2001-Second half year in review
by OVN staff
The second half of 2001 began and ended with celebration,
but the autumn months were anything but festive, as Ojai was
reminded that tragedies and terror affect all of us.
Here's a brief, month-by-month rundown of noteworthy events.
· The Ojai Unified School District held an emergency meeting
Monday to reject all bids for districtwide computer network expansion
and upgrades for electrical circuitry at various school sites.
Director of Maintenance and Operations Lowell Orcutt said the
bids came in about $400,000 higher than the budget had allowed.
· It will be mid-September before John Taft goes back
to war with two of his neighbors and appeals decisions made by
the County of Ventura.
At the heart of the battle, issues of money, environmental education,
property rights, and a laundry list of code violations are, in
the meantime, keeping attorneys and bureaucrats busy.
· Sunday afternoon, the Ojai Film Festival officials invited
community members to join them and honor a great filmmaker, by
showing "Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures" at the
The Jan Harlan documentary, narrated by Tom Cruise, was released
by Warner Brothers this year and follows Kubrick's personal and
work life from his New York boyhood through his early films in
the 1950s up through his career end in the late 1990s just before
· Ventura police detectives Tuesday arrested an 18-year-old
Oak View man for the July 1 murder of a homeless man at the Ventura
River Estuary, commonly referred to as "Hobo Jungle,"
near the junction of the Ojai and Ventura freeways.
The victim, James Richard Clark, 58, was found beaten to death.
The motive, according to Lt. Quinn Fenwick of the Ventura Police
Department, remains uncertain.
· A shield of clouds shaded the Fourth of July parade
Wednesday morning that led some to speculate a larger-than-usual
crowd showed up for the parade.
Duncan Nelles of the Ojai Independence Day Committee said that
he was amazed and overwhelmed as he drove Parade Grand Marshal
Sally Iwata down Ojai Avenue to lead the parade.
"It was by far the largest crowd we have ever had,"
Nelles said. No official crowd size was tallied, but estimates
of 9,000 to 10,000 were conservative, Nelles said. The fireworks
at Nordhoff High School were a hit too.
· First-time writer-director Jane Cusumano, 46, of Ojai,
lost her battle with breast cancer four weeks after the completion
of her film, "What Matters Most," on June 1.
· The Community Development Department presented their
Arcade Plaza Design Plan at the Tuesday City Council meeting.
In the presentation by Kathleen McCann, concerns emerged about
the proposed clock tower, building two fountains and the trash
problem. The Planning Commission will review the plan and provide
a further report to the council.
· It was standing room only for most of the Ojai Unified
School District board meeting Tuesday as teachers and community
members crowded in to question and commend the preliminary proposal
for a charter school.
Superintendent Van Riley and teacher Craig Walker, who've worked
closely together to create the proposal, shared a one-and-a-half-hour
presentation for the charter school proposal.
· Ojai Valley libraries are open, for now.
For six days local public libraries were closed because striking
workers from the Ventura County Service Employees International
Union, Local 998, were calling for a new contract that would
guarantee them cost-of-living adjustments in their pensions.
· The 11th annual Intertribal Pow Wow at Lake Casitas
brought hundreds of Native Americans from more than 50 tribes
across the United States to compete, celebrate, dance, and share
their traditions on the lake's sunny shores.
· The local Audubon Society contingent thinks that Casitas
Municipal Water District's latest project - a proposed "alternative
swimming facility" - is for the birds. Over the course of
the two-day event, more than 2,000 visitors watched dance contests
for all ages.
· When Sheriff's deputies responding to an alleged domestic
incident reported taking fire from a high-powered rifle Sunday
morning in the 1500 block of Baldwin Road, S.W.A.T. , other deputies
and two helicopters were immediately deployed.
Fortunately, the shots being fired were by a neighbor target
shooting, and not by the suspect in the incident, who was later
identified as 41-year-old Jeffery Giroux.
Giroux was taken into custody without incident and booked into
the Ventura County main jail for domestic violence, according
to the police report.
· Its lip is cracked and chipped, showing a fossil of
exposed, rusted Rebar. And it's mostly hidden by a hedge of chest-high
bushes. But the fountain still gurgles a pleasing trickle under
the pink-blossomed, richly scented crepe myrtles in the Arcade
But if planners and consultants for the city of Ojai approve
and begin construction on the redevelopment-funded redesign of
the plaza, the fountain will be torn out
· Neva Williams, an experienced designer and construction
executive, has become a member of the city of Ojai Arts Commission.
Williams recently completed an assignment as project administrator
for the expansion of the Ojai Police Department complex, and
earlier she supervised the restoration of the historic Pergola
along Ojai Avenue in the front of Libbey Park
· Shakespeare in the park debuted this past weekend in
Libbey Bowl with two productions for Elizabethan theater fans:
"Falstaff, the Apprenticeship of Good Prince Hal,"
and a young-players presentation of "Much Ado About Nothing."
· Although the heroic efforts of Matthew Scesney to save
a dying man in the middle of the southbound 405 Freeway Friday
afternoon failed, the Los Angeles City Fire Department described
him as a true hero nonetheless.
Scesney, 43, had been heading to Legoland in San Diego with his
wife and 8-year-old son at 2:36 p.m., according to Brian Humphrey,
LAFD public information officer, when he discovered a man slumped
over the wheel of his white pickup truck on the freeway near
Santa Monica Boulevard in the No. 4 lane of the five-lane roadway.
· Ninety-six boys and girls from more than three dozen
Ojai Valley families represented five 4-H groups at this year's
Ventura County Fair.
· An Ojai woman was attacked by two Great Danes while
she was jogging on Valley Meadow Road Sunday morning, prompting
the dog's owner to have them put to sleep.
Kathy Jenks, who heads the county's Animal Control Department,
said that neither of the animals had a history of violence, but
according to the police report, the dogs broke loose from their
owner and began chasing Mary Kemp, 43, as she passed them and
their owner at 9:15 a.m.
· At Wednesday night's meeting, the city of Ojai Planning
Commission approved assembly use of an historic building, banners
for non-profit events, and construction of a modular home
Michael McFerrin, owner of the historic Nazarene Church building
in downtown Ojai, had petitioned the commission to change the
permitted use of the church building from office to assembly
use. The building is located on the southwest corner of North
Montgomery and Aliso streets, at 213 N. Montgomery Street
· The City Council approved the Traffic Calming Draft
Plan, new kindergarten funding, and tennis court lights at Wednesday
night's meeting. Additional discussions concerned establishing
a Youth Commission as well as traffic mitigation fees on new
· Three men were arrested at a residence in the 500 block
of Larmier Avenue Friday morning and charged with possession
of cocaine for sale.
Following an extensive investigation that began when neighbors
complained of excessive in-and-out traffic at the residence,
sheriff's narcotics officers served a search warrant that resulted
in the discovery of approximately a quarter-pound of cocaine,
weighing scales, packaging materials and other items associated
with the sale of narcotics, according to Sgt. Bob Garcia.
· Ojai Valley Community Hospital has achieved accreditation
from the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations
as a result of its demonstrated compliance with the Joint Commission's
nationally recognized health care standards.
· The experience of a former undercover narcotics officer
apparently played a big part in Thursday's arrest of Joel Alexander
King, 27, and Olivia Nann Ogier, 22, suspected of operating a
methamphetamine lab out of their North Hollywood home.
· The season's first Ojai area brush fire Thursday morning
scorched 20 acres of wildland, briefly threatened homes in the
Rancho La Vista area, and caused Villanova Prep students to be
removed from their classes.
· There's good news for Oak View grocery shoppers. Dahl's
Market, vacant for nearly a year, has been leased by an Oxnard
man who owns three other regional markets.
· Several people riding the Ojai Trolley Saturday morning
were rattled from their seats as the city-owned vehicle sank
into softened asphalt undermined by a nearby water line break.
One elderly woman was taken to the Ojai Valley Community Hospital
by LifeLine paramedics for evaluation after witnesses said she
landed face-down in an aisle as the vehicle came to an abrupt
· At least one suspect learned you can run, but you can't
hide from Ojai Police.
Responding to an unrelated call in the 400 block of North La
Luna Avenue Monday afternoon, Deputy Joe Preciado spotted Lonnie
Stanford Jr., whom he knew as having drug-related and other warrants.
Preciado also knew that Stanford, 18, had unsuccessfully run
from the police as recently as last month, according to Ojai
Police Chief Gary Pentis.
· Reports on declining enrollment and possible speed bumps
on the smooth road to a charter school dominated the Ojai Unified
School District board of education meeting Tuesday.
Assistant Superintendent Jim Berube presented the board with
district enrollment figures from the years 1983 to present. Districtwide
enrollment is currently 3,940 as of Tuesday, that's down 242
students since enrollment peaked from a steady increase between
1983 and 1998.
· An Agoura Hills couple sustained multiple injuries and
fractures Monday afternoon when their Harley Davidson motorcycle
collided with a Daewoo Lanos driven by Charlyn Summerfield of
· The Ventura County Sheriff's Department this week has
released its semi-annual list of reported crimes within the Ojai
city limits, indicating a substantial decrease in both violent
and property crimes.
While the actual number of reported violent crimes dropped from
10 to six between Jan. 1 and June 30 - and Ojai's population
only grew by 50 people - the decrease was 40 percent, or .75
crimes per 1,000 population. The figure compares favorably with
1.26 crimes per 1,000 population for the same period in 2000.
· Declining enrollment is forcing the collapse of classrooms
at the Mira Monte, Topa Topa and Meiners Oaks Elementary Schools.
Ojai Unified School District Superintendent Van Riley said about
30 students at each school will either be shifted around within
the schools or could be moved to another school within the district
that has classroom openings.
· County Fire investigators have determined that arson
was the cause of a brushfire that burned more than 20 acres of
land and drove Villanova Preparatory School students out of their
classrooms last Thursday.
· After a steep rise, crime in the unincorporated areas
of the Ojai Valley has taken a modest drop.
According to statistics released by the Ventura County Sheriff's
Department last week, violent and property crimes reported in
the unincorporated areas of the Ojai Valley for the first half
of this year showed a moderate 6.5-percent decrease, compared
with a 23-percent increase for the same period last year.
· A grim look of determination was evident on the faces
of law enforcement officials Friday afternoon as marked and unmarked
cars paraded up narrow Pine Mountain Road in search of suspected
triple murderer Reynaldo Herrera Rodriguez.
They knew that Rodriguez was probably armed and had nothing to
lose after he realized that he had been spotted by Len Cleveland,
U.S. Forest Service law enforcement officer, and Sheriff's Deputy
Dave Gasaway from the nearby Lockwood Valley substation.
Two days earlier, the 35-year-old Caltrans civil engineer with
a reported vendetta - against a woman whom he may have mistakenly
believed had given him a sexually-transmitted disease - allegedly
set his Thousand Oaks home ablaze and drove a rented 2002 Ford
Explorer to eastern Simi Valley, where he was suspected of bursting
into an upscale home and shooting five people, killing three
· With six Ojai-trained search dogs now in New York City
searching with their handlers for living victims of Tuesday's
terrorist tragedy, the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation
is calling for support, seeking additional dogs to be trained
and funding for their donation-supported program.
· In contrast to the violent chaos Americans have watched
unfold in New York City this past week, hundreds of Ojai Valley
residents and families gathered in unity and peace Friday evening
in Libbey Park.
· While no American or, indeed, global, community is perfect,
the Ojai Valley comes as close to being an example of perfection
as many a person could hope to find.
And now, in the midst of a crisis that has shown the ugly side
of many other cities and towns across the nation, Ojai proves
it is not just a physically beautiful community, but a spiritually
beautiful one, as well.
· Monday afternoon the Ojai Unified School District Board
of Education held a brief special meeting to receive a financial
report that needed to be filed by Sept. 17.
Dannielle Pusatere, presented the board with the 2000-01 unaudited
actual financial report that shows how the district will receive
funding based on average daily attendance numbers, what money
is coming into and out of a handful of different funds.
· The Planning Commission attracted a packed house at
last night's meeting. Hot topics were the Ojai Valley School's
request to use a shed located on residential property and the
Emerald Iguana Inn's potential change in status. Half the audience
walked out when they learned that there would be no final vote
on either issue last night because the applicants couldn't be
at the meeting. However, this didn't prevent many of those remaining
from participating in a heated discussion about the Emerald Iguana
Inn when their turn came.
· Watch national news and before long you'll think that
American businesses are virtually shutting down. But local businesses,
while feeling changes in attitude and behavior, keep chugging
In the week now following the tragic events in New York City
and Washington, D.C., local businesses have been affected, but
most say that it hasn't been that bad.
· Betti Ridenour, the founding, creative, and driving
force behind Illusions Theatre, died in her home Thursday of
In July, the Ojai Valley News ran a story about Ridenour who
was premiering, "Cinderella," Illusions Theatre's swan
"Ojai," Ridenour told Kelly Feser Eells," is such
an artistic community, there's never any shortage of talent or
Ridenour started Illusions in 1980 to bring youth into the theater
and pass along her own approach to learning that she had fostered
as a teacher at Oak Grove School.
· He left for New York knowing he would never see his
mother alive again.
For more than a week, with assigned 12-hour shifts that often
became around-the-clock disappointments, Seth Peacock and 5-year-old
Pupdog were part of a team of the Ojai-based National Disaster
Search Dog Foundation's rescue teams that were dispatched to
"Ground Zero," as the remnants of the World Trade Center
have since come to be known.
· The Camp Chaffee Road neighbors were at it again at
the Casitas Municipal Water District meeting Wednesday afternoon
in Oak View. But this time the crowd had grown from two neighbors
to four and included the fence builder, John Rockhold, and his
· Using their turnout boots as collection plates, Ojai-area
firefighters collected nearly $36,000 Saturday at the "Y"
intersection to benefit the families of their New York City comrades
who lost their lives in the World Trade Center attack.
Meiners Oaks Station 22 Capt. Bob Myers said rookies from the
academy, who could have taken the day off, stood alongside about
20 firefighters, captains, engineers and battalion chiefs, working
for seven hours in the hot midday sun.
· They'd barely gotten into the pleasantries and introductions
when Craig Walker dropped a bomb Monday evening.
There will be no charter school.
"The Doniphan Oaks steering committee met this afternoon,"
Walker said. "The idea was to offer parents a choice and
children something different."
· Impassioned library patrons crowded the city's chambers
at Tuesday night's Ojai City Council meeting, making fiery speeches
opposing moving the Ojai Library from its current location or
selling the library to help fund a new site.
The Library Expansion Committee, formed from groups across the
community, brought recommendations after hundreds of hours of
analysis and work.
· Kino Crooke could be enjoying a load of new games and
puzzles right now. He celebrated his 10th birthday this past
Saturday at his Ojai home and 26 of his friends and neighbors
came to the party. But Kino didn't want their gifts for himself,
he wanted them given to the dogs.
Dad's interest in the newspapers and media reports have brought
Ojai's National Disaster Search Dog Foundation to Crooke's attention
in recent weeks. He wanted to do something to help.
· Hallmark does not carry a line of greeting cards for
the sort of anniversary Lourdes Carranza celebrates this month,
which is just as well.
The Signal Street resident radiates more good cheer than a thousand
"special anniversary" cards could ever convey.
On Sept. 9, 2000, Carranza, who had learned some months earlier
that without transplant surgery she'd likely lose her decades-long
battle with kidney disease, underwent the life-saving operation
in Guadalajara, Mexico. Her sister, or, as Carranza said, "hero,"
Mira Monte resident Concha Jiminez, supplied the critical organ.
· After a four-month appeal window, the Center for Earth
Concerns is officially closed.
Tuesday the Ventura County Board of Supervisors voted 4 to 1
to uphold their first-ever revocation of a conditional use permit;
a decision they made in mid-June. Supervisor Steve Bennett, who
represents the Ojai Valley, cast the lone vote to keep the center
open and operating.
· In 1989, the Farmont Corporation of Pasadena proposed
building a 203-acre golf course on the 2,000-plus acre parcel
adjacent to Rancho Matilija, a proposal that teed off several
local environmental groups.
The golf course, according to attorney Lindsey Nielsen, "was
the dream of the late Mr. Toyama - the original applicant - who
wasn't interested in profit, and who had the funds (not to be.)
It's unfortunate that he died without seeing his dream realized."
· An Ojai man known for his knowledge and practice of
tree care and his love for sailing drowned this weekend.
John Keith, 64, was sailing Saturday when he went overboard about
200 yards from the Lake Casitas event area dock.
· A scenic hillside has apparently been stripped to bare
earth and is now marked by the tracks of heavy equipment.
The land, about a half mile west of the Ventura River bridge,
sits south of Baldwin Road behind an orange grove just past the
westerly entrance to Rancho Matilija.
It appears that there was no authorization for this act.
· With electricity rates jumping 58 percent and then 80
percent in recent months, Casitas Municipal Water District general
manager John Johnson is looking to the state legislature for
· A Ventura couple has been arrested and charged with
attempting to steal the identities of more than 30 people in
Ventura and Santa Barbara counties.
Sheriff's Detective Joe Evans said the pair, Roscoe Case, 39,
and Tanya Wheatley, 31, both of whom gave Ventura addresses,
were arrested Oct. 2 outside the Ventura home of a man whom deputies
were serving a parole violation warrant.
· The main route into Ojai brought an apology at Tuesday
evening's City Council meeting.
Mumbie Fredson-Cole of Caltrans said, "I apologize on behalf
of Caltrans for all the frustrations and the slow process the
median project has caused. I too am frustrated because of the
constraints." Fredson-Cole has just found a new contractor
to complete the work already begun on Highway 33 between 101
· Thanks to the work of Ojai City staff, the Ojai Valley
Youth Foundation and the example of other communities, an Ojai
Valley Youth Commission will soon be providing advisory opinions
to the Ventura County Sheriffs, Ojai City Council and the Ojai
Unified School District.
· Caltrans has fired the contractor hired to construct
a three-mile-long concrete barrier on the Ojai Freeway, delaying
the already-behind-schedule project possibly well into 2002.
Reseda-based Tupaz Enterprises was fired for repeatedly missing
deadlines and failing to finish the $2.6 million project on time,
said Caltrans spokeswoman Ivy Estrada, and the bidding process
will soon begin to secure a contractor to finish the job.
· While there has been no specific threat to public safety
in the Ojai Valley, speculation grows that rural areas can be
the targets of terrorists who want to prove that no place in
America is beyond their reach.
Although the chances of a local chemical or biological attack
may seem to be remote, the county's farms do require crop dusting,
which experts say can be an efficient means of delivering anthrax
and other fatal biochemicals in mass quantities.
· The ground breaking for Ojai's Newest Park will be held
at 4 p.m. Friday in what is currently several large stones, some
cyclone fence and dusty weeds tucked into the triangle made by
Rincon Street, El Paseo Road and Ojai Avenue.
After a few speeches by Ojai Valley Land Conservancy and city
officials and the ceremonial shovel scoops, the suits will move
back and within the week, construction will begin
· Anyone looking forward to the day when shouts of "fore"
are heard from the proposed Farmont Golf is likely in for a long
The 2,000-plus-acre property, adjacent to Rancho Matilija, was
a source of controversy when the Farmont Corporation owned it.
The current owners, Intell Management, recent request to modify
the original (1995) Conditional Use Permit has triggered a new
round of local concerns.
· After fielding 17 calls Monday from an alarmed public,
Ventura County Fire Department Chief Bob Roper called a press
conference Tuesday to assure the public of the county's readiness
for dealing with the anthrax threats
· Ojai Day 2001 dawned foggy and quiet. But before noon
live music and rollicking crowds drove back the low-lying clouds
and sunshine shone as thousands of people poured into town.
From command central in Libbey Park, organizers and crew dispatched
throughout downtown Ojai to spread entertainment and activity
for Ojai's biggest day of the year.
· As the public hearing conducted by the Department of
Water Resources drew to a close Oct. 17, Flood Protection Programs
Manager Earl Nelson underscored the state's interest in the Ojai
Meadows Wetlands Restoration and Flood Corridor Improvement project
"We wanted to pick the cream for the pilots," said
Nelson, "and this project definitely rose to the top."
· With anthrax scares gripping the nation, the U.S. Postal
Service has implemented safety measures to help ensure the safety
of employees who sort and handle the mail.
Local postal officials confirmed that masks and gloves were available
for employees to wear, but referred all questions to USPS Consumer
Affairs in Los Angeles.
· An impassioned audience packed the City Council chambers
at Tuesday night's meeting to oppose public use of an assembly
Twenty neighbors of the Offices at the Pew on Aliso and Montgomery
streets spoke out against expanding use at the former Nazarene
Church. The church is part of the Offices at the Pew that have
been remodeled by Michael McFerrin, his architect Marc Whitman
and building contractor Michael Baldridge
· At last the shouting is over and construction on Ojai's
Newest Park has begun.
Friday afternoon more than 170 officials and community members
gathered inside the temporary cyclone fencing that surrounds
the former gas-station lot and dug in with tiny yellow-handled
"from-blight-to-beauty" trowels while motorists drove
by on Ojai Avenue waving and tooting their horns.
· If you're looking for an uplifting Disney-esque movie
to watch at the upcoming Ojai Film Festival, don't see this film.
However, if you're looking for what's been called a "bright,
beautifully written script, that's wonderfully directed,"
then get your tickets for the festival and be at the Ojai Playhouse
Nov. 9 at 7 p.m. for the U.S. premiere of Malcolm McDowell's
film "Gangster No. 1."
· A few bumps, bruises, scrapes and broken bones didn't
deter Deputy Tom Triplett from completing the training required
to become Ojai's new motorcycle officer.
· American Red Cross volunteers from the Ojai area arrived
within an hour after a Friday afternoon fire destroyed a modest
home at 1130 N. Ventura Ave. in Oak View, and offered the victims
immediate local housing, clothing and meals
· Suspicious circumstances surround the origin of an approximately
two-acre blaze that blackened a portion of the Ojai Meadows Preserve
· After the Tuesday evening Ojai Unified School District
board meeting, Superintendent Van Riley announced that Pat Peake
was no longer the principal at Meiners Oaks.
· For the second year in a row, the Ojai Film Festival
screened 84 narrative features, shorts, documentaries, and animated
films at four venues from Thursday through Monday. And officials
agree, with the exception of some minor technical glitches, there
was definite improvement over the 2000 festival.
· A 35-year-old man who earlier pleaded guilty to two
counts of elderly abuse following a February attack on an elderly
Oak View couple has been sentenced to nine years in state prison.
· Amid much public outcry and after two years' work, the
City Council rejected the 2000-2005 Housing Element proposal
and its 209 additional housing units at Tuesday night's meeting.
· Michelle Oishi, Pacific Bell spokesperson, confirmed
Tuesday that Pac Bell's DSL service will start as soon as April
· Construction for Ojai's Newest Park at the corners of
Ojai Avenue, Rincon Street and El Paseo Road is well under way
with grading being the main effort so far.
· While the Arcade Plaza is getting a facelift from Ojai's
Redevelopment Agency, the Rains Department Store is also planning
·Donna Popular, 51, a nurse at the Ojai Valley Community
Hospital, was pronounced dead at the Ventura County Medical Center
Saturday afternoon of injuries sustained in a single-vehicle
accident on Ojai-Santa Paula Road..
· Sheriff's deputies and agents of the Federal Bureau
of Investigation are searching for a man in his mid-50s who robbed
the Ojai Valley Bank of an undisclosed amount of cash.
· Adding fuel to an already volatile situation, Ventura
County Sheriff's deputies assigned to the county's jails and
court system staged a work slowdown Monday, and the Deputy Sheriff's
Association, through its Santa Monica-based attorney, Stephen
H. Silver, has filed a $100 million lawsuit against Ventura County
and its Board of Retirement.
· True to his word, Pratt House owner Bill Moses withdrew
his application to operate an Interpretive Center from his historic
Foothill Road home.
· After cake and punch, along with pleasant chatter with
the mayor, two city council members, and a host of other visitors,
Bob Unruhe was ready to raise his right hand and take the oath
of office as the newest board member of the Ojai Unified School
· The Ojai Valley Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Bureau
has announced the recipients of its Citizen, Educator and Youth
of the Year. Gloria and Oscar Melendez will share Citizen of
the Year; coach Ken Reeves, Educator of the Year; and Trevor
Weedon has been voted Youth of the Year.
· Two homeless men were taken into custody Tuesday night
following the alleged robbery and attack of another homeless
man in Libbey Park.
· Three Ojai residents were taken to area hospitals Monday
night following a spectacular, head-on collision on Santa Ana
· Amid the festivities of their annual Christmas party
at the Ojai Valley Inn & Spa on Dec. 13, the city honored
many of those who have contributed their time and services to
© 2002 The Ojai Valley News
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