Chariho School Parents’ Forum

November 27, 2009

Four Chariho members accused of collusion

Filed under: Chariho,contract negotiations — Editor @ 6:18 pm

From the Westerly Sun:


WOOD RIVER JCT. — A Chariho Regional School Committee member has accused four of his counterparts of violating the state’s Open Meetings Act and conspiring against the district’s solicitor.

The charges, aired publicly Tuesday, center on the school committee’s Aug. 18 executive session meeting, when two attempts were made to hire outside lawyers to represent the district in teacher contract negotiations, following the departure of attorney Sheryl Hanley. While the committee ratified a new, three-year work agreement with the local teachers’ union on Oct. 29, tensions between school board members have run high for months.

William Day, who represents the town of Richmond, charged four others on the committee – Deborah Carney of Charlestown, and George Abbott, Georgia Ure and Richard Vecchio of Hopkinton – of “blatantly” violating the state’s Open Meetings Act by supporting votes that were not on the agenda. The foursome trampled his rights as he sat outside the closed-door session with Committeeman Andrew Polouski of Charlestown, he said.

Both Day and Polouski, along with Committeewoman Terri Serra of Richmond, have spouses or relatives who are employed by the district, and recused themselves from taking part in the negotiation process.

“I had every right to be in there, [and] Mr. Polouski had every right to be in there,” said Day, a staunch Chariho supporter who, at times, has clashed with representatives from Hopkinton. “This district is being accused by certain individuals as being shady, but what the four of you people did was the most disrespectful thing to the citizens of Richmond and Hopkinton, and to me, Mr. Polouski and Terri Serra.”

“I don’t trust you anymore,” he added angrily. “You went behind my back, you went behind Andy’s back and turned around and made motions to hire another lawyer, which was not on the agenda, and which was going to cost the taxpayers of the Chariho district considerably a lot more money than we were paying out.”

Day alleged later that Carney, Abott, Ure and Vecchio hold a “grudge” against District Solicitor Jon Anderson, who penned a legal opinion last fall that led to the ouster of former Hopkinton Committeeman William Felkner – and eventually filled Hanley’s role in the negotiations. He also expressed concern that, with only six or seven committee members present at future closed-door sessions, the four could approve “something that is going to be derogatory to the best interest of this district and the taxpayers.”

“Please don’t do it again,” Day said. “I’m imploring you, don’t do it again. The four of you vote as a bloc. If I believed in conspiracies, my conspiracy theory would be that you sit around and have telephone calls and decide how you’re going to vote.”

Carney, a former Town Council president and a one-time proponent of Charlestown’s withdrawal from Chariho, fired back. (With Hanley’s departure, she said the committee no longer had legal representation in the contract negotiations; the votes were appropriate under an agenda item titled “Teacher Contract Negotiation Update,” she added following Tuesday’s meeting.)

“I take great insult to this innuendo about a voting bloc because the same could be said about others around the table, but I won’t even go there,” Carney said, clearly agitated. “I’m sick and tired of this approach. Enough is enough. You want to file a complaint? File a complaint. But I’m not going to sit here and be attacked and be insulted because, quite frankly, I’ve had it.”

Vecchio agreed, calling the Richmond representative’s charge a “frivolous claim” that would waste district resources.

“You weren’t part of the negotiations, neither was Ms. Serra [or] Mr. Polouski,” he told Day. “You had no say in the matter of bringing in an attorney to negotiate for us…You’re bellyaching about something you had nothing to do with, as far as I’m concerned.”

Chairwoman Holly Eaves of Charlestown said the closed-door session involved mixed conversation on teacher contract negotiations and legal representation, but acknowledged that the whole committee should have been involved in the votes that took place.

“I will admit it was a very difficult and a very gray area, and as chair I was in a very difficult position,” she said. “I would take responsibility as chair of that meeting if an Open Meetings Act violation has occurred.”

“What’s done is done, we are who we are,” Eaves added.

While he has spoken with the Rhode Island Attorney General’s Office and a personal attorney about lodging a formal complaint, Day said he doesn’t want to file a grievance that could end up tarnishing the record of the school committee – and his own legacy. He has until Feb. 14, 2010, to file an Open Meetings Act complaint with the AG’s office against the 11-member board.

[editor’s note] Day thinks he has a legacy?


October 28, 2009

Chariho teacher contract

Filed under: contract negotiations,Unions — Editor @ 10:34 pm

From our friends in Richmond


Teacher Contract Ratification Scheduled


The Chariho School Committee is scheduled to meet this Thursday (10/29), 6PM, Middle School Library, to ratify the teacher’s contract.


I didn’t hear it but I’m told by others that there was an expectation that the “ground rules” made accommodation for the secret negotiations by having the contract available for public review for 30 days before the ratification vote. It appears that this will not occur. As it stands now, your only opportunity to hear about the new contract and make your feeling known will be at this meeting.


I’ve probably heard the same rumors you have on what will be in the new contract – – many of them the same we have seen in other contacts this year in other towns  – increased co-pays (lets hope we get them to the private sector range of 25-35%) – – very small or no “raises” (lets hope they deal with the real raises – the steps) — changes in longevity (good if they go as far as Hopkinton in eliminating them – although we did replace them with a couple of steps) — and will they follow East Providence and propose merit pay. 


Of course, the devil is in the details, so a 30 day review would have been nice 



September 13, 2009

Chariho contract

Filed under: contract negotiations — Editor @ 9:27 am

This article is from the Sun. Below that you will find a link to videos from the Tiverton School Committee discussing open negotiations. Wouldn’t that be nice…


WOOD RIVER JCT. — Contract talks between the Chariho Regional School Committee and the district’s teachers’ union is expected to resume this week.

Private negotiations for a new, three-year pact are scheduled for Tuesday. The parties last met on Sept. 3.

A three-person negotiation team has represented the school board since talks began in January, but other board members began participating at the last meeting. The issues now at hand “require a full school committee focus,” said School Committee Chairwoman Holly M. Eaves.

“It’s getting down to the more difficult stuff,” she added. The current contract with NEA Chariho — the local arm of the National Education Association that represents 341 full-time certified employees — expired on Aug. 31. The union has opted not to strike or “work-to-rule,” when teachers do not participate in extra-curricular activities like tutoring.

Jeanette Woolley, Chariho’s NEA representative, did not return a phone message by press time.

September 2, 2009

Shhhh! Nobody is watching so maybe they won’t notice

Filed under: Chariho,contract negotiations,transparency — Editor @ 8:33 pm

I should say, “Shhh! We won’t let anybody watch so maybe they won’t notice.” What I’m referencing is the Chariho teachers contract. It expired Aug 31 but I don’t recall seeing anything in the paper during the entire process. One would assume that since it’s overdue, maybe the school committee is pushing the envelope and the union isn’t buying. But we can only guess…

Having spent time on both governing bodies, I can tell you that the process of deciding how far to push the envelope is a matter of power.

In the town council our choice was to use the town manager and council person to negotiate the contract and find a reasonable middle ground, which has not impact on the budget, or spend money for legal help.  And in the case of police and fire, they have binding arbitration so at best you will be ordered a middle ground resolution (although more and more legalminds are suggesting that binding arbitration is unconstitutional). So the POWER goes to the union because they have plenty of lawyers on staff and love long expensive battles.

But at the school we had the fear of strike – POWER of intimidation. Andy Polouski carried the union’s water during the negotiations I was involved in and told the committee that (paraphrased), ‘if we push they will strike, then the food service strikes and the parents will complain because they won’t know what to do with their kids when they can’t go to school.’

In the town example, the union had the power of money, and in the school example the union had the power of intimidation (manifest in parent complaints). Both of these could be remedied with transparency.

I tried to make the case to the HTC that if we were transparent with the process we might find the people would support and want us to fight harder. Tom et. al., did well getting rid of longevity, but I still think more could have been done especially with the pensions – an issue that was mostly resolved until Bill DeLibero made a last day change.   To a woman, or man, most on the HTC agree that we treat the public sector employees better than private sector employees, but we can only change it in small steps – otherwise it would require legal help ($$$). My thought was that if we were willing to let the voters decide if we want to spend $2m to purchase open space (the bond) then we could ask the same people if they want to spend half a mil to fight the contract (and binding arbitration).

In the case of the school, transparency would let the public give input to the school committee members if they did or did not want them to push the envelope – and if they would be willing to stand behind the school if the teachers went on strike. Transparency also lets the people know the truth – that teachers, police, etc., are willing to strike to hold onto their double digit raises and gold plated pension while you, the ones paying the bill, must settle for much less. At least make them own it publicly.

But for now, we are on the outside looking in (through a blacked out window).  If anyone has heard anything in the news that I may have missed please let us know.

August 13, 2009

Pension pro-con or not

Filed under: contract negotiations,Hopkinton,Hopkinton Town Council,Police — Editor @ 11:40 pm

After speaking with Sylvia and re-reading some emails I can understand where the different views come from.

On the meeting of the 20th they voted on the contract. Apparently, she was relying on me to finish the evaluation for their meeting.  But I didn’t get it right until the 21.  I wasn’t so concerned. We had a few meetings and the votes were always 4 to 1. Technically they weren’t votes, they were consensus. We would have had to announce them to the pubic if they were votes.

 Actually, I’m surprised nobody has ever done an evaluation before.  This pension has been used since 1998 (voted on in 2000). There were three contract votes since then.

So Sylvia wrote from the perspective that the council was voting on the 19th and since my numbers weren’t good at that time they voted for the status quo.  She defended that vote by identifying my errors.

But even then, assuming Sylvia had the right number or not, why did they still vote for it. The early data had the liability at $55 million. Now we know its only $27 million.  That’s still 27 million dollars more than if we used a defined contribution plan. If it was only $10 m, would we accept that?  Why do we have to give them a pension that is anything more than the private sector?

July 25, 2009

more figurin’

Filed under: contract negotiations,Police — Editor @ 2:10 pm

I keep thinking about the question Lois posed about calculating the exact cost of the pension using actual employees, versus the rough estimate I used.

We can make an assumption that future increases would be the same as the current contract but how do we calculate salary changes in the past  (thus giving us the number to calculate previous employee contributions).

Then there is the challenge of past year’s contributions for the employees who worked at the HPD prior to the implementation of the 3% compound COLA. The contract made the benefit retroactive (which came as a surprise to the Dept of Municipal Affairs), were payment retroactive? 

Then there is the challenge of calculating the return on investments made with those floating pension dollars (see post below for the difficulties there).

So, I’m not sure how to proceed (without a lot of dedicated hours researching old contract details and historic market performance).  Suggestions?

July 23, 2009

Sometimes timing is everything

Filed under: contract negotiations,Hopkinton,pension,Police,Unions — Editor @ 10:22 pm

Having just gotten back from a trip I got caught up here, then started reading the papers and blogs. First on the list is Anchorrising and Justin’s post on pensions is as timely as ever and brings in another persepective on our pension issue.

We  have been talking about the difference between defined contribution and defined benefit plans as a matter of liability — How much is owned. This article helps to understand the difficulty in paying for it.

As Gene and Lois have said, our private sector 401 k’s are now 201 k’s as a result of the failing market. But public sector pensions also rely on investment income. 

The  AR post is pasted in full below because it’s so darn good (and did I mention timely).


Pensions and Politics

Katherine Gregg’s Providence Journal article on Rhode Island’s pension fund losses has an interesting frame. Toward the beginning (emphasis added):

Despite this recent run of losses, state officials say there is no immediate danger for state and local employees and teachers whose retirement checks are drawn from the pension fund, which is made up of a mix of investment earnings, taxpayer contributions and employee contributions. These retired public employees are guaranteed pension payments for life, regardless of the stock market’s performance.

And the final word is given to Stephen Laffey, who (Gregg notes) is “weigh[ing] a return to politics”:

“I have said many times that the only way to save the pension system is to end it and give everyone their money and go to a 401(k) plan … like the people in the private sector,” Laffey said in an e-mail.

The question — over which the unions will shed blood, if necessary (although probably figuratively) — is who bears the risk. When the market shrinks beyond reserves, or simply does not live up to the excessive requirement of more than 8% growth, either retirees manage on less income or the state attempts to tighten the tax vice on a population that already feels overtaxed (with ample justification). Moral considerations aside, the latter option is simply not functional; folks working in the private sector are not going to idly watch their money flow to retirees, many of whom are taking home more than they are, and employers are not going to accept the escalating costs associated with operations in Rhode Island.

Probably the most important point to emerge from the article is that inadequate half-measures aren’t going to cut it:

But the market losses have already eliminated any possibility of taxpayer savings this year from state lawmakers’ decision to curb annual cost-of-living increases and institute a minimum retirement age for all state pensioners. As state budget officer Rosemary Gallogly explained Wednesday: “The rate of payroll determined for FY2010 will not change as a result of pension fund performance.”

Mr. Laffey, in other words, is absolutely correct: The two possibilities are (1) drastic changes or (2) the collapse of the pension system, bringing the state with it.


You can comment directly on the  AR blog HERE.

Then there is the ProJo piece on Providence giving us a glimpse of the future (h/t Gene).

This is a concern for Providence since the city is already drawing nearly 62 percent of its obligation to pensioners from its yearly contribution to the system, meaning it is putting money into the system almost as fast as it is being paid out.

And our  baby boomers are just starting to retire – things are going to get worse quickly.

All the writing is on the wall. The only reason the state isn’t in more pain right now is because we put $226m of stimulus money to plug the budget – we still increased spending 12%. Next year we can expect things to be worse. Drastic change is needed and Hopkinton is as good as place as any to start.

figuring it out

Filed under: contract negotiations,Police,Unions — Editor @ 8:27 pm

Lois Buck is a very brave person. Tom, her husband, HTC prez, and a friend, crafted the police contract with DeLibero and she has been defending him here courageously, especially considering the overall tenor of people who post comments here. (Tom is not a internet user)

Everything I talk about here I’ve spoken with Tom personally, as well as most of the council, so there are no secrets. And to a person (sans Bev who I haven’t spoken much about these things) I believe they know that the perfect world would be where public sector workers are paid the same as private sector – no better, no worse. And we can all agree it used to be much worse for the public labor, but now it is much better – the pendulum has swung to apex.

Lois, Tom et. al., disagree with me that drastic change can occur quickly and support incremental changes. I say we can’t afford those anymore because the decisions we make today,  such as the pensions, lock us into unreasonable costs that we wont be able to afford in the future – when they come due.

But Lois’ inquisition brings out the best in my neuroses. She was not comfortable with my admittedly gross estimates. So, I am compelled to provide such proof as asked.

But we have to make some estimates. So how about this:

The payroll I got from the town hall had a typo (linked int he first pension post below). What was listed as “other longevity” is the clothing allowance.  Longevity is built into the salary so I don’t know what last years base was. But I do have a list of the employees and what year of service they are in. I can apply the pay according to the rank and year.

That gives us this grid for the first two years of the contract (which is what I happened to have on a spreadsheet now but can add the rest when I get to the office but I doubt it will change it much).

Calculated Hourly   Jul-09   Jul-10   Jul-11   2yr raise total
Name/Badge yrs hourly 37.5X52            
Ch. Scuncio 1 11 $43.29 $84,419.75 $44.16 $86,108.15 $45.48 $88,691.39 *1 5.1%
Patton 9 9 $29.83 $58,168.50 31.16 $60,762.00 32.09 $62,575.50 *4 7.6%
Ahearn 6 5 $27.71 $54,034.50 28.26 $55,107.00 29.11 $56,764.50 *5 5.1%
Cole 17 7 $27.71 $54,034.50 28.26 $55,107.00 29.11 $56,764.50 *7 5.1%
Dufault 18 7 $21.14 $41,223.00 21.56 $42,042.00 22.21 $43,309.50 *8 5.1%
Kenyon 10 7 $27.71 $54,034.50 28.26 $55,107.00 29.11 $56,764.50 *10 5.1%
Nutting 16 1 $21.14 $41,223.00 24.21 $47,209.50 26.49 $51,655.50 *11 25.3%
Percivil 11 5 $27.71 $54,034.50 28.26 $55,107.00 29.11 $56,764.50 *12 5.1%
Quartella 15 11 $30.54 $59,553.00 31.15 $60,742.50 32.09 $62,575.50 *13 5.1%
Whewell 8 8 $27.71 $54,034.50 28.26 $55,107.00 31.34 $61,113.00 *14 13.1%
Forbes 14 1 $21.14 $41,223.00 24.21 $47,209.50 26.49 $51,655.50 *11 25.3%
Sgt. Lyman  5 19 $33.09 $64,525.50 33.09 $64,525.50 36.19 $70,570.50 *3 9.4%
Det. Macdonald 7 20 $31.25 $60,937.50 32.6 $63,570.00 33.58 $65,481.00 *15 7.5%
Altimari 12  20 $31.25 $60,937.50 32.6 $63,570.00 33.58 $65,481.00 *6 7.5%
Lt. Baruti 2 20 $34.80 $67,862.30 $35.50 $69,219.55 $36.56 $71,296.13 *2 5.1%
new recruit 0 $19.14 $37,323.00 21.56 $42,042.00 24.94 $48,633.00 *16 30.3%
*1 no step changes, just 2  & 3%       two yr avg plus 1yr  
*2 moves to 21+ chart ??? But already above so just added 3%   10.40% 5.20%  
*3  goes from <20 to 21+ = 34.45 yr 1, 35.14 yr 2, 36.19 yr 3        
*4 30.54 + 2% yr 2 (31.16), 31.16 + 3% yr 3(32.09)         
*5 27.71 + 2% = 28.26 yr 2, 28.26 + 3% = 29.11 YR 3        
*6 goes to 21+ in yr 2- 31.96+2%=32.60, + 3% yr 3=33.58         
*7 27.71 + 2% = 28.26 yr 2, 28.26 + 3% = 29.11 YR 3        
*8 21.14+2%=21.56 yr 2. 21.56+3%=22.21 yr 3          
*9 33.84+2%=34.52 yr 2, 34.52+3%=35.55 yr 3          
*10 27.71 + 2% = 28.26 yr 2, 28.26 + 3% = 29.11 YR 3        
*11 23.74+2%=24.21 yr 2 – yr3 step 3 25.21+2%=25.71- +3%=26.49      
*12 27.71 + 2% = 28.26 yr 2, 28.26 + 3% = 29.11 YR 3        
*13 30.54+2%=31.15 yr2, 31.15+3%=32.09 yr 3          
*14 27.71 + 2% = 28.26 yr 2, yr3step 10 29.83+2%=30.43 + 3%=31.34      
*15 goes to 21+ in yr 2- 31.96+2%=32.60, + 3% yr 3=33.58         
*16 21.14+2%=21.56 yr2, yr3 step2-23.74+2%=24.21 +3%=24.94      
  new recruit same as above            

That gives us an average raise of 5.2% per year (which is good compared to the last contract and most others that are around 7%).  So if I extend the salaries out the appropriate years to when they would retire, based on increases of 5.2% per year, that would give us a final salary at retirement. We still won’t have the holiday pay but that’s going to be small potatoes compared to the rest.

I would be happy to do that spreadsheet if you think those assumptions are good. Sound ok?

July 19, 2009

Total pension liability for Hopkinton right now is estimated at $55,329,372.

 The HPD infamous 3% compound COLA pension –

There has been a lot of talk, most notably from frmr town councilman John Matson, that the pension was not implemented according to the letter of the law. I asked the town’s solicitor about it and she said it looked as though Matson was right, but she wasn’t sure, and that if it was true there probably wasn’t anything we could do about it now.

I have spoken with one other council person and told them what I’m going to say here – for the protection of the town I think we should have a written opinion from our counsel ending this question once and for all. If there was anything improper can we do anything about it, and if not, why.

How much is our pension system going to cost us?

The contract states that longevity and holiday pay are included in the calculation for pensions. I don’t have average holiday pay, nor do I know if that includes comp and sick time, so I won’t include it just to play it safe.

I also used a conservative average yearly wage increase of 5% (the actual current average is 7%).

I used the actual pay numbers from our latest retiree and worked backwards to determine how much the employee contributed over the years. The employee works 20 years (contract minimum) and lives for another 28 years (from 55 to 78).

The defined contribution method (private sector) says the employee contributes 8% of salary and the employer matches it (which is rare in this economic times).

The accumulated pension in the private sector method gains 3% interest and is paid out over the same 28 years. 

The defined benefit method (HPD) has the same 8%  employee contribution, but the town contribution is based on what benefits are defined to be paid – in our case it is the gross salary with a 3% increase, compound yearly.\

I want to compare what it is going to cost the town if we used a defined contribution pension program like private sector businesses and the defined benefit pensions found in the public sector – using the HPD as an example.

So, let’s get started.
The most recent employee to retire (Patrolman Georgetti) had a total income of $80,550 last year. Using the 3% compound COLA and assuming he lives the average of 28 years after retirement, he will be receiving $178,924 per year by then. We will have paid him a total of $3,458,085 over those 28 years. For that the employee paid $82,678 into the system while the town has to cover the rest (approximately $3m).

Now let’s compare that to the private sector.  If the same employee, making the same income, paid into a defined contribution plan, the employee  would contribute the same $82,678 but the employee would contribute another $82,678 – NOT the estimated $3m to meet the defined benefit obligation.

Assuming we had all 16 employees retire tomorrow (after working the required 20 years) – and didn’t add a single additional employee ever again (like Exeter) our total liability would be $55,329,372. That’s what we owe right now – assuming nothing is done retroactively to remove this crazy pension gift.

This is very serious stuff for a small town. I hope when the HTC votes on this contract they have taken these numbers into consideration. Anything other than a defined contribution plan is going to bankrupt the town. I’m happy to recalculate is someone points out an error in the method.

  Total 8%  
Year Pay Emp cont  
1         30,395.83      2,431.67  
2         31,995.61      2,559.65  
3         33,679.59      2,694.37  
4         35,452.20      2,836.18  
5         37,318.11      2,985.45  
6         39,282.22      3,142.58  
7         41,349.70      3,307.98  
8         43,526.01      3,482.08  
9         45,816.85      3,665.35  
10         48,228.26      3,858.26  
11         50,766.59      4,061.33  
12         53,438.52      4,275.08  
13         56,251.07      4,500.09  
14         59,211.65      4,736.93  
15         62,328.05      4,986.24  
16         65,608.48      5,248.68  
17         69,061.56      5,524.92  
18         72,696.38      5,815.71  
19         76,522.50      6,121.80 Total paid in
20         80,550.00      6,444.00           82,678.33
Pension begins1        80,550.00    
2         82,966.50    
3         85,455.50    
4         88,019.16    
5         90,659.73    
6         93,379.53    
7         96,180.91    
8         99,066.34    
9       102,038.33    
10       105,099.48    
11       108,252.46    
12       111,500.04    
13       114,845.04    
14       118,290.39    
15       121,839.10    
16       125,494.28    
17       129,259.10    
18       133,136.88    
19       137,130.98    
20       141,244.91    
21       145,482.26    
22       149,846.73    
23       154,342.13    
24       158,972.39    
25       163,741.57    
26       168,653.81    
27       173,713.43    
28       178,924.83    
      Total 3,458,085.81    
all 16   55,329,372.95    

HPD Salary and pension info

Filed under: contract negotiations,Hopkinton,Police,Unions — Editor @ 4:32 pm

The police salary spreadsheet is posted HERE (pdf) and HERE (excel). I’m a bit confused on a couple of points which I asked for clarification of and will post the response when in.

First item I don’t get is the “other longevity.”  The HPD contract states that longevity will be paid as follows:

Five years of service through the tenth year of service, 5 percent of annual salary; after completion of ten years of service through the fifteenth year of service, 7 1/2 percent of annual salary; after completion of fifteen years of service through the twentieth year of service, 10 percent of annual salary; after completion of twenty years of service, 12 1/2 percent of annual salary.

But as you see on the spreadsheet, all longevity is listed at $650. Officer Baruti, as an example, has 20+ yrs of service and a base salary of  $69,166.19, so his longevity would be $8,645.75.  Of course the contract says “annual salary” so I just hope that means base.

I’m also very surprised about the amount of overtime paid. Officer Lyman, who does the negotiations for the union has $19,136 in overtime. The most is $21,746 for one officer who went from $59,709 to $82,286 – an increase over the base pay of  38%. And this is different from “detail” payments which can be reimbursed.

I’m also unsure why Chief Scunzio is listed as paid by “salary” – we see he not only got paid for some overtime but he also has 550 hours of accumulated “comp” time that he will be paid for in one lump sum (@ his $43 hr that equals $23,650 – let’s hope this doesn’t get included in his pension, which already includes longevity and holiday pay!!!).  Ironically, our chief, who receives a pension from the taxpayers for previous employment, will retire with his 2 pensions to Exeter, a town without a police department.

As I get the pension comparison ready to post I thought you might like to see the most current Muni Employee’s Retirement System Actuarial Valuation Report.  I’ll have the comparison posted soon.

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