Thomas Dimopoulos

Thomas Dimopoulos

City Beat and Arts & Entertainment Editor
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SARATOGA SPRINGS — In 2020, the city found itself faced with a problem. 

An increasing pattern of people experiencing street-homelessness were frequently failing to appear in court, while others were re-offending shortly after being convicted. The result was a backlog of warrants and a significant amount of law enforcement time and resources spent policing individuals experiencing street-homelessness for minor, yet disruptive, offenses.

A collaborative effort between the Saratoga Springs Mayor’s Office, City Court Judge Francine Vero and RISE Housing and Support Services assisted in the design of a Community Outreach Court. Two years later, the program is showing signs of success. 

“Before the court, people who were homeless and getting citations were just not showing up. The dockets were backlogged, and no one was getting the help they needed,” RISE Executive Director Sybil Newell explained last week, during the organization’s annual update to the City Council.  “Since October 2020, the RISE Outreach Court Team has been present at every session, and 60 individuals have participated; 77% have appeared at all court dates versus 0% prior to this program being active.” 

The post-discharge results point to 14 people who have graduated and remained arrest free for six months; 9 who ended up in jail and served their sentences; 6 hospitalized psychiatrically and 3 who entered into rehab programs, Newell said.  “I consider the hospitalizations and entering into rehab programs to be successful, because that’s where they needed to be at that time.” 

Additionally, 70% of the people involved in the program complied with all their court orders, and 78% have maintained contact with RISE Housing & Support Service. The housing agency sites its main offices on Union Avenue and is tasked with providing safe, healthy housing and support services to people with mental health concerns, substance use, and other life challenges.

The Community Outreach Court in Saratoga Springs, initiated in October 2020, stands as the only outreach court in upstate New York.

Francine Vero serves as judge for the Saratoga Springs City Court, as well as judge of the Outreach Court. Vero provided a statement to the city in conjunction with the annual report. 

“When I took office, I was dismayed by the number of individuals suffering from homelessness charged with offenses who failed to appear in City Court when directed and re-offended shortly after being convicted. It was evident this ‘revolving door approach’ to court proceedings was ineffective,” Vero wrote. 

With the formation of the Community Outreach Court in late 2020 anyone charged with a non-violent offense and lacking a stable residence was connected with a RISE coordinator after arraignment. That person was subsequently connected with social services they were in need of. Transportation was also provided to court appearances, treatment appointments and psychological evaluations. 

“They work with individuals while they are incarcerated, setting them up for success with the treatment and housing plans for when they are released from jail,” the judge wrote. “The Community Outreach Court has proven to benefit the community and improve the lives of the participants.”    

Officials call it a dignified and research-based approach to working with people experiencing homelessness, improving the quality of life within the community, as well as resulting in administrative cost benefits by decongesting court dockets and reducing the amount of time the police department spends responding to calls and arrests.

 “As we all know, the Woodland parking garage is still quite a situation - but of the individuals going through the Community Outreach Court: it is effective, and they are staying away from that parking garage,” Newell told the council. “In terms of overall impact, of the people who have gone through this court program, 90% of them have avoided the Woodlawn parking garage, 72% have remained arrest and conviction free, and 66% have refrained from substance abuse. This is information that we get from the police and the courts,“ she said. 

“The situation at the garage was exacerbated over the summer when the encampment in the woods was emptied out. So, that’s mainly what is driving the (activity) at the parking garage; they were kicked out of the encampment in the woods and there’s no place else to go just yet,” she said. “We are working on some housing for them.”

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Fifty-one years running and a collection of 200,000 books stand to greet those who journey to Lyrical Ballad bookstore on Phila Street. 

Here, what begins with the first step of an innocent stroll leads to a sequence of new encounters, one room into another, deep and deeper still. Innumerable entryways sink into a labyrinth of characters and events. Things to be learned. Dreams to be launched. It is everything the mind can conjure and a few it never before imagined. 

Here is where Congressman Paul Tonko chose to visit this week during a multi-county regional tour to highlight and promote the upcoming Small Business Saturday events this weekend. 

“I think of small businesses as the economic engine of our economy,” Tonko said. 

“They have a vibrant offering and (provide) an opportunity for the community. Their economic impact is three times greater than that of our chain stores, so we have to be very sensitive to their needs and concerns,”  said the congressman while standing framed by rows of leatherbound editions boasting the writings of Henry James, Gustave Flaubert, Balzac, Chekhov, and Thackeray. 

“Many small businesses struggled through COVID, and so I also want to hear if they participated in any of the COVID programming, how that worked. We came through a once-in-a-century public health crisis and economic crisis, (which) caused a global inflation. We just want to make sure everybody is strong and steady as we move forward so that they can contribute to the whole economic picture.”

Small Business Saturday - Saturday, Nov. 26, 2022 – is promoted as a day to celebrate and support small businesses and all they do for their communities. It was initially created in 2010 by American Express on the Saturday after Thanksgiving to encourage people to Shop Small and bring more holiday shopping to small businesses. In 2011, the Senate unanimously passed a resolution in support of the day.

Lyrical Ballad bookstore was founded by John DeMarco in September 1971. He  died in 2019 and two years later DeMarco’s wife Janice sold the bookshop to Charlie Israel and Jason Zerrillo - the latter of whom worked at the shop for more than decade. 

“We bought the business because we love the business, and so we don’t want to change it too dramatically “ said Israel, who grew up across the street from Congress Park and remembers spending his allowance money at the shop when he was a kid. 

“I don’t want to change this place. It’s part of what makes Saratoga special. You know, I talk to people who are in their 60s now who tell us they used to come here when they went to Skidmore,” he said. 

“It’s been a part of the community for a long time and was an anchor when it took a little bit of vision to invest in downtown Saratoga. John (DeMarco) and a few other visionary business people took that on, and that brought Saratoga back from the brink, and I’m eternally grateful to him for that,” said Israel, adding that the notion of the electronic age displacing physical media such as books, has been exaggerated. 

“The question hanging in the air is: how is the digital age affecting businesses such as ours? And the answer is: Not as much as you’d think,” Israel said. “We’ve been here 50 years we fully intend to be here for another 50.”

“I like the personalized impact that small business brings. You know, you walk in and you see Charles, or you see Jay – there’s a relationship that develops. And those relationships are important. It builds community,” said Tonko, who couldn’t see his way out of the bookshop without making a handful of purchases - a two-volume set about the Civil War and a book about horse racing, among them. 

“We want to bring an awareness of the importance of small businesses and learn what we can do to further sustain them, and enable them to grow,” he said. 

See Small Business Saturday pgs. 16-17. 

Tuesday, 22 November 2022 13:36

Shots Fired: Altercation Spills Onto Broadway

SARATOGA SPRINGS — An early Sunday morning altercation turned into an exchange of gunfire that spilled onto Broadway and ultimately resulted in approximately 20 shots being fired. 

The 3 a.m. incident believed to have begun as a verbal dispute at a bar on Caroline Street between an off-duty Sheriff’s Deputy from Vermont and “a group of individuals from the Utica area,” Public Safety Commissioner Jim Montagnino said, accelerated as the altercation moved west to Broadway with approximately 8 shots being fired. City police officers responding to the incident fired approximately 11 shots after the off-duty deputy allegedly ignored calls to drop his weapon. The incident marks the first discharge of a weapon in the line of duty by a Saratoga Springs officer in more than a quarter-century. 

During the initial dispute, the Vermont deputy was physically attacked by at least three people, Montagnino said, during a press conference staged at City Hall Sunday, less than 12 hours after the incident had occurred. 

The Vermont man gathered himself at some point during the attack and by “apparently by moving his jacket back, showed the other individuals that he was armed. One of the other individuals then draws a handgun, points it in the direction of the deputy and then apparently begins to fire,” Montagnino said. 

Officers responded to the scene. 

What they see is the Vermont sheriff’s deputy, standing on the sidewalk, his gun leveled and moving from side-to-side pointing the gun,” the commissioner said.  “The officers repeatedly, loudly direct the deputy, “Drop the gun, get on the ground,’ again, again and again. By my count there are at least eight separate clear unequivocal demands to put the gun down and get on the ground. They are all ignored.” 

Three city officers fired a total of approximately 11 shots.  The Vermont man suffered a number of wounds. A woman believed to be the Vermont man’s girlfriend was “nicked by one of the bullets in her upper arm.”  The man is reportedly in stable condition at Albany Med. 

The Vermont man, Vito Caselnova IV, is a Rutland County deputy who has been on the force since April 2019, first reported by WNYT NewsChannel 13.  A native of Glens Falls, he graduated from Glens Falls High School in 2016 and school at The College of Saint Rose.

“None of our officers were harmed.  That’s something we can all certainly be happy about,” said Mayor Ron Kim. 

State police are conducting an investigation into the incident and Broadway was closed from Lake Avenue to Division Street for the majority of the day on Sunday. 

“This is the first time in 26 years a (city) officer has discharged a firearm in the line of duty,” Montagnino said. There have been no immediate arrests made in connection with the incident.

NEW YORK — IFC Films announced on Nov. 17 they are acquiring North American rights to a new comedy starring Owen Wilson that was partially filmed in and around Saratoga Springs in April 2021. 

IFC Films will release the film in theaters on April 28, 2023 and will stream exclusively on AMC+ later that year, as first reported by It is not known whether scenes that were filmed in Saratoga County will eventually show up in the completed version of the movie, which is titled “Paint.” 

Written and directed by Brit McAdams, actor Owen Wilson portrays Vermont public television painter Carl Nargle. 

“In every step of making the film, we’ve fought to team up with talented collaborators who are also good people,” said director and writer Brit McAdams, in a statement released Nov. 17. “From our first conversation, IFC felt like the perfect home for Paint, not only because of how much they love the film and how respected they are in the industry, but also because of who they are as individuals. We’re all beyond excited to have them add their signature to this picture.”

Arianna Bocco, President of IFC Films, added: “We’re thrilled to finally work with the boundless and versatile talent of Owen Wilson, as he effortlessly brings Carl Nargle’s character to life from a savvy script and direction by Brit McAdams. PAINT has all the makings of a quotable comedic masterpiece, and we hope audiences of all ages are ready for a lot of laughs and a lot of heart.”

BALLSTON SPA — In September, Saratoga County began offering clinics for seniors regarding updated COVID-19 vaccine boosters. 

The boosters - called a bivalent COVID-19 vaccine - include components of the original virus strain and the Omicron variant and are designed to provide better protection against the Omicron variant, according to the U.S. Food & Drug Administration.

Saratoga County Health Services Commissioner Dr. Daniel Kuhles recently provided the county’s Health and Human Services Committee with an update regarding the status of the vaccination clinics.

“On the bivalent COVID vaccine initiative, we’ve been focused on our seniors, who can either register online or call our call center,” Kuhles said. “We’ve had clinics almost every day since September.” Most recently, the county staged Moderna Bivalent Booster Clinics at the county Public Safety Building in Ballston Spa, and Pfizer Bivalent Booster Clinics at Galway Town Hall and at Mechanicville Senior Center. 

Comparatively speaking about 7.3% of the US population and 8.5% of the population in New York State has received a bivalent booster, Kuhles said. “In Saratoga County, it’s 13.56 % and 35% of seniors. So, while the overall interest across the nation is low, we continue to outperform the nation and the state.” 

Appointments are required, and information may be found via the county website at The county clinics restrict the bivalent vaccine to seniors. For all others, boosters offered at pharmacies and other locations may be found via the CDC (search at:, or call 1-,./ 800-232-02330). 

New Yorkers ages 5 and older are eligible for a Pfizer-BioNTech bivalent booster dose and New Yorkers ages 6 and older are eligible for a Moderna bivalent booster dose.

The middle of November has, over the past two years, traditionally been the start of a major regional spike in COVID infection, according to state reports. 

Nov. 12, 2020 marked the first fall time surge as the Saratoga County 7-day average infection rate topped 20 cases per 100,000 - peaking at 82 in January - and staying above 20 until April 26, 2021. 

A similar fall surge took place last year, climbing above 20 per 100,000 on Nov. 5, 2021, peaking at 380 in January, and staying above 20 through Feb. 15, 2022.  Since April, the weekly average has fluctuated little, maintaining an approximate 20 cases per 100,000 rate of infection. Those numbers, sourced via the NYSDOH database, do not include self-administered home tests.

Overall, there have been 2,262 hospitalizations and 376 deaths of county residents since 2020, according to Saratoga County’s Department of Health COVID Surveillance data.   

Of those hospitalized: 304 were vaccinated and up-to-date with booster recommendations, 608 were vaccinated but not up-to-date with booster recommendations, and 1,350 were not vaccinated.

Regarding deaths: 39 were vaccinated and up-to-date with booster recommendations, 73 were vaccinated but not up-to-date with booster recommendations, and 264 were not vaccinated.

For more information on county government matters, go to: 

Thursday, 17 November 2022 14:38

Toys for Tots: 9th Annual Drive Success

SARATOGA SPRINGS — More than 100 vehicles from area businesses, civic organizations and emergency services agencies journeyed from the Ballston Spa middle school/high school campus to Saratoga Performing Arts Center Nov. 13 in a convoy to help generate new, unwrapped toys for immediate distribution by Capital Region Toys for Tots this holiday season. 

Coordinated by the Saratoga County Sheriff’s Office and iHeart Media – Albany, largely supported by Saratoga First Responders, Convoy for Tots is held annually to support the mission of Capital Region Toys for Tots. An estimated 9,000 to 10,000 toys were secured during the 9th annual event on Nov. 13. 

The organization serves more than 160,000 children annually in the Capital Region, and the Nov. 13 event marked the ninth annual convoy. The eight previous events have resulted in over 100,000 toys donated for distribution in the Capital Region. 

SARATOGA SPRINGS — A reimagined Victorian Streetwalk will take place over a four-day span in Saratoga Springs from Dec. 1-4.

Broadway will close to traffic on from 6-9 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 1 for a Tree Lighting Ceremony. Additional festivities, caroling and other music is scheduled to take place 5-8 p.m. Friday, Dec. 2 and Saturday Dec. 3, and Noon to 3 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 4. 

Santa and Mrs. Claus will be in their Broadway cottage, and Saratoga Downtown Business Association has announced live musical performances will include Madison Vandenburg - the singer from the Capital Region who garnered national attention during her 2019 appearance on the American Idol TV show. 

Victorian Streetwalk Weekend Festivities will run through Sunday, Dec. 4.

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Upcoming meetings of the city’s three Land Use Boards will take place at Saratoga Springs City Hall, respectively, on Nov. 16 (DRC), Nov. 17 (Planning Board), and Nov. 28 (ZBA). 

A variety of both new and ongoing projects are anticipated to be discussed at those meetings. 

Design Review Board – 6 p.m., Wednesday, Nov. 16.

Meeting Agenda: 

• PDT Market Storefront Modifications and Signage, 55 Railroad Place, Architectural Review of storefront modifications. Narrative: Renovation of 19,200 square foot space at Railroad Avenue to open the PDT Market in a space previously occupied by Price Chopper. Seeking to modify entry by removing 24 feet of storefront and replacing with stucco preparation. 

• Saratoga Coworks Signage, 92 Congress St., Architectural Review of a new wall sign. 

• 53 Spring Cladding Color Change, 53 Spring, Historic Review of proposed modification of Nichiha cladding finish color from Vintagewood Cedar to Vintagwood Bark.

• Brookview Prefab shed, 3 Brookview, Architectural Review of a proposed prefabricated wood shed.

• Best Western Rt 9 Modifications, 3291 US Route 9, Architectural Review of facade material and color changes. 

• 10 Marion, 10 Marion Ave., Architectural Review of proposed renovations to existing home.

Planning Board - 6 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 17

Meeting Agenda:

• 131 Excelsior North Spring Run Special Use Permit, 131 Excelsior, Consideration of coordinated SEQRA review for a proposed 102-unit multi-family residential project.

• Crescent and Jefferson Petition for Zoning Amendment, Crescent & Jefferson, Consideration of deferral of lead agency status and an advisory opinion to the City Council for comprehensive plan, and zoning map amendments to provide for a proposed 200-unit affordable housing project. 

• Kirby Subdivision, 52 Kirby, Final plan review of a two-lot subdivision. 

• 120 S. Broadway Site Plan Review, 120 S. Broadway, Site plan review of a proposed multi-family residential project consisting of 58 units, and associated site work. 

Zoning Board of Appeals – 6:30 p.m., Monday, Nov. 28

• Cardona’s Area Variance, 222 Washington, Area variance to permit the renovation and rear addition to Cardona’s Market.

• 10 A Nelson Ave New Build, 10A Nelson Ave., Area variance extension to permit the construction of a single-family home.

• 142 East Ave Garage Demo and Reconstruction, 142 East Ave., Area variance to permit the reconstruction of existing garage. 

• 72 Catherine Porch Area Variance, 72 Catherine, Area variance to construct a side porch.

• 115 Ballston Area Variance, 115 Ballston Ave., Area Variance to permit the installation of an illuminated directional sign on an existing light post on commercial property. 

• 14 MacArthur rear deck, 14 MacArthur, Area variance to permit the construction of rear deck.

 • 3257 Rt 9 New Sign, 3257 Route 9, Area variance to permit the installation of an externally illuminated directory sign 8-feet high and 28.3 square feet.

• 1 Alger Area Variance, 1 Alger St., Area variance to construct screened porch. 

-139 State St. Garage Reno Area Variance, 139 State St., Area variance to permit the renovation of an existing home. 

• 28 North Lane - 96 Union Demo and Construction, 28 North/ 96 Union, Area variance to permit the construction of a new three-car garage and dwelling unit. 


Crescent & Jefferson Zoning Amendment Powerpoint Presentation, submitted in conjunction with
200-unit plan for affordable housing project. 

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Despite a changing electorate, an increase in population, and a redrawing of district boundaries, Saratoga voters this week elected to largely maintain the present state of affairs when choosing their political leaders. 

Congressman Paul Tonko, Assemblypersons Mary Beth Walsh and Carrie Woerner, and county district attorney Karen Heggen were each reelected to new terms, and when it came to selecting a state senator for the new all-encompassing county district, it was the familiar name of James Tedisco which Saratoga voters chose.      

There were, however, major diversions in some key races among Saratoga County voters when compared to the selections of the majority in the rest of the state. 

There are approximately 173,500 registered voters in Saratoga County, according to the NYS Board of Elections most recent report of Nov. 1.  Approximately 36% are registered Republicans, 29.6% registered Democrats, 27.2% are independent of any party, and the remaining 7.2% are comprised of registered third-party voters. 

In these midterm elections, nearly 100,000 Saratoga voters cast their ballots countywide, representing over 56% of Saratoga County’s 173,500 active registered voters.   

NY Senate District 44 

More than 120,000 votes were counted, nearly 100,000 of them from Saratoga County in the newly redrawn 44th Senate District, which includes all of Saratoga County and part of Schenectady.    

Republican James Tedisco emerged victorious securing 56% of the vote, compared to the 42% garnered by Democrat Michelle Ostrelich. 

Ostrelich joined other party members Tuesday evening at The Inn at Saratoga on Broadway, where Democrats had gathered. Post-election, Ostrelich said she will continue to serve in her current capacity as a Schenectady County Legislator.

Tedisco meanwhile joined fellow county Republicans on Election Night at Vapor. The club is flanked by a this-century-constructed gambling facility with video lottery terminals and more than 1,000 slots, and a near century old harness racing track where sulky drivers are pulled across the half-mile dirt oval by horses eleven months of the year.   

Tedisco was first elected to represent the 49th State Senate District – which includes parts of Saratoga, in 2016, and previously served in the New York State Assembly from 1983-2016.  Tedisco, who represented the 49th district, decided to run in District 44 after the state’s redistricting process took shape earlier this year. The move drew criticism from Sen. Daphne Jordan of the 43rd district, who contended she had the rightful geographic claim to the new district, according to WAMC. Jordan subsequently announced she would not actively run.

House of Representatives

Once every decade, geographic boundaries regarding candidate representation are redrawn. Earlier this year, congressional redistricting placed all of Saratoga County into District 20, alongside Albany and Schenectady counties, and parts of Rensselaer. 

In CD 20, Democrat incumbent Paul Tonko beat Republican challenger Elizabeth Joy 54% to 45%, with a victorious district-wide margin of approximately 27,000 votes. It is a contest the two candidates had staged previously; in 2020, Tonko defeated Joy by a near 20-point margin of victory. 

Tonko was victorious among voters in Albany, Schenectady and Rensselaer. Saratoga voters favored Joy 53% to 47%, a difference of just over 6,000 votes. Republican incumbent Congresswoman Elise Stefanik had represented a portion of Saratoga in previous elections. The newly redrawn Congressional District 21 covers areas east, west and north of CD 20 where Stefanik defeated Democrat challenger Matt Castelli by a near 20-point margin of victory. 

Republican Walsh, Democrat Woerner Re-Elected to NY Assembly

Areas of Saratoga County are represented as NY Assembly District 112 and NY Assembly District 113.  Just over 45,000 voters presented their ballots in each of the contested districts in 2022.   

In Assembly District 112, Mary Beth Walsh (R, C) emerged victorious over Andrew McAdoo (D, WF) 59% to 39%. In NY Assembly District 113, Carrie Woerner (D, WF) bested David Catalfamo (R, C) 52% to 47%.

For the first time in several decades, Democrats challenged the district attorney seat long held by Republicans. County voters re-elected Republican incumbent Karen Heggen over Democratic challenger Michael Phillips 57% to 43%, with a margin of victory of about 14,000 votes.   

Saratoga County Votes in Statewide Races

Statewide, voters selected Democrats Kathy Hochul for Governor, Thomas DiNapoli for Comptroller, Letitia James for Attorney General, and Chuck Schumer as U.S. Senator. Three of those four state majority preferences came up short locally, however.    

In the governor’s race, Saratoga County voters favored Republican challenger Lee Zeldin over Kathy Hochul 55% to 45%, attorney general Republican candidate Michael Henry over Letitia James 53% to 46%, and Republican U.S. Sen. Candidate Joe Pinion over Chuck Schumer 51% to 48%. (Note, all numbers are rounded up). 

Ballot Proposal 1 – Clean Water, Clean Air and Green Jobs Environmental Bond Act of 2022, was overwhelmingly approved statewide and by Saratoga voters alike.  The “yes” vote authorizes the sale of state bonds up to $4.2 billion to fund environmental protection, natural restoration, resiliency, and clean energy projects, in addressing and combating the impact of climate change and damage to the environment.

SARATOGA SPRINGS — In the Spa City race to elect the Commissioner of Public Works, Democrat Jason Golub defeated Republican candidate Anthony Scirocco, Jr.  garnering 6,818 votes to Scirocco’s 5,322. 

More than 12,000 votes were registered for the city council seat, marking a greater than 30% increase in overall votes compared to the numbers tallied for any one of the five council seats during the last election in 2021.      

Golub is currently filling the seat on an interim basis through 2022. He was unanimously selected by the four sitting members of the City Council in May to temporarily fill the position that became vacant as a result of the death of longtime DPW Commissioner Anthony “Skip” Scirocco. One of his sons, Anthony Scirocco, Jr. received the support of the local Republican Committee and ran for the position to follow in his late father’s footsteps.

The election will fill the DPW seat for the calendar year 2023 – the remainder of the elder Scirocco’s 2020-elected term.

There are places in the country where political preference and blind acceptance to a party’s ideals tears at the jigsaw of a community’s fabric. But, despite an us-versus-them mentality that is elsewhere pervasive, as well as an effort by some activated operatives pecking away like hens atop their social media connected keyboards seeking to create divisions - this is not one of those places. Here, there seems to be a simpler set of rules at play in comparing the candidates: Who are they? What sort of experience do they have? Who is the best person to get the job done? 

To Golub, the goals related to his seat on the council in 2023 remain the same as when he first auditioned for the council appointment, earlier this year. 

“For me, it’s the same as when we started. What is that 21st century vision of DPW? While we’re always going to do that core DPW - remove your snow, remove your leaves -  it’s really about how can we drive the infrastructure in the city? Energy. Parks. Bike lanes. It could be how we partner with the state and federal government. There’s so much that DPW can drive and that’s where I want to focus,” said Golub, attending an Election Night gathering of Democrats at The Inn at Saratoga - a historic Broadway venue that first began operating as a boarding house in 1847.

Appointed to the position in May, Golub has now secured his first bonafide election victory. Bitten for the first time by the parliamentary bug, could a life-road in politics be awaiting him in the future? 

“Who asks that question the night that you win? “ he says with a laugh. “I don’t know the answer to that. Tonight, I’m enjoying this. I enjoy serving the community and I would like to continue to do that. “

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