Local News Articles

Commission Backs Road Supervisor on Maintaining Gated County Roads

October 24, 2012
Dwayne Page
Kenny Edge
Three landowners have property beyond this gate on Givans Hollow Rd near Liberty
State hot mixed dead end road with guardrails on private property at Snow Hill

For the last couple of years, Road Supervisor Kenny Edge has been written up by state auditors for maintaining roads to private cemeteries and for allowing property owners to have gates across county roads without authorization by the county commission.

On Monday night, Edge came before the county commissioners asking them to give him this authority, and they did on a unanimous vote. Edge said he sees nothing wrong with him working a road to a cemetery, or allowing gated county roads where they currently exist as long as property owners don't try to block others from passage.

State auditors, in the 2011 findings on DeKalb County, recommended that "The Highway Department should not maintain private roads to cemeteries unless authorized by the county commission or a private act approved by the state legislature"

Auditors further recommended that "The road supervisor should ensure the removal of any obstruction from the county's roads unless the DeKalb County Commission approves the gate across a third or fourth class county road as provided by Section 54-10-108,TCA. The road supervisor should determine if maintaining roads on gated property prejudices the rights of other taxpayers by denying them access to assets constructed with public funds"

"The concern was in the state law that says that I am not supposed to work anything but official county roads," said Edge. " They have been writing me up for the last two years and complaining about me working roads going to cemeteries and working any county road that had a gate across it. I told them (state auditors) that it has always been done. They (state auditors) said show me where the county commission has approved it to be done. Nobody could find no record of it so I brought it up to get it approved to where the county commission could okay me to maintain roads through cemeteries and maintain county roads that have gates," he said

In many cases, Edge said the gates are located on county roads that dead end with only a few landowners beyond those gates, and most are unlocked. "We've got gates all over this county and there have been gates all over this county for years and it even shows them on the county map. They're on dead end roads where there may be one or two landowners who just want to protect their property from somebody coming in there stealing everything they've got when they're gone," said Edge. "Some of them (county roads) don't have any homes on them. Its just farm land but the roads are officially county roads. They are named and are on the (county road) map. A few of them (gates) are locked but most are just (unlocked) gates across the road. They (state auditors) just don't want a gate across a road," he said.

Edge said its frustrating how that the state has such a problem with him on these issues, but sees nothing wrong with the state putting down hot mix and installing guardrails to a dead end on private property in the midst of a cedar thicket on the side of a hill along side a state highway (referring to property at the foot of Snow Hill on Highway 70). "The state of Tennessee hot mixed a road at the foot of Snow Hill going to that grave yard and they've got gates across it," he said.

Edge said he has the right to take down a gate across a county road if someone tries to prevent other landowners beyond the gates from passing through. " I've got a right to take the locks off of the gates or take the gates down and I've done it. If one person tries to lock another person out and two people own the property behind the gate, one won't let the other one have access to it, I've got the right to remove it," he said.

In the 2011 report, State auditors found that "a property owner erected a gate on a county road". The finding stated that " During 2006, the Highway Department paved 2.1 miles of a county road serving six property owners; however, .6 miles of the county road serves a single residence that includes a circle drive. The public has no access to this portion of the paved county road because the property owner erected a gate across the roadway. The road supervisor advised us that the Highway Department maintains the portion of the county road beyond the gate. Section 54-10-110, Tennessee Code Annotated (TCA) prohibits any obstruction, such as gates, on public roads, and Section 54-7-201, TCA authorizes the road supervisor to remove any fence, gate, or other obstruction from public roads and rights-of-way. However, Section 54-10-108, TCA empowers county legislative bodies (county commissions) to permit the erection of gates across public roads of the third and fourth class when in their judgment it will be manifestly to the advantage of the applicant and not materially to the prejudice of the public. The county could not provide us a County Commission resolution permitting the erection of a gate across the county road."

Concerning the finding that "The Highway Department performed work and provided materials on roads to private cemeteries without authorization", state auditors found that "The Highway Department maintained private roads to cemeteries using county employees, materials, and equipment. The road supervisor advised that it has always been the Highway Department's practice to maintain private roads to cemeteries as needed. Section 46-2-107, Tennessee Code Annotated, authorizes counties to expend public or private funds to maintain dilapidated or abandoned cemeteries, including the roads, if approved by a majority vote of the county legislative body (county commission). Furthermore, the Tennessee Constitution gives the state legislature permission to pass a private act that would allow a local government to spend public funds on private roads leading to cemeteries, if it determines that convenient public access to such cemeteries serves the public health, safety, or general welfare of the community. Officials could not provide us a private act or County Commission resolution allowing the Highway Department to maintain private roads leading to cemeteries."

Budget Committee to Discuss Possible Wage Scale for County Employees

October 23, 2012
Dwayne Page

County Mayor Mike Foster has called for a meeting of the budget committee and department heads hoping that a solution can be reached over what type of wage scale, if any, should be established for county general employees.

No pay raises were included in this year's budget, other than for employees due a raise in a four tiered salary pay scale for the Sheriff's Department which was implemented last year to bring their salaries in line with other law enforcement agencies in the area.

M2U00863 from dwayne page on Vimeo.
County officials, both in the courthouse and at the county complex, support step increases for their employees based on years of service, provided it can be funded without a property tax hike. But they have disagreed with Foster on his idea of using job classification as a criteria. Their belief has been that job titles would be divisive and kill morale and unity of county offices.

Foster, during Monday night's county commission meeting, said he still believes job classification should be a consideration in whatever wage scale is established. "It was our intent that we do that (wage scale) for all (county) departments. So far we have not been able to do that. But I think we're at the point where we need to do something one way or the other. I'm open for suggestions as to what you (county commission) think we need to do and what committees need to be involved and where we go from here," said Foster.

"It is my suggestion that we set up some meetings with department heads and the budget committee and see if we can't figure out where go," said Foster. "We've got two people (county employees) that have worked less than a year, seven people that have worked one year, three people that have worked two years, five people who have worked three years, seven have worked four years, nine have worked five years, six employees have worked six years, one has worked seven years, two have worked eight years, one has worked nine years, two have worked eleven years, three have worked twelve years, two have worked thirteen years, one has worked fourteen years, and one has worked sixteen years. Under our current way of doing things, if you're in the same job classification, if you work one year or fourteen years you make exactly the same penny. I think that's wrong. I think we're at a point where the budget committee needs to decide what they're going to do, up or down. Let's move on or do nothing, whichever its going to be," said Foster.

"I think its prudent to meet with the department heads," said second district commissioner Jack Barton. "Being on the budget committee, I want the employees to feel comfortable coming to that meeting as well and speak out. There may be some folks in the county that may disagree one way or the other and they may not be comfortable speaking in front of who they work for but I want to get all opinions," said Barton.

No date has yet been set for that budget committee meeting. Any recommendation for action by the budget committee would be sent to the full county commission for final approval.

Sarah Marie Smith Campaign Signs Stolen, Reward Offered for Conviction of Persons Responsible

October 23, 2012
Sarah Marie Smith

Over the week-end, over 100 campaign signs belonging to Sarah Marie Smith, candidate for Tennessee House of Representatives in District 40, were stolen. The theft apparently took place Friday and Saturday nights. The signs were stolen along major roadways in all four counties of the district and from private yards while people were away from their homes.

Reports are still coming in from DeKalb, Smith, Trousdale, and Sumner counties of signs that have been stolen. The total loss could exceed $2,000.00.

"Volunteers in all four counties have spent hours of their time putting up these signs for my campaign. I don't understand why anyone would do something so destructive," said Ms. Smith. "We've been able to replace a few of them. But there is not enough time or manpower to print more signs and put these out again before the election is over. My whole campaign has been built on integrity. We need more of this in the State Legislature. Stealing someone's campaign signs is far from that. It's really sad that someone feels a need to stoop to this low."

It's against the law to destroy or steal campaign signs. The campaign is offering a $1,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons who stole these signs. Anyone with information about this should call (615) 735-1874 or contact their county sheriff or local police.

Husband and Wife Charged with Burglary and Theft

October 22, 2012
Dwayne Page
Berl William Doop
Ismay Tean Doop
Randy Mitchell Hobbs
Joseph Huff Ray

A husband and wife have been arrested in a recent burglary and theft at a residence on Campbell Road.

32 year old Berl William Doop and 30 year old Ismay Tean Doop of East Main Street, Smithville are each charged with aggravated burglary and theft of property over $1,000. Bond for each is $10,000 and they will be in court on October 25. They were arrested on Monday, October 15.

Sheriff Patrick Ray said that on Tuesday, October 9 the Doop's allegedly broke into a home on Campbell Road by kicking in the front door. They allegedly stole a Honda transmission, a battery, a push mower, tire and rim, indoor heaters, a 13 inch TV, a microwave, and several other items all valued at more than $1,000. The case was investigated by criminal detectives of the sheriff's department.

28 year old Jimmy R. Culwell, Jr. is cited for simple possession of a schedule II controlled substance (morphine), simple possession of a schedule IV drug (valium), and driving on a suspended license. He will be in court November 1

Sheriff Ray said Culwell was stopped at the intersection of Miller and Robinson Road in Smithville for driving on the wrong side of the roadway. The officer searched Culwell and found a small pill container in his right pocket which held three morphine pills, three valium, and one suboxone. Culwell could not produce a prescription for the pills. The citations were issued by a drug detective of the sheriff's department.

54 year old Randy Mitchell Hobbs of Pea Ridge Road, Liberty is charged with possession of a schedule VI controlled substance (marijuana) for sale and delivery and unlawful possession of a weapon by a felon. His bond is $35,000 and he will be in court on November 15.

Sheriff Ray said that on Wednesday, October 17, a sheriff's department drug detective assisted a probation official in checking on Hobbs at his residence. Hobbs let the officers into his home and they performed a search. Found in a living room dresser drawer were several buds of marijuana which weighed over five ounces. A search of Hobbs' person turned up a plastic bag containing marijuana. More than twenty marijuana seeds were found on a living room desk. Meanwhile, in a bedroom closet, officers found a 12 gauge shotgun. Seven- twelve gauge shotgun shells were also found in the living room. Hobbs was arrested and transported to the jail for booking.

30 year old Joseph Huff Ray of McMinnville Highway, Smithville is charged with theft of property over $500. Ray's bond is $3,500 and his court date is November 1. He was arrested on October 17.

Ray allegedly stole from property on the Old Snow Hill Road, an eight foot axle and a front end attachment for a Bobcat valued at more than $500. The theft occurred on Monday, October 15. The stolen items, which have since been recovered, were sold to a metal recycling business. The case was investigated by a criminal detective of the sheriff's department.

18 year old Taylor Nicole Hensley of Floyd Drive, Smithville is charged with public intoxication. She was also cited for underage consumption. Her bond is $1,500 and she will be in court November 15.

Sheriff Ray said that on Wednesday, October 17, the sheriff's department received a call of an intoxicated person at Jewel's Market on Highway 56. The officer spoke with Hensley, who appeared to be intoxicated. She had a strong odor of an alcoholic beverage on her person and she was very unsteady on her feet. Hensley admitted to drinking moonshine. She was arrested for the safety of herself and the public and brought to the DeKalb County Jail for booking.

39 year old Jeffery Lynn Sanders of Lincoln Street, Smithville is cited for driving on a suspended license. His court date is November 28

Sheriff Ray said that on Friday, October 19, a drug detective of the sheriff's department saw Sanders in a vehicle with a headlight out. A computer check of his drivers license revealed that they were suspended for failure to satisfy a citation.

27 year old Jace Brandon Sparkman of Pace Street, McMinnville is charged with driving under the influence. He was also cited for violation of the financial responsibility (no insurance), violation of implied consent, and driving on the wrong side of the roadway. His bond is $1,500 and he will be in court November 15.

Sheriff Ray said that on Saturday, October 20, an officer stopped Sparkman's vehicle on Highway 56 for crossing the fog line several times. He had an odor of an alcoholic beverage on his person and he was unsteady on his feet. He refused to submit to any field sobriety tasks and blood test. He was arrested for DUI and brought to the jail for booking.

Smithville Police Issue Shoplifting Citations and Make DUI Arrest

October 22, 2012
Dwayne Page

The Smithville Police Department issued three citations for shoplifting and made a DUI arrest last week.

19 year old Heather Renee Anderson was cited for shoplifting at the Dollar General Store on Wednesday, October 17. Chief Randy Caplinger said that Anderson allegedly concealed items in her purse while shopping with the intent of depriving the store of the merchandise. Her court date is October 25

41 year old Dana Annette Kennedy was also cited for shoplifting at the Dollar General Store on October 17. The stolen items were recovered. Her court date is November 15.

35 year old Amy J. Lawson was arrested for DUI on Thursday, October 18. Chief Caplinger said Lawson was operating a motor vehicle and when making a turn, the back wheels dropped off the road. The arresting officer, having prior knowledge that her license were suspended, stopped Lawson. She had slurred speech, was unsteady on her feet, and her eyes were glazed. After submitting to field sobriety tasks, Lawson was arrested for DUI and cited for driving on a suspended license. Her bond is $2,500 and her court date is November 29.

38 year old Misty Dawn Bush was cited for shoplifting on Saturday, October 20. Bush was stopped by a Wal-Mart employee for taking items and concealing them in her purse with the intent of depriving the store of its merchandise. Her court date is November 15.

Motorcycle Rider Airlifted After Sunday Crash

October 22, 2012
Dwayne Page
Skid marks behind patrol car show where motorcycle struck guardrail
Jonathan Conaster's Motorcycle

A 25 year old Smithville man was airlifted from the scene of a motorcycle wreck Sunday on the Cookeville Highway near the scenic overlook just north of Hurricane Bridge.

The accident was reported shortly after 3:00 p.m.

Trooper Darrell Knowles of the Tennessee Highway Patrol told WJLE that Jonathan Conaster was operating a 2004 Kawasaki motorcycle north on Highway 56 when he failed to negotiate a curve, crossed into the emergency lane or right shoulder of the road and hit a guard rail. Conaster was thrown from the motorcycle onto the emergency lane. Conaster, who was wearing a helmet, suffered injuries to other parts of his body.

M2U00861 from dwayne page on Vimeo.

In addition to DeKalb EMS and the Sheriff's Department, members of the DeKalb County Volunteer Fire Department were also on the scene to help with traffic control and to set up the helicopter landing zone.

Gurley Airlifted After Fire Call on Adcock Cemetery Road

October 20, 2012
Dwayne Page
Firefighters set up fan to clear residence of smoke

One person was airlifted after a fire call on Adcock Cemetery Road late Friday night

Central dispatch received the call at 11:28 p.m.

Members of the Midway station of the DeKalb County Volunteer Fire Department quickly arrived on the scene at 511 Adcock Cemetery Road and brought the small grease fire under control. Fans were set up to clear the residence of smoke.

According to Assistant County Fire Chief Jeff Williams, Darnell Gurley was in the kitchen doing some cooking when grease in a container overheated. Gurley apparently grabbed the container and went outside with it, causing a burn to his right hand. He also reportedly slipped and fell after he got outside, hitting his head in the fall. He was treated at the scene by DeKalb EMS and then taken by ambulance to a helicopter landing zone on Midway Road, set up by the Short Mountain Highway Station of the county fire department. A small child was also reportedly in the home with Gurley at the time of the incident, but she was not injured. A neighbor came over to help take care of her.

Meanwhile, the Smithville Volunteer Fire Department was called out at 10:08 p.m. Thursday night to a garage fire at 610 West Main Street. A detached garage caught fire and was destroyed along with a vehicle inside the garage. No one was injured. The property reportedly belongs to Jamie Turner but is rented to Phil Boner.

In another incident, a child was airlifted Friday afternoon after being injured in an all terrain vehicle accident on private property at Bright Hill Road.

Over 2,700 Vote Early

October 20, 2012
Dwayne Page

The DeKalb County Election Commission is reporting that 2,782 voters have taken advantage of early voting with one day left

A total of 150 voted Wednesday. That's 141 in person and 9 by absentee.

The totals for the other days is as follows:
Wednesday, October 17:
251 (185 in person and 66 absentee)

Thursday, October 18:
322 (308 in person and 14 by absentee)

Friday, October 19:
213 (206 in person and 7 by absentee)

Saturday, October 20
150 (140 in person and 10 by absentee)

Monday, October 22
203 (200 in person and 3 by absentee)

Tuesday, October 23
197 (187 in person and 10 by absentee)

Wednesday, October 24
195 (190 in person and 5 by absentee)

Thursday, October 25
290 (264 in person and 26 by absentee)

Friday, October 26
211 (206 in person and 5 by absentee)

Saturday, October 27
192 (185 in person and 7 by absentee)

Monday, October 29
234 (220 in person and 14 by absentee)

Tuesday, October 30
174 (157 in person and 17 by absentee)

"Early voting is a flexible and convenient option for many voters," said Administrator of Election Dennis Stanley "Voters enjoy avoiding lines that sometimes form on Election Day."

Hours for early voting are Thursday from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.. Early voting ends Thursday, November 1. Election day is Tuesday, November 6.

DeKalb County voters may cast ballots for President of the United States, a U.S. Senator of Tennessee, U.S. Representative of the Sixth Congressional District, and State Representatives of the 40th & 46th districts. City of Smithville voters will also decide the outcome of a liquor referendum.

Joe Black Effort Asks County to Help Form Coalition to Address Issue of Abandoned Animals

October 19, 2012
Dwayne Page

Members of the Joe Black Effort met with County Mayor Mike Foster and the County Commission Thursday night at the county complex to address the issue of abandoned and abused animals.

Rene Stufano asked the commissioners to help form a coalition to deal with the problem on a county-wide basis. "From our standpoint it isn't Smithville's problem. It's a county problem," said Stufano. "I think its important to come up with some kind of agreement with the county, with the city of Smithville, with the city of Alexandria, and with Dowelltown, and Liberty. The way I see it right now, everything is being dumped on the Smithville pound, which is a little closet, disgusting building with nothing good to say about it. I really feel like DeKalb County can do better than that. The animals go there. They're fed. They can keep them (animals) two days and wait for them to be claimed and then be euthanized. That is not acceptable for me or for a lot of other people," said Stufano.


M2U00856 from dwayne page on Vimeo.

The Joe Black Effort is offering a temporary solution, according to Stufano, to have their volunteers at the dog pound to care for the animals and keep the area clean and safe until they can be moved out or someone adopts them. Stufano said all volunteers will sign a disclaimer holding no one responsible for any injury that may occur. "In the few months that we've been running, we have more than 50 members. We have 30 foster homes right now with animals in them. We're accommodating 100 animals," said Stufano. "We've been taking care of their medical needs. Dr. Burke, Dr. Wheeler, and Dr. Little are all working with us. We charge a little bit of an adoption fee. We're doing fundraisers so that we can pay our medical bills. Our goal is to have our own rescue. We'd like to get a no kill shelter. I am aware that there are times animals have to be euthanized. But its not appropriate for every animal. I would like to see us create a DeKalb Coalition for the Humane Treatment of Animals. Members of the coalition need to be the mayors, the commissioners, aldermen, the people who run all the cities and the county, and the veterinarians. The Joe Black Effort volunteers would like to offer a temporary solution. We would like to sign a waiver. (City attorney) Vester Parsley would write that up so that the county is not responsible. The city is not responsible. If something happens to the pound we're (Joe Black Effort) not responsible and to allow our volunteers to temporarily assist in the treatment of the animals that come into the pound. We are willing to take care of their medical needs and take them out and put them in the Joe Black program. If they need to be euthanized then we can have that done. A permanent solution would be to have a building and a real rescue. I think to have a real shelter, something nice and clean, have an adoption center, having the animals taken care of, would really uplift our county. I think the less animals we see on the streets, the better," said Stufano.

The county commissioners made no commitment Thursday night, other than to suggest a meeting of the county's agriculture/animal control committee to explore the issue further. County Mayor Foster advised the Joe Black Effort to continue working on obtaining its 501(c) 3 non-profit status and to be patient with the county, saying that the problem is not one that could not be solved overnight.

In an email Friday morning, Stufano wrote. "Last nights meeting went well. We had good representation, all three veterinarians were there. Basically we introduced the idea of a new rescue and also the idea that this is a county wide issue. The poor solution that is in place now is antiquated, inadequate and needs to be torched. We talked about a coalition and doing something as a county. The county has really dumped this issue on the city and rationalized it by saying the city has more of a problem because it has a denser population. As we all know animals are dumped all over the county so that argument doesn't hold water," she wrote.

The Joe Black Effort will host a community meeting Tuesday, Oct. 23rd at 6:00 p.m. at the county complex auditorium to give the public an opportunity to discuss solutions for the animals and to present the idea of a DeKalb County Coalition for the Humane Treatment of Animals. Everyone is invited to attend.

Changes Coming to Alexandria Post Office

October 18, 2012
Dwayne Page
Alexandria Post Office

In a move to cut costs, the U.S. Postal Service is looking to reduce hours of operation at the Alexandria Post Office within a few weeks. Meanwhile, three carriers, who will continue to serve Alexandria postal customers, are to be reassigned to work out of the Watertown Post Office as of November 3.


The postal service has scheduled a community meeting for Thursday, November 1 at 4:00 p.m. to discuss the proposals with the public at the Alexandria Post Office. "This whole plan is called the POST Plan," said David Walton, spokesman for the Tennessee District of the U.S. Postal Service in an interview with WJLE Thursday. "We're not looking to close this post office. We're looking to reduce the retail hours there within a month but we are going to be relocating the carriers on November 3. That is another cost savings. The post offices where we are holding community meetings first, those are post offices that have vacancies, meaning there is no current sitting postmaster there. Alexandria happens to be an office where we currently don't have a postmaster. That's why its one of the first to have a community meeting," said Walton.

The Alexandria Post Office is among 13,000 across the country targeted for cuts. "We are looking at about 13,000 rural post offices across the country," said Walton. "We are conducting community meetings over the next couple of years. This will go on through September 2014. Because the postal service gets no tax dollars, which a lot of people don't seem to realize, we have to do what we can to help our financial situation right now. Originally we had planned to close post offices but we got such a push back from communities. They did not want their post offices to close so we came up with a new strategy. It preserves our rural post offices but it also enables us to cut costs by reducing the number of hours of operation at those locations," he said.

Alexandria postal customers began receiving surveys in September outlining four different options for the Alexandria Post Office. Walton said the postal service wants input from the public before making a final decision. "Before we hold any community meetings, we send out a survey to customers two weeks prior. It gives them four choices on how they would like to proceed. We ask that customers fill out these surveys and send them back into us so that we can present the results of that survey at the community meeting. The survey that customers receive will give them four choices. One of the choices would be to keep the post office open but at reduced hours. Currently the Alexandria Post Office is open eight hours. We're looking to take that down to six hours of window service each weekday. Current Saturday window service hours and access to delivery receptacles would not change. Another option would be to discontinue service at that office altogether and provide customers with roadside mailbox delivery. A third option would be to close the office and have customers to get post office services from another nearby post office. The fourth option would be to close the post office and open a village post office, which is similar to a post office but its located within an existing business and would offer more of our popular products such as Forever stamps, pre-paid priority mail, post office boxes, and we would accept mail there as well. These are the four choices and whichever choice we get the most votes for that is the decision. That's how it will end up. If people want to keep their post office open but with reduced hours and at least sixty percent of the community members want that then that's the route we will go," said Walton.

"After the community meeting is held, one week later we will post the decision at the Alexandria post office facility and if it is to reduce the hours that would go into effect thirty days after that," said Walton. " The implementation at Alexandria would occur no sooner than January 12. Again, the reason we're having these community meetings is to get input from the people who use the post office. We're not just going to make these decisions. We want input from them because they are the ones that are our customers. They use the post office so we want them to have a say in it," he said.

"Another thing we're doing in Alexandria right now is something called Delivery Unit Optimization(DUO)," said Walton. "What that means is we will relocate our carriers to another office. There will be three employees who will move to Watertown. They will not be losing their jobs, they're just going to be working out of another location. Its more of a centralized hub. Our competitors, both Federal Express and UPS, they already have this concept in place. We're just following suit. It does really add up to a lot of cost savings. So say you had three or four offices and we took all those carriers out of those offices and relocated them in a centralized location, that saves us a considerable amount of money and fuel costs. So rather than our trucks having to go each individual office, they can just make one stop and then our carriers will deliver the mail the rest of the way. I know it worries people when we do a DUO because they think their post office is going to close but that's not the case. Again, I have to reiterate, the postal service doesn't get any tax dollars so its important that we watch our costs just like any other business or organization," said Walton.

In May, the postal service announced that daily retail hours of the Alexandria, Liberty, and Dowelltown Post Offices would eventually be reduced. The Smithville Post Office was not among those listed for reduced hours. No specific plans have yet been released for the Liberty and Dowelltown locations.


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