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Westmoreland County man assists in son’s search for kidney donation

in Local News

Source: Trib Live

There’s no need to ask William Dolan of Mt. Pleasant Township about his 39-year-old son, William Jr.’s, need for a kidney transplant.

It’s boldly advertised across the Acme man’s white pickup truck. Since last summer, the elder Dolan has been driving throughout Westmoreland and Fayette counties with a large four-by-six-foot placard in the truck’s bed asking people to consider organ donation.

“Sometimes, I’ll just drive around along Route 22, Route 30, where there is a lot of traffic. Sometimes, I’ll park at the Westmoreland Mall and sit there, hoping someone will call the number and we find a match,” Dolan, 64, said.

His message is simple: “Please give the gift of life! My son needs a new kidney. If you would like to help, please call 724-542-4149,” the placard reads.

Anyone calling the number will be directed to the UPMC’s Transplant services website, where they can learn more about becoming a living donor or starting the registration process. The web address is

“Even if it’s not a match for Bill, it could help somebody else,” Dolan said.

His son has type O positive blood.

Dolan remains steadfast in helping find a kidney because he remembers, less than two years ago, when William Jr. didn’t have to undergo daily dialysis treatments and could work regular shifts at area construction jobs.

William Jr. was diagnosed with diabetes when he was 3.

“His whole life, Bill’s never wanted to be treated differently or want anyone to feel sorry for him, so he’s never really mentioned it to anyone,” Dolan said.

His son, who lives in White Township, Fayette County, declined to be interviewed and only recently consented to have his name included at his father’s insistence.

In 2014, Dolan donated a kidney to his son in a transplant performed at UPMC Montefiore hospital in Pittsburgh.

“Everything was going well until November 2018, when my son’s car was T-boned in a crash on White Road along the border of Fayette and Westmoreland counties. He walked away OK, but, about six months later, he began experiencing some pain and then having no appetite,” Dolan said.

Antibiotics he was prescribed ended up attacking his kidney function. He was put back on daily dialysis.

“He’s been called about four times in the last year (about possible donors), but they’ve either found a better match or something else happens,” Dolan said.

Until then, William Dolan said he will continue driving his pickup truck “and praying.”


Lamp Theatre planning expansion for 2020

in Local News

Source: Trib Live

A pavilion to be built over part of the courtyard at The Lamp Theatre in downtown Irwin will provide shelter from the weather and a raised stage in the courtyard will put musicians a step above the crowds for outdoor concerts, all part of an effort to improve patrons’ experience.

Those details are part of the plans for expanding and renovating the theater this year, said John Gdula, president of the nonprofit Lamp Theatre Corp., which operates the property that reopened in 2015 after extensive renovation.

“We want to have some sort of a temporary stage in the corner of the courtyard that would be elevated,” Gdula said.

The courtyard roof, adjacent to the diner, will provide about 700 square feet of covered space, he said. Steel beams to hold the pavilion roof will be bolted into the courtyard foundation.

To pay for that project, the Lamp Theatre received a $24,000 grant from the Community Foundation of Westmoreland County, which requires a $12,000 match in cash or in-kind services, said Terri Yurcisin, Lamp board vice president. The work has to be done this year, Yurcisin said.

“We’re slowly but surely making headway,” Yurcisin said.

The Lamp is in the process of redoing its box office area, creating a new site to pick up “will-call tickets” to reduce congestion around the entrance, Gdula said.

To promote the theater, the organization hired Andrea “Andi” Cartwright of White Oak, who has been the business and marketing manager since September.

“I really felt like I was home. It’s been an incredible experience,” even with the long work weeks, Cartwright said.

She shares the day-to-day duties of operating the Lamp with Bill Elder, the production and operations manager, who books the concerts and shows. Cartwright was hired as the Lamp underwent a reorganization after former manager Danelle Haggerson of Jeannette left in January 2019. She had succeeded longtime manager John Cassandro.

“It helps with the division of the workload,” Cartwright said of splitting the operation with Elder.

Cartwright said her work experience has served her well in the new position. She was the marketing and events coordinator for five years at the Sunset Room, a banquet facility in Elizabeth Township. That role involved customer service — working with brides-to-be and others renting the facility. She promoted the Sunset Room and used a variety of platforms, including social media, to attract business.

She redesigned the Lamp’s website “to make it more visually appealing and user friendly,” Cartwright said.

“This job fits many different aspects of the skills I have developed,” Cartwright said.

Part of her job entails working with volunteers, Cartwright said. She was a volunteer with the Meals on Wheels program in McKeesport, as well as with the McKeesport Heritage Center in Renziehausen Park.

“I have a knowledge of nonprofits” and how they operate, she noted.

Cartwright was with H.J. Heinz Corp. in Pittsburgh for 22 years, starting in the food production plant and becoming a consumer resource representative.

One of the goals in 2020 is to make the theater available to rent for events and celebrations such as birthday parties, where children could watch movies, Cartwright said.

Another revenue generator under consideration is the placement of “lamps” of various sizes that a donor could purchase and on which their name can be etched. They would be placed in the recessed area in the lobby, where patrons could see and read them before shows.

“It’s all about sustaining and growing our clientele,” Cartwright said, making the theatre the “hub of activity” in downtown Irwin.

Gdula said they will have an accounting early this year on how successful the Lamp was in 2019 in attracting patrons.

“The art of programming” is the essence of its success, Gdula said in a recent newsletter.


Cleaveland/Price Inc. in North Huntingdon names Heller new president

in Local News

Source: Trib Live

Cleaveland/Price Inc., an international supplier and local manufacturer of high-voltage electrical products based in North Huntingdon, has named Carl Heller, former vice president and manufacturing operations manager, as its new company president.

The transition took place Jan. 1, the company said.

Heller has been with Cleaveland/Price for 14 years serving a variety of functions including production planning and operations manager, corporate treasurer, and, for the last year, as vice president.

“I am very passionate about American manufacturing. It is my belief that with the right team and culture there is not a better place to manufacture,” Heller said.

“We have a family of 300 engineers, assemblers, office professionals, and fabricators who take pride in caring for each other and for our customers. It is truly humbling to lead such a high caliber team,” Heller said.

Heller succeeds Rae Sweeney.

“Throughout my presidency, I have felt the same responsibility to this company that I feel as a mother to my children. Carl and I have worked closely together since he came to C/P, and he exemplifies the values needed in a leader at Cleaveland/Price. There is no other person I could possibly trust more to keep the C/P family safe and strong,” Sweeney said.

Chuck Cleaveland, founder and chairman of the board of directors, who established the company in his home in 1975, said he believes Heller will follow his own philosophy of placing employees first, customers second, and profit third, in order of importance.

Cleaveland said he is “confident and thankful that Carl will carry on our corporate traditions of having no unhappy customers and always treating our employees with kindness.”

Cleaveland/Price is a switch engineering and manufacturing firm with a diverse product portfolio including outdoor group operated, high-voltage switches with ratings to 500 kV, hookstick operated switches for a wide range of applications, enclosed switches including isophase disconnects, and custom-designed high voltage switches for special uses.

The company also manufactures sensors that provide real-time three-phase power monitoring and switch control motor operators to enable utilities to integrate almost any switch into a SCADA or smart grid system in overhead, underground, and padmount applications. The company holds numerous patents relating to switch design and control.

The firm is located at 14000 Route 993.


Westmoreland Cleanways closes recycling center pending planned move

in Local News

Source: Trib Live

Westmoreland Cleanways and Recycling has closed its Unity recycling center until it moves to a proposed new location in the township, near Pleasant Unity.

In the meantime, local residents have other options for recycling items such as paper and appliances containing Freon, but there are no nearby substitutes for the drop-off glass and electronics recycling services Westmoreland Cleanways has offered.

Westmoreland Cleanways hopes to reopen in mid-February for recycling drop-off services at its proposed new site along Pleasant Unity-Mutual Road, just south of Route 130 and across the road from the Unity Township Municipal Authority office, Executive Director Ellen Keefe said.

Friday was the last day for recycling services at the existing center, along Route 30 at Innovative Park, Keefe said. No further recyclable materials will be accepted at that location, but Westmoreland Cleanways will continue to operate a business office there from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays.

Westmoreland Cleanways is one of the few organizations that has accepted glass, televisions and other electronics for recycling — services it plans to resume at the new center.

Residents would have to travel far to take advantage of other public drop-offs offered by Westmoreland Cleanways’ partner in electronics recycling, JVS Environmental. Those interested may drop off electronics noon to 4 p.m. Thursdays at the company’s Friedens headquarters. Call 724-228-6811 for more information about a drop-off it offers in Ellsworth, Washington County.

A spokeswoman at Hempfield’s Bradish Glass said that company, which partners with Westmoreland Cleanways on glass recycling, doesn’t have a public drop-off service at its location because of safety concerns.

Keefe suggested people who rely on Westmoreland Cleanways for recycling services “call us if they have something they want to recycle and are looking for an alternative, or hold on to it until the new recycling center is open.”

The business office can be reached at 724-879-4020.

Westmoreland Cleanways’ lease for its Innovative Park center expires at the end of January, Keefe said. The proposed new center, to be purchased by JVS and leased to Westmoreland Cleanways, would expand available indoor storage space from 3,400 square feet to 22,000 square feet.

Unity’s planning commission approved a site plan for the new center, which would occupy seven existing pole buildings on an 8-acre property. Supervisors tabled action on a waiver Westmoreland Cleanways and JVS sought from landscaping requirements, citing existing wooded buffer areas.

Supervisors Chairman John Mylant said, after a discussion with Keefe and seven nearby residents last week, the supervisors may reconsider approval at their Feb. 13 meeting.

“We have to see what kind of feedback we get,” Mylant said. “We just want everybody to be well-informed on what’s happening, so that nobody gets blind-sided.”

He said residents wanted assurances that junk wouldn’t be stored outside at the property and that materials wouldn’t be burned there.

Keefe said Westmoreland Cleanways “wants to be good neighbors.” She has noted the organization is required to keep materials under roof, in accordance with state environmental regulations.


Downtown Greensburg Project prepares marketing push for city

in Local News

Source: Trib Live

Greensburg wants to show off its good side, and the Downtown Greensburg Project is looking for public feedback on how to do that.

“We’re not the same old city we’ve been for a long time, we want more collaboration, we want a stronger city,” said Jessica Hickey, director of the Downtown Greensburg Project. “So we wanted to create a new brand to help move it along a little bit.”

DGP organizes events and promotes businesses in the city.

City council hired DGP last year at a rate of $1,250 a month to help market the city. Part of that work has been a major rebranding.

Hickey is in the early stages of that project. She’s collecting feedback from an online survey and public focus groups to learn how people see Greensburg, what they like about the city and what they don’t.

Feedback so far has included some complaints — parking is a perennial gripe — but the tone has been generally optimistic, Hickey said.

“It’s been pretty positive. I think everybody’s ready for a change, and to have input,” she said.

The goal, she said, is to learn what makes Greensburg special and highlight those aspects of the city.

“What makes it different, what makes us Greensburg?” she asked. “Because right now, it’s a little bit lost.”

While the rebranding effort will almost certainly include things like a new logo for the city, Hickey hopes it can be something more than that, helping define Greensburg’s identity and serving as a tool for future planning.

“We don’t want it to be, ‘Oh here’s a new logo,’ ” she said.

The project comes as the city prepares for a series of major changes, like overhauling the planning process for developers and crafting a new strategic plan.

Hickey is working on the project with students from the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg and Seton Hill University.

The next public focus groups will be held 6 p.m. Jan. 29-30 at DGP’s office, located at 136 S. Pennsylvania Ave. Those interested in attending should email


Ligonier Township couple credits faith, ‘love of family’ for 75 years of marriage

in Local News

Source: Trib Live

Wilma Riffle Pechart remembers Jan. 21, 1945, like it was yesterday.

“There was at least 8 inches of snow on the ground, and it was very, very cold. We didn’t send out a single wedding announcement, either,” Wilma Pechart, 91, recalled Saturday at her home in Ligonier Township, with husband, Clarence, 92, at her side.

No formal wedding invitations were made partially because Wilma’s parents, George and Elda Riffle, were not too keen about then 16-year-old, Wilma, marrying another Waterford teen, Clarence “Pech” Pechart, 17.

“Neither of us even had jobs. My mom thought about it, but told me if they told me no, I’d probably end up running off with him anyway, so they said OK,” Wilma said.

“I drove everybody to Greensburg in my old Model A Ford later that week to pickup our marriage license,” Clarence recalled.

The couple had met a year earlier when a friend of Clarence’s, Harry Roddy, who lived near the Riffles, asked young Wilma if she would like to ride with Pechart on his motorcycle as part of a double date.

Wilma accepted, and the rest is history.

“No one thought we would last. They said we were too young,” Wilma laughed Saturday as she looked over the crowd of more than 50 family members gathered at her home along Wilpen Road to celebrate the couple’s 75th wedding anniversary.

Oh, and the no wedding invitation edict didn’t turn out as anticipated, either.

When the future Wilma and Clarence Pechart arrived at the former United Brethren Church in nearby Waterford on that cold and snowy Sunday night for the wedding, they couple was surprised.

“The entire church was filled with people to wish us well,” Wilma said.

Seems everybody in the village knew and liked the two Ligonier Valley High School students.

According to the National Center for Family & Marriage Research at Bowling Green State University, of everyone in the United States who is currently married, 0.01% have been married for 75 years or more. And, of all people in their 90s in the country who are currently married, just 3.2% have been married for at least 75 years.

Three months after their wedding, Clarence enlisted in the Army “because everybody was getting drafted,” and he headed off to basic training camp at Camp Croft in South Carolina.

Clarence served 2-1/2 years including 18 months with the 139th Infantry in Italy before returning home.

The Pecharts said work opportunities were still limited after Clarence’s discharge so they traveled to Ohio to find jobs but returned to Western Pennsylvania a short time later.

The first of seven children, Sherry, was born after their return to Ligonier in 1948.

Six more children, Larry, Joy, Roger, Wynn, Randy and Rodney, followed through 1962.

“We had some some tough times finding work occasionally, but we certainly made a life for ourselves,” Wilma said.

Pechart tried his hand at farming, Bethlehem Steel in Johnstown, park ranger at Linn Run State Park from 1954 to 1962, and eventually became a road worker in Ligonier Township, where he retired in 1980. Wilma retired from Bethlen Home in 1981 after working there 25 years.

The Pecharts had 15 grandchildren and 25 great grandchildren.

“To tell you the truth, I think it’s gone by pretty fast,” Clarence said.

As for the recipe for marriage success, Wilma didn’t hesitate.

“It’s difficult, especially in today’s world,” she said. “But you’ve got to have faith in God and the love of family.”


Excela Latrobe introduces improved surgical robot

in Local News

Source: Trib Live

Students from Greater Latrobe and Ligonier Valley school districts joined other local residents Friday in trying out the controls of an improved surgical robot introduced during an open house at Excela Latrobe Hospital.

Seventeen Excela surgeons use the robot and one like it at Excela Westmoreland Hospital to perform precision procedures ranging from hernia repairs to cancer surgeries.

Michael Marinchak, 18, of Ligonier Borough, was one of nine Ligonier Valley anatomy students who used the sophisticated machine to place tiny hoops on colored cones in a training simulation meant to enhance STEM education at local schools. He said getting to control the da Vinci Xi robot and attending the high school class have reinforced his desire to be a pediatric nurse.

“This class made me positive this is what I want to do, and this machine just took it over the top,” he said. “”It was cool. It’s honestly like playing a video game, but playing a video game to save someone’s life in surgery.”

Cecilia Daniele, 17 of Unity Township, who is enrolled in an Advanced Placement biology course at Greater Latrobe, was impressed by the responsiveness of the da Vinci controls as she maneuvered the rings into place. “It feels like you’re hand is right there and you’re just pinching it and putting it on,”she said.

Interested in a career in mechanical engineering, she said of the robotic system, “I want to make this stuff, not necessarily use it.”

With the da Vinci system, a surgeon sits at a console that allows him to view a three-dimensional image of the surgical field while manipulating hand controls that work like forceps. The system translates hand, wrist and finger movements to miniaturized surgical instruments inside the patient that are attached to one of three robotic arms. A fourth arm is equipped with a camera that serves as an extension of the surgeon’s eyes.

Dr. Michael Szwerc, thoracic surgeon and medical director of Excela’s robotic program, explained the fourth-generation da Vinci system is an improvement on a previous version that had been in use at the Latrobe hospital since 2009.

The Xi system has a more compact camera that allows a surgeon to fit more instruments through a dime-sized incision, to handle more sophisticated procedures, Szwerc said.

“It also has more safety features, so the surgeon is getting more feedback in terms of what they’re doing, how they’re doing it and how they’re doing it efficiently,” Szwerc said.

He said the system can be used to test the blood flow in body tissues to ensure they’re healthy and offers surgeons greater versatility in joining tissue.

Noting he’s completed more than 1,000 such procedures, he said, “I really believe I can sew better with a robot than I can through open surgery — because of the visualization, because of the technology built into the device.”

Such surgeries result in less blood loss, smaller scars, shorter hospitalizations, quicker recovery and less post-operative discomfort.

Excela surgical teams have completed more than 5,000 robot-assisted surgeries — including at Excela Westmoreland Hospital in Greensburg, where a da Vinci system was added in 2014. Gynecologic and thoracic surgeries are the most common procedures to employ a robot.

The new robot at Latrobe, provided by Intuitive, represents a $1.8 million investment, with the Latrobe Area Hospital Charitable Foundation contributing $500,000.


Murrysville to look more closely at LED signage

in Local News

Source: Trib Live

Murrysville council will ask its planning commission to revisit its signage ordinance to potentially address newer signs using LED lighting.

“There are a lot of LED signs popping up and I don’t know if we really address those,” council President Dayne Dice said.

Murrysville’s existing ordinance lays out a host of parameters for the size, shape and manner of display for signs based on their zoning and location, but does not address LED signage specifically.

“I’m sensitive to a few signs that exist right now, and they are blindingly bright early in the morning and late at night, and that’s right on (Route) 22,” Councilman Loren Kase said. “I mean, if we get ten more of those in the next year, it’s Las Vegas.”

Dice agreed.

“I think something else Loren mentioned that’s telling, is that you can tell when you go from Monroeville into Murrysville, so I think that’s something worth exploring,” he said.

Murrysville Chief Administrator Jim Morrison said he would ask the planning commission to add signage to its agenda, in order to make a recommendation for council.

As part of a 2016 research paper, the International Sign Association recommends dimming the brightness on LED signs either manually, or on a timer or using photocell technology, so that the extreme brightness required to make a sign visible in sunlight doesn’t also make it unreasonably bright after dark.

It also recommends that electronic messaging signs “not exceed 0.3 foot-candles over ambient lighting conditions” when measured at a distance which changes on a sliding scale based on a sign’s size. A 10-square-foot sign would be measured at 32 feet, a 20-square-foot sign at 45 feet, and so on.

“It is in the best interest of all stakeholders to ensure that (electronic signs) are sufficiently bright to ensure clear legibility, while at the same time avoiding a display that is overly bright,” ISA researchers wrote in the paper.


Comedy fundraiser to benefit Westmoreland Heritage Trail, nearing 5th phase

in Local News

Source: Trib Live

As Westmoreland Heritage Trail officials begin prep work for the trail’s fifth phase, they are also gearing up for an annual fundraiser to offset the cost of trail maintenance.

This year’s Comedy Night will be from 6 to 10 p.m. Feb. 15 at Colton Hall in Penn Township’s Claridge neighborhood. Tickets for the stand-up comedy show are $30 and include dinner.

“It produces something in the neighborhood of $6,000 or $7,000, and that goes directly toward caring for the trail,” said Westmoreland County Parks & Recreation Director Malcolm Sias.

A few thousand for trail maintenance, however, is likely to be a drop in the bucket when it comes to the big hurdle in the trail’s fifth phase: crossing Route 66.

“That will depend largely on where we cross,” Sias said. “If we can put the pieces together to cross where the old rail line was, I think the ideal thing would be to dig under.”

Once trail officials find a path to continue northeast out of Export, Sias said there is “some rail corridor we’d like to use.”

It will take roughly 4 miles of trail to link existing trail heads in Export and Delmont, which would create a continuous trail from B-Y Park in Trafford to Saltsburg in Indiana County.

Sias said trail officials have secured a grant from the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources to conduct a feasibility study evaluating options for the fifth phase, which “would be the final phase, if we do it all at once,” Sias said.

“We’re forming a steering committee, which should be happening in the next couple months,” he said. “In the meantime, we’re working on some (property) acquisitions to get a few of the key pieces that are available.

The trail’s fourth phase opened this past August, connecting the Roberts Trail Access off William Penn Highway in Murrysville to the restored Turtle Creek Valley Railroad caboose on display in downtown Export.

In the spring of 2019, members of the Delmont Visionary Committee worked with a group of Indiana University of Pennsylvania students to evaluate potential routes the fifth phase may follow.

The recommended option was a route that comes into town along Church Street, before veering back north along Freeport Street, crossing Route 66 and passing through the Westmoreland Conservancy’s Morosini Nature Reserve. It follows Turtle Creek briefly and runs parallel to Old William Penn Highway before a few quick north-south detours as it heads into downtown Export. It also provides for the possibility of a trail spur along Greensburg Street, something visionary committee members hope to bring to Delmont.

While those efforts are not directly related to the feasibility study Sias plans to undertake, it could certainly serve as a tool in the toolbox as trail officials head into perhaps the most challenging section of the project.

“Because of crossing Route 66, it probably will be the most costly,” Sias said.


Broadband connectivity study, survey eyed for Westmoreland, nearby counties

in Local News

Source: Trib Live

Officials from Westmoreland and seven neighboring counties are studying a proposal for local governing entities to step up and invest in infrastructure needed to expand or enhance broadband connectivity in under-served areas.

About a dozen stakeholders from multiple counties attended a kickoff meeting Tuesday at Ligonier Town Hall for the Regional Broadband Task Force study. Meanwhile, Virginia-based consultant Design Nine is preparing a survey to gauge how citizens are obtaining internet service, what they’re paying for it and how they want to use it. The survey soon will be available to complete online or using paper copies.

According to estimates based on a previous survey, nearly 6% of the 928,919 residents in the eight targeted counties (also including Fayette, Cambria, Somerset, Blair, Bedford, Huntingdon and Fulton) lack access to wired broadband service of at least 25 megabits per second download and 3 megabits per second upload.

In Westmoreland, the most populous county in the study, 2.3% of the 354,751 residents fall below that level of service. About 1.6% of Blair County’s 123,842 population and 2.2% of Cambria County’s 134,550 population are lacking that basic level of connectivity. At the other end of the spectrum, 55.2% of Fulton County’s 14,506 residents are without the service.

James Smith, president of the Greensburg-based Economic Growth Connection, argued that the 25 mbps benchmark is outdated as a connectivity goal, especially for businesses. “I’ve got businesses telling me if they don’t have a (gigabit per second), it’s not sufficient,” he said. “This is a business necessity moving forward, just like electricity. If we don’t have the ability to offer that, we’re going to lose.”

Smith cited connectivity issues at a business incubator in New Kensington. “They do very large video files,” he said. “They cannot move those files right now to the clients they need to move them to.”

The intent is for the study to reflect the varied levels of internet service needed by different communities across the region, said Brandon Carson, director of planning for the Altoona-based Southern Alleghenies Planning and Development Commission that appointed the task force in 2018. He cited major health care facilities among typically heavy users of data.

“Do we start with what we can now, and try to roll out better service to folks who are limited to about dial-up?” Carson asked.

“Farmers now are actually big broadband users,” said Jack Maytum, senior business analyst for Design Nine. He explained some owners track their cattle using radio frequency identification tags.

Maytum agreed that broadband connectivity has become a necessity, handicapping towns that lack it in the competition for jobs. “In some communities, it’s almost a panic,” he said. “They’re losing the fight for economic advancement.”

To address that problem, Maytum suggested local and municipal governments consider investing in the infrastructure — underground conduits, utility poles and communications towers — that can be leased to wireless or fiberoptic broadband service providers.

He argued that wireless service alone can’t satisfy the demand. “The radio spectrum is limited,” he noted, while, with fiberoptic cable, he said, “the information capacity is practically unlimited. Fiber is the backbone of the infrastructure.”

He acknowledged that wireless expansion, through tower development, can be achieved more quickly than expansion of the fiber network.

With the study that is in its beginning stages, Maytum suggested the eight counties are “ahead of the game. You’re ahead of most areas.”

The study is being funded by a $50,000 grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission, with each participating county paying a $6,250 share toward the local match.

The study will include cost estimates for developing recommended broadband infrastructure in the region. Maytum said Design One representatives will return to conduct a round of public meetings once a draft version of the study is available.


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