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Midtown pushes to raise water, sewer, trash rates

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Vivian Moon View Drop Down
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    Posted: Oct 07 2016 at 6:16pm


Middletown pushes to raise water, sewer, trash rates

Mike Rutledge

Staff Writer

4:43 p.m Friday, Oct. 7, 2016

 MIDDLETOWN


At the end of 2017, members of Middletown City Council won’t be able to say City Manager Doug Adkins didn’t warn them it was going to be a difficult year.

He told them just that this week during a budget presentation, where he also proposed to increase sewer rates by 15 percent; water rates by 7.5 percent; and garbage/recycling charges by 5.3 percent.

Adkins, who went on vacation after offering Tuesday’s budget presentation, was unavailable to say whether he also still recommends the streetlight assessment he suggested during January’s council retreat as a way to repair Middletown’s crumbling streets, and if so, in what amount.

“Next year is honestly probably going to be the hardest year for many of you that you’ve ever been on council,” Adkins predicted. “I’m going to throw a lot of stuff at you. We’re going to be out in the public a lot, talking to people. You’re going to hear a lot of discussion, you’re going to hear a lot of differing views.”

He added: “We’re going to ask you to make policy decisions to carry us forward the next several years.”

Among things that could lead to difficult discussions, he said, are the heroin epidemic; policy changes suggested by the city’s housing study, now underway; implementation of the in-progress Downtown Master Plan; suggestions from a Citywide Transportation Study, to be conducted next year; possible upgrades to city recreation activities; “healthy living initiatives,” including health, nutrition, food deserts and financial literacy; and whether to more directly help the school district with kindergarten readiness, graduation rates and other issues.

Adkins said he hopes to have the budget approved by council’s Nov. 15 meeting, with a first reading of the budget at the Nov. 1 meeting and the second on the 15th.

“That gives you approximately 45 days to look through the full budget that I dropped off to you all,” he said.

Adkins offered a 40-minute presentation with computer visuals covering all the city’s budget except for the portions dealing with public safety forces. Afterward, council members asked no questions.

Adkins said the 15 percent sewer increase and 7.5 percent water hike are “consistent with what we’ve been talking about with the long-term control plan projections” that are being negotiated with environmental regulators and the proposed replacement of water and sewer lines.

“This is not raising to just take money,” he said. “We have projects scheduled to use that money, and continue to upgrade our water and sewer infrastructure. And again, the whole idea behind this was to increase more now, over the next few years, so when the larger expenses for the long-term control plan came, we weren’t making huge, 20-, 30-, 40-percent increases down the road. We could spread them out over time, get the benefit of having them now.”

The trash/recycling fee, now $14.25 per month, should rise to $15, he suggested to council, because environmental regulators are requiring additional methane monitoring at the city’s landfill.

The typical residential sewer bill is $28.15 per sewer, based on use of 600 cubic feet of water per month, and that would rise about $4.22 per month. The typical residential water rate would climb from $20.60 per month by about $1.55.

Mayor Larry Mulligan Jr., asked about his support of the proposed rate increases, said, “Trash collection and sewer increases are driven by compliance with EPA requirements and expected costs,” and further noted: “There are also some components for required maintenance in water as well.”

Among major budget points:

  • A 1.5 percent cost-of-living increase to all employees in 2017, with no performance-based incentives
  • Income-tax revenue is expected to climb 3.2 percent
  • Health-insurance costs will rise 5.8 percent next year for city employees
  • Excluding public-safety costs, the city’s budget will climb by $394,434, or 4.6 percent, with gains coming in the areas of economic development (30.2 percent); information systems (23.2 percent); community revitalization (17.1 percent); law department (7.1 percent); city manager (6.5 percent); and finance department (1.1 percent).
  • Adkins wants to hire an animal-control officer for the first time in about eight years.

Asked overall about his support for the budget proposal, Mulligan said: “I think we need to carefully consider the budget proposal and see how it lines up with the sustainable model we’ve been working toward for the city for years coming out of the recession.”

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote What A City Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Oct 12 2016 at 12:28pm
And I will pose the question to Mr. Adkins since he seems to be a good responder to comments here.

Raising sewer, water and trash (street light charge) rates will hurt the average citizen in this city. You know that many here are on a tight budget, live paycheck to paycheck (if they are working at all) and sometimes struggle to meet the water bill, electric bill, cable bill, etc while struggling to have enough left over to go to the grocery each week. "Dining out" means the dollar menu at McD's for many. You also know the town is saturated with low income residents (a result of the city doctrine of invitation of that segment of society thru it's escalation of HUD housing and Fed handouts) You have made no attempt to attract people here of sufficient income to bolster the purchasing power ratio and who can actually take these little increases in stride. The older, retired, fixed income folks sure don't appreciate this tactic. You "poor down" the community and then you want to raise taxes and treat the town as if it has some affluence. Makes no sense.

What, other than raising the taxes in this city, is the city doing to generate revenue to afford these little "projects"? (c'mon, we all know it's for downtown spending....every dollar is for your downtown). Is the thinking from the city building ever going to include gaining revenue the way other cities do?......ie, decent job creation resulting in payroll and corporate tax sources? Or do you intend to bleed the poor residents dry in the wallet over time? This city government has no vision outside the downtown area. You, and others, are so laser focused on making the downtown a success you are willing to divert every penny to the downtown dream while letting the other areas of town and it's people aimlessly drift. The East End by the Towne Mall is enjoying success but it is guided by private ventures.(ironically, the way the downtown should be developed) Use the money you are plowing into the downtown to provide the revenue for your sewer, water, trash and city lights increases, leaving the cash strapped residents alone.

Your water/sewer charges now make it expensive to water the lawn, even for the higher end folks who live in the Oaks and similar areas. My water bill is normally 60 bucks a month. When I water the lawn, it increases to over 100 bucks a month. Significant with the current rates.....and now, you want to make it even more expensive? I can see a lot of lawns burning up resulting in costly lawn replacements down the road as the rates make lawn watering non-existent.

Find another way. Taxation is the easy way out as opposed to job creation which will require more effort.      
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote What A City Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Oct 12 2016 at 12:41pm
There is also another article in the Journal about Les Landen retiring as Law Director in 2017. They are rotating the law department employees to gain knowledge to take over when Landen retires. More in the article states that the city building will have some major turnovers of people. Is this major turnover from people leaving to work elsewhere, major numbers who will be retiring, or is Adkins wanting to change the culture in city hall by developing a new workforce and thinking philosophy for his administration in the coming years?

As for Landen, there is discussion on this forum as to his various "wandering" interpretations of the law from time to time apparently based on the given situation at the time of decision. Goodbye Les. I hope we can do better next time in finding your replacement if this is the case.

But what I will miss most is the high pitched singing of old Les on the "My Town" videos. Comical.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Douglas Adkins Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Oct 12 2016 at 4:35pm
I wish I had a cheaper option. This city has aging water and sewer infrastructure from the treatment plants to the pipes to the hydraulic canal that are going to require hundreds of millions of dollars of repairs and renovations over the next two decades so that when you turn on the water, it comes out of the faucet and when you flush the toilet, it leaves the house.

Middletown chose to have cheaper water rates than most surrounding communities over the past twenty years and it did not spend adequately on infrastructure maintenance of their water and sewer systems. I know you don't want to hear it, but I would have raised your rates a long time ago and started this process sooner. At this point there is little choice in what needs to be done.

Secondly, the EPA is requiring the city (along with all other older cities across the country) to deal with our combined sewers. Add on at least another hundred million dollars for those changes, which will be court ordered, and the current estimate over the next 20 years to keep water and sewer viable and in compliance with federal law is just under $400 million.

It takes $57,142,857 in payroll to bring in $1,000,000 in income tax, or 1428 new jobs @ $40K per job.

$400 million in water and sewer expenditures divided by 20 years = $20 million per year. To meet that demand, I'll need an additional 28,580 jobs each year at $40K per job.

That doesn't include any needed paving... or any increases in public safety costs during the 20 year period.

Your concerns are real and true and I get it. There just isn't much choice at this point moving forward.

The Oxford State Road widening and the extension of Yankee Road are both being completed to make MADE industrial park more attractive to potential manufacturers. We've had some good prospects the but the difficulty in getting raw materials in and finished products out has kept us from closing the deals.

We are also working with the owners on the East End to continue development of the highway area. Tuesday, we are purchasing a parcel on Hook Drive to open up the west part of the airport for development. There is activity going on all over the city. Downtown just happens to be what is visible at the moment. The rest of the work is being done behind the scenes.

I've told the paper multiple times that there is no street light assessment for 2017. The Journal is trying to get a rise out of you on that one. Not true.

The EPA is requiring additional monitoring of the closed landfill. We intended to go one more year before raising solid waste rates, but the cost of complying with the new additional EPA requirements will run us out of funds in that account before the end of the 2017. We had to go with the increase next year.

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote What A City Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Oct 12 2016 at 7:26pm
Mr. Adkins:
"Secondly, the EPA is requiring the city (along with all other older cities across the country) to deal with our combined sewers. Add on at least another hundred million dollars for those changes, which will be court ordered, and the current estimate over the next 20 years to keep water and sewer viable and in compliance with federal law is just under $400 million."

I might be wrong here but I think we have had discussions on this forum concerning this subject and the EPA demands to improve the sewer systems and connectors (downtown area perhaps?) I remember Vivian Moon presenting information for us and asking the question "What happened to the money in past years that was earmarked for this very problem?" 

Vivian, if you read this, can you provide this info. for Mr, Adkins about our concerns long ago? This may be another case of financing in Middletown where money was set aside for a specific purpose and as time goes by, it is quietly diverted to other endeavors under the radar. Not so much during your time Mr. Adkins, but certainly during previous administrations. 

The road repair budget item comes to mind here, where, in the mid 80's the city took money out of the road repair fund, used it "for emergency purposes" and never replaced the raided fund.

Mr. Adkins:
"It takes $57,142,857 in payroll to bring in $1,000,000 in income tax, or 1428 new jobs @ $40K per job."

Yep, and this all stems from the city leaders in the 70's seeing Armco reduced from 9000 workers to 3300 to today's 2200 workers and seeing the paper mills shut down one by one while sitting on their hands, doing nothing to replace the lost jobs. Again, not on your watch but about as destructive to the city as any incompetent government decision can get. The jobs should have long ago been replaced by earlier administrations. All who have led this city the last four decades have contributed to the malaise we have now.....but, I'm sure, those who are still with us don't care.  

Oxford State Rd, the airport, the east end......all preliminaries in preparation for projected things to come. Not having gained fruition as yet and in the planning stage.........need to see activity further up the road to actual companies with actual hiring potentials offering residents a decent standard of living with a benefits package that will actually help a working family. When we see a reasonable stat on that, we will call it a success for Middletown. Until then, we have what we have always had (think downtown plans here).......dreams, talk, projections, plans........with no concrete evidence to date and, at best,  a small percentage of actual opportunities filled for the city.  Time for your economic development department to earn their money for a change.  

Mr. Adkins:
"Downtown just happens to be what is visible at the moment"

Not at the moment......Downtown has been the major topic of development for a decade now. It is more than "visible". It is priority number one based on the attention it gets in the newspaper and with the Culture Club group.  It is all we hear when the topic of  developmental main focus is discussed. If the rest of the city had the same intensity on focus as the downtown seems to have, perhaps some areas of town (the old 2nd Ward for example) wouldn't look like a bombed out aftermath of a futuristic war film set with it's barren empty open spaces, Gilleland fondly referred to this as "greenspace". Some may call it that, Others may call the area "Desolation Row". 

Mr. Adkins:
"The rest of the work is being done behind the scenes."
Perhaps that is part of the problem here. Too much "behind the scenes" and not enough communication with the people who live here and have a vested interest in the city they live in. Perhaps exclusional treatment between the people and their government has existed much too long and the trust factor left years ago.  

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Douglas Adkins Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Oct 13 2016 at 8:39am
I understand the anger and resentment. I'm always going to take you back however, to the present. I can't control what happened in the 80s or the 90s or even the 2000's. I've been in charge since July 2014. Everything after that, you can lay on me and I'll take responsibility for the decisions I've made and the actions I've taken.

I'm trying very hard to rebuild a city from where it is now. We are way behind on infrastructure spending. We have too much subsidized housing. Could of and should of in the past doesn't help me or you at this point. We didn't.

And if you are upset about past decisions, I respectfully suggest that there are three pieces to all of those decisions. City Council, Admin, and the public.   All three were involved and watching the city operate over the past 30 years. You can't put all of the blame on council and admin. I respectfully submit that a largely apathetic public stood on the sidelines while all of those decisions were made and implemented.   

We are at a place where we no longer have choices in making our repairs. We must start paving streets and we must maintain our water and sewer infrastructure.   

We still have a ton of work to do. I've said it in public before. I'm tasked with essentially creating a profitable government that not only maintains the existing infrastructure, but generates additional income to start pulling in all of our deferred maintenance throughout the city.

My goal is to leave the city in a sustainable, better place than when I got here.

Here's one other thought to contemplate. I met with the Chamber last week and Atrium Medical Center staff yesterday.   Every one of our manufacturer's have multiple open positions that they can't fill right now. Atrium has over 300 open positions unfilled at the hospital. Bringing new companies to the city is the right answer, but if there isn't a work force available to fill the jobs, I really haven't accomplished anything. It's a complicated puzzle that we work on every day.

It took 30 years to get here. If I could turn it around in 5, that would be pretty good work in my opinion. Those preliminary preparations are what will be the future expansion for the city in jobs and income tax. Could of, should of been done sooner... Doesn't matter at this point. I hope that you're happy that they are being done now to move the city forward into the future.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote What A City Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Oct 13 2016 at 10:08am
Mr. Adkins:

"You can't put all of the blame on council and admin. I respectfully submit that a largely apathetic public stood on the sidelines while all of those decisions were made and implemented."

Oh but we can place all the blame on past councils and admin. Mr. Adkins. Some of us told council and admin people exactly how we felt in the past. When we placed Letters to the Editor in the Journal announcing our thoughts on various decisions by city leaders. When we went to council meetings and stood behind the podium giving our three minutes of disappointment with city leadership only to be cut short if they didn't like what we were saying. When we participated in the Public Forums that Fred Sennet, Josh Laubach, Anita Scott-Jones, Tony Marconi and other council members had at the Senior's Center, the Library meetings held by some concerned citizens with Tony Marconi/Scott-Jones participation, at the Wildwood Country Club in the Laubach sessions and the biggest insult of all.....when we have not been taken seriously by city leaders in the last three decades. Some were not apathetic at all but rather frustrated when we were not taken seriously and in knowing council/admin. had it already planned despite any opposition or a show of the will of the people. Exclusion in one's city government is not the way it is suppose to work. You know that. They know that. Yet, it has been the way of operation in this city long before you arrived, trust me. They only listen to their friends and inner circle Mr. Adkins. Mr. Mulligan is a classic example of whom I am talking about. He plays the game of exclusion very well and he should know better. He is the face of the MMF inner circle of city direction guided influence The rest of the citizens are excluded. Hardly an open dialogue approach, wouldn't you say?

The anger is there for a lot of us older residents. We are smart enough not to blame you directly for the current condition of the city based on actions of past councils and admin. The past is not your fault and we realize you are trying to mend fences with some of us, and, to your credit, are trying to use logic and common sense to fix this cluster of a city now. That is commendable and, quite frankly, a surprise to see coming from the city manager's position. Your responses here are a positive in itself. Much more receptive than Gilleland ever was.

Mr. Adkins:
"Here's one other thought to contemplate. I met with the Chamber last week and Atrium Medical Center staff yesterday.   Every one of our manufacturer's have multiple open positions that they can't fill right now. Atrium has over 300 open positions unfilled at the hospital. Bringing new companies to the city is the right answer, but if there isn't a work force available to fill the jobs, I really haven't accomplished anything. It's a complicated puzzle that we work on every day"

Then if an untrained, uneducated workforce is leading to unfilled jobs and is a major stumbling block, tell me why the city leaders decided to open the city doors to all the unqualified low income, government seeking individuals they could find just to reap the almighty fed dollars for revenue for the city?

Do you mean to tell me that a city half way between two major cities, Dayton and Cincinnati, can't fill Atrium or other technical manufacturing jobs? Certainly job commuting isn't a factor in today's working world. Most commute if the job is worth it. How about all the soon-to-be college grads to select from? How about all the technical/medical school graduates in Dayton and Cincy? The colleges aren't turning out RN/LPN candidates anymore? No takers from those sources for these jobs? Then I have another question on a reason the jobs aren't being filled having worked for over 48 years in manufacturing and a technical center environment for some major corporations in the area..........What are these jobs offering money-wise, benefits-wise, working hours-wise, upper mobility-wise and in job longevity? All are considered by the new job applicant on selection and acceptance of the position. How well are the jobs being marketed by Atrium or the manufacturers? Are the jobs published in several known informational sources or by word of mouth? Gotta know about them to apply for them.

Mr. Adkins:
"Doesn't matter at this point. I hope that you're happy that they are being done now to move the city forward into the future."

I appreciate what you are trying to accomplish. Just wish the hole wasn't dug so deep for you at the outset. You seem to have some common sense and a sense of "correct direction" for the city. Much more than many in the city manager's slot have had in the past. It is too early to evaluate you at this point but I suspect you will make strides in a positive direction to breath life into this once very prosperous city. The people will notice, Mr. Adkins, if you do well. Particularly stubborn, difficult to please people like me that have lived through the good times of the 50's and 60's. The amount of good you do for the city in your tenure will result in the amount of accolades you will receive from the people. I do hope you are appreciated when success is realized and we see some real improvement. It will be a pleasure to shake you hand when that happens.   

      
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote What A City Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Oct 14 2016 at 8:52am
I have a question for you Mr. Adkins. If you are proposing to raise the water and sewer rates, knowing that the increase will not help the average homeowner in the city, is it possible to provide some relief to those who do water the grass by offering a second water meter for the outside faucets only so that we only have to pay the water charge for each gallon used and not the additional higher rated sewer charge tacked onto each gallon used? I had the two meter system on our old house and it helped significantly in lowering our water bill when I did water the lawn.
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Yes – we offer deduct meters for $222.20. A brief summary of the process to do so is as follows:

Go to Building Inspection to take out the required permits and pay for the meter. All plumbing piping work would completed by the homeowner’s plumber. You would schedule the meter set by calling the water dept. and our Water Maintenance crew will set the meter and then it will be inspected by Building Inspection for approval of use.

That's probably not a great short term plan, but if you are going to water year to year, it probably is a good investment. If you get to a place where you'd like to do something like that, we could look at your water usage and try to give you a rough idea what the breakeven point would be in putting in the meter vs. the savings in sewer charges for lawn watering.

I hope this helps.

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote over the hill Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Oct 14 2016 at 1:18pm
WAC: You do have an accurate and an acute assisment of the Gilleand and Mulligan years. Mulligans should have been relived from his postion long ago. Someone in his postion at a bank should be ashamed of his lack of fiduciary responsibility to our city. JMO
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Richard Saunders Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Oct 14 2016 at 2:07pm
Mr. Adkins:

The fact is that there was an overage built in to the water and sewer charges for decades, such overage earmarked for the combined sewer problem which past administrations all knew would be forthcoming.  The problem is that the healthy balances were constantly raided to fund screwball schemes (usually for downtown) so that's why there is nothing left now.

And don't use your "that was in the past so you can't blame me" canned response, because you're doing it again next Tuesday.  You are raiding both the water and the sewage funds to buy real estate near downtown.  (Ref:   RESOLUTION NO. R2016-38)

By the way, I thought we were getting out of "the real estate business".
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Douglas Adkins Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Oct 14 2016 at 3:15pm
There will always be ongoing expenses related to water and sewer that are incidental. The purchase Tuesday is to gain access to the west side of the airport. The airport is landlocked at this point. We need the real estate to have that access. That parcel gives us access off of Hook Drive to add water and sewers to the area and to stub a road back there which, in turn, allows additional development of about 15 acres of airport land. The new water and sewer infrastructure off of Hook Drive to the new area will be paid out of water and sewer funds.

We will plan to spend water and sewer money to add new water and sewer infrastructure into the east end to allow further development.

We have to have utilities to add new jobs and new business. The east end is currently woods and crops because there aren't any utilities out there to allow new construction. The AK Research project was expensive for us, but we now have a road built and utilities as far as the AK facility. We're not starting from scratch anymore.

It costs money to maintain and it costs money to develop new infrastructure. The alternative is to sit on our hands and go another decade not reaping our share of the new development going on all around us.

Keep in mind that as we add new businesses to the water/sewer system, their future payments lessen the overall future amount I need to charge to individual homeowners to cover these long term costs.


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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote What A City Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Oct 14 2016 at 7:46pm
Originally posted by Douglas Adkins Douglas Adkins wrote:

Yes – we offer deduct meters for $222.20. A brief summary of the process to do so is as follows:

Go to Building Inspection to take out the required permits and pay for the meter. All plumbing piping work would completed by the homeowner’s plumber. You would schedule the meter set by calling the water dept. and our Water Maintenance crew will set the meter and then it will be inspected by Building Inspection for approval of use.

That's probably not a great short term plan, but if you are going to water year to year, it probably is a good investment. If you get to a place where you'd like to do something like that, we could look at your water usage and try to give you a rough idea what the breakeven point would be in putting in the meter vs. the savings in sewer charges for lawn watering.

I hope this helps.


Thank you for the info. WIth the $222 cost of the meter plus the three estimates for high cost plumbing work ( I hope your procurement dept does the same by the way)I will obtain for the installation of additional plumbing, and considering my finished basement will possibly need some repair after the installation of plumbing, I will make a determination as to the feasibility of adding the additional meter. I do water in dry conditions as many times as it takes each year to maintain a decent lawn and to keep the multitude of shrubbery from dying. Gotta protect the major investment ya know. 

I will follow your instructions if/when the time comes. Again, thank you.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote over the hill Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Oct 14 2016 at 10:20pm
Well while you're buying maybe you could buy that land from Faulkner to have more land available for future use.😀
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