser said the future land use map needs some changes.

“You have to put some overlays on those maps so they are more specific,” she said. “So they address things like Dawson Forest Road and Hwy. 9 intersection. That will build out with a lot of uncertainty. Right now, we have absolutely no definition in that intersection as to how it’s going to look, how it’s going to build out, how it’s going to work from a transportation standpoint. That’s the type of work that is still to be done.”

The DCA has already approved the comprehensive plan that includes the character area plan, but Hazell said only one section would need to be changed should the Board of Commissioners vote to approve the future land use map and that section has already been submitted for the DCA’s review and approval.

Commissioner Chris Gaines said, “I’d like to step back. I want to make sure we’re doing this correctly. I want to wrap my head around this from a legal standpoint personally before I’m willing to put my name on something that is the future guiding document for the county.”

The Board then directed Gaines and Commissioner Sharon Fausett to meet with the new interim county attorneys, Ken Jarrard and Angela Davis and come to next week’s meeting with additional information.

 

 

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that covers Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. FYN attracts 300,000+ page views per month, 3.5 million impressions per month and approximately 15,000 viewers per week on FYNTV.com and up to 60,000 Facebook page reach. If you would like to follow up-to-date local events in any of those counties, please visit us at FetchYourNews.com

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Fausett, Satterfield, Armstrong take oath of office

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DAWSONVILLE, Ga. – Probate Court Judge Jennifer Burt administered the oath of office and the loyalty oath to three of Dawson County’s elected officials Thursday.

Burt has been the county’s probate judge for nearly a quarter of a century.

“I’m looking forward to what 2019 has to offer,” she said. “We’ve got a lot of great things coming up for the New Year. We have a great group of commissioners and one great one (Jimmy Hamby) who will be leaving us. We’re going to miss him. He’s done a wonderful job.”

Tim Satterfield is the new member of the Board of Commissioners. He is certainly no stranger to Dawson County. Tim was elected following a stellar 41-year career as firefighter and in emergency services. He was accompanied by his mother Reba Satterfield. Who held the Bible that he placed his hand on while being sworn in.

District 1 Commissioner Sharon Fausett took the oath of office for the second time and she was accompanied by her grandson Blake Fausett. “This is why I do what I do,” Fausett said, speaking of her grandson.

District 3 School Board member Karen Armstrong was also sworn in for her second term.

School Board Chairman Will Wade was scheduled to be sworn in Thursday, but he and his family were out of town for the holidays, so he was administered the oath of office earlier.

 

 

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that covers Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. FYN attracts 300,000+ page views per month, 3.5 million impressions per month and approximately 15,000 viewers per week on FYNTV.com and up to 60,000 Facebook page reach. If you would like to follow up-to-date local events in any of those counties, please visit us at FetchYourNews.com

 

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Wildcat Community residents hold townhall meeting to addresses fire protection concerns

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DAWSON COUNTY, Ga. — Nearly 100 residents of the Wildcat Community — a group of several small housing developments located in an isolated, mountainous section on the Dawson/Pickens county line — gathered inside Fire Station 8 Saturday morning to ask questions about fire protection for the community.

Two weeks before the meeting, a home on Burnt Mountain Ridge Road was destroyed by fire and community residents, some of them angry, spent nearly two hours grilling Dawson County Fire and Emergency Services Director Danny Thompson and County Manager David Headley about fire protection for their community. County Commissioner Sharon Fausett, who represents the district, was also on hand as was Pickens County Commission Chairman Rob Jones.

The meeting was organized by Clayton Preble, president of the Wildcat Community, John Tarantini, a volunteer firefighter at Fire Station 8. The questions they wanted answers to were: Why did it take so long for Fire Station 8 to respond to the fire on Burnt Mountain Ridge Road, why was Fire Station 8 not dispatched promptly since it is only 2.5 miles from the fire and what  became of the water tank the organizers say Dawson County promised to provide.

Dawson County Fire and Emergency Services Director Danny Thompson responds to questions Saturday.

Thompson explained that due to a flaw in Dawson County’s aging computer aided dispatch system (CAD)  — which the county is in the process of replacing — the initial 9-1-1 call bypassed Fire Station 8 and went to stations 6, 4 and 1, the closest of which is located in nearby Big Canoe.

The initial call was received at 8:04 a.m. and, according to CAD data, the first firetruck on the scene arrived at 8:28 a.m.

Thompson pointed out that while Fire Station 8 did not receive the 9-1-1 Tarantini had monitored the call and was aware of the fire 2.5 miles away. He was free to self-report to the scene,” Thompson said. But he also noted that Fire Station 8 is manned by volunteers and is not authorized to engage in fire suppression activities. Their sole responsibility is to lay hose lines and prepare the scene for arriving certified firefighters. Therefore, he said, there is no chance they could have saved the home.

For 90 minutes, Thompson, who only joined the Dawson County Emergency Services in May 2018, patiently and fully answered every question.

Then came the question that Headley said was the real reason for the meeting. That question: What happened to the water tank Dawson County promised?”

There is a water tank located at Fire Station 8, but it holds only 45,000 gallons of water and once it is drained takes several days to refill.

In a slide presentation prepared by Preble, he asserts, “It was agreed that Dawson County would provide a tank and move it and Pickens County would construct the foundation. There was a firm agreement that each party would do their part.”

Preble further asserts that Pickens County has constructed a concrete slab as the foundation for the tank at a cost of approximately $20,000 and the Wildcat Community has reimbursed Pickens County about $12,500. Now, he said, the ball is in Dawson County’s court.

 

Headley said Dawson and Pickens County officials and representatives from Wildcat Community have engaged in informal discussions about an additional tank but he strongly disagrees there was ever a “firm agreement.” Any agreement, he points out, would have to be approved by the Dawson County Board of Commissioners and that has not happened.

Headley said when the talks began, a tank was located and former Emergency Services Director Lanier Swafford estimated moving the tank would cost approximately $10,000. Since then, however, county officials have learned the cost could be anywhere from $30,000 to $50,000 if a contractor could be located. Headley said the county advertised invitations to bid (IFB) and no bids were received.

Headley said the whole purpose of Saturday’s meeting was to “ambush” Dawson County officials and pressure them into providing a water tank for the community. “We wanted to hold the meeting here at the Senior Center but they said no. We wanted to set the agenda but they said no.”

Headley said he understands the community’s concern and wants to but feels the cost has to be equally shared by all parties.

 

 

 

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that covers Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. FYN attracts 300,000+ page views per month, 3.5 million impressions per month and approximately 15,000 viewers per week on FYNTV.com and up to 60,000 Facebook page reach. If you would like to follow up-to-date local events in any of those counties, please visit us at FetchYourNews.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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