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Hilltowns Archives —The Altamont Enterprise, February 8, 2007

Registered sex offender moves into BKW district

By Tyler Schuling

BERNE — A registered sex offender has recently moved into the Berne-Knox-Westerlo School District.

John McIntyre, 19, of 328 Witter Road in Knox, is identified as a Level 2 sex offender, in the middle of the state’s three-tiered system. Until last year, only Level 3 offenders, defined as the most likely to re-offend, were listed in the state’s registry. Since July, Level 2 offenders are listed as well.

BKW Superintendent Steven Schrade sent home a notice about McIntyre to parents and guardians of its elementary students last week. The notice was distributed to elementary classrooms, because the victim was of elementary-school age, Schrade told The Enterprise this week.

The district was not notified of the sex offender by official channels.

Normally notified of registered sex offenders by the Albany County Sheriff’s Department, the district received the information about McIntyre from Altamont Elementary School Principal Peter Brabant, said Schrade.

"A parent told me that a parent told her," Brabant told The Enterprise this week. "Rumors fly through here quickly," he said. "I went on-line at the registry".Some information came up," Brabant said, adding McIntyre’s picture did not come up. Brabant said that he then got in touch with his district’s transportation department and learned that Witter Road is not in the Guilderland School District but is in the BKW School District.

Brabant said he then called the BKW superintendent.

McIntyre is listed in the state Criminal Justice Department’s registry as having an Altamont address — 328 Witter Road, Apartment B. However, Witter Road is in the nearby town of Knox, although its mail comes through the Altamont Post Office.

Knox Town Supervisor Michael Hammond wasn’t aware McIntyre lived in the town. Hammond told The Enterprise this week that he isn’t aware of any sex offenders within the town, that he isn’t contacted through any official notification process, and that the town does not have a policy to notify its residents of sex offenders once they reside within the town’s limits.

McIntyre, according to the state’s website, is 19 years old; white; with blond hair and blue eyes; stands 5 feet, 7 inches tall; and weighs 190 pounds.

He was arrested by the Cohoes City Police Department, and convicted last November of first-degree attempted sexual abuse, the site says. The victim was an 8-year-old female, according to the registry. McIntyre had "actual contact" with a "non-stranger," did not use force or a weapon, nor were computers or pornography involved, the registry says. McIntyre was sentenced to 10 years of probation, ending on Jan. 11, 2017, supervised by Albany County Probation, it says.

McIntyre could not be reached for comment.


One concerned BKW parent, whose children are 16 and 18 years old, called The Enterprise this week saying, "My children are scared to death, especially my daughter. You hear so much on the news about these sex offenders."

"Everyone up here ought to be notified," she said of Hilltown residents, adding that she thinks sex offenders should be kept under closer watch. The mother said sex offenders should wear electronic ankle bracelets, letting law enforcement know where they are at all times. She also said sex offenders should be put under house arrest, and their homes patrolled regularly by local law enforcement. "Otherwise, it’s going to keep happening," she said.

"You hear about kids missing here, and kids missing there, and then, when you hear of one living in your hometown, you get nervous," she said.

"It works both ways," said Schrade of parent reaction to the notification. The district, he said, could be criticized for being too cautious if it releases the information; on the other hand, if the district didn’t release information, it could be criticized for not informing parents.

Since releasing the notice, Schrade said, he hasn’t been contacted by parents. Also, Schrade said, he didn’t think it should be the district’s responsibility to notify residents.

"I think it’s the job of law enforcement, but they leave it to us," Schrade said.

New York’s version of Megan’s Law, passed in 1996, says law enforcement agencies may disseminate relevant information to any entity with a vulnerable population; the town board in Guilderland listed itself as "a vulnerable entity" so it would be informed of sex offenders living in town.

Senior Investigator Ron Bates with the Albany County Sheriff’s Department told The Enterprise this week that the sheriff’s department is notified of sex offenders by the state’s Department of Criminal Justice. Sex offenders, he said, are required to notify their parole officer within 10 days of moving.

The sheriff’s department, Bates said, contacts schools, and has lists of day cares and town halls. The department, he said, is also notified when sex offenders move out of the district; the procedure, he said, is "the reverse" of the initial notification, with the Department of Criminal Justice contacting them when they have been informed when an offender changes their residence.
Bates recommended concerned residents visit criminal justice’s website. "There’s a wealth of information there," he said.

In July of 2003, BKW was informed of six sex offenders living in the district. "I don’t think we have that many now," said Schrade, adding that he spoke with the resource officer, a policeman stationed at the school, who informed him that two or three of the offenders have left the district.

"As a precautionary measure, we suggest that you talk with your children and remind them to follow these basic safety rules," the notice says. "Be cautious of strangers, keep a safe distance from cars, stay away from a car when a stranger is asking for information, stay in groups and do not walk alone, and report any unusual events to your parents and the school."

Building principals and building and transportation staff are "aware of this individual," the notice says.

The notice also lists the New York State Registered Sexual Offender website and phone number.

A directory of Level 2 and Level 3 offenders is available at local law enforcement agencies. A registry can also be accessed by phone at 1-800-262-3257, or on-line at www.criminaljustice.state.ny.us. The registry is maintained by the state’s Department of Criminal Justice.

Winter’s cold shadow cast on R’ville groundhog celebration

By Tyler Schuling

RENSSELAERVILLE — On Saturday, winter enthusiasts shoveled snow from portions of Lincoln Pond, transforming it into a skating rink. Young men used it as a hockey arena, shooting slap shots down the ice.

At the nearby porch of the Eldridge Research Center, children, dressed in layers of clothing, took turns sledding down the snow-covered steps.

An abandoned auger stuck part way into the ice, a testament that winter, which until recently had been unseasonably warm, was in full swing.

Those on hand for the annual Groundhog Day festivities were gearing up for the cold months, perfecting their sports, because, according to the furry, mystical prophet, the groundhog, a long winter lies ahead.

The Groundhog Day Carnival, held at the Eldridge Research Center on the Edmund Niles Huyck Preserve, has been a long-standing event where attendees enjoy winter recreation, learn about rehabilitating wildlife, and venture in the snow-laden trails on the heavily-forested land.

"It’s more for community relations," said Education Coordinator Chris Schiralli. Schiralli, who has been on the preserve’s staff for three years, estimated the annual event was started 15 to 20 years ago. The carnival was jumpstarted by the preserve’s former director, Shiralli said, as a way to build relationships between the community and the not-for-profit research and biological center.

The preserve, which has 2,000 acres, he said, covers "a large chunk" of the town.

On Saturday, the preserve took donations, but the event was free to the public. Schiralli, in his first year as coordinator of the carnival, led guided hikes on the property.

Inside the Eldridge Research Center, youngsters hid from the cold and sipped from their cups of hot chocolate. On the top floor of the building, Kelly Martin, president of the New York State Wildlife Rehabilitation Council, and Michele Segerberg, a volunteer wildlife rehabilitator, gave a wildlife seminar, stressing the importance of preserving wild animals and their natural habitats.

"We have to think about the consequences of our actions and how our actions affect other things," said Martin.

Roswell Eldridge, M.D., trustee and honorary director of the preserve, also stressed preservation. Eldridge displayed some of the many Audubon prints in his collection, insisting lovers of John James Audubon’s artwork consider purchasing one of his prints instead of buying one from a "cannibalized" Octavo volume.

The Octavos are the seven-volume sets of The Birds of America, and the three-volume Quadrupeds of North America, which contain Audubon’s hand-colored prints as well as the famous painter’s written descriptions of the birds he observed.

The prints have been torn out of the Octavos and sold on eBay. Eldridge had voiced his concerns about the damaged Octavo sets earlier, in November, at the Rensselaerville Institute’s world premiere of the Public Broadcasting System’s John James Audubon: Drawn From Nature.

"I’m trying to demonstrate to these dealers to keep these intact," said Eldridge, adding that he has 655 Audubon prints and will be traveling to Charleston, N.C. in May.

"We’re taking this message to Charleston," he said, lamenting the marred Octavos. "They’re torn, so they’re destroyed," Eldridge said.

Fourteen of Eldridge’s Audubon owl prints are on sale at the Palmer House Café, located in the Rensselaerville hamlet.


Before a group of youngsters and adults, Martin and Segerberg, who care for sick, injured, and orphaned animals, lectured on the relationship between human beings and wildlife.

The pair regularly works together, both in the field and during wildlife presentations and seminars. They showed a slideshow of animals in the wild — birds, raccoons, turtles, ducks, deer, and bald eagles among them. Photographs of animals flashed upon a screen, accompanied by a folksong repeating, "My friend, you will be wild again."

The duo often addressed the younger audience members, some of whom they have taught.

As they removed animals from their cages, showing the crowd rehabilitated hawks, owls, and a woodchuck, inquisitive children peppered them with questions. Martin and Segerberg have cared for many of the animals for years.

Segerberg said the hawk she handled had a "human imprint," adding that the hawk could no longer survive in the wilderness.
"His head got whacked pretty hard," Martin said of the woodchuck, adding that he was hit by a car and now can only walk a few steps before falling over.

Woodchucks, Martin said, "can give you a nasty bite." Martin said she had seen a woodchuck in a 45-minute struggle with a bobcat, and the groundhog prevailed.

"He wouldn’t know how to survive on his own," Sederberg said of the kestrel hawk she held. Kestrels are the smallest birds in the falcon family, she said.

"They hunt during the day, and they have very, very good eyesight," Martin added. "They like those wide open spaces," Martin said of the hawks’ nesting habits.

"What would happen to an animal to need our help"" Martin asked the children in the audience, explaining some of the many ways animals are injured.

Red-tailed hawks, she said, often nest on the ground, and, when the grass is mowed, their nests may be destroyed. If there are any young in the nests, they can be killed.

Birds, she said, can suffer from "secondary poisoning" by eating a poisoned animal, such as a rat or a mouse; birds also suffer broken wings by flying into windows or when hit by cars.

Martin warned the children, informing them that animals may have rabies, and she stressed the importance of getting an adult after discovering an injured animal.

"Your health and safety is our number one concern," said Martin, adding that it’s not easy to identify "little pink birds," and it’s difficult to resist them since they’re cute and small.

"It’s not our duty to tame them," Martin told the children.

Miller says curve unmarked
Déjà vu: Death haunts wounded biker

By Melissa Hale-Spencer

KNOX — A man died this past fall as he was riding his motorcycle around the curve on Bozenkill Road just before West Wind Road.

Frederick LaPlante, 47, of Altamont was killed on Oct. 21 after his 2007 Honda skidded across the other lane and struck a guardrail. He and his motorcycle came to rest in a ditch on the south side of the guardrail along the rural county road.

"It’s like looking in the mirror; it’s the same exact accident," said Donald Miller last month as he looked at LaPlante’s accident report, filled out by the Albany County Sheriff’s Department.

Miller had crashed a year earlier on the same curve. He had suffered a compound fracture to his left leg as well as severe sprains and broken toes in his right foot, but he survived. He had come to The Enterprise because he was concerned the curve was not properly marked.

The Enterprise obtained the report on LaPlante’s accident through a Freedom of Information Law request to the sheriff’s department. No one in LaPlante’s family could be reached for comment.

According to Newcomer-Cannon funeral home in Colonie, where his funeral was held on Oct. 25, LaPlante worked for Benchemark Printing in Schenectady.

The sheriff’s report, largely through a series of numbers keyed to responses, tells the story of LaPlante’s death this way:

The accident occurred at 5:15 on a cloudy Saturday evening. It was dark on the unlit, dry road on Oct. 21.

LaPlante, who was wearing a helmet, was ejected from his motorcycle. He was unconscious and bleeding severely when the Altamont ambulance transported him from the scene.

The only "apparent contributing factor" listed on the accident report is driver inexperience; there is no mention of drugs or alcohol, nor of unsafe speed or equipment failure.

There is also no mention of the turn being improperly marked.

Kerri Battle, spokeswoman for Albany County, yesterday returned calls The Enterprise had made to Commissioner of Public Works Michael Franchini about the signage on the curve.

The curve is now marked in both directions with signs that have two yellow placards on a single post. The top diamond-shaped placard has a black mark, indicating a curve. Below that is a smaller placard with a speed of 30 posted.

For the sign that a motorcyclist would see heading west on Bozenkill Road, as Miller and LaPlante were, the pavement on the road’s shoulder is marked, indicating where the sign should be placed.

"The County Department of Public Works moved that sign 100 feet forward," said Battle. "It was moved in early November, 2006." That date was after the Oct. 21 fatality, but Battle said she was unaware of any relationship between moving the sign and the death.

"There was a speed advisory sign previously," she said, referring to the 30-mile-per-hour marker. She did not know when that was posted but said it had been there at least since November of 2001, when an inventory was taken.

At the time of Miller’s Nov. 3, 2005 accident, the curve did not have a speed sign, he said. Motorcyclists, he said, count on those signs.

Over the years, as Miller has taught friends how to ride, he lectures them to read every sign; if a maximum speed is posted, they should follow that limit, he tells them.

"If the speed limit isn’t posted, you can assume what you were going into the turn, you can go through the turn at," said Miller.

"I know for a fact the signs weren’t up when he crashed," Miller said of LaPlante’s Oct. 21 accident. "He was going the same way I was and his bike ended up in the same spot."

The Enterprise submitted a Freedom of Information Law request to the state’s Department of Transportation, asking for data on accidents on Bozenkill Road in Knox within a quarter mile of its intersection with West Wind Road. Four accidents were reported:

— On July 28, 1996. At 9 a.m., 42-year-old motorcyclist was injured when, while heading south, he collided with a sign post. It was daylight, the weather was clear, and the road was dry. The accident was attributed to "driver inexperience." No ticket was issued;

— On Oct. 7, 1999, at 8 a.m., a car, heading west, driven by a 45-year-old overturned in daylight on a dry road, causing injury, and landed in a ditch. Alcohol was involved and a citation was issued; and

— On that same day, at 1 p.m., a 17-year-old driver was injured when his or her vehicle, also heading west, ended up in a ditch. The weather was still clear and the road was dry. An apparent factor was listed as "driver inexperience" and no tickets were issued.

The fourth accident, which occurred on Feb. 27, 1991, is described only as "non-reportable"; no details are given.

Neither Miller’s Nov. 3, 2005 accident nor LaPlante’s Oct. 21, 2006 accident were listed by the DOT.

Lori A. Abeel, records access officer for Region One of the DOT, said accidents handled by the State Police are entered in the system right away while those handled by local police take time. The state’s Department of Motor Vehicles, she said, "has been trying to get caught up with back records."

On a recent visit to the site of his crash, Miller said, as he surveyed the scene, now lightly covered with snow, "There are all kinds of reflectors and headlights from cars along the guardrail....There’s been a lot of accidents here."

Survivor’s story

Miller, who is 52, has been riding motorcycles since he was a kid, growing up in Slingerlands. He started on a friend’s dirt bike.

He considers riding to be "therapy."

"You get all the smells. Somebody’s mowing their lawn and you can smell the grass. You can smell the lilacs in the spring," he said. "All the sensations are heightened. You breathe the fresh air, the sun’s in your face, the wind’s at your back."

Most of the time, his wife, Debora, rides with him. "When I met my wife, back when we were 18, the first thing I did was take her on a motorcycle ride," he said.

She’s ridden with him for 34 years and hundreds of thousands of miles; they average about 15,000 miles a year.

Nov. 3, 2005, Miller recalled, was "one of those beautiful fall days." When Miller got home from his work as a truck mechanic, he suggested to his wife they go for a ride.

She had dinner on the stove in their New Salem home. "It’s a good thing we turned it off," he said; he wasn’t home for weeks.

The Millers hopped on their 2003 Harley Dresser, which they had bought on their 25th wedding anniversary. "We had almost 46,000 miles on her," recalled Miller.

They intended to take a 50- or 60-mile loop and headed for Altamont from their home in New Scotland. They took a route from Altamont they weren’t familiar with, on Bozenkill Road. "We thought we’d try something different. I’d only been on it a few times, and not for a long while," said Miller.

There had been a storm earlier that fall and there was salt and gravel on the road, he said.

"Gravel," said Miller, "is like ball bearings when you’re on a motorcycle."

As he headed west into the curve on Bozenkill Road before it intersects with West Wind Road, said Miller, "I was actually thinking about the next turn, which I knew was really sharp."

The sign before the curve, at that time, was just the yellow diamond, with the curve shape marked in black; there was no speed sign, Miller said. Bozenkill Road is posted at 55 miles per hour.

When he hit the gravel, Miller said, "I lay the bike down as low as I could get it. I realized I wasn’t going to make it....I kicked my foot to get more throttle and pull out of the turn. I realized we were too fast and it was too slippery. I lay the bike down and let it slide.

"I knew I was going to crash. I felt terrible, hearing everything scraping and grinding."

His thoughts went to his wife, riding behind him. "I had fallen as a kid, going too fast. She’d never been down...I hit the guardrail...I don’t remember the impact.

"The next thing I knew, I was lying under the guardrail. Deb was up the street...I called to her. She was sitting in the road. She walked back to me. I knew my leg was broken. I scooted under the guardrail," he said, for protection from passing cars.

People in a nearby house came out, covered him with a blanket, and called for help. He was in pain and shock.

"I actually thought I was having a nightmare...I kept telling myself to wake up."

He was relieved his wife was all right. She was thrown clear and just had "a little road rash" on her hip, a place not covered by her leathers, he said.

The Altamont Rescue Squad arrived and Richard Perras, a fellow biker, discovered, as he cut off Miller’s left boot, that the broken bone was protruding through his leg.

Miller was taken to the trauma unit of Albany Medical Center, where he was treated for a compound fracture to his left leg. On his right side, he had broken all of his toes and had severe sprains in his foot and ankle.

He was in the hospital for two weeks and out of work for six months. He still has pain.

"I still have the plate and screws," he said. "I feel it every second of the day. I can live with it. I’m really thankful I can walk."

Miller was eager to return to his old life. He went back to work ahead of schedule, just three weeks off of his crutches.

He also wanted to get back on a motorcycle, he said, describing riding as his "passion." He said, with a shrug, "It’s in my blood."

His old motorcycle was "totaled," he said

He found a Harley-Davidson he loved on-line. "I found the bike of my dreams on eBay," Miller recalled. "I wanted to ride back to all the doctors that had taken care of me."

He flew out to southern Ohio to purchase the bike and rode it 670 miles home. On the plane ride out, he felt some doubt. He hadn’t been off his crutches long and he hadn’t been on a bike. But he made it home on his new Harley, and then rode it to work and to the doctors’ offices.

Miller had been surprised when, after his accident, he had received two tickets in the mail — one was for "speed not reasonable" and the other was for crossing the double yellow lines and failing to keep right.

When he talked later to the sheriff’s deputy about speeding, Miller recalled, "The officer said, ‘You should know better.’ How am I supposed to know if the speed wasn’t marked"" asked Miller.

As for the double yellow lines, he said, "Of course I failed to keep right. I was sliding on my side with a motorcycle."

Miller wrote a letter to the town judge in Knox, where he was to appear in court. He wrote in part, "This turn should be marked 40 mph max, and to legally do 55 mph around it with gravel and debris in the turn just doesn’t work...My speed was reasonable if the road was clean, which I couldn’t see until it was too late."

He also wrote that he hadn’t had any kind of a ticket in at least 25 years and that he would lose his job if he were convicted since he has a Class A commercial driver’s license.

He was pleased with the way the court handled it; Miller ended up plea bargaining to a non-moving violation — a ticket for parking on the pavement. He paid a fine and had no marks on his license.

Miller made an anniversary run this past Nov. 3, completing the ride he wasn’t able to finish a year earlier. "My wife wouldn’t go...but I had to do it. I went really slow around the turn."

Miller and his wife still love to take motorcycle trips, he said; they visited their daughter, a nursing student in Phoenix, and rode the Grand Canyon. But, said Miller, "I’m not like an 18-year-old anymore. I don’t challenge the turns."

When he heard about LaPlante’s accident, Miller said, "I felt terrible...I wanted to call his family and say I had alerted the town....The poor guy died and I know the road wasn’t marked."

Cass closed"
Facily’s future uncertain

By Tyler Schuling

RENSSELAERVILLE — Cass Residential Center’s future remains uncertain as it sits empty.

In the wake of seven escapes and a rape, a petition signed by nearly 500 area residents called for the state-run juvenile detention center to close. Since the most recent escape, in November, many town residents have asserted that Cass residents have become increasingly violent.

State Assemblyman John McEneny said this week that the residents are not more violent, that Cass pumps $2 million annually into the local economy, and that he doesn’t know if the facility will be closed temporarily, for the long-term, or permanently.

"As a legislator, I’m concerned," said McEneny. The new governor, Eliot Spitzer, he said, "wants to cut down on prisons." McEneny wonders if the state is also considering youth detention facilities, and "examining them from a policy and cost point of view."

"I’m wondering if the state is thinking about phasing it out totally," McEneny said of Cass. "Right now, I have more questions than answers," he said.

He also said that Cass representatives are expected to attend the town board’s meeting tonight (Thursday).

"They wanted to be put on the agenda, so we did that," Supervisor Jost Nickelsberg told The Enterprise last night.

The state’s Office of Children and Family Service deputy commissioner, Ed Ausborn, and Cass’s director, Tim Kelso, will attend, he said.

"The town and all the citizens are going to have a period of time to ask questions," he said. "It’s going to be pretty passionate," Nickelsberg said, adding, "These guys have infinite arrogance."

"It’s a big issue for the town," said Nickelsberg.

McEneny, Senator Neil Breslin, and Albany County Legislator Alexander (Sandy) Gordon met with Cass officials at the end of January at the juvenile detention center, looking for ways to bring the community and the facility together.

"They seemed very receptive," McEneny said of Cass officials’ reaction to the community’s concerns.

Cass officials were invited to Rensselaerville’s January Town Board meeting, and none showed.

Asked what was discussed at the January Cass meeting, McEneny said, "We talked about security. We talked about the peripheral fence." Cass, he said, had already spent "many thousands of dollars" on additional peripheral lighting, surveillance cameras, and locks.

"I think it was a mistake not to have sent a representative," McEneny said, adding that, had a representative been sent by Cass officials, misconceptions could have been cleared up about whether or not the facility’s residents had become increasingly violent offenders.

"It’s an easy answer, and the answer is no," said McEneny.

In mid-January, OCFS spokesman, Brian Marchetti, told The Enterprise that the center, which holds up to 25 males, had nine or 10 residents.

During the meeting with Cass officials, McEneny said, there were five residents. He took a tour of the facility and spoke with several of the youths in the cafeteria.

"None of them had a record of violence," he said, adding that he spoke with one resident who had just successfully completed his General Equivalency Diploma and was about to return to his hometown.

Fence considered

Cass Residential is currently without a fence. According to a Jan. 5 letter addressed to Kathleen Hallenbeck, Rensselaerville’s town clerk, from Ausborn, ""We are recommending a perimeter security fence. Currently, the fence is in design."

"A fence is under consideration," Marchetti confirmed this week, adding that there is no final decision, and OCFS is taking the concerns of the community into consideration.

McEneny said that, following the meeting with Cass officials, he attended Governor Eliot Spitzer’s presentation on Jan. 31 in Albany, where the new governor rolled out his $120.6 billion budget proposal in which he said he would be cutting down on the number of correctional facilities.

"After that, we heard that the residents of Cass were removed," said McEneny.

"Some of the benefits of Cass are that they receive about $300,000 in federal money," he said, adding that the money is only awarded to the facility if it holds 25 residents or fewer and doesn’t erect a peripheral fence.

"If the fence is erected they will lose the annual federal aid," he said. "The day it goes up over 25 residents, or a fence is put up, they will no longer be eligible for that money," he said.

Cass mission

At this time, there is no plan to change the security level, Marchetti told The Enterprise Monday. While Cass is empty, Marchetti said, OCFS is designating the kind of youth it will hold and modifying its program design.

According to the Cass Residential Center’s program description, Cass provides group and individual counseling on a regularly-scheduled basis. Cass’s goal is to help its residents target their risk areas and develop the strength and skills to identify and avoid their risk areas in the future.

The facility includes a dormitory, a dining hall and kitchen, and an administrative and education complex. The center has an education coordinator, two full-time teachers, and a part-time aide. Cass also offers two vocational programs affiliated with Cornell University Cooperative Education, one in food preparation and the other in horticulture, and it offers recreational activities from flag football to board games.

Each resident, the description says, is required to keep a 60-day Release-Ready Journal.

Marchetti said last month that the facility’s residents stay a minimum of four weeks. The release of a resident, he said, depends on his treatment needs.

The facility hires 33 employees, some of them part-time, McEneny said, adding that the area has few jobs. Two-thirds of the camp’s employees live within eight miles, he said.

"At this time," Marchetti said, "there are no plans for staff changes."

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