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Current issue: SEPTEMBER 2023

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[Cover story]: 10 years of Farm to School. Concrete School District boardmember Mike Brondi said vegetation in Washington has a way of turning asphalt into forest. In a way, that process took place right before his eyes at Concrete School District.

Editorial: In praise of the rank and file. Bolstered by the steam release valve of the Adopt a Spot program, Public Works is fully staffed and has been busting tail on numerous projects. Kudos to them. Meanwhile, our town’s Clerk-Treasurer, Andrea Fichter, has been effectively working two jobs after the departure of our excellent former deputy clerk, Terri Norris. Big thank-you’s to all town staff.

Judge dismisses lawsuits against town, cities, county official. Citing jurisdictional boundaries, a Skagit County District Court judge on Aug. 28 dismissed five lawsuits that had been brought against Town of Concrete, City of Sedro-Woolley, City of Mount Vernon, and a deputy prosecuting attorney for Skagit County.

Concrete Herald announces listening session. Concrete Herald plans to offer area residents a chance to help focus the newspaper’s coverage in ways that are most meaningful to its readers. Editor and Publisher Jason Miller has scheduled an open listening session at the Hub in Concrete Town Center on Sat., Sept. 23, at 5 p.m., to give readers a chance to discuss how well the paper is meeting the needs of the community and the newspaper’s readers. Light refreshments will be served, and readers will be asked to respond to a variety of questions designed to gauge the newspaper’s relevance to their interests.

Cascade Burgers changes owners. After 13.5 years under Susan and Keith Taxdahl’s eye and care, Cascade Burgers has new owners. Hannah and Brad Gilbert signed on the dotted line on Aug. 18, making the Concrete 1950s-style diner their own.

Hamilton Post Office still not open. After the November 2021 flood drenched it, the Hamilton Post Office closed. Almost two years later, it still has not reopened for business.

Darrington Library reimagined. At more than 30 years old, the Sno-Isle Libraries facility was showing its age, not functioning to the level that today’s users require. That’s about to change when the library reopens its doors to the public on Sept. 30, after a $1.5 million renovation.

Sourdough, Blue Lake fires rage through August. Some may have thought the Upper Valley might dodge wildfire smoke this year, but a July 29 lightning strike near Diablo put an end to that dream.

Concrete 4-H at the fair. The Concrete Furs-n-Things 4-H club put in another strong showing at this year’s Skagit County Fair, held Aug. 9–12.

Sedro-Woolley Lions Club to host golf tournament. Sedro-Woolley Lions will sponsor its first golf tournament this month, with an aim to help people in Skagit County with diabetes and pre-diabetes. The tournament will be held on Sat., Sept. 23, at Avalon Golf Links, located at 19345 Kelleher Rd. in Burlington.

“Mass Assistance Day” planned for legal aid. In partnership with Skagit Legal Aid, Civil Survival will jointly host a Legal Financial Obligation Mass Assistance Day on Wed., Oct. 25.

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August 2023

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Editorial: Economic Development Commission hasn’t “run its course.” There seems to be an effort among some to dismantle years of work on the part of very dedicated volunteers in Concrete and the Upper Valley community.

Concrete officials face lawsuit. All six Concrete elected officials have been named in a lawsuit against Town of Concrete. The suit alleges that, acting in their official capacities for the town, the officials “refused, neglected, or … refrained from performing a duty imposed upon him or her by law.”

Riding for research. Residents may notice a bicyclist in tutus and superhero outfits riding the backroads of the Upper Skagit in the coming weeks.

Cascade Days returns. Concrete’s biggest party is back on the calendar, with Cascade Days organizers gearing up for the two-day event on Aug. 18–19.

[Cover story]: Sold on service: Cascade Supply blends big-store reach with small-town attention. Stepping into Cascade Supply hardware store in Concrete Town Center is like stepping back in time. The shelving, the fluorescent lights, the faint smell of animal feed and lumber … all of it blends together to make you feel comfortable …

Concrete boys win tournament championship. The 2023 Concrete Invitational took place on July 15 during the famous Fly-In. Darrington, Concordia Christian (Tacoma) and Shoreline Christian made their way to Concrete to participate in the four-team, round robin tournament.

Dressing it forward. In The Model Building, next to The Hub in Concrete Town Center, a unique clothing store has set up shop.

Pioneer Picnic on tap. The 119th annual Skagit County Pioneer Association Picnic and General Meeting is scheduled for Thur., Aug. 3, at 11 a.m., at Pioneer Park near the Rainbow Bridge in La Conner.

Hospital District 304 commissioner forum reveals common ground. A July 17 candidate forum hosted by League of Women Voters found two candidates for Commissioner Position 2 for the United General Hospital District sounding more notes of commiseration than disagreement.

New status, protections proposed for Cascade River. In what would be a first for Washington, the Department of Ecology is proposing to classify the Cascade River near Marblemount as an “Outstanding Resource Water,” a special designation under the federal Clean Water Act that carries extra water quality protections and recognition.

County offers assistance for septic inspection, maintenance. Skagit County Public Health offers up to $200 rebates for septic system inspection, pumping, or riser installation to qualifying residents (one per household).

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July 2023

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Paid student internships offer opportunities to build resumes. Paid student internships are available in Concrete this summer. Funded by the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation and run through Northwest Educational District 189, the student internships are designed to help prepare young people with slight disabilities for employment transition.

Lower Baker Trail planned for fall.

A new walking trail is coming to Concrete this fall. The Lower Baker Trail will extend the Cascade Trail on the east end of Concrete.

Angell retires after 23 years. Longtime Concrete Public Works groundskeeper Dale Angell will park his mower for the last time at the end of July. The stalwart Town of Concrete employee gave 23.5 years of service to the municipality, beginning in January 2000.

Bidding farewell to Mr. Barrett. More than 100 co-workers, friends, and family members gathered at Concrete Elementary School on June 6 to honor Concrete School District Superintendent Wayne Barrett with words and the dedication of a memorial bench. Barrett passed away in a tragic car accident on April 29. Speakers at the memorial bench event remembered him warmly and with humor.

[Cover story]: Don’s next project. Everybody knows Don Smith. If they don’t, they ain’t from around here. At 68 and newly retired from Washington State Parks, Smith is an Upper Valley icon. The Rockport freelance artist has been producing artwork with his signature flair for almost 50 years.

Remembering Northern State: Public History Day slated for July 29. In collaboration with the Port of Skagit County, the Skagit County Historical Museum and Sedro-Woolley Museum are hosting their second annual public history preservation event at the Northern State Hospital Grounds in Sedro-Woolley, on July 29 from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Rural Snohomish County gets high-speed Internet funding. Dozens of entities in rural Snohomish County will get a cut of more than $76 million in grant funding and loans for high-speed Internet access from an infrastructure law.

Pioneer Picnic on tap. The 119th annual Skagit County Pioneer Association Picnic and General Meeting is scheduled for Thur., Aug. 3, at 11 a.m., at Pioneer Park near the Rainbow Bridge in La Conner.

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JUNE 2023

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Editorial: Let’s talk about parking. Town of Concrete is sniffing around its parking codes, looking to update several elements, including infractions, ticketing, and junk vehicle enforcement. It’s a necessary move, since parts of the code date to 1984.

Newspaper forum reinforces key service provided by local journalism. Community journalism has a rich history, but the present business model has its issues. Yet the future of local news coverage across America isn’t lacking reasons for optimism.

Living “green” wall coming to Concrete. A “living wall” is planned for the east side of Concrete Town Hall this summer. A living wall, or “green wall,” is essentially a free-standing or building-mounted wall that incorporates living plants.

Town severs ties with engineering firm. Concrete Town Council on May 22 voted to terminate its contract with Sedro-Woolley-based CRH Engineering. The decision came after two issues arose that caused councilmembers enough concern to make the decision, according to the May 24 termination letter sent to CRH Engineering principal Cody Hart.

Concrete wastewater treatment plant awarded. Our of more than 300 wastewater treatment plants statewide, 109 of them recently earned recognition for their operations in 2022. Concrete’s plant was one of them.

Crickmore named interim superintendent. Concrete School District administrator Carrie Crickmore was named interim superintendent for the Concrete School District days after former Superintendent Wayne Barrett was killed in a car accident on April 29. The district board of directors made the announcement after convening a special meeting on May 3.

Second O’Brien Reach workshop garners little support for two WSDOT alternatives. A June 1 stakeholder workshop to discuss the O’Brien Reach Floodplain Feasibility Study revealed continued disagreement from Upper Valley residents who live in and downstream from the site.

Donations sought to reroof Suiattle Guard Station. The Darrington Historical Society, in agreement with the Darrington Ranger District, is seeking donations to fund the reroofing of the Suiattle Guard Station. The Suiattle River Road was closed in 2006 because of flooding and access to the cabin was restored in 2014.

City Light submits final license application to FERC. On April 28, Seattle City Light submitted its final license application to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, detailing plans to operate the Skagit River Hydroelectric Project for the next 50 years.

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May 2023

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[cover story] Appreciating EMS. It’s Friday and you’ve had a long week. You are driving home from work and traffic is heavy on SR 20, because the pass just opened and everybody seems to be on the road. Suddenly the car approaching from the other lane turns in front of you without signaling. You hit your brakes immediately, the seat belt holds you in place, the anti-lock brakes do their job, and you avoid a collision. The truck behind you, however, has an impatient driver who passes you on the right by driving onto the shoulder. It T-bones the turning car and both car and truck crash into another car, causing it to flip over.

Potential for major turnovers in Lyman, Hamilton, Concrete. Candidate filing week is May 15–19.

Concrete gets $900,000 for water, sewer infrastructure repairs. A state appropriation announced April 25 will put $900,000 into the Town of Concrete budget for water and sewer infrastructure repairs and upgrades. The money will be split in half, with $450,000 going to repair and upgrade the town’s three sewer lift stations, and $450,000 going toward a new spring box at the town’s spring-fed water source. It is unclear whether the money will fully fund each project through completion.

New Public Works employee. Town of Concrete has hired Kellen Salseina as a Public Works Maintenance Worker. His start date was May 1. Salseina comes to the position with a background in forestry, including logging, equipment operation, project management, and timber sales. He spent more than a decade with DNR in Colville and is the founder and principal of Kellen Salseina Forestry.

Cascade Days planning continues. An April 20 planning meeting has further crystalized the re-imagining of Concrete’s decades-old event. Management of Concrete’s biggest party shifted to the Concrete Chamber of Commerce in February, with Cheryl Weston named as the point person. Weston, a chamber board member, told Concrete Herald the event lineup is solidifying and the chamber’s primary push is now sponsorships.

School district superintendent killed in collision. Concrete School District Superintendent Wayne Barrett was killed in a one-car collision on Sat., April 29. The accident occurred shortly before midnight, just east of Hamilton at milepost 78 on SR 20. According to a Washington State Patrol press memo, Barrett was traveling eastbound in his Ford F250 when he crossed the center line for an unknown reason, continued onto the westbound shoulder, and struck a tree. Barrett, 64, was pronounced deceased at the scene of the accident. He was wearing his seat belt at the time of the accident. The cause of the accident was unknown at press time and is under investigation.

“Love of Sedro-Woolley” workshop gleans project ideas. Upwards of 55 participants descended on the Sedro-Woolley Community Center April 19 for an evening of conversations about Sedro-Woolley and what positive changes could be made. Sponsored by the City of Sedro-Woolley, the event brought author and community development consultant Peter Kageyama to town. Kageyama led attendees through a series of exercises designed to get them thinking positively about their city and what could be done to improve it.

Kesti announces bid for mayor of Sedro-Woolley. On April 8, JoEllen Kesti, Sedro-Woolley’s mayor pro-tem and city council member to Ward 2, announced her candidacy for the position of Mayor of Sedro-Woolley.

City Light files Updated Study Report with FERC. Seattle City Light on April 7 filed its Updated Study Report Meeting Summary with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. The summary focused on questions regarding study results, findings, variances, and modifications surrounding its bid for relicensing its Skagit River Project.

Busy summer in Darrington. Summer is a going to be a busy time in the Darrington community, especially the weekend of July 21 to 23. Darrington Day, in Old School Park and the community, the Bluegrass Festival at the Music Park, the archery tournament at the archery range, the Rock and Gem Show at the Mansford Grange, and the Llama Show at the rodeo grounds are some of the events planned.

A legacy of PEACE. The evening of April 3, 2023, put on a spectacular show at sunset. The cloud formations and the light were dazzling. That morning, John “Peace Wizard” Bromet picked up his peace sign and headed over to spend the day pet-sitting for his dear friend, GuruBani Whitney. He walked the distance from his nearby cabin.

Police pursuit law rules modified. Police may pursue suspects who pose long-term serious risk to others under revisions of a more restrictive 2022 vehicle chase law that on April 17 passed both houses of this year’s Legislature.

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April 2023

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[cover story] Uganda and back. There’s something you should know about Sierra Rensink. She doesn’t just pack up and fly to Uganda. She knows it; her parents and siblings know it; her entire church family knows it.

Superior Building gets a little respect. After decades of neglect, the Superior Portland Cement Company administration building in Concrete is undergoing renovations to remove the exterior fence from around the building and restore some of its historic identity.

Town implements policies/procedures to protect EFTs. During its Feb. 13 regular meeting, Concrete Town Council approved a resolution designed to protect the town from illegal electronic funds transfers.

Council appoints new member. During its March 27 meeting, Concrete Town Council appointed Cassie Jo Manke to the Position 2 seat left vacant after former Councilmember Jeremy Akers resigned in March.

Superintendent stifles protests with raise refusal. During the March 30 Concrete School District board meeting, Superintendent Wayne Barrett waited while half a dozen attendees voiced their disapproval of him and the $9,000/year raise for him that was on the table, then declined to accept the raise during his superintendent’s report.

Brigham named new chamber executive director. It’s official: Monique Brigham is the new executive director for the Sedro-Woolley Chamber of Commerce.

Janicki eyes August for building completion. Janicki Industries hopes to have its new building in Hamilton operational by August. “We’re going as fast as we can,” said President John Janicki. “We had three months of ‘float’ in the schedule and we’ve used that up.” The project got started after Janicki Industries secured a large contract that required a new facility and equipment. Janicki said the biggest challenges came from moving so fast.

Rodale opens one offering at Cascadian Farm this summer. Cascadian Farm near Rockport is easing into the 2023 tourist season with a single offering planned for the popular Upper Valley destination. The farm will offer “u-pick” blueberries, according to Rodale Institute Communications Manager Chloe Nouvelle, who added the farm stand will not be open.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recommends safe flood storage at Seattle’s Skagit dams. On Feb. 23, the U.S. Army of Engineers filed a letter with FERC recommending that Seattle’s new federal license require 200,000 acre/feet of flood storage by Nov. 1 of each year.

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January 2023
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[cover story] All about the eagles. The Skagit River Bald Eagle Interpretive Center in Rockport is open and offering guided interpretive walks, as well as a slew of fun experiences and information within its headquarters near Howard Miller Steelhead Park.

Semro appointed to town council. East County Resource Center Director Stephanie Semro has an additional hat to wear. During a Dec. 12 special meeting, the Concrete Town Council appointed her to fill the Position 4 seat vacated by Marla Reed after the council appointed her as mayor.

Concrete approves 2023 budget. Concrete Town Council approved a new 2023 budget of $2,861,538 during its Dec. 12 meeting. This is a minor increase from 2022.

Climbing wall progressing. With every passing day, the climbing wall project on the north face of the silos at Silo Park in Concrete becomes less dream and more reality. Project lead Jeremy Akers reports that a mid-December adventure yielded plenty of information about the structure and his proposed reuse for it.

Remembering Pola Kelley. On Dec. 14, mere days before she passed away, Pola Kelley got a standing ovation from a packed Sedro-Woolley City Council chambers. It was a fitting tribute for Kelley, who was on hand that night to be honored by resolution for her contributions to the Sedro-Woolley community.

Hamilton struggles to regain postal services. After the November 2021 flood drenched it, the Hamilton Post Office closed. Not much has happened since.

Darrington senior recovering after football injury. On Fri., Oct. 28, the Darrington Homecoming “Saws & Claws” football game against Concrete ended with a 30–18 win for the Loggers. But while the other players went home to their families after the upset, one Darrington player went to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.

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September 2022
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[cover story] Mars on her mind. Concrete High School grad has otherworldly aspirations.

Mayor Miller, Economic Development Commission chair, chair pro tem resign. After almost nine years in office, Concrete Mayor Jason Miller resigned from the position during the Aug. 8 Concrete Town Council meeting. His resignation was effective Aug. 31 at 4:30 p.m.

“Adopt a Spot” program aims to maintain, beautify common areas. A recently approved program is designed to town staff shoulder the load of maintaining several locations in town, including parks and other common areas.

Town of Concrete has a new Web site. After numerous fits and starts that spanned years, Town of Concrete finally has a new Web site. The site is located at the same URL,, but its design and functionality is far more user-friendly that its predecessor, which was designed and launched in the mid-1990s.

Medically assisted treatment options moves to new location. A collaborative effort by Mount Baker Presbyterian Church and community partners to provide medically assisted treatment has moved to a larger venue. Medically assisted treatment services can now be accessed at 44942 SR 20 (the former Sunrise Services building next to the county shop property at SR 20 and Concrete Sauk Valley Rd.) on Tuesdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

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August 2022
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[cover story] A gentle care. Terry Gifford’s chamomile farm offers rest, comfort, calm, and healing.

Volunteerism booms in Concrete. Town of Concrete is experiencing an unprecedented volunteer boom. More Concrete and Upper Valley residents than usual are turning out for local volunteer projects to contribute to town beautification.

Salary Commission created; Economic Development Commission appointments blocked. During the July 11 Concrete Town Council meeting, Mayor Jason Miller appointed five people to form the town’s first Salary Commission: former town councilmembers Mike Bartel and Jude Dippold, and town citizens Bill Sullivan, Leatha Sullivan, and Jeff Maher. The commission’s first meeting was held on July 28, when its members elected Mike Bartel as chair and Bill Sullivan as chair pro tem.

Cascade Days Grand Marshals named. Dalton Blodgett and Cheri Cook-Blodgett are this year’s Grand Marshals for the Cascade Days Parade.

Police-shooting report sent to county prosecutor. On July 27, Skagit-Island Multiple Agency Response Team investigators sent to Skagit County Prosecuting Attorney Rich Weyrich their report regarding the Feb. 16 Sedro-Woolley Police shooting of a Concrete man. The man, David A. Babcock, 51, of Concrete, died from from his injury.

Patrick resigns from Hamilton mayor seat; Bates assumes mayoral duties. Former Hamilton Mayor Travis Patrick resigned from the position at the end of the July 12 town council meeting, handing the gavel to Mayor pro tem Mandy Bates.

Mountain Day Celebration, Darrington Car Show, Big August Hoobajoob on tap this month in Darrington.

Softball tournament returns to Newhalem. After a three-year hiatus, the Newhalem Jack-and-Jill Softball Tournament arrived back in town on July 16, with all the raucous fun fans and players have come to expect.

Skagit County adopts moratorium prohibiting off-site compensatory mitigation projects on local farmland. In an effort to protect Skagit Valley’s farmland from the threat of incompatible commercial, residential, and industrial use, the Skagit County Board of Commissioners on July 18 adopted an interim ordinance banning offsite compensatory mitigation on Skagit Valley farmland.

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July 2022
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Infrastructure projects kick off this month. Grant-funded road overlays to begin July 11; sewer lift station repairs start July 20.

Candidates vie for two positions in Legislative District 39. Stiff races are shaping up ahead of the Aug. 22 primary election, with incumbents facing opposition in two key races for Upper Valley voters.

Fly-In returns for three days of fun. The Concrete Old-Fashioned Fly-In has soared back into town. After the pandemic put the event on hold for two years, family-friendly fun for aviation enthusiasts is slated this year for July 15–17, at Mears Field, the Concrete municipal airport.

Concrete sends off seniors. Valedictorian Joens collars $22,000 scholarship.

The joy of music. For Birdsview artist Gretchen Hewitt, music is a way of life.

Quilt show ready. Woolley Fiber Quilters will host its July 15–17 quilt show at Cascade Middle School in Sedro-Woolley.

Janicki to construct new green building in Hamilton. After securing a large contract that requires a new facility and equipment, Janicki Industries has broken ground on a new building in Hamilton to meet the demands of the project.

PSE opens Clubhouse Visitors Center. Puget Sound Energy’s Baker River Hydroelectric Project has a newly renovated visitor center known as the Clubhouse and a new day-use park at the Lake Shannon boat ramp.

Marblemount Conservation Area to host “Open House on the Land.” Skagit Land Trust invites community members to an “Open House on the Land” on July 23 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Marblemount Conservation Area just east of Rockport.

Pressentin Park ribbon-cutting ceremony celebrates improvement project. June 10 drew dozens of people to celebrate the grand reopening of the Pressentin County Park in Marblemount.

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May 2022

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Bear Square Market Village paused for one year. The concept of a “shed market village” in the Bear Square parking lot at 45938 Main St. has been bandied about for several years as a potential hub for small businesses and artisans. Mayor Jason Miller passionately supports the concept; Valerie Stafford, president of the Concrete Chamber of Commerce, just as adamantly opposes it.

Dollar General considering potential store on SR 20 in Concrete. Woodcrest Real Estate Ventures of Ramona, Calif., has proposed a Dollar General store on SR 20 in Concrete.

New director settling in at library. Erica Brown is happy to be here. The Upper Skagit Library director began her tenure with the Concrete library on Aug. 3 last year, and has spent much of her time since “figuring out the baseline for how the library will run in its new location and iteration.”

Semro named to resource center manager position. Stephanie Semro is the new manager for the East County Resource Center in Concrete. On March 1 she replaced former coordinator Claudia Marken, who left the position in January.

CHS students win at WoodFest. Concrete High School Woodshop students flooded this year’s WoodFest event with finely crafted wood projects. One of them took home the top prize.

Baseball swinging for the fences with new head coach. The Concrete High School baseball team has a new coach and a new team. Really new. Bringing the team back after a three-year hiatus is a challenge, said Head Coach Conner Bridgman.

Presenting … Pressentin Park. Pressentin County Park is ready for its close-up. The 40-acre Marblemount staple has come through five years of renovations and emerged a better place for people—and salmon. On June 10 the park will reopen to the public.

Cascadian Farm to remain closed for 2022 season. Cascadian Farm near Rockport will be closed to the public again in 2022, according to farmer manager Tim Colton. Its farm stand and U-pick option also will be closed for the 2022 season. No reason was given for the continued closure.

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