Home ECCFPD Opinion: Playing Cat and Mouse, ECCFPD Will Kill It’s Own Parcel Tax

Opinion: Playing Cat and Mouse, ECCFPD Will Kill It’s Own Parcel Tax

by ECT


By over complicating a proposed parcel tax with silly side discussions, the East Contra Costa Fire Protection District Board of Directors is putting the District at a disadvantage when it comes to attempting to educate the public come January.

The reality is as simple as this. In 2010, you had 8-stations responding to emergency calls. Today thanks to a FEMA Grant we have 5-stations responding. Come November, it will likely drop back down to 3-stations to cover 25-square miles.

Any outreach cannot be successful with a  mystery parcel tax figure looming over the public’s head no matter what information is shared.

There is no doubt education will fill the public in on why the District is hurting financially beginning with Prop 13.  For starters, when Prop 13 was passed in 1978, the apportionments of taxes were allocated for levels of services at that point in time. Since East County was mostly rural, a very small proportion of our taxes were directed to the fire district.

Currently, East County has matured into a suburban/urban area, home too many families, commuters and new businesses.  The demand is not shrinking with planned growth coming to the area it further stretches our fire department even thinner.

Here is a look at the History of the District since June 2010.


  • June 2010: ECCFPD voted to close Byron (Station 57) and Discovery Bay (Station 58). District was reduced to 48-firefighters and 6-stations.
  • June 2012: Measure S is rejected by voters with just 43.80% approval. 66.6% approval needed to pass.
  • July 2012: ECCFPD Closes Bethel Island, Downtown Brentwood, and Knightsen fire station after June failure of Measure S.
  • August 2012, FEMA Grant Awarded for a two-year period of $7.8 million with an expiration date of Nov. 2014.
  • November 2012: FEMA Grant allows Knightsen Station to reopen.  Expected closure date Nov. 2014.
  • April 2013: ECCFPD welcomes 10 firefighters replacing previously laid off firefighters after Measure S failed.
  • May 2013: Downtown Brentwood Station reopens temporarily thanks to FEMA Grant. Expected to close Nov. 2014 when grant funding runs out.
  • July 2013: CONFIRE votes to limit aid to neighboring fire Districts. Only two (2) units are allowed to assist a neighboring District.

That education will come; but it will not be an honest debate until the District explains what it’s first asking of the public. Decisions need to be made now, not in February after education has been completed.

During a long discussion Monday night that accomplished very little, certain Board members appeared more interested in expressing their opinions in order to be heard as opposed to making real decisions on parameters of the parcel tax. This is not unexpected, but rather par for the course by a Board who has looked at everything other than a parcel tax—now they are on a time crunch at no fault but of their own.

If you recall, the appointed Board was put in place to relieve elected city council officials of the duty so it can be a board fully committed to solving the Districts Financial problems without the political backlash.

I understand the Board was new.  I understand getting up to speed while looking at all options. I understand this is complicated. However, none of that can be an excuse for the lost time on a revenue enhancement.

For starters, a decision on a consultant should have already been made. Polling should have been completed. Community advocates should already be in place. Introductory informational pieces should already be in draft form. On top of the community outreach, community meetings should have been scheduled with service groups and lists been created by Directors—not District staff.

Most importantly, the outline of the tax should have already been nearly completed so the District can be well positioned to hit its education hard after the Christmas Holiday and New Year.  Instead, you have a board, with the exception of Directors Bryant, Kenny, and Cooper who appears to have no sense of urgency in decision making.

Due to a snail’s pace, the most important outreach in public safety in in regards to fire service is going to be performed with incomplete information. Its political suicide and irresponsible!

You have a finance committee who should already have the figures done frontwards and backwards twice over.

  • What does it cost to maintain a 5-station model
  • What does it cost to maintain a 5-station model with a 5-year sunset
  • What does it cost to maintain a 5-station model with a 7-year sunset
  • What does it cost to maintain a 5-station model with a 10-year sunset
  • The annual cost should have been presented to include inflation or a flat rate over the tax period.

This isn’t complicated as the District is making it. For Measure S, the District has projections 10-years out. Factoring in additional variables (such as removing ALS on engines), the District is looking at a parcel tax of around $125-$150 per year to maintain a 5-station service model.

Unfortunately, the number on the ballot will need to be under $99 in order to pass a tax.

Another way to get to the parcel tax figure is to take the FEMA Grant of $7.8 million and divide it in half for the 2-year period. Divide that number by the number of parcels and you can come pretty close to the number needed to maintain service that way.

According to Director Young, they will not be releasing the actual figure to the public until as late as March. That is not appropriate when the best strategy is to be upfront with the public today and remove the sticker shock over time.

You kill a parcel tax by holding a mystery number over the public’s head because that breaks the public’s trust. You put out the figure during Januarys educational series and adjust based off public opinion—not the other way around.

The District needs to stop overcomplicating this process because it comes down to three things.

  1. How much is it going to cost me?
  2. How long am I going to pay for it?
  3. How does this affect me?

As much as I want to believe other factors matter such as number of stations, insurance rates, salary, Measure S showed us it didn’t matter.  The average voter wants simple and they don’t want to feel like they are being cheated with election gimmicks.

Unfortunately, the folks on the finance committee are trying to win with gimmicks and delay tactics.

These gimmicks will be dissected by the Contra Costa County Taxpayers association and Members of the East County Republican Party. What the public should be aware of is neither the Taxpayer Association nor the Republican Party have been involved in the solution, but contributed to the animosity against a tax and refused to be part of any sort of solution—even when asked to contribute.

These two groups simply have chosen to criticize.

Where the District has failed the public at this point in time is showing that there is a problem. The Board has failed to reach out to the public with facts to highlight the problem and allow the public a chance to agree there is even a problem—instead, the Board is simply going to the ballot.

In reality, it’s a four-step process that is being ignored.

  1. First the public has to understand there is a problem
  2. Once a solution presented, they have to present to the public to educate
  3. The public has to understand the problem/solution and agree to it
  4. Public has a choice to accept the level of service it wants.

By withholding the information such as the parcel tax figure and continuing to delay decisions only hurts the Districts chances in June.

The non-actions by this Board are detrimental to the future of this fire district and not only does the public deserve better; the firefighters deserve the best chance possible to pass a tax which this board is failing.

For the sake of the District, let’s hope a special meeting is called to make all the difficult decisions so the real focus can be on outreach using real facts and figures.

With a tax that will require 66.6% support, honesty and being straight forward is always the best approach.

Anything else will cost you much needed votes.

Burk Byline

By Michael Burkholder
[email protected]

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Buy a Clue Dec 4, 2013 - 2:15 pm

You’re not going to release a figure until March? Isn’t March the month you have to file with the Registrars office to get on the June ballot?

Are we to understand that they will be debating and asking the voters for a blank check, with an amount TBD?

That’s insane.

Refresh the numbers on the projections that were done 2 years ago. It’s a short process. Why are they reinventing the wheel all these months to arrive at a number?

Bobby Lott Dec 4, 2013 - 2:36 pm

I don’t agree with Mr. Burkholder often, but he is 100% correct in stating that the District should release the number prior to outreach. This piece brought me great joy in seeing him go against the fire dept. for a change in an honest and open discussion. The District will only win my support if they are honest which it appears they want to play games for no other reason than “just because”. Release the number and lets talk about it. Until then, educate me all you want, my ears are closed because I want to know how much its going to cost me to ensure an engine shows up quickly.

Terry Sims Dec 4, 2013 - 2:39 pm

Mr. Burkholder, you should know this is what to expect from a bunch of fools who were never elected and ran a campaign. They were appointed. They don’t have a clue what they are doing.

They are making the firefighters and chief look bad.

Don Flunk Dec 4, 2013 - 2:41 pm

The ECCFPD Board is a joke. They were appointed to do one job which is ensure revenue can be found. Instead, they have messed around for a year discussing worthless topics and putting the community and firefighters at risk. Shame on them.

I agree, how much and how long? That is all I care about, nothing else really matters to me. If its too high, its a no. If it is a decent amount. I will listen. Its pretty simple stuff as pointed out in the article.

Mary Dec 4, 2013 - 3:14 pm

Give the board a break. They have to take their time in getting this right. Its not as simple as you make it out to be.

JimSimmons42 Dec 4, 2013 - 5:25 pm

I’ll go a step further. Confire went at $75 and ECCFPD at $200. The tax will be somewhere in the middle around $140.

Bob Minion Dec 4, 2013 - 7:58 pm

This is the best fire commission yet.They appointed several experienced firefighters who know what it takes to run this district.Give them a chance.Like Mary said; they have to take their time to get this right. She should know.Great article to say it like it is ECT.If you can’t gain trust from this union controlled district, the vote will fail again.There is a lot of distrust with government right now.They better start telling people what they want and what we would get.I think con fire sends more than 2 fire trucks even if they say they are not going to.I thought I read other articles where con fire assisted with more than 2.

Voter John Dec 4, 2013 - 8:04 pm

For starters, the District can bring back volunteers to help reduce the burden on the taxpayers. Knightsen and Bethel Island are perfect locations for volunteers while the larger portions of East County can continue with its paid career firefighters. I am okay with the District waiting until March because they are trying to get it right. I agree with several aspects of Mr. Burkholders article, but I disagree with several points at the same time. You can’t just state a number and pray, give the Board a chance.

In 'da know Dec 5, 2013 - 12:21 pm

Whooop, there it is! Your canned Volunteer diversion again. Sorry “Johnny” but that used up tactic has left the building. It hasn’t been feasible for a volunteer department in this area for a long, long time and it’s not going to happen no matter how YOU hope and pray. Your days of playing fireman are OVER. Do us all a favor and get it through your thick little pea brain; We are NEVER going backwards. N-E-V-E-R. Volunteer programs are non existent anymore in a civilized, populated and educated society. You might want to check your demographics. We don’t live in Jumbuck, Idaho and this isn’t 1970. The modern workload, mandatory training obligations, OSHA, legal issues and a host of other factors make the idea dead on arrival.

You know having volunteers work for free alongside paid professionals is a nonstarter OR are you just playing your usual dumbass card? You really think anyone is foolish enough to risk their lives, health and free time to working next to someone else that is getting paid a full salary including benefits & retirement?

You really think anyone wants to risk losing their regular job and pay if they got hurt playing Johnny or Marky-Mark fireman? Or showed up for their regular job late or tired, because they were out at 4:57 a.m. putting out a garage fire?

Pay attention dummy, the district has a revenue problem (just like Con Fire). You cannot keep dismantling the fire department and expect quality results.

Every EXPERT comes back to this little inconvenient fact;

Yet every DUMMY aka; Cheapskate keeps raising the same nonstarters. Your little game of diversionary tactics can only last so long. Tick-Tick-Tick Let’s see if the public has figured it out.

You can read can’t you? Or is that asking too much?

Barbara DuMont Dec 5, 2013 - 2:35 pm

Hooray!!! someone else that has had enough of the [email protected]@.

Steve Smith Dec 5, 2013 - 5:13 pm

Burk puts a lot of time and effort into this blog, and he has a
complete right to advance his opinions.

What he calls cat and mouse, however, I call obeying the law. I refer to the Brown Act, reinforced by AB 1234, that all deliberations (with very few exceptions) by a local government be conducted publicly. No backroom deals. We take that very seriously.

The Finance Committee has been crunching the numbers and, more importantly, trying to get the most accurate numbers possible, especially in the crucial area of pensions. We have been working off of some assumptions, and had identified some policy issues that are part of coming to the final number. Those were the questions put to the full Board for the first time on Monday night. The uncertainty shown, and the diversity of opinions, are pretty much par for the course at this stage, and it all has to be played out in front of the public. It may not be as slick as a prepackaged deal, but it is honest government.

I personally was surprised at the Board request to consider the numbers for a 7 year sunset in addition to the 5 year sunset, but we will do that and come back to the Board in December or early January. We should have a good number in time for the January outreach meetings.

Bob Minion Dec 5, 2013 - 7:34 pm

Burk did pretty well on this one. He lays out the facts and concludes with an opinion. Good editorial with lots to think about. It looks like this new tax is going to be another behind the scene back door attempt to slide the wants of a chosen few to scam the public into coughing up more cash. Brentwood just shoved another increase down everyone throat at the last minute. I see the same here.The only difference is we get to vote no if it looks shady. I have to agree with Burk, they are self inflicting a terminal decision by holding back complete information until the last minute. I does not look good for this one because everyone else has already squeezed any money we have left.

Bob Munion Dec 5, 2013 - 8:13 pm

Good editorial Burk. Back door hidden decisions will kill this tax faster than angry Brentwood citizens paying a hundred dollars a month for water. The other problem the State and Federal taxes have gone up. When people see what they are going to be hit with on Obamacare, higher state and federal taxes just paid in by April 2014 they will have far less spendable cash. The district needs to serve up a lot of sugar with this one if its going to fly.Holding back is shooting yourself in the foot. It probably will go down in flames like the last one. It seems like a de javu on this one.

Michelle B Dec 5, 2013 - 8:21 pm

Director Smith

I like that you engage the community on this site and have watched you respond many times, but I actually have to agree with Mr. Burkholder on this one which is hard to do. If Burkholder is correct, and you are all hiding the number until as late as possible, you guys will fail the District. I am against a tax, but by withholding the information, you are making it easier for me to attack a District who is not educating me on why I should change my mind. This is no attack on firefighters, but more of a reflection on a clueless board who is disengaged from the public. I would never support anything where I do not know how much I am paying or for how long.
As an observation, I do not read anywhere where Mr. Burkholder is suggesting you break the law and perform backroom deals; I am reading that he believes you this Board should be further along in the process than where you are at which is not far. The minute you mention “honest” and “government” together you raise a red flag with me.

Steve Smith Dec 5, 2013 - 8:33 pm

My point was that the full Board got their first chance to weigh in on policy decisions that will greatly impact the final number. We will continue the work on the 12th. Committee meetings are also open to the public. No one is hiding anything. A premature number that the Board then has to change won’t help anyone.

Buy a Clue Dec 6, 2013 - 11:13 am

Your committee meetings are held at 10am during a week day when most people are working. If you’re expecting anyone outside of the blue hair crowd to attend, I’d say that’s an epic fail.

Budget projections were done 2 years ago. This is a refresh, not a build from scratch effort. The sunset question could have been asked the day you decided to move forward with another ballot measure.

I’m put off by the earlier implication that the previous Board was not following the Brown Act or dealing out in the open. Whether you intended to or not, that’s they way you posted it.

I’m sorry, but I see more excuse making than sense of urgency. If the ballot measure fails, it’s pretty clear the fallback excuse will be “yeah, but we took our time and were detailed”.

Cut to the chase already. If you miss the hard deadlines before you everyone loses. Trying to pin this down within a dollar is both ridiculous and nigh on impossible.

Frank S Dec 7, 2013 - 11:23 am

Director Steve Smith,

No offense to you or your Board but I agree with the author. These items you are just now bringing to the Board are long overdue and should have been discussed way in advance. Are you all asleep at the wheel? Your wheels appear to be spinning but you are not going anywhere. You might want to hire Burkholder to lead your campaign because none of you have a clue on how to pass a tax.

Bob Minion Dec 7, 2013 - 11:26 am

I open the newspaper this morning and see the gracious Supervisor Piepho bragging about approving a new development for 300 more new homes in her area. I do not see that it will have any support for the fire district. It will have a nice boat dock for the sheriff’s boat. She is such a POS. How come she hates the fire districts so much? Does she want it to fail?

ECV Dec 8, 2013 - 7:26 pm

You guys are just plain mean and rude.It must be nice to be perfect.Then again you must be in the minority since the gal got voted in by a majority.

Mavrick Dec 8, 2013 - 6:39 am

Sad fact is we all are in this mess together, regardless if we are just some 9-5 family – Fire Board member or a EMS provider { Fire AMR Police} All that being said I wont waste anybody time, ranting on and on about Retirement the Vol. crap we all know how those fit or don’t fit into this. Iv gone to every Fire Board meeting I can.

1. The Fire Board is Divided
2. And lack any decision making capabilities.

The list is endless, solution is this Look at the Fire district / local as a business for profit, if you think its not then your miss guided. Listen to Mr. Cooper, The Man is very educated in what needs to be done, he is always been there on the front line fighting for a positive solution, dating back to when CDF to the current Measure S vote. long before he was a Board member. The man is very passionate well informed, NON Politician and has no other objective than to build a strong secure Fire District.
Let’s get down to the Meat and Potatoes Put Mr. Cooper and Fire Chief in a room alone remove all the Bull Shit restriction. And with in a week they will come up with a Plan. A plan that will work not everybody going to be happy but, it will be a step in the right direction, we all are invested in this one way or another. I dare every one to show up to the meetings once you do you will see that Im right.

ECVsBother Dec 8, 2013 - 1:01 pm


You make an excellent point. It would be great if that could happen. The problem with the fire district is as you stated they are divided. One of the most recent problems is placing firefighters on the board. That conflict in itself is a path to stalemate and failure. A firefighter is a great firefighter but not a business minded person.The firefighters have been conditioned to get what ever they want no matter what it cost or run to the union and complain like a child being told he can’t have another toy or piece of candy because the family can’t afford it. The union in turn threatens and cries the sky is falling. The commission allows itself to be pushed around by the union probably because of politics.That right there in itself tells you there will never be a logical solution only a political one. The political decisions of which most are selfish and self serving result in what we have here now. This is why the ECCFPD has no chance to succeed unless the union is reigned in and the commission has no conflict of interest people on the board. Both are very present at this time. There is no amount of tax or money that can fix a no win situation like this. The entire situation is a waste of money and time as it is put together now. How long will it take and how many lives will be impacted before people realize this district has no future when there are too many chiefs calling the shots. The district can’t even get cooperation from the county. The county dictates what’s to happen. We know how good they are with con fire problem. Its ready to go over the cliff too. It just has more money to drag it out longer.One good respected leader that has business sense to match common sense could turn this around. Maybe it is Mr. Cooper. If so, Mr. Cooper needs cooperation and loyalty from the majority or it’s just another cycle in the failure of this union dominated money wasting district.

ECV Dec 8, 2013 - 2:36 pm

@ ECVBother,

Thanks for another of your posts proving once again you are an imbecile devoid of any rational thought. Ignorance is bliss, isn’t it? It’s your own little personal enabler and how you cope. Poor bastard.

Hard to believe anyone can be a stupid as you. How you have avoided being locked up a rubber room is anyone’s guess.

Mavrick Dec 8, 2013 - 3:10 pm

@ ECVBrother

Im not going to trade emails and post back and forth, with some one who likes to see their words and empty comments on a blog. or use this as a means to attack .
But reading your response, you really don’t have a clue . Its a great Idea to have fire fighters on the board , people in the choosing field addressing the issues, that concern the fire district. A lot of them live and have family in this district. So its in their best interest to build a secure productive fire department.

You sound like someone who is bitter, and you offer no solution. Your just negative.
Unless your a fire fighter in this district, fought side by side with them. You really cant honestly say you know all the facts. So before you reply back ask your self what Im about to type is it going to offer insight with a solution or is it just a rant/ rave of anger.

ECVsBother Dec 8, 2013 - 7:16 pm


I’m sorry that you misinterpret my intent. Having firefighters on the board is just plain stupid. You have a chief and several high ranking intelligent people to refer to for information. Because a firefighter lives in the community does not make them any more intelligent than an experienced person with management degrees who also lives in the community. It’s quite ok if you disagree with my opinion even if you have an personal agenda for Mr. Cooper. That’s your right. The current credentials on the commission now are frightening. The district will pay the price for that choice. There are a few with experience and the rest without. That is basically what you said in the previous blog while promoting Mr. Cooper. I now understand where you were going with that.
Since you have no idea of my knowledge or credentials, I will forgive your negative attack on me.

ECV Dec 8, 2013 - 7:39 pm

Maverick ,

Don’t respond to the troll. He is a frustrated individual who has been handed his @ss several times by local elected and appointed officials. He doesn’t respect anyone with a differing opinion so the list includes everyone. Simply put, he is a misfit.

Watching him spin out is simply become entertainment for many here. (He is THAT GUY who thinks he is clever when in reality he is socially retarded).

He cannot come to grips with the fact that other people, no matter what their credentials, backgrounds or accomplishments are In positions to make decisions. This is one of many reasons he is doomed to a life of frustration, beyond anything you might imagine. Pity him.

The bottom line is he has no credentials beyond his firefighter envy. You know the type, he is just a different kind of arsonist.

Mavrick Dec 14, 2013 - 8:41 am


Due enlighten me of your knowledge and credentials

David Villareal Jan 24, 2014 - 8:11 am

I am hoping that all of you who have an opinion have been attending the public education meeting, If you haven’t then you really have no place to speak. I went to one and it was very informative and they explained exactly the position they were in and approximately what the tax amount would be. The spread was pretty minimal so you can get an idea of what it will actually be.

It comes down to choice. If you vote no then you are making the choice of reduced services. No way around it. The board has asked other fire districts if they want to come in an take over. They got a no from each viable alternative. The alternative income measures(Fee for service, etc) Are a great idea but they will hardly bridge the gap. Volunteers cost as much or more to train and keep trained as they have to comply with all training and equipment per OSHA as the full time paid firefighters. The firefighters are the lowest paid in the bay area and they are paying their share of retirement.

There is no way around Prop 13. That is the way it is. I still have no seen anybody with a negative opinion give any constructive advice on how to fix the ills of the district, They just blame blame blame. Yes..there are firefighters on the board, They are citizens of the district and have just as much a right to serve on a public board as anyone else in the community. I haven’t seen any bias on their part in their voting or opinions.

We will make our choices and we will live(Or not live) with them. Nothing and nobody else is going to step in and save the district. No complaining when your house burns because there are not enough people to save it, No complaining when your family member is sick or injured laying on the floor or slumped over in that wrecked vehicle and you have to wait 15 minutes or more for the first medical personnel to arrive. You are going to have to do a lot more fending for yourselves and when you are actually in that situation you are going to wish you had voted yes.

B-Wood Jan 24, 2014 - 10:05 am


If regular circumstances were at play you would be correct, however they are not.

-The district has a permanent, long term revenue problem. A “patch” is not what is needed. A funding tax that brings the department on par with the rest of the county and surrounding areas for adequate service is a necessity. It is a “need to have” not a “nice to have”.

-The 5 year sunset is ridiculous and falls short of a realistic goal. This is based on the monumental costs associated with elections. The district does not have 100′s of thousands of dollars available spend on more elections. At a minimum, a 7 to 10 year sunset would be reasonable and most surely would have to be renewed. The problem is not going away.

-I refuse to vote for a tax simply because it meets an arbitrary figure that is claimed more palatable to some voters. This lower amount is no bargain and will put us in a worse position 5 years down the line.

-I will not vote for or support a tax that falls short of what is required to provide a base level of emergency service and leaves fire stations closed and communities without initial protection.

The recent “plan” is a day late and a hundred dollars short. The ECCFPD is not only in disarray, but lacks focus, a solid plan, and most importantly is missing a team approach that everyone can get behind.

The proposed tax is unfortunately already doomed to failure. It may have had a chance IF the district directors and firefighters, had begun with an educational campaign (at least a year in advance) demonstrating why the district has a shortfall of revenue due to a low allocation of property tax. Inclusive of a realistic amount of cost necessary to re-open closed stations in all communities could secure voters from Byron/Discovery Bay, Bethel Island and other affected areas. *Ask yourself, why would they vote for a tax no matter what the amount when their stations remain shuttered.

For a tax to succeed at the ballot box, 2/3 (66 percent) is needed. The latest direction no doubt alienates additional voters and draws a larger margin of failure.

I will not put good money behind a bad plan.

Spend time–at least a year–not a few months, educating the public. Put a solid funding plan back on the table that reopens stations and provides east county with the emergency services that it requires. Most importantly, get as many people, groups, agencies on the same page. (Right now, I see none of that taking place, and it is far too late to census build). If it fails, then at least you know you did everything you could to make the department function. It is the right thing to do.

If the tax were to pass (it will not) it would lock us in to substandard service (just like we have under the current prop. 13 allocations). The only way we get back on track is for real leadership, education of the public, and the proper funding of the district. For the public to understand this, they need skin in the game. Closing more stations (soon) is the only way to bringing public awareness in the short term. Putting a bandaid assessment out only makes a bad situation worse and smacks of mediocrity on the board.

The tax will fail. It is a foregone conclusion.

Nixon Jan 30, 2014 - 11:08 pm

You ppl need to look outside you’re bubble. Back here on planet earth Brentwood would have two stations and Oakley would have one. Disco, Knightsen, and BI would have to wait for one of those engines. That’s the model we are voting to protect against. It’s called return to source and it does not bode well for us on the outlying area.

Nixon Jan 30, 2014 - 10:32 pm

Nice article Mike

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