5 actions Orlando may take to build new affordable housing, rehab existing units

A shortage of affordable housing units is growing in Central Florida, a region where the economy is driven in large part by low-income workers who power the booming tourism industry.

Affordable housing units are defined as those whose rent and utilities are cheaper than 30 percent of a household’s income.

In 2016, the most recent year of statistics available from the U.S. Census Bureau, about 45 percent of Orlando residents pay at least 30 percent of their income on housing and utilities.

On Monday, the Orlando City Council will consider five items pertaining to creating additional affordable housing and extending the life of existing units. At least 415 units will be affected by the decisions.

“This is a nationwide issue and unfortunately Orlando isn’t immune to that,” Orlando Director of Economic Development Brooke Bonnett said. “We have to increase inventory in order to accommodate all price points.”

Orange Center Boulevard

Six city-owned parcels along Orange Center Boulevard — home to abandoned and dilapidated structures — could soon see affordable and mixed-income units developed on the land.

Orlando is opening up the nearly 5-acre property for proposals Monday in hopes of spurring ideas from developers for the narrow strip on the south side of the road in the Clear Lake neighborhood.

“What we’re most interested in is achieving a development that complements the surrounding neighborhood,” Bonnett said. “The good news is there’s a lot of really creative people out there.”

How many units are built there remains to be seen, she said. Current zoning allows for at least 94 units to be built, said Cassandra Lafser, a spokeswoman for Mayor Buddy Dyer.

Developers could opt for high-rise style housing that could squeeze more units, such as at nearby Pendana at West Lakes, where about 8,000 people inquired about 201 units when it opened earlier this year.

With how narrow the property is, townhouses may also be possible, which could keep the number of units in the 20s.

“We think that area is ripe for mixed-income development,” city Director of Housing and Community Development Oren Henry said. “That’s a really convenient location. We’re kind of curious to see what the market will come back with as a response.”

Proposals are due Dec. 14, but if none reach the city’s standards officials may not move forward.

Carver Park

At Carver Park, investment by Orlando’s Community Redevelopment Agency could help finally finish the long-sought project and also bring more homeownership opportunities to Parramore, Downtown Development Board Director Thomas Chatmon said.

For years, the Orlando Housing Authority has worked with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to build affordable rental and homeownership units.

However, when expensive work to clean up some of the land was needed as well as the recession that started in late 2007, the third phase was put on the back burner. In all, plans called for more than 80 homeownership units to be built there, but about half of them fall within the redevelopment area’s boundaries on the east side of Westmoreland Drive.

Now the agency has reached a deal with the housing authority to finish the job, which would bring 41 homeownership units to Carver Park.

“There’s been no meaningful homeownership initiative initiated in Parramore in quite some time,” Chatmon said. “You’ve got to have people there who own it, and insist on keeping it clean and safe.”

Of the units, six will be single-family homes with the rest as townhomes. HUD requires 13 to 19 units to be set aside for households that don’t exceed 80 percent of the median income.

Costs are not yet known, Chatmon said.

Peppertree Circle Apartments

On Mercy Drive, officials recommend the council reward property to a developer called Blue Sky Communities. The company plans to build 116 units of multi-family and permanent supportive units — specifically designed for the chronically homeless.

The permanent supportive housing is thought to be the first such project within the city limits and would have an organization called CASL on site to provide services to the residents.

“The way to eradicate homelessness is to provide homes,” Chatmon said. “The supportive piece is the key piece around it.”

The committee that went through the bids preferred Blue Sky’s plan because it had the most units, highest development cost with the highest land payment to the city — $1.5 million, the agenda item reads.

If approved, the deal is expected to close late next year and be finished by 2021.

Upgrading aging units

Another project before the council calls for upgrading electrical systems at Hope Square Apartments on Orange Center Boulevard.

In all, 38 units would benefit from the work, which would be done with federal Community Development Block Grant funding.

“We saw this as a great preservation of an affordable housing project,” Henry said. “The units are in good shape.”

The property is at peak capacity, Henry said. Work is expected to be complete by next summer.

Rehab project

Part of battling the shortage of affordable housing is preserving and extending the life of existing units, officials said.

At aging New Palm Grove Gardens off WD Judge Drive east of Mercy Drive, railings no longer met city code, and other updates were needed. So the council is being asked to extend a deadline on the work until June 30, 2019.

Such work could keep the complex usable for 20 to 30 years, Henry said.

“That’s half the battle with these affordable units,” he said. “We have to make new ones, but we can’t afford to lose any of the old ones.”

Have a news tip? You can call Ryan at 407-420-5002, email him at rygillespie@orlandosentinel.com, follow him on Twitter @byryangillespie and like his coverage on Facebook @byryangillespie.

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Magic touch: Bench helps Pistons end five-game slide

Orlando, Fla. — In the midst of their five-game skid, another double-digit deficit looked like it would be too much to overcome.

After trailing by 15 in the first quarter, the Pistons erased the margin and took a 10-point lead in the second quarter, only to see that lead evaporate. When the they fell into an 11-point deficit in the third quarter, they looked to be sunk but again overcame the deficit.

The Pistons made it a two-for-one special, rallying in the fourth quarter behind the bench and putting it away with the starters in a 103-96 victory over the Orlando Magic on Wednesday night at Amway Center.

The loss ends the Pistons’ five-game skid and puts them back at .500, after a 4-0 start to the season.

Andre Drummond had 23 points and 19 rebounds, Blake Griffin had 20 points and five rebounds, and Reggie Jackson added 15 points and four assists for the Pistons (5-5), who outrebounded the Magic, 50-40.

The Magic (4-7) led 78-69 at the 3:03 mark of the third quarter, but the starters made a push, with seven points by Griffin, including a vicious dunk. Ish Smith had a steal and lay-in at the buzzer, cutting the lead to two heading into the final period.

Smith had another floater and Stanley Johnson (13 points, six rebounds) hit a pair of 3-pointers and Langston Galloway (12 points) added two more, part of a 14-4 spurt to start the fourth quarter.

The Magic answered with a 9-2 run, including seven points by Evan Fournier (27 points) and a highlight-reel dunk by Aaron Gordon (15 points, 10 rebounds and six assists) but the Pistons didn’t fold.

Griffin made two free throws, Glenn Robinson III hit a lay-in and Jackson added a 3-pointer for the decisive run, giving the Pistons a 101-93 lead with 1:09 left.

Here are some other observations from Wednesday’s win:

1. Johnson was effective in his stint in the first half, notching seven points, four rebounds and two assists in 10 minutes. He looked comfortable handling the ball and with the second group, was able to run in transition and hit a 3-pointer and added a coast-to-coast drive and a reverse lay-up. Watching Johnson’s move to the reserve group is interesting, as he struggled to hit shots and be efficient or effective with the starters. If he’s able to establish any comfort, he could find a more comfortable role as a defender and spark on the second group.

2. Coach Dwane Casey lamented the production of the reserves in the loss to the Heat. They bounced back Wednesday, with 35 points, and sparked a couple runs that got them back in the game in each half. They started 7-of-13 from the field and 3-of-5 on 3-pointers in the first half and ignited a 13-2 run that helped regain the lead early in the fourth quarter. They were composed and with an aggressive spark by Johnson, they played with poise.

3. Drummond was efficient: 8-of-10 in first half and finished 10-of-16 from the floor, but finished just short of his fifth 20-20 game in 10 games this season. He’s generally had good games against the Magic but he had his way inside — and even added an off-balance 3-pointer, his second make from beyond the arc this season.

4. Reggie Bullock returned after missing the last two games because of an ankle sprain and was 0-for-6 from the field, including two misses on 3-pointers. He hasn’t found the mark yet this season but will continue in a starting role.

5. Jackson continues to impress down the stretch, with seven points in another good fourth quarter. He had the decisive 3-pointer and added a dunk with 24.9 seconds left to push the lead to 10. He’s been working with Griffin to establish some better balance between them and it’s showing in the last two games.

rod.beard@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @detnewsRodBeard

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10/27 NXT Live Event Results From Orlando, FL

Photo Credit: Wikipedia.org / Tabercil

NXT was in Orlando last night for a live event and you can see the full results below:

Halloween Costume Battle Royal To Determine The #1 Contender For The WWE NXT North American Championship – Stacey Ervin Jr. defeated Angelo Dawkins, Babatunde, Boa, Denzel Dejournette, Drake Maverick, EC3, Jaxson Ryker, Kassius Ohno, Keith Lee, Mars Wang, Matt Riddle, Mohamed Fahim, Montez Ford, Nasser Alruwayeh, Nick Miller, Otis Dozovic, Saurav Gurjar, Shane Thorne and Tucker Knight

Dan Matha defeated Raul Mendoza

Deonna Purrazzo defeated Vanessa Borne (w/Kona Reeves)

The Velveteen Dream defeated Kona Reeves (w/Vanessa Borne)

EC3 defeated Shane Thorne (w/Nick Miller)

Aliyah defeated Lacey Lane

WWE NXT North American Championship Match – Ricochet defeated Stacey Ervin Jr.

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Aging Florida sewage systems pose threat to health — and tourism, real estate

Many Florida utilities rely on aging sewage systems that have not been upgraded in some cases since the 1950s. Florida’s fragile ecosystems and economies should not be threatened by the inevitable spills and breakdowns that occur in these systems. Florida should to take a comprehensive and a forward-looking approach to upgrading Florida’s domestic wastewater infrastructures.

Few of Florida’s systems have the capacity to handle existing responsibilities much less address Florida’s rapid population growth and development. Obviously, dumping raw sewage into vulnerable ecosystems such as the Indian River Lagoon or Tampa Bay is not the answer, nor is passing off nutrient-laden, partially treated sewage as irrigation water. Perhaps must unacceptable is the way Miami/Dade and Broward counties dump partially treated sewage offshore via discharge pipes onto dying coral reefs. Instead, wastewater should be viewed as a resource that, with reasonable investments, can be cleansed sufficiently and reused responsibly. We have the technologies and the means to implement them.

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In order to protect and improve Florida waters, and to ensure adequate water supplies in a rapidly growing state, we must look beyond the costs to individual municipalities and their utilities and consider the threats that Florida’s aging sewage systems now pose to the integrity of our tourism- and real estate-based economies. Florida’s water woes have made national headlines. It’s going to take years to clean up our beaches, waters and fisheries, as well as our reputation as a great place to live and visit. Floridians are well aware of the causes of these crises, and are rightfully outraged.

Citizens groups are pushing for sewage fixes around the state, because nutrient pollution from septic tanks and stormwater runoff are problems. That’s something our team realized as we researched our award-winning documentary, St Pete Unfiltered. St Petersburg’s sewage treatment system failures, which cause millions of gallons of raw sewage spills annually, are problems shared by many Florida wastewater agencies. Our city failed to address — even covered up — the weaknesses of our sewage infrastructure and its regular enormous spills. I sincerely hope that elected officials in other Florida cities and counties will spare their citizens the pitched battles we’ve endured against the officials we mistakenly trusted with our health, natural resources and economy. As Floridians, we need to admit our problems and work together toward the ways and means to remedy them.

Sure, modernizing sewage treatment is expensive, but ask St. Pete if hiding from the issue actually saves money. On Oct. 4, after a protracted battle against its own residents to evade its sewage treatment responsibilities, the city of St. Petersburg finally surrendered to court-ordered state and federal oversight.

The settlement places the city’s public works under the watch of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, and federal Judge Anthony E. Porcelli of the 11th Circuit Middle District Tampa. Meanwhile, even as St Pete enters this agreement, area beaches are still closing due to high human fecal bacteria counts. According to many scientists, nutrients from sewage pollution can fuel the harmful algal blooms presently damaging both coasts. Under court supervision, the city must make upgrades on existing infrastructure, increase treatment capacity, and meet deadlines on the prescribed timeline — hopefully before St. Pete loses its stature as a world-class place to live and visit.

The city jeopardized our local tourism-based economy by wasting three years spending millions of dollars litigating against a five-year project that will amount to over $300 million in infrastructure fixes. The city endangered our economy knowing full well that there are affordable ways to finance new domestic wastewater infrastructures, including advanced treatment options that allow municipalities to clean and recycle the world’s most precious substance: water. Wisely, Article 7 of Florida’s Constitution explicitly authorizes local governments and the state to issue bonds for capital improvements, including wastewater management.

It is time for state and local elected officials to develop comprehensive wastewater treatment strategies that implement the highest standards of treatment possible. If you don’t, the people will hold you accountable, as we did in St. Pete.

Dr. Brandon D. Shuler is a courtesy assistant professor of environmental science and Policy at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg; a prolific author; and the producer of St. Pete Unfiltered. The documentary has aired at numerous civic gathering and film festivals, winning the 2018 Gasparilla Film Festival award for Best Florida Production.

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As Hurricane Michael Nears, Gov. Will Still Join Trump In Orlando

TALLAHASEE, FL — The unexpected arrival of Michael as a tropical storm on Sunday prompted Florida Gov. Rick Scott to suspend his U.S. Senate campaign. Scott, a Republican, is running against longtime Democratic incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson.

As of noon, however, Scott was still scheduled to join President Donald Trump at the International Association of Chiefs of Police at the Orange County Convention Center.

According to the White House, Trump is scheduled to arrive at Orlando International Airport at about 12:40 p.m. His motorcade will reach the convention center at 1:05 p.m. and his remarks to the convention are planned for 1:35 p.m.

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"As the largest gathering of police leaders, the president will speak about the work of the administration to protect American communities by restoring law and order, supporting local law enforcement, and securing the border," White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said.

Monday morning, Scott met with emergency management professionals in Bay County before heading to Orlando He plans to head to Pasco County this afternoon to give another hurricane briefing.

Tropical Storm Michael, which formed in the northwestern Caribbean Sea, now has sustained winds of 70 miles per hour with reports of guests as high as 75 mph. It is moving north toward the Gulf Coast at 7 mph.

Image via NHC

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What To Look For In Apartments Orlando

Renting apartments in Orlando isn’t always a straightforward task as there are quite a few aspects of renting that you will need to take into consideration. Since you’re going to be signing a lease, it’s important that you’re sure about an apartment before signing on the dotted line. You couldn’t possible prepare for everything your apartment hunting may throw your way, but we shall give you some ideas on what to look for. Young adults are especially finding it hard to put roots down when they feel lost searching for their first dwellings.

Homeless commission unveils campaign to keep spotlight on need in Central Florida

This LYNX bus wrap is part of a new awareness campaign by the Central Florida Commission on Homelessness. (Matt Good / MattShootsforGood.com)

As Central Florida leaders celebrate what they see as “incredible success” in housing homeless people with mental and physical disabilities, they worry the issue has slipped from the public’s radar — threatening future progress.

“There’s a concern that people feel like, ‘Oh, we already took care of that,’” said the Rev. David Swanson, senior pastor at First Presbyterian Church of Orlando and chairman of the Central Florida Commission on Homelessness, which launched a marketing campaign on Wednesday to correct that notion. “That’s why we want to alert people that we need them to invest with us in this effort.”

He and community leaders unveiled part of their new campaign at the LYNX Central Station in downtown Orlando: a full-sized bus wrap showing a park bench transitioning into a living room sofa. The mobile message was donated by the transit company at a value of $60,000 in advertising for the coming year.

The bus immediately caught the eye of one believer — 44-year-old Chris Sweeney, a formerly homeless man who happened to be at the transit depot Wednesday during the campaign kickoff. Sweeney, who is on disability for a back injury, spent four years on the streets with his wife, Tiffany Anderson. The two were among the first 129 homeless people housed. They moved into a small apartment last October.

“Being homeless, you can get robbed, raped, murdered,” Sweeney said. “It brings out the bad in everybody. Now we take showers. We can actually fix meals — hot meals. We can lock the door.”

A report last week on the region’s progress in combating homelessness over the past four years noted the commission will need to raise $30 million in the next three years, including $6 million from community donors, to continue the progress.

“It really is an investment,” Swanson said. “Housing [chronically homeless individuals] has led to a 60 percent reduction in emergency room visits, 85 percent reduction in visits to the jail, and 97 percent are still housed [at least a year later]. So you’re seeing incredible success there, and the cost went from $31,000 to have them on the street down to $18,000 to house them and give them the services they need.”

The reduction is calculated from hospital and criminal-justice costs.

Shelley Lauten, the homeless commission’s CEO, said the new campaign will run up to $45,000 for the first four months and will include billboards, paid social media, print advertising and possibly radio. An additional $100,000 of in-kind contributions — including the bus wrap — already has been pledged.

“When we looked at the first 100 most severe cases of the chronically homeless, the average time on our streets in our community was seven to eight years,” Lauten said. “So the people we’re talking about really are our neighbors.”

ksantich@orlandosentinel.com, 407-420-5503, @katesantich. Please consider supporting local journalism by purchasing a digital subscription to the Orlando Sentinel.

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Orlando housing market heats as home prices outpace wages

Photo Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

By MARY SHANKLIN
Orlando Sentinel

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) _ With Orlando home prices rising six times faster than wages in the last year, competition has revved up for condos and townhouses, a new report shows.

The smaller, more affordable residential options represented just 12 percent of the 3,508 home sales in an area of mostly Orange and Seminole counties last month. But prices of those units rose at more than triple the rate of single-family houses during the last year, according to a new report by Orlando Regional Realtor Association.

“What we have essentially done is come full circle with rent versus purchase, and right now, the pendulum has swung to purchase,” said Thomas Allen, broker with Urbanista, which specializes in downtown Orlando residential.

He said condo and townhouse prices have spiked to the point where developers will likely look at building another condominium tower in downtown at some point during the next two years as average sales prices continue increasing above $300 a square foot. It’s been about a decade since the urban core saw a new condo tower, he added.

The mid-point price for a single-family home in the core Orlando market during March was $249,900, which was up 6 percent from a year earlier. Prices for condominiums and townhouses were about half that amount and increased more than 19 percent during that time.

Stress on buyers continues to mount in Central Florida with midpoint wages of $58,406 remaining roughly flat for the previous yearlong period, while home prices have grown about 6 percent. Interest rates remained flat from a year earlier and edged down slightly to 4.29 percent in March from February.

In addition, the supply of listings has shrunk to near-record levels of 2.2 months, which is down from a year and a month earlier.

From a month earlier, the overall median price for all types of Orlando-area housing in March was largely flat at $230,000 despite the downturn in supply. Sales were also relatively flat from February.

“Orlando’s housing market continues to be tugged by opposing factors, such as low inventory and high demand,” said association president Lou Nimkoff, of Brio Real Estate Services. “The result is a wash for sales.”

Of the four counties in the Metro Orlando area, only Osceola showed an increase in year-over-year sales with 5.9 percent growth. Lake County sales declined 4.4 percent; Seminole County was down 3.7 percent; and Orange County sales slipped 2.9 percent from a year ago.

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Orlando, FL, USA for Use These Packing and Planning Tips to Maximize Your Fun at Orlando’s Water Parks

–Good weather reigns year-round in Orlando, Florida, but summertime is the best season to splash around in the many epic water parks around town. From enormous water slides to incredibly relaxing lazy rivers, you can test the waters of a different park each day for a week and still not get through them all! Orlando during the summer is non-stop fun, and we want to help you make the most of your vacation. To ensure you have the maximum amount of vacation fun without any stress, we’ve compiled a quick water park packing and planning list for you.

Orlando Water Park Packing Tips

Whether you’re heading to the water park at your resort, such as Surfari at The Grove, or to Blizzard Beach in Walt Disney World, many of the items you will, or won’t, need remain the same.

Don’t Forget to Bring:

-Hat
-Sunscreen
-Sunglasses
-Water-friendly shoes
-A few bathing suits – You don’t need to bring multiple bathing suits to the park, but as far as packing goes, it’s good to have a few to cycle through, depending on how long your stay will be

You don’t need to bring towels with you, all of the water parks will have them for use.

We also recommend bringing:

-Favorite floating devices – the Zero Entry Pool at The Grove Resort & Spa Orlando, for example, allows outside floaties, the water parks at Walt Disney World, though, do not
-Book or e-reader, if you intend to lounge
-GoPro or another water-resistant camera
-Waterproof container for your phones and other electronic devices that you may use while at the park

Orlando Water Park Planning Tips

Now that you have a general idea of what to pack for the water park portion of your Orlando vacation, let’s dive into some general planning tips.

For starters, it’s smart to assess, ahead of time, which water parks will suit your needs. If you’re going to be vacationing with kids who enjoy thrill rides, then be sure to spend at least one day at Blizzard Beach, where thrill rides are plentiful. On the other hand, if you have more a mixed group of big and little kids, then opt for Typhoon Lagoon, where there’s a variety of rides and activities for all ages.

If you prefer to have access to an on-site water park, then choose a resort that has a water park with everything you desire. Surfari Water Park at The Grove Resort & Spa Orlando is one of the newest, and one of the only water parks to feature FlowRider, a double surf simulation ride.

Even though the water parks feature complimentary chairs, they all tend to be taken by the afternoon, along with the shaded spots, since the parks are so popular during the summer months. To ensure your group has a spot to gather, eat, and relax, get to the park early. Another idea is to rent a cabana.

Though this option is pricier, it means your entire group will have a comfortable spot to lounge in throughout the day.

We mentioned packing sunscreen, but our planning tips for the sun expand beyond that. Not only do we recommend planning to apply and reapply sunscreen throughout the day, but try to find shade as often as possible. The sun is extremely powerful, so it’s important to get in the shade as often as possible.

Arrive early and/or stay late. If you and your crew don’t mind starting your days early, you can plan to arrive as soon as the parks open, when there are fewer people. The same concept applies to the hour before closing.

Pack lite for parks outside of your resort. The water parks at Walt Disney World offer lockers for use, but space is limited within the locker. Outside of what we mentioned on the packing list above, we recommend keeping any non-essentials to a minimum, so you’ll have less to keep track of.

Visit a variety of water parks. There are so many incredible water parks to enjoy in Orlando; we recommend visiting a few different ones. Enjoy your resort water park, head to Blizzard Beach in Walt Disney World, or try out Aquatica at SeaWorld.

Last, but not least, stay hydrated! Without a doubt, you’ll be taking in a lot of sun, and drinking plenty of water throughout the day will ensure you enjoy yourself all day, and vacation, long. Being in the water will cool you off on the outside, drinking water will ensure your insides stay cool and happy!

You’re all set. You know the packing essentials, we’ve shared our best planning tips, and all that’s left is for you to enjoy! Don’t sweat the small stuff, even if you forget something, you’ll be able to purchase it in Orlando. Even if you aren’t able to get to the park first thing, or the chairs are taken at first, it will all work out, and the fun will still be had, regardless! Splash, lounge, shout with joy, whichever rides you choose, we know it’ll be a trip to remember.

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100 clean up Orlando apartments for ex-homeless

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ORLANDO, Fla. — About a hundred people gave up their Saturday to help spruce up a home for the homeless in Orlando.

100 turn out to help paint apartments for ex-homeless Pathlight Home manages 2 apartment complexes

Volunteers grabbed a brush and put a new coat of paint on a housing complex for the homeless at the corner of Colonial Drive and John Young Parkway.

Pathlight Home has two complexes, providing a home for 600 formerly-homeless men and women.

"It makes me feel more at home, because there’s so many people that care about us and come over and volunteer for us, and this is just one of their better efforts," Maxwell Terrace resident Alan Culver said.

Over the past 25 years, Pathlight Home has helped provide a home for more than 5,000 homeless people.

About 100 people volunteered their time Saturday to clean up an apartment complex in Orlando that houses formerly homeless people. (Vincent Earley, staff)
About 100 people volunteered their time Saturday to clean up an apartment complex in Orlando that houses formerly homeless people. (Vincent Earley, staff)

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