Looking Back at 2013

W look back at some of the headlines and photos that appeared in the pages of the Okanogan Valley Gazette-Tribune during 2013.

January

Skiers enjoy Sitzmark Ski Area over the Winter holiday.

Skiers enjoy Sitzmark Ski Area over the Winter holiday. Gary DeVon/staff photo

Sitzmark opens for skiers and snowboarders – The Sitzmark Ski Area is featured prominently on the front page in photographs as the ski hill had plenty of snow and was open in time for the Christmas holidays. No such luck in 2013.

NVH starts new tax credit program – In an effort to keep patients close to home and to thank local taxpayers for their support, North Valley Hospital debuted a new tax credit program beginning Jan. 1.
Smith chosen to replace Morton on Senate – John Smith, a Colville farmer was appointed to take the place of retired state Senator Bob Morton for the Seventh Legislative District. Smith was to later lose out to Brian Dansell in the November General Election.
No immediate solutions – The North Valley Hospital board approved the closing of the district’s Assisted Living Facility citing years of financial losses as the reason.
It just won’t go away – Parking woes continue to haunt Tonasket City Council with the issue resurrected once again like some sort of zombie after several months hiatus.
Kinross updates on impact, future plans – A representative of Kinross Gold Corporation’s Kettle River-Buckhorn Project talks to the Oroville City Council about the gold mine and mill’s economic impact, including an average employee wage that tops $82,000 a year and $4 million in payments to local and county government agencies.
Rep. Kretz introduces wolf relocation legislation – After Western Washington legislators extolled the value of wolf packs in Eastern Washington, Rep. Joel Kretz (7th District) decided he would assist in the efforts to make relocating wolf packs to Western Washington through legislation this year.
Council, chief debate video policy – Differing opinions on what is appropriate use of video surveillance and even some Constitutional discussion, highlighted the Tonasket City Council’s efforts to finalize a policy that would govern the Tonasket Police Department’s use of video of video or game cameras in certain situations.

May Fest Queen Candidates – Shelby Louise Scott and Angela Nelson set their sights on the crown for 2013 Oroville May Festival Queen. Shelby is the daughter of Kim and Brad Scott and Angela is the daughter of Alan and Marcie Nelson.
Honorees, future light up chamber banquet – The Tonasket Chamber of Commerce hosted its annual banquet, auction and officer installation. Julie Allie is president, Scott Smith “Citizen of the Year” and II Sisters Video is Business of the Year.

February

Several people protested the closing of the assisted living at North Valley Hospital. Brent Baker/staff photo

Several people protested the closing of the assisted living at North Valley Hospital. Brent Baker/staff photo

NVH Commissioners hear outcry at board meeting – Emotions ran high at the North Valley Hospital Board meeting as more than 75 people packed the board room and adjoining offices to express their opinions on the impending closure of the Assisted Living facility. One of many contentious hospital board meetings on the subject.
Longer day at risk? – Rising costs, unexpected expenses and a cut in Levy Equalization funds could jeopardize the Tonasket School District’s two-year plan to add 45 minutes to its school day by the next school year. State rule changes mean the district will have to find a way to extend the day.
Oroville Council approves rezone – Along with a report that fuel was again available at the airport, the city council approved a small rezone near the bin lot on the south end of town.
Bonaparte Creek/Mill Drive annexation completed – “It’s been a long time coming,” Tonasket Mayor Patrick Plumb said of the annexation that was approved that night at the council meeting. The move allows residence in the area to connect to city sewer and water.
Wolf bills pass out of Senate – Senate Natural Resources and Parks Commission approved two bills that would reduce restraints on landowners and county legislative authorities from lethally removing a wolf posing an immediate threat to livestock and/or domestic animals. Okanogan County Commissioner Shiela Kennedy testifies, “We should have the authority to make these tough decisions when they are before us and they are devastating the people of our county.”
Petition filed to recall NVH Commissioners – Two area residents, Rosa Snider of Oroville and Danny Gratix of Tonasket, have filed a statement with the county auditor’s office seeking the recall of the entire North Valley Hospital board alleging malfeasance and misfeasance.
Oroville Elementary experiences lockdown – The chairman of the Oroville School Board had some harsh words for those who would spread false rumors about a lockdown that took place at the elementary school. The lockdown occurred after a person was asked what he was doing there and it was found he hadn’t checked in at the office and a check by police could not later locate him. Some had used social media to accuse the principal of not taking the incident seriously enough.

March

Tonasket Mayor Patrick Plumb gets hosed down by the fire department as part of the celebration of raising $50,000 for the spray park.

Tonasket Mayor Patrick Plumb gets hosed down by the fire department as part of the celebration of raising $50,000 for the spray park. Brent Baker/staff photo

TSD to mull change in vocational program – The Tonasket School District is looking at changing the focus of its vocational program and Superintendent Paul Turner is hoping that those who want to have a voice in whether to do so or not will attend the next board meeting.
Big splash – Tonasket Water Ranch Coordinator Linda Black told the council that donations had already passed $50,000 for the spray park slated to be built in Chief Tonasket Park in the summer. Tonasket Mayor Patrick Plumb marked the occasion by getting hosed down by the fire department.
Oroville approves trailhead permit – The Oroville City Council approved a Conditional Use Permit for miscellaneous improvements to the Similkameen Trailhead, including the construction of restrooms and a parking lot (both have yet to be built).
Endurance rider plans return to competition – Oroville’s Heidi Hylton has been competing for two years in horse endurance riding and for a relative newcomer has racked up some impressive results, including finishing in first place as a Featherweight rider on her horse Crazy Horse.
Passions high over Vo-Ag changes – A proposed change to the Tonasket School District’s vocational program brought out a full house to the March 11 board meeting – most defending the current program.
Oroville Assisted Living Forum – Up until now most of the meetings on the fate of North Valley Hospital’s Assisted Living facility have taken place in Tonasket, but last week many of those opposing the facility’s closure met in Oroville to say why they’re fighting the hospital district’s plan.

April

Opponents of the Okanogan County PUD's efforts to restart power generation at Enloe Dam join members of the Lower Similkameen Indian Band in a ceremony honoring nature near the dam and Similkameen Falls. Gary DeVon/staff photo

Opponents of the Okanogan County PUD’s efforts to restart power generation at Enloe Dam join members of the Lower Similkameen Indian Band in a ceremony honoring nature near the dam and Similkameen Falls. Gary DeVon/staff photo

Specifics of ATV ordinance debated – The Tonasket City Council takes up the issue of the new ATV ordinance and the city planner says there are no conflicts between the spray park project and swimming pool.
NVH prepares to move forward after day in court – A full day in court on March 19 resulted in a pair of favorable outcomes to the North Valley Hospital Board of Commissioners, which according to board chairwoman Helen Casey, will allow them to move forward in finalizing the closure of the Assisted Living. A temporary injunction to close the facility was struck down in Okanogan County Superior Court.
Council hears reports from Public Works, Parks – Rod Noel, who heads up the Oroville Public Works and Parks departments reported on several issues, including the opening of the city’s Osoyoos Lake Veteran’s Memorial Park for the year.
Tonasket projects slight decline – The school district projects a decline in enrollment as it prepares to set the next year’s budget.
County, Oroville, come to understanding on sewer – Although it still needs to be redrafted, representatives from Oroville and the Okanogan County Commissioners came to an understanding on several points regarding the county’s Eastlake Sewer System.
CEO stands by decisions, board – North Valley Hospital Administrator Linda Michel defended the board’s decision to shut down the Assisted Living facility in an interview with Gazette-Tribune reporter Brent Baker.
Riverside man charged with murder – Okanogan County Sheriff’s deputies were kept busy with reports of gun and knife play at various locations in the county. The first of the three incidents resulted in a Riverside man bing arrested in the fatal shooting of a fellow Riverside area resident.
New ambulance over budget – Stryker equipment adds $45,000 to cost of total purchase, causing the price to climb for a new ambulance for the Oroville area to $214,000. The new equipment includes a power loader, stair chair and power gurney.

May

People gathered to honor veterans dedicate the Armed Services Legacy Memorial in Tonasket. Brent Baker/staff photo

People gathered to honor veterans dedicate the Armed Services Legacy Memorial in Tonasket. Brent Baker/staff photo

Big splash, big party – Big Splash Barbecue brings out Tonasket Community in support of the Tonasket Water Ranch spray park.
Hometown Pizza fire caught on video – A fire in the early morning hours at Hometown Pizza and Pasta in Oroville was limited to mostly smoke damage because of the quick reporting by the owner of the recently opened Pastime Bar and Grill according to the business’ owner John Desjardin. The fire cause the restaurant to be closed for several weeks to repair damage mostly caused by the smoke. A video camera in the restaurant records the start of the fire.
Princes are May Festival Grand Marshals – Jim and Marilyn Prince are interviewed by editor Gary DeVon after they are selected as the 2013 May Festival Grand Marshals. The owners of Prince’s Center have a long history of serving the community both through their stores and by donating to various community events.
Okanogan expected to flood near Tonasket – Warm weather that is speeding up the annual mountain snow melt-off has brought about a flood watch for the Okanogan River, especially between Tonasket and Oroville.
Oroville weights park concession stand options – No person or group had come forward to rent the concession stand at Oroville’s Veterans Memorial Park leaving the city to look for ways to make it more attractive to potential operators.
Oroville May Festival ‘Paradise in the Valley’ – Oroville’s biggest annual event is chronicled with two pages of photos, as well as parade, bass fishing tournament, fun run, car show and three on three basketball results.
Gold Digger Apples celebrating 75 years – What began as Oroville United Growers in 1938, has grown into Oroville’s last remaining grower’s cooperative, Gold Digger Apples, is marking it’s 75th Anniversary on May 24. The company is one of Oroville’s largest employers.
Legacy Park dedication – The park honoring veterans is dedicated in Tonasket and recorded in a feature page of photographs and through quotes from those that attended.
‘Marshal Middleton’ finally gets to ride in the parade – Patti Middleton is no stranger to parades, but she’s never gotten to ride. The longtime Tonasket music teacher was chosen as the 2013 Founders Day Grand Marshal.
Oroville property valuation completed – The new assessment of property within the Oroville School District has been completed and while most people won’t notice, those with lakefront property will see taxes rise, according to Okanogan County Assessor Scott Furman.

June

The dog sled demonstrations are always popular at the  NCW Ice Fishing Festival which takes place in February in Molson. Gary DeVon/staff photo

The dog sled demonstrations are always popular at the NCW Ice Fishing Festival which takes place in February in Molson. Gary DeVon/staff photo

Tonasket Founders Day and Oroville Graduation – The two events are celebrated in words and pictures in the first issue of June.
NVH faces boiler and call system issues – The hospital’s efforts to bring down its warrant levels may be slowed by urgent infrastructure needs that have cropped up, including the nurse call system and the hospital’s three boilers.
Hiram ‘Okanogan’ Smith’s gravesite a mystery no more – Two years after his death and burial, Hiram “Okanogan” Smith’s remains were disinterred, moved and lost. Oroville researcher Dorothy Petry, working with Seattle’s Lake View Cemetery’s Julie Lundquist, believe they’ve solved the century-old mystery of where the Territorial and State Legislator came to rest.
City sets Critical Areas Workshop – There was still no public comments on the updates to Oroville’s Critical Areas/Comprehensive Plan so Chris Branch, director of community development asked the city council and received permission for a workshop to answer questions and take testimony.
Theft investigations lead to several arrests – After a lengthy investigation by the sheriff’s office and local police departments, several arrests have been made in connection with burglaries taking place throughout the county, including in Tonasket and Oroville.
Residents react to new ordinances – After discussing streets and parking issues at several Tonasket City Council meetings new ordinances were passed, including requiring a permit and restricting the number of yard sales in residential areas. However, despite all this discussion, the ordinances seem to have taken some residents by surprise.
Bids for reservoir exceed estimates – The preliminary results of the bid to construct a new reservoir to serve the North End Water system, including the new Border Patrol Station, have gone over the engineer’s estimates by over $100,000. The city will be looking at ways to trim the cost of the project and to come up with additional funds.
Don Brazle is Chesaw Fourth of July Grand Marshal – This “real live nephew of his Uncle Sam, Born on the Fourth of July” is also the Grand Marshal for the rodeo’s 71st year.

July

Major damage to crop – Some local growers were letting their cherries go unpicked because of major rain damage. One grower calls it the worst he’s seen in two decades.

Doc’ Maycumber, veteran and veterinarian – Hugh Maycumber is profiled by Brent Baker as part of his ongoing series on veterans. “Doc” served both as a U.S. Navy hospital corpsman in World War II and as a Tonasket animal doctor for 40 years.

Jack Black hams it up with the crew of the Tonasket Pizza Company. Brent Baker/staff photo

Jack Black hams it up with the crew of the Tonasket Pizza Company. Brent Baker/staff photo

Jack was here – Comedic actor and musician Jack Black and his family kick back in the valley and in the highlands. Black has family ties to the Tonasket area and often visits.

Agreement resolves Buckhorn Mine water quality penalties – Crown Resources has entered into an agreement with the state Department of Ecology to settle a penalty issued last year for water quality at the Buckhorn gold mine near Chesaw.

Tonasket funds next phase of pool project – The long and arduous process of building a new swimming pool in Tonasket officially moved into its next phase as the council voted to commit $17,980 to study that will yield concrete options and cost estimates that can be put before the community for discussion.

Boiler to be replaced – North Valley Hospital is proceeding with the replacement of its aging boiler system, a portion of which is inoperative and will leave the hospital inadequately heated this fall if the issue isn’t addressed.

Feds approve Enloe Dam License – The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has approved a new 50-year federal license for the Okanogan Public Utility District to operate Enloe Dam. The water quality permit is still under appeal, however.

Power rates going up no matter what – The rate PUD customers pay for electricity is going up, no matter what they might have hoped. The questions now are by how much and how soon. That’s what people were told at the last of three public meetings held with ratepayers.

August

The Tumbleweed Film Festival made it's fourth summertime appearance at various venues around Oroville. Gary DeVon/staff photo

The Tumbleweed Film Festival made it’s fourth summertime appearance at various venues around Oroville. Gary DeVon/staff photo

More water must spill over Enloe Falls – The ink was barely dry on Okanogan County PUD’s new federal license to operate Enloe Dam when the state Pollution Control Hearing Board said streamflow over the dam and falls must be considered and directed Ecology to do an aesthetic study.

Tonasket applies for sidewalk grants – In an effort to better connect the U.S. Armed Forces Legacy Park to downtown Tonasket, the city council authorized planner Kurt Danison to apply for a Transportation Alternate Project grant.

Medicare funds to start trickling in – North Valley Hospital District’s warrants hovered at about $1.9 million the time of their last Board of Commissioners meeting, but some relief could be on the way, according to the Chief Financial Officer. The hospital was in the black, but Long Term Care was expected to be in the red through June.

District to call for bids for OES gym roof repair – While work is expected to wrap up on the new elementary school roof, the district wants to approve bids for the gymnasium roof, which was separated out from the rest of the project as a cost savings measure.

Hastings drops by – Taking advantage of his first extended break since last fall’s election, U.S. Rep. Richard “Doc” Hastings (R-Pasco) recently stopped in Tonasket as part of his tour of Washington’s Fourth Congressional District, which covers the central part of the state from Oregon to the Canadian border.

Tonasket considering sidewalks ordinance – The Tonasket City Council is considering an ordinance to regulate the use of sidewalks in the downtown commercial and industrial districts. The council also expressed mixed feelings towards a potential mosquito control district.

Oroville back on top for new construction – During the boom times of the Buckhorn Gold Mine and Veranda Beach and other vacation home building, Oroville knocked the Methow Valley off its long held perch for most new construction – well, Oroville’s done it again thanks to the Reman and Reload Company’s latest expansion.

Reappraisals of Tonasket properties begin – Okanogan County Assessor Scott Furman announced the process for physical inspections and reappraisals of all taxable property in the Tonasket School District, approximately 8500 parcels, has begun.

Oroville approves Verizon request – Two public hearings were held at the Oroville City Council meeting – one was a request for a conditional use permit to add a four-foot dish to a Verizon cell tower.

More food and fun at the fair – While much is the same at the Okanogan County Fair for 2013, there are some new and expanded entertainment offerings this year. The G-T outlined the new offerings and offered a special section of stories and photos of some of the many local kids entering their animals and vegetables in this year’s fair.

September

Longtime Tonasket Police officer Jim Rise retired from the force. However, he's still the Tonasket Fire Chief. Jessie Cook/submitted photo

Longtime Tonasket Police officer Jim Rise retired from the force. However, he’s still the Tonasket Fire Chief. Jessie Cook/submitted photo

Warrants drop below $1 million – A milestone at the end of August when North Valley Hospital District’s warrant debt to Okanogan County dropped to $953,000 due to stalled Medicaid and Medicare payments coming in and the sale of the Oroville Clinic Building.

Fatal shooting near Chesaw – The Okanogan County Sheriff’s office found itself investigating the death of a Hoquium, Wash. man who was shot while grouse hunting on Pontiac Ridge Road.

Tonasket’s Jim Rice reflects on career after retiring – Jim Rice figures he didn’t draw his gun with intent to shoot more than half a dozen times in his 24 years as a Tonasket Police Officer, he tells Brent Baker in a profile of the officers long career.

‘Persons of Interest’ in fatal shooting – The sheriff’s office releases the name of a man shot while hunting on Pontiac Ridge and says they have more than one person of interest in the homicide.

Man charged with smuggling guns – The Osoyoos man facing charges for allegedly smuggling guns into Canada is a former Oroville resident with ties on both sides of the border.

NVH to assist with exchange registration – North Valley Hospital is preparing for the opening of the state health exchanges that will, in effect, be open on Oct. 1. The health exchanges were created as part of the Affordable Care Act.

School board asked to give up $180,000 incentive – The company that contracted to build Oroville High School’s new geothermal heating and cooling system said the project was “overbuilt” and cost more than anticipated and asked the board to consider signing over the nearly $200,000 in energy incentives the district may be receiving.

Oroville Council conducts business in the dark – While they may never have been accused of it, at least to their faces, the Oroville City Council conducted business in the dark – literally – when the power went out halfway through their meeting.

 October

Enjoying the day at the Okanogan Family Faire held each October in the highlands above Tonasket. Gary DeVon/staff photo

Enjoying the day at the Okanogan Family Faire held each October in the highlands above Tonasket. Gary DeVon/staff photo

Tonasket schools talk finances, levies – The Tonasket School Board is trying to lay the groundwork for running a pair of levies, but first found themselves dealing with the consequences of rising cost that dipped into the district’s fund balance to a level that alarmed a number of board members.

Sen. Smith visits Tonasket City Council – State Senator John Smith (R-Colville), running for election next month after being appointed to fill Sen. Bob Morton’s seat upon his retirement, visited the council meeting to share his vision and discuss questions posed to him from the council and mayor.

Council asked to form ‘Destination Oroville’ – Chamber of Commerce President Clyde Andrews asked the Oroville Council to consider forming a committee to help designate recipients of lodging tax money for tourism promotion.

Man arrested for Riverside Robbery – Oroville man arrested for Riverside Grocery robbery is also suspected in Dan’s Market robbery. Arrest follows release of video of robbery from the Riverside store.

Harvest time – Short crop for Wenatchee District, especially so for north end of Okanogan Valley. While the rest of the apple producing states are having a bumper crop, the situations are reversed from last year for Gold Digger Apples and growers in Washington State.

Senate candidates speak at Oroville Chamber meeting – The candidates for the Seventh Legislative District, incumbent John Smith (R-Colville) and Brian Dansel (R-Republic) spoke at the chamber meeting talking about why they feel they should be senator and answering questions.

Brisa Leep claims Miss Tonasket crown – Like last year, there was no suspense involved with the crowning of the 2014 Miss Tonasket Rodeo. And like the outgoing Rodeo Queen, Karlie Henneman, next year’s queen, Brisa Leep, is more than ready to take on the role.

Election coming up Nov. 5 – Five incumbents and five challengers might be the ones to watch in local north county races as the ballots were slipped into peoples’ mailboxes last week. Two hospital board positions, two Oroville Council seats and the Oroville mayor’s position are all up for grabs in the upcoming election.

Pellet gun causes lockdown at Tonasket Schools – An 18-year-old Tonasket student is taken into custody after being spotted on the high school campus with what turned out to be a pellet gun, causing a district-wide lockdown for nearly an hour. He said he had purchased the gun from a friend and was trying to sneak it into a car.

Ground broken for Water Ranch – There’s no turning back now, the Tonasket Water Ranch took another step toward becoming a reality as Linda Black and her team of organizers hosted a groundbreaking ceremony at Chief Tonasket Park.

 November

A similar five start family flag like the one being sought for the Thornton family.

A similar five start family flag like the one being sought for the Thornton family.

Man seeks ‘Five Star Service Flag’ for family – With a worn mid-forties clipping from the Oroville Weekly Gazette Gazette in hand, Thomas Wilburn went on a quest to secure the banner promised to the Earl Thornton family during WWII. The Thorntons had received notice they’d receive the flag for five children serving, but it never arrived. Oroville’s American Legion Hodge’s Post has stepped forward to fulfill the promise made more than a half century earlier.

Shifting landscape complicates NVH budget – This past year has seen a mix of good and bad for North Valley Hospital’s financial condition. On the positive side warrants are down, but only by closing the assisted living, two clinics and layoffs. New challenges await the hospital with the Affordable Care Act, reduced Medicare reimbursement rates and losing its Critical Access status.

Incumbents ruling the day for local office, except one – Even after the second vote count all incumbents for office, except Lael Duncan for North Valley Hospital Commissioner, have been returned to office. County voters also said “yes” to funding a new Transportation District, but Tonasket voters said “no” to a new criminal justice tax. Brian Dansel ousts John Smith for state senate.

Few areas in city legal for pot shop – Being rich in parks, schools, playgrounds and day care centers means locating a marijuana store may be problematic for any would-be retailers in Oroville.

Group wants Enloe Dam breach – Okanogan County PUD ratepayers could be stuck with the bill of breaching the dam and clean up if the utility fails to rehabilitate the historic dam for hydroelectric generation, according to PUD General Manager John Grubich.

 December

A father and son will be standing trial for the shooting death of a hunter on Pontiac Ridge near Chesaw. OCSO Photo

A father and son will be standing trial for the shooting death of a hunter on Pontiac Ridge near Chesaw. OCSO Photo

Father and son accused in killing appear in court – Two Chesaw area men remain behind bars after at least one of them allegedly shot and killed a Hoquium man who was hunting grouse near their property in September.

Oroville looks at $8.3 million budget – The new budget will complete several unfinished 2013 projects, as well the Central and Cherry Street pavement and water line projects.

Council weighs taxes versus services – The Tonasket City Council was still attempting to finalize their 2014 budget in a way that would strike a balance between maintaining services that are costing more to provide and the desire not to raise taxes.

City’s 2014 budget already on the rise – Even before approved, Oroville’s 2014 budget increased by at least $12,000 over the $8,267,700 discussed at the previous council meeting. One reason is the need to set aside more money for a four-wheel drive police vehicle, which will partially be funded by a Homeland Security Stonegarden grant.

Stage 1 Burn Ban declared in county – The state Department of Ecology has declared the ban in Okanogan, Douglas and Chelan counties because of poor dispersion of smoke which is expected to degrade air quality.

Out of school early – Gas leak at OHS chemistry lab sends district students home early. School District’s emergency alert system works mostly as planned sending out emails, voice mails and text messages in English and Spanish to parents.

NVH bad debt, charity care jump in November – While the hospital district reported strong financial results in October, the news was tempered by increases in bad debt and charity care in November. The district also announced that the rehabilitation center in the Verbeck building would open in early January.

Officials gather for informal discussion – A panoply of elected officials and representatives of a number of other government agencies gathered for an informal “round table” discussion in the Tonasket School District board room. The officials discussed the concerns their various entities deal with and ways to communicate with representatives in Olympia.

Apple bin storage lot causing concerns again – Oroville Mayor Chuck Spieth and the council discussed new complaints about blowing dust coming from a lot used to store apple bins on the south end of town. The ongoing problem has been addressed in the past, but measures taken by the local growers’ cooperative to settle the dust don’t always work, according to Councilman Jon Neal, who lives and works directly across the street from the lot.

About Gary DeVon

Gary DeVon is the managing editor of the Okanogan Valley Gazette-Tribune and celebrated his 25th year at the newspaper in August 2012. He graduated from Gonzaga University with a degree in Communications - Print Journalism, with an emphasis in photojournalism. He is a proud alumnus of Oroville High School. His family first settled in Okanogan County in the late 1800s. His parents are Judy DeVon and the late Larry DeVon and he has two younger brothers - Dante and Michael. Many family members still call Oroville home. He is single with a grown daughter, Segornae Douglas and a young granddaughter, Erin.

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