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Residents get answers on proposed rec center

Lawrence City Manager David Corliss discusses plans for a proposed new city recreation center at a public meeting Thursday night at Lawrence Free State High School.

Lawrence City Manager David Corliss discusses plans for a proposed new city recreation center at a public meeting Thursday night at Lawrence Free State High School.

November 8, 2012

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Roughly 100 people took advantage of an opportunity Thursday night to take a closer look at plans for a proposed new recreation center in northwest Lawrence and to ask city officials about the details.

Among their questions at a open house event at Free State High School: What will the city get for a proposed $25 million cost, to be paid to the KU Endowment Association as part of an agreement? How will this benefit me if I live on the other side of town? And why, if the city goes forward with the proposed Endowment agreement, would developer Thomas Fritzel serve as a general contractor without going through a normal bidding process?

Several residents asked variations of that last one to Lawrence City Manager David Corliss, one of several city staff members who manned different question stations.

Corliss explained that the deal offered by the Endowment Association specified that Fritzel would serve in that capacity. And the potential agreement offered the city an opportunity to build a long-needed recreational center while also providing a positive economic impact.

And in addition to all that, city officials believe they’d be getting additional value: officials have estimated total costs of the center at $33.5 million, but the Endowment Association would require a lump payment of only $25 million.

“There is an opportunity with this project that is probably unique,” Corliss told the group around him.

In addition, he said that though under the Endowment agreement the city would not put the project out for bids, the Endowment Association had offered to make bidding processes transparent.

In a letter sent to the city Thursday from KU Endowment President Dale Seuferling, he wrote that the city could have the opportunity to review bids received from potential subcontractors by the Endowment and Fritzel’s group, though after the winning bids have already been selected.

The letter also invited the city to retain a construction monitor to keep an eye on the project as it sees fit.

Lawrence residents Kent and Karen Shrack said as they left the event they hoped the city would work to ensure it received a solid value for its investment.

“I think the word we want is ‘fair,’” Karen Shrack said.

‘Turning kids away’

Resident Jim Joyce came to the open house, he said, to get his first look at floor plans for the proposed center to be located on the northeast corner of Sixth Street and the South Lawrence Trafficway.

He asked Parks and Recreation Director Ernie Shaw why the center couldn’t include more general workout space rather than being largely devoted to eight full-sized basketball courts. But Shaw said one of the driving factors for a new recreation center was that the city needed badly to add more gyms for youth sports.

“We’re turning kids away now,” Shaw said.

Shaw said that according to industry recommendations, a city Lawrence’s size should have about 20 more public basketball courts than it does. Tournaments and other events at the proposed center could help offset costs, he said, but he hoped for the primary focus on be on serving the community.

When another resident asked how the center would serve other parts of the city if it’s located on the city’s northwest corner, Corliss noted it should free up the city’s other recreation centers, making gyms more freely available instead of being fully booked with scheduled events much of the time.

“We’re a community that shares different resources,” Corliss said.

Resident Carolyn Crawford, who lives near the proposed center’s location, said she came to the event to get a look at the plans. She had hoped that the portions of the proposed Rock Chalk Park that would be controlled with KU would still feel welcoming and open, and the plans suggested to her that would be the case.

She credited the city for listening to residents’ concerns while it planned the proposed center, and said she fully supported it.

“I think that it’s a good value,” Crawford said.

The City Commission will consider the proposed center further at its meeting Tuesday, when it will have the option to ask staff to prepare more detailed plans and agreements involving the KU-inclusive site. It will also have the option to move forward with plans for a city-only facility to be located at Overland Drive and Wakarusa Drive, plans for which were also made available at Thursday’s public meeting.

Comments

Richard Heckler 1 year, 10 months ago

Taxpayers want to vote on this PLAY project. We do not trust the powers that be are making the right decision.

Lawrence,Kansas does not need more PLAY. Remember all of the over priced housing Lawrence was having no trouble unloading? WITHOUT this field house. No need for a field house.

Housing projects are slow in America and many more foreclosures are on the horizon. It's on the news.

Forget this PLAY field house. Be fiscal conservative and come up with a plan that does not require a $60 million input. Taxpayers we spent $20 million on PLAY by way of the school district.

This will be a tax dollar money hole just like field houses in most other cities. They don't pay back ever. What is the point of ADDING more to the list of taxpayer obligations?

Taxpayers want to vote on this project. We do not trust the powers that be are making the right decision.

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kujayhawk7476 1 year, 10 months ago

Allowing people like you to vote on this project isn't going to happen, and it shouldn't. This is a quality of life issue and voters like you cannot be trusted to make the correct decision for the better good. If one of the reasons you live in Lawrence isn't quality of life, you need to move to somewhere else! By the way, I live in south Johnson County, Overland Park to be exact and we know how to do quality of life!

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Keith 1 year, 10 months ago

Wow, what dictatorship did you inherit?

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Keith 1 year, 10 months ago

I see you signed your response.

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kansasredlegs 1 year, 10 months ago

It should be put to a vote. JO CO valuation is most likely the highest in the state, so you wouldn't feel the "it's only the cup of coffee per week argument" put forth by supporters. Quality of life, really? City's own study shows 34 weekends already planned to be used for "regional" & "national" tournaments with more likely to be added. If even 10 more addeded, then that quality of life must be squeezed into the remaining 8 weeks of the year. So just when does that quality translate to those paying the freight? This palace may free up more "pick up" basketball, but it sure doesn't translate into more place for the "turned away kids" Corliss spews as the city rec leagues play on weekends, right?

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myparcelisseceding 1 year, 10 months ago

no, you have no idea how to do quality of life. keep your concrete jungle and stay in joco

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jhawkinsf 1 year, 10 months ago

Merrill, If you spent half the time you spend posting here on gathering signatures on petitions, you could force this issue onto the ballot. Either do it or don't, I could care less. But if this were put to a vote, there's no reason to believe that the likely 16% turnout will be any more representative of the will of the people than having our elected officials make the decisions.

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 1 year, 10 months ago

How many signatures on petitions have you raised this morning? (surely must be in the hundreds)

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jhawkinsf 1 year, 10 months ago

The question is not how many signatures have I gathered, the question is how many questions do I want put before the voters. The answer to that is zero, at this time.

Do you want this issue put before the voters and if so, how many signatures have you gathered?

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Richard Heckler 1 year, 10 months ago

The financing is Supply Side Economics. Borrow and Spend, Borrow and Spend , Borrow and Spend. Aka Deficit Spending.

Local taxpayers have become the defacto borrowing institution then we become the defacto lending institution as we are forced to finance reckless city pork barrel projects for the real estate executives and executives of the developer industry.

The debt never goes away.

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Richard Heckler 1 year, 10 months ago

It is stunning how many show up on this chat board to support tax increases which by the way makes our wallets lighter.

This matter was has been led by the development/builder industry who by the way will do most anything to promote their industry with OUR tax dollars aka pork barrel spending.

The bottom line.

Adding miles and miles and miles of new infrastructure is like adding miles and miles and miles of new taxes. In a bedroom community this is not expanding the tax base it is expanding our tax bills.

Until Lawrence can afford to fund rehab of neighborhood streets and side walks how in the world can Lawrence afford to spend on new projects that truly add NEW expense for the community to maintain.

This is not sensible spending or sensible growth. It is reckless spending hoping it will stimulate another "boom town economy" which brings on super inflation and hikes personal property taxes beyond reality.

The T was put to the voters and was accepted by the majority of those who voted. All voters who wanted to vote did so.

--- A city's budget crunch can be tied directly to infrastructure expenses needed to serve new housing developments.

If residential growth paid for itself? With increased numbers of residential you have increased demand on services, and historically the funding of revenues generated by residential housing does not pay for the services they require from a municipality.

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Pepe 1 year, 10 months ago

"And in addition to all that, city officials believe they’d be getting additional value: officials have estimated total costs of the center at $33.5 million, but the Endowment Association would require a lump payment of only $25 million."

This doesn't seem to make any sense. If you can get $33.5 million in value by only spending $25 million, why would the endowment association not do this themselves? For that matter, if an investment of $25 million is somehow instantly worth $33.5 million, why wouldn't a private business take on this project themselves?

This whole thing is fishy as can be. In my view, the most worrisome part is the fact that this project will not be put up for open bidding. I see no downside to an open bidding process from the taxpayer's perspective and a lot of potential upside.

Our leaders need to say no to this, although I doubt this will happen.

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fu7il3 1 year, 10 months ago

Endowment can't do it because KU athletics wants youth tournaments to be there and it would be an NCAA violation. We are basically being used as 25 million dollar recruiting loophole. I'm surprised more people haven't made a fuss about KU Endowment making Fritzel part of the deal when I believe he is a major donor to KU Athletics.

So, KU wants the city to pick up the tab and run things, but only if they pay a major donor to do it. The whole thing seems like a bad idea to me. Sure, a 35 million dollar project for 25 million is a good value, if you have 25 million extra dollars to spend. I could have sworn we were having budgetary issues and raising taxes to pay for buses, libraries, and such things already.

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jhawkinsf 1 year, 10 months ago

Your interpretation sounds good, right down to this essentially being an NCAA loophole. That said, the question(s) in my mind is still will this project bring into Lawrence new revenue above our investment or will it not bring in new revenue above our investment? Also, will it bring jobs to Lawrence that are not currently here, sufficient in numbers and quality, that this is something the city should be striving for?

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Joe Hyde 1 year, 10 months ago

Wow, the amount of double-talk in the project's sales pitch (and funding scheme) is amazing.

"Corliss explained that the deal offered by the Endowment Association specified that Fritzel would serve in that capacity." (as General Contractor)

"In addition, he (Corliss) said that though under the Endowment agreement the city would not put the project out for bids, the Endowment Association had offered to make bidding processes transparent." (Gee, thanks! AFTER they've already picked the winners.)

"In a letter sent to the city Thursday from KU Endowment President Dale Seuferling, he wrote that the city could have the opportunity to review bids received from potential subcontractors by the Endowment and Fritzel’s group, though after the winning bids have already been selected." (Gee, thanks again! The city can review the bids AFTER they've been awarded...by KU Endowment, on what will be a city-owned facility.)

"The City Commission will consider the proposed center further at its meeting Tuesday, when it will have the option to ask staff to prepare more detailed plans and agreements involving the KU-inclusive site. It will also have the option to move forward with plans for a city-only facility to be located at Overland Drive and Wakarusa Drive, plans for which were also made available at Thursday’s public meeting." (Yes indeed, when that pair of bobwhites flush at your feet flying in opposite directions it can certainly confuse you, deciding which one you want to shoot first? Often they both escape -- or in this case, both get funded.)

My, my, my... If officials in the federal agency I retired from ever attempted a $25 million public project using the private agreement contracting mechanism that's in evidence here, officers in the Inspector General's Office would need to take a day off just to make sure all their handcuff hinges were properly oiled.

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 1 year, 10 months ago

How about this for a compromise-- KU Endowment and KUAC build this thing however they like, and after it's done, Lawrence citizens get six months to use the thing, after which they get to vote on whether they want to buy it for the $25 million.

If it's such a great deal, it should be an easy sell. But if Lawrence decides not to buy it, KU Endowment and KUAC can sell it to the highest private bidder, where they are almost certain to get $33 million for it. It's a win-win solution.

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jhawkinsf 1 year, 10 months ago

If Fu7113's suggestion above that the city is being brought into this to create a loophole around NCAA regulations, then your proposal doesn't solve that problem. It would create an NCAA violation.

BTW - I was reading a story a couple of months ago about the living quarters provided to Kentucky basketball players. It sounded like it was something along the lines of a five star hotel. If KU is going to compete, we're going to have to compete. Bottom line is that Lawrence business does much better when KU teams do well, which in turn generates substantial revenue into the city coffers and it provides jobs.

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 1 year, 10 months ago

It may not solve KUAC's problem, but that's their problem, not the problem of Lawrence taxpayers.

"Bottom line is that Lawrence business does much better when KU teams do well, which in turn generates substantial revenue into the city coffers and it provides jobs."

That's not a bottom line-- it's an unsupported assertion. Sure, some businesses do well with the tourist trade, but for the great majority of people, it makes absolutely no difference other than to increase congestion on the streets.

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jhawkinsf 1 year, 10 months ago

Look up how much the city brought in in sales tax receipts for the year 2008 and compare that to 2007. You will see a substantial increase. Did KU do something special in 2008, like win the national championship and the Orange Bowl? And with that increase in sales taxes, might we assume merchants hired more people to accommodate their increased sales? Maybe it's just a coincidence.

Like it or not, the city's financial well being is tied to KU's well being. If they do well, potholes in East Lawrence get fixed. If they don't do well, we'll need to shut down the "T".

Look at it like this, tonight there are three games being played here. Two high school games and a KU basketball game. People will be flocking to the city from surrounding areas. Some will eat out, some will drink, some will buy T-shirts, etc. Those merchants will staff their businesses with extra staff to accommodate their patrons. And they will pay sales taxes on those sales. Now if you, or the great majority of taxpayers sit at home on your couch and do nothing, you will still receive a benefit from those extra tax dollars being available for the city to solve it's problems. Conversely, if those three games were played in Shawnee Mission, Olathe and at SE Mo. St., then those communities would benefit from Lawrence dollars being spent there. That disposable money will be spent. The only question is will they spend it here for our benefit or will we spend it there for their benefit?

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 1 year, 10 months ago

" if those three games were played in Shawnee Mission, Olathe and at SE Mo. St., then those communities would benefit from Lawrence dollars being spent there. That disposable money will be spent. The only question is will they spend it here for our benefit or will we spend it there for their benefit? "

And there are and will be events held in those cities, and probably just as many people will leave Lawrence to spend their money there as come here. That's certainly good for tourist dependent businesses in those cities, but it's money headed out of the city, of no benefit to anyone here. You're obviously expecting that Lawrence would come out on top in such an exchange, but it comes with at least a $25 million price tag (no one should expect that the outflows will end there.)

So the real question is how much other taxpayers should subsidize all of these tourism-based businesses, which is precisely what you're advocating.

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jhawkinsf 1 year, 10 months ago

You missed the part about if you sit on your couch and do nothing, you still receive a benefit from the increased flow of sales tax dollars into the city coffers. So in some sense, you are subsidizing them while they subsidize you.

Your question about the 25 million price tag is valid. I'm not sold on this project until I see projections that more than that amount will flow back to the city. But at least I'm open minded. And of course, not everything the city spends money on needs to return a profit, the "T" coming to mind. (It may surprise you, but I'm generally in favor of public transportation even if it loses money).

And of course we need to ask about jobs. How many people will take tickets at today's games, serve hot dogs, popcorn and coke? People need to be hired to set things up and clean up after games. They all receive a wage for their work. We're talking hundreds of jobs just for tonight earning thousands man hours. Sure, tonight is special with three games. But it adds up.

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 1 year, 10 months ago

So at what point is a $25 million investment in a rec facility the great majority of Lawrencians will never use justified by the addition of a mostly unknown (and likely incalculable) number of low-wage service jobs?

And I see little to no comparison between this facility and the "T," although any additional employment it might add to the city will be made up largely of people who really need public transportation to get to their jobs.

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jhawkinsf 1 year, 10 months ago

You talk about the great majority of Lawrence residents who won't use this facility. The same can be said for the "T" or the public library. The vast majority of Lawrence residents won't use Pennsylvania St. between 13th. & 14th. That doesn't mean we don't maintain that street.

Do you know what another name for a low wage job is? It's called a job. Or an entry level job. There is nothing in the world wrong with them. If it's below you, that's on you.

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 1 year, 10 months ago

"The vast majority of Lawrence residents won't use Pennsylvania St. between 13th. & 14th."

And the city hasn't spent a nickel on that stretch of street in decades.

Entry level jobs are fine, but Lawrence already has way more of those in the mix than is healthy. Besides, there's no guarantee that this facility will create ANY substantial number of jobs, regardless of what they pay.

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jhawkinsf 1 year, 10 months ago

Sure, Lawrence has more than their fair share of entry level jobs. And if someone were proposing building a factory that would employ hundreds in good paying union jobs that had full benefits including health care, I'd be jumping on that bandwagon. But in the absence of that, our choices are new low paying entry level jobs or no jobs.

You're correct, there is no guarantee any number of jobs will be created. Of course, there's no guarantee that in five years there will be a single kindergardener in the whole city of Lawrence. But it would be foolish not to be prepared. Maybe tomorrow not a soul will ride the "T". Shall we shut it down today? The solution? Use the best information available (projections perhaps) and make the best decisions you can based on that. You won't be correct 100% of the time. But it's better than the alternative, using the less than best information available. Or using no information.

Bottom line is this, we spend "X" number of dollars which in turn brings in "Y" number of jobs, tournaments, tourists who eat in our restaurants, drink in our bars, buy T-shirts in our stores, spend the night in our hotels. If "Y" is expected to be greater than "X", then do it. If "Y" is expected to be less than "X", then don't.

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 1 year, 10 months ago

OK, I get it--you're a firm believer in the magic of eco-devo. All we have to do is spend $25 million (likely more like $33 million by the time infrastructure improvements are made) on a rec facility nobody in Lawrence really needs, and we'll be overrun with tourists. All you gotta do is "believe" and then compare it to a bunch of totally unrelated city services that really do serve a purpose.

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jhawkinsf 1 year, 10 months ago

I'm not opposed to using a little common sense. We spoke yesterday about the three games being played in Lawrence. I have no idea (no guarantee, in your words) that a single outside dollar was spent here. Maybe, not a single person ate at a local restaurant. Maybe no one bought a T-shirt. Maybe not a single person in Allen Field House bought a single hot dog or coke and KU will respond by shutting that down for the next game, eliminating all those low paying jobs. Maybe.

Maybe not. This rec. center will produce jobs, despite you saying there's no guarantee. People will come despite you saying there's no guarantee. They will eat in our city, drink in our city, sleep in our city and spend in our city, despite you saying there's no guarantee.

Where you might be correct is that our investment might not equal our return. There is certainly some risk. We use the best information available and then make the most informed decision we can. But doing nothing has risks of it's own. One risk might be that if a similar project is completed at the Legends and not here, Lawrence residents will flock there for the entertainment as well as the jobs provided. Then we can expand the roads through some wetlands to accommodate the extra traffic. Don't you just love the sight of smog over a protected wetland in the morning?

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turnright 1 year, 10 months ago

Reviewing Option A, provided by the city last night, one must wonder how traffic flows will occur. 1400 parking spaces are provided, with overflow capacity on grass. There are only two routes for entrance/exiting. Has KDOT approved this quantity of vehicular traffic onto 40 highway? Or is this still considered 6th street, which would become the problem of the City? Will the children need a crossing guard, perhaps? It's all about the kids, right?

Also, thank you Parks and Recreation for being sensitive to private membership health clubs. Your not wanting to compete with there business, will continue to provide minimum wage jobs to the few people they employ. Many members of the community enjoy full year memberships, paid in advance, to support local business. Unfortunately, many more are not able to provide that support. Yet you ask they support this effort for the entire community?

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pizzapete 1 year, 10 months ago

"If this center is really worth 33.5 million , then buiild it , sell it, and the city pockets 8.5 million. Take that "profit' from public private partner ship and build another one and have only 17 million invested"

Wilbur, I like your thinking. The problem with this scenario is that it's probably similar to building a 20 million dollar home. It may be worth that much to build, but when the owner goes to sell it they'll probably find out that there is a very limited market for it and ultimately they'll be lucky to sell it for 12 million.

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rockchalker52 1 year, 10 months ago

I like the whole concept. I hope people figure out a way to get it done. As a facility, it is of great benefit to the public & also stimulates our local economy. I think that benefits me directly, but even if it didn't, I would not object to a reasonable amount of my tax dollars supporting this project for my community.

Get this done & get that North Lawrence River Walk thing done & first thing you know, there are a lot more reasons to buy, stay & play local.

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EJ Mulligan 1 year, 10 months ago

The city just did an analysis of the water system and determined that 80% of the water mains in Lawrence need to be replaced in the next several years, to the tune of multiple million dollars. Between that and the library, there is nothing close to a need to spend $25 million MORE for a good ol' boys loophole of a sports facility that will never recoup enough for this town.

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Ami 1 year, 10 months ago

Unfortunately I couldn’t attend last night. I know the city talked about helping and giving the west side what is provided for the rest of the town residents, but I don’t know if that has been answered last night: Is it planned as place for the kids/teens to hang our? Will there be open access? How will they get there? The bus doesn’t run west of Wakarusa and the traffic is very hectic on the way there I didn’t understand the Gym thing in the initial plan there was a Gym and walking trail are they still there? Other than Basketball courts, what else will be there? Do you have copy of the plans presented last night? Will residents have free access? Always as it is in the city rec centers or just sometime?

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Nikonman 1 year, 10 months ago

1) I'm not sure the loophole will fly with the NCAA. They may see it for what it is, then what? 2) Why does KUAC & KUEA want to build this so far from the main campus? You think attendance is down for such minor sports now, wait until it's built, than look at the attendance. 3) Who will control the parking. Will it be KU Parking and Transit? They usually can't wait to get their hands into your wallet. 4) Why can't existing property on KU's west campus be used for this project? 5) The last I heard, KU gets about 30 % of the Kansas State budget. Will this continue forever or will the legislature finally figure out that the taxpayers aren't getting their money's worth.

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Crazy_Larry 1 year, 10 months ago

Eff, arr, eye, tee, zee, eee, el.

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lawrencereporter 1 year, 10 months ago

toe..... You figured it out. This is a Self perk.

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