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2013 in review

 

In addition to monthly reports presented in the "Villager," Mayor Eisentrout has requested that the various Village departments provide annual wrap-ups. Here is a summary of 2013 ...

 

MP Community Association

By Dani Wolf, MPCA President … The Minerva Park Community Association had a fantastic year. There was a lot of change, and we look forward to a new year of great events in our community. I would like to thank Lisa Craddock Thitoff for all of her many years as president; she did a great job … and David Way for his continued support as our vice president. Dick Busick continues as the MPCA treasurer, doing a great job keeping the financial records for MPCA, performing banking tasks, and making sure we stay within our budget. Thanks to Jean McCall for taking on the role of secretary and being so willing to help me do things a little differently. Bonnie Townsend continues to coordinate the Street Representative Committee, coordinating volunteer street reps and their activities. These include getting to know new residents, making sure all residents are informed about events and activities, and gathering volunteers. Bonnie is a great volunteer coordinator, making sure each event has enough food, drink, helpers, and anyone else that may be needed. Sid Townsend did a great job in 2013 collecting, organizing, and tracking membership dues. Sid and Bonnie also were instrumental in helping get the 2013 Minerva Park Resident Directory updated and distributed. Sharon Bierman continues to compile, edit, publish, and sell advertising for the annual Resident Directory and the Villager newsletter. Those are important tasks, and we thank Sharon for her continued work. Her efforts are appreciated. I would like to thank all who I have met and worked with for a warm welcome, and all of their hard work in making Minerva Park the wonderful community it is.

Since my becoming President in October, the MPCA has taken steps to streamline our meetings and administrative duties. I am proud of our efforts to develop a new tool for residents to use to become involved in the MPCA. In 2014, we will launch a web site dedicated to the Community Association, mympca.org.

The Green Team again offered the community garden to residents, and all plots were spoken for. Shepherds’ hooks were purchased for hanging flowers, and the picnic table was painted. A butterfly presentation on Monarch butterfly life cycles, habitats, and preservation efforts was made in March. At the September meeting, Russell Dobbins agreed to be the next rotating chair.

The Children’s Committee hosted the Easter Egg Hunt, the Halloween Party, and the Christmas Party and helped with the kid’s activities at Family Fun Night. Glenda Morris does a fantastic job as chair of the Children’s Committee, and as recognition for her efforts she received the 2013 Duck Award for service to the Village.

The Egg Hunt is the largest event the Children’s Committee sponsors, held at Hawthorne Elementary School grounds. Approximately 75 children attended. Three age groups were designated, and more than 1,100 eggs were filled and scattered. The Green Team provided seedlings and small prizes given to each child. The weather was great.

The Halloween Party was held on Sunday afternoon before Halloween with approximately 45 children and parents attending. We gave 6 prizes for costumes. We had a “fill the pumpkin,” game and the weather cooperated to have this outside. We had “schrinky dink” (a popular craft), origami crafts, and a pool noodle pumpkin printing for the younger set. The group activity was a demonstration of kitchen ingredients mixed in a jack-o’-lantern to bubble up goo that flowed out of the mouth.

The Children’s Christmas Party was held on Saturday before the Christmas Carriage Rides with more than 25 children attending. They made another ornament last year and foam Christmas trees with buttons and jewels and decorative trims. Santa gave the children an old time game of “wooly willy” with elves, Santa, and a nutcracker man. The younger children got a squeeze toy of holiday shapes, and all got a candy cane.

Family Fun Night activities included cleaning the paddle boats for races, friendship bracelets using embroidery thread, a tic-tac-toe game using Frisbees, and prizes for each child as they arrived. The fan favorite is diving for coins in the pool. Rain and thunder threatened the event this year, but all had a good time.

The MinervaFlora Committee had garden clean-ups in the spring and fall. The committee also participated in the Community Service Days. The weather all year long was wetter than usual, and keeping up with the weeding became a challenge, but volunteers saved the season. The committee took donations of plants and mulch that helped with garden maintenance in the Village common areas and the pool. The committee hosted three events. Those include the Garden Tour at the end of June, the Four Season Garden Award contest (winner Annina Agriesti), and the Festival of Lights (results the February 2014 Villager). Many thanks to those residents who volunteered, including Martha Cornwell, Hal Howard, Teresa Franks, Teresa Ravtar, Jenn Pauken, Steve and Lisa Thitoff, Janet Kohn, Rex Shoemaker, Jody Neary, Andrea Shutway, Dave & Max Way, Bob Gale, and the pool staff.

Minerva Park Welcoming Team - New residents receive a welcome packet that includes a current directory, the latest issue of the Villager, two history booklets, information from the MP Village Government and from the MP Community Association, two free day passes to the pool, a packet of note cards with scenes from MP history, and an invitation to join the Community Association. All this and a reusable shopping bag inscribed with “Minerva Park: A Great Place to Live.” You can help us greet new neighbors by letting Paul Miller (392-2286, pemill@earthlink.net) know when someone new - owner or renter - moves into your neighborhood. If any residents who are service providers or business owners would like to include discount coupons in the packet, get in touch with Paul. We had 35 new resident households in 2013. You might be interested in these insights gained from the initial visits … there are lots of dogs in Minerva Park, most new residents are young families, people come from near and far (Westerville and Dublin to Germany and China), and they are very welcoming and friendly.

Police Chief Nuesse was awarded the Northland Community Council President’s Award for 2013, and the Villager was awarded “best newsletter.” The award was a nice surprise and well deserved.

Fundraisers included the Mother’s Day plant sale and the annual Community Garage Sale. There were two Wine and Cheese parties at the pool; Family Fun Night; and a new program, Fun Funds, in conjunction with Gordon’s Food Service on Cleveland Avenue. Your MPCA sponsored two concerts with the Summer Music Series. The MPCA also funded and awarded the Nancy Fischer Memorial Scholarship. Candidates’ Night was held at Hawthorne Elementary School with Jeff Rigg as moderator and approximately 60 residents hearing from council candidates.

We added soil and mulch to the patio at the lake and donated money to the pool to help pay for flower pots. The MPCA funded the purchase of mulch, and volunteers re-mulched the children’s playground. Late in 2013, a bike rack was purchased for the Community Building. It has been delivered and awaits installation when the weather warms up.

A huge thank you to Mayor Eisentrout and Lisa Craddock Thitoff who did a fantastic job organizing the annual Christmas Carriage Ride. The night was cold, but that did not stop more than 300 residents and their guests from enjoying the Carriage Rides, views of the great lights and decorations in the neighborhood, and delicious appetizers and desserts made by many volunteers. The event is one to be remembered and anticipated each year.

Please continue to underwrite these events by paying your Community Association dues of $20 annually.

It is the involvement of these folks that make this Village a better place to live. Please help us by doing YOUR part. Contact 890-2427 to volunteer.

 

Finances

By Lynda Sudderberg, Fiscal Officer … As I wrote my annual review last year, Council was in the midst of a very difficult 2013 budget development process. A small beginning fund balance combined with realistic revenue projections required a painfully detailed review of all expenses and difficult decisions regarding expense reductions. Cuts included the elimination of Village-paid trash and leaf pick-up, reduction of personnel hours and hourly rates to bare-bones minimums, and budgeting for minimal professional service expenses. Council also voted to eliminate the 50% income tax credit. This process left the Village with a projected fund balance of under $2,200, a very sobering and disconcerting reality given that best practices recommend a reserve of at least 25% of annual operating expenses ($290,000 for the Village).

The good news is that (1) no crises requiring significant cash outlays occurred during the year, (2) receipts exceeded projections, and (3) expenses came in below budget, resulting in an end-of-year General Fund cash balance of $121,500.

Annual receipts exceeded projections by more than $31,000. Major variances included:

  • Receipt of $21,400 of inheritance taxes as the last of these taxes were paid out by the County. This distribution was not anticipated.
  • Municipal income tax receipts of nearly $16,000 over budget.
  • Local government receipts of $17,600 over budget.
  • Mayor’s Court receipts of roughly $8,600 over budget.
  • An unanticipated premium refund of $8,730 from the Bureau of Workers Compensation.
  • Insurance proceeds of $8,500.
  • These positive variances were offset by lower-than-budgeted pool receipts because of the unusually cool and wet summer (down by roughly $18,700) and by lower-than-projected receipts from the new EMS billing program that got off to a slow start ($28,100 under budget).

The Village also was able to bring the expenditures in $85,400 under budget for the year. Major variances included:

  • The EMS department ending the year roughly $32,500 under budget because of a temporary reduction in staffing.
  • Lower-than-budgeted pool expenses ($5,660). This reduction did not parallel the receipt drop because many fixed costs are incurred regardless of pool usage during the year.
  • The Zoning department used only 29% of its budget by reducing hours to a bare minimum.
  • Mayor’s Court, the Mayor’s office, the Fiscal office, and the Maintenance department each used under 90% of their budgets through minimal staffing and cutting small expenses at every opportunity.
  • The Legal, Insurance, and Other category came in $12,500 under budget with lower-than-expected expenses related to clean-up of a prior-year payroll tax issue.

So in reality, the Village was very fortunate to end 2013 in the black. The challenges are far from over, however.

The 2014 budget has been completed and passed by Council. General Fund appropriations of $1,155,360 were approved based on estimated receipts and a beginning General Fund balance totaling $1,259,657, leaving a projected ending General Fund balance of $104,297. Receipts are projected to be $52,000 higher in 2014:

  • The full effect of the elimination of the 50% income tax credit will be realized with roughly $43,600 of additional receipts projected.
  • The first full year of EMS billing is projected to bring in an additional $47,000.
  • Other revenues are expected to stay relatively flat, and bumps that occurred in 2013 (inheritance tax and miscellaneous income sources) are not included in 2014 projections.

General Fund expenditures are budgeted at $1,155,360 versus prior-year actual expenditures of $1,047,960. There have been areas of the budget that have increased:

  • EMS expenses are increased to bring staffing up to more appropriate levels.
  • The budget includes roughly $80,000 more for engineering expenses related to mandated work for Ohio EPA Director’s Findings and Orders (sanitary sewers, page 10) and engineering related to the earthen dam/spillway.
  • The budget for legal expenses was increased by approximately $25,000 as the Village continues with the golf course property annexation and development.

The most significant budgeted expense decrease is in the Police Department, dropping from nearly $543,000 in 2013 to under $453,000 in 2014. This is because the Police Department budget includes only four full-time positions and one very part-time position. To be staffed to provide 24/7 coverage in the Village, the Police Department requires five full-time and three part-time officers. This budget necessarily means that police coverage will be less than 24/7.

A reasonable question is why not use some of the $104,300 projected fund balance to increase Police Department staffing. The answer is not particularly straightforward. A projected ending General Fund balance of $104,300 is far better than the $2,200 of the previous year, yet it is far less than the recommended 25% reserve of $290,000. One major Village crisis could wipe out this balance in no time.

The Village needs to increase revenue and, to that end, residents were asked in February 2014 to vote on the question of increasing the Village income tax from 1% to 2%. The issue was voted down by 15 votes. The issue likely will be put before the voters again in November. Without additional revenue, the Village must choose between a number of very important priorities. Some of those priorities are not discretionary, such as sewer work to comply with Ohio EPA Director’s Findings and Orders, and earthen dam/spillway work needed to comply with State laws and regulations. Additionally, unforeseen infrastructure problems or failures can arise at any time, often requiring large cash outlays. The Village is currently dealing with one such storm sewer problem along Cleveland Avenue.

Using the projected fund balance reserve to increase police staffing certainly is desirable; unfortunately, it would subject the Village to an unacceptable level of financial risk. It is more prudent to defer decisions regarding Police staffing levels until after the November income tax vote, should Council decide to put it on the ballot.

To wrap up, I would like to commend the Village Council and the Mayor with regard to the budget process. Tough and politically unpopular decisions have been required, and both Council and the Mayor have dealt with the issues in a thoughtful and productive manner, always keeping the best interests of the residents of Minerva Park at the forefront.

 

Police Department

By Chief Kim Nuesse…Minerva Park Police continued to focus on crime reduction in the Village through increased traffic and crime prevention efforts in addition to educating our residents through block watch programs. Our house watch program was utilized by more residents than in previous years. The serious crime rate dropped during 2013. All of this occurred while the police department was fully staffed in 2012 and through October 2013. Because of decreased revenue for Village operations, Police Department staffing hit a new low of only four full-time police officers and one part-time police officer. As a result, we are not able to assign a Minerva Park Police officer to a full-time investigator function to follow up on crimes that occur in the Village. We also are not able to provide 24/7 police coverage to our residents and businesses because of lack of funding.

We added three more block watch groups: two in the southwest neighborhoods and one on the northeast side. As a result of the training and increased participation, we were able to increase 2-way communication concerning missing persons and crime trends. One example of this increased partnership with the Police Department was a call involving suspicious people going door-to-door for landscaping businesses without a permit. Neighbors immediately called the police and when we located the salesman, we learned that he may have been “casing” homes for possible burglaries. The unhappy suspect remarked, “I knew better than to come to Minerva Park. The people who live here call the police for everything.” Luckily, we were able to identify wanted persons and potential criminals on more than one occasion through these reports of people going door-to-door without a solicitation permit throughout the summer and fall. Our Village residents are very alert!

Minerva Park Police participated in the LEADS ONLINE program to enter and locate stolen property, scrap metal, and identify possible criminals. As a result, our residents are able to use ReportIT, a free service for entering property, uploading photographs and other important information that can be accessed for insurance claims or to identify their property.

Our department launched a new Facebook page (facebook.com/minervapark.pd) where we connect with residents and quickly communicate important information. This allows us to immediately inform residents of critical crime events in the Village, traffic issues, and other community events. We also received valuable information from residents and neighboring communities.

Minerva Park Police worked with our business community to make sure their safety concerns were addressed and offered crime prevention tips, in addition to conducting more frequent patrols. We were able to impact and reduce violent crime and property crime in the Cleveland Avenue business corridor. As a result, new tenants leased vacant business space, according to the property owner of the newly remodeled strip mall near Woodley Road.

Our department participated in joint training exercises with Blendon Township Police and New Albany Police departments at Hawthorne Elementary School and New Albany 5-6 Grade School building for “Response to an Active Shooter” scenario. Minerva Park Police officers also participated in firearms training with Gahanna Police and Perry Township Police Departments. We increased our professional knowledge through various on-line training courses offered through the Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy.

We were fortunate to receive an equipment grant from the Ohio Attorney General’s Officer, a RapidID unit, with an approximate value of $2,000, to help our officers positively identify wanted people. We also applied for and received an equipment grant from Homeland Security, a digital mobile radio valued at $5,500 for one of our police cruisers. We are now equipped for the migration to enhanced communications with Franklin County Sheriff’s Office dispatch with portable radios for the officers and mobile radios for the cruisers.

Minerva Park Police made sure the annual Village garage sale was a safe event, along with Beggars’ Night. We hosted the annual Cops for Kids toy and clothing drive at Christmas and delivered a record number of donations to families in need. We appreciate our community and look forward to working together in 2014 to make Minerva Park one of the safest communities in Franklin County.

Our 2013 statistics ...

Total Police Calls 17,276
9-1-1 hang-up calls 32
Administrative 1,003
Alarm Drop 13
Animal Complaint 46
Assault 3
Assist Other Agencies 561
Auto Crash, Property Damage 25
Bad Check, Forgery 3
Burglary 15
Burglary Alarm 76
Business Checks 1,566
Call Complainant 51
Civil Process 0
Complaint, Report Taken 1
Contact Communications Center 1
Deceased Person 2
Dog Bite 0
Domestic Complaint 14
Drunk, Driving Impaired 11
Emergency Run 1
Emergency Squad Needed 2
Emotionally Disturbed Person 3
Escort, Parade Detail 0
Fight in Progress 9
Fire 4
Foot Patrol 29
Hit Skip Crash 2
Hit Skip Crash, Injury 2
Injury Crash 15
Investigate Complaint 240
Investigation 178
Juvenile Complaint 11
Meet Complainant 108
Missing Person 11
Missing Person Located 1
Motorcycle, ATV Complaint 0
Narcotics Complaint 1
Neighbor Complaint 3
Officer in Trouble 5
Open Door Found 135
Open Window Found 6
Person with a Gun 2
Person with a Knife 1
Prowlers 2
Rape 1
Registration Check 0
Residence, Vacation Checks 4,694
Road Blocked 17
Robbery 0
Robbery in Progress 17
Shooting 0
Shots Fired 2
Special Detail 644
Stabbing, Cutting 1
Structure Fire 1
Suicide Attempt 5
Suspicious Person 123
Theft 39
Theft in Progress 3
Threats, Harassment 6
Traffic Detail 124
Traffic Enforcement 2,000
Traffic Offense 1,281
Transport Arrested Person 32
Unknown Trouble 32
Vandalism 9
Vehicle - Disabled 48
Vehicle - Recovered Stolen 1
Vehicle - Stolen 1
Vehicle - Suspicious 143
Warrant Served - Felony 5
Warrant SErved - Misdemeanor 13

 

Mayor’s Court

By Sara Schumacher, Clerk of Courts … In the later part of 2013, I took over for our former clerk Christy Williamson, who left for a full-time position. The transition went very smoothly, and I continue to enjoy serving the community in this new capacity. In 2014, we will be implementing an online payment option (minervapark.org/court/) to allow individuals the opportunity to pay their citations 24/7. The public is invited to attend Mayor’s Court, which occurs on Wednesday mornings at 8 a.m. Please check the website or Community Building for the dates. Below are the 2013 statistics:

to MP General Fund $59,118.28
to MP Computer Fund $2,346.50
Paid to State $17,922.00
Citations Issued 628

 

Fire Department - EMS

By Chief Rick Hoechstetter … The Fire Department responded to 272 emergency calls in 2013, representing a substantial decrease from previous years. The main reason for the decrease was a decline in the number of staff available, which fluctuates primarily because of budget constraints. Those who do not have other means of support often join the Department as a means of securing improved access to better opportunities. With the economic downturn (which typically affects government finances about two years after a market downturn), those efforts appear to have intensified. We remain focused on rebuilding the membership.

Four percent of our calls last year came from addresses in the Village, 12.9% from Blendon Township, .7% from Westerville, and the remaining 82.4% came from Columbus. Members served a total of 3,435 hours in 2013; 76% of this total was paid medic hours.

We continued to offer CPR classes though out the year and the File of Life program. Please call the Station (882-3375) or email firechief@minervapark.org if you would like more information.

The Medic vehicle required extensive engine repairs this year. The consensus in the fire service is that the “new” 6-liter diesel engine design is not strong enough to take the added strain of emergency service, and most departments are moving to larger trucks with bigger engines. The remaining equipment appears to remain in proper working order.

We contracted for EMS billing services in September with Medical Claims Assistance (MCA) of Huntington WV, chosen from a large field of competitors because of their demonstrated ability to achieve revenue maximization and their customer service reputation. It does not appear that the old Mobile Data Console will be big enough to run the MCA EMS reporting program, so for the time being the reports will be completed on paper forms and faxed securely to MCA.

Fire inspections continued, and there were no major issues to report this year.

I would like to personally commend the officers and members of the Department for their exemplary efforts last year. Well done! We remain truly proud to serve Minerva Park. The 2013 run data are as follows:

Chest Pain 23
Difficulty Breathing 29
Fire 3
Illness 115
Injury 53
Vehicle-related 20
Other 29

 

Planning & Zoning

By Sara Schumacher, Zoning Clerk, and Chris Weisenberger … The Planning & Zoning Commission had a productive year, hearing many applications in 2013. The past year included a number of improvements sought by the Village residents, who continue to maintain and beautify their homes. The Commission approved the following permits for a total of $1,036.40 in 2013.

Applications to be heard by the Planning & Zoning Commission at their monthly first-Tuesday meetings must be submitted at least 15 days before the scheduled meeting. If you have questions, please call the Village offices at 882-5743.

Commercial Signs 7
Fences 3
Home-based Business 1
Plumbing 9
Soliciting 3
Variances 3
Zoning Complianced 2

 

Mayor’s Office

By Mayor Lynn Eisentrout … This past year has been eventful.

In January, we completed the punch list for the Jordan Road, Park Lane Court, and Park Lane Drive street project to submit our Request for Disbursement to the Ohio Public Works Commission (OPWC) for our 100% grant funds monies to be released. The project came in under budget, which hopefully will reflect well on the Village when we next submit an application for a street project to the OPWC.

Realizing that submitting a balanced budget to the Auditor’s Office in March was going to be difficult, the Council was faced with making some very tough decisions. It passed two pieces of legislation, Resolution 2013-7, amending Resolution 2010-18 regarding the trash hauling services being paid by the Village to having this service paid by the residents (thereby reducing the General Fund expenses by $98,000), and Ordinance 1-3013, amending Ordinance 7-2004 regarding the income tax to provide for the repeal of the tax credit commencing July 1, 2013 (increasing 2013 revenues by more than $32,000, and future years by more than $91,000).

Interest in purchasing and developing the golf course on the part of Fischer Homes continued in the spring. In April, a Town Meeting was held at Hawthorne Elementary School for residents to ask the developer questions and to view proposed plans both with and without a 9-hole golf course in preparation to vote on a bond levy in May.

In May, the residents voted on a bond levy to decide if the Village should purchase enough land to sustain a 9-hole golf course, authorizing the issuance of bonds in the amount of $1.4 million for the purpose of acquiring, improving, equipping, and furnishing a municipal golf course; $1 million would be used to purchase the land, and $400,000 would be earmarked for improvements, etc. The bonds would be retired over a period of 20 years at a millage rate of 28.5 cents for each $100 of valuation. As we know, the bond levy passed by 62.38%. I then appointed a Golf Course committee to assist in the feasibility study and the ensuing discussions with a golf course designer as to the potential of a successful 9-hole course, its compatibility with the housing development, managing a golf course, and working capital for the 2014 season. Once all of the information was gathered and analyzed, the consensus of the Council was that it was not a good business decision to invest in a 9-hole golf course and the bonds that you voted on have not been issued. Fischer Homes then began to plan for a full build-out of the property as a Planned Residential District and to annex into the Village.

On July 22, our earthen dam overtopped during the unusually heavy rainfall (approximately 1-1/2” to 2” in about 45 minutes). That meant that the South Lake spillway discharge capacity was insufficient to pass or accommodate the flood waters, and water flowed over the walking path. I met with two Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Dam Safety Engineering reps and four Emergency Management Agency (EMA) agents on-site that morning and into the afternoon. We were ordered to monitor the dam and the lake all night to ensure it drained consistently, and, in the event of more rain, it didn’t overtop again.

In August, our residents were informed that the Leaf Pick-up Program would not be underwritten by the Village because of budget constraints.

On September 9, a Public Hearing was held for the public to pose questions to the Council, Mayor, and Legal Counsel about the adoption of Chapter 1253 of the Codified Ordinances regarding a Planned Residential District (PRD), a separate zoning district that would be used if the golf course property would be annexed and developed. On September 23, the Planning & Zoning Commission, with some Council members and residents present, met with the Fischer representatives to review an initial plan of the layout of a full development of the property and to discuss the Pre-Annexation Agreement. While not a town meeting or public hearing, it presented an opportunity for Fischer to informally present general plans and ideas.

In October, we said good-bye to Sgt. “Jimmy” James Boyers, thanking him for 24 years of service to our Village and wishing him well in his retirement.

In November, I reported that I had received a draft of the Emergency Action Plan (EAP) and the Operations, Maintenance, and Inspection (OM&I) documents that were then submitted to the ODNR for its approval. Also, in November, the Council passed Resolution 2013-23 to place the issue of a 1% income tax increase at a Special Election to be held on February 4, 2014. This issue failed by 15 votes.

The Christmas Carriage Rides, held in December, was very successful, well-attended, and very festive. I want to thank everyone who helped, especially Lisa Craddock Thitoff who deserves the credit for the incredible decorations and food.

I also want to recognize and thank our hard-working staff for their many contributions to the day-to-day operations of the Village this past year: Police Chief Kim Nuesse and our Police officers, EMS Chief Rick Hoechstetter and our Department members, Sara Schumacher, Chris Weisenberger, Lynda Sudderberg, Gene Hollins, Jennifer Croghan, Jim Fisher, Jim Nuesse, John Friedel, and Tom Shannon. I would not be able to do this job without their help and the assistance of the Council members. Your efforts are appreciated.

In closing, even though 2013 has been one of the most challenging years of my 11 years as your Mayor, I am not discouraged. We have a beautiful Village. We have wonderful, caring residents. This present Council is one of the hardest working, most collaborative groups I have worked with in a long time. I continue to be honored to serve as your Mayor and will continue my work to live up to your expectations.

Mayor Lynn Eisentrout

contact...

Village of Minerva Park
2829 Minerva Lake Road
Columbus OH 43231
614.882.5743
614.899.1296 fax
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