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All Information (Except Text) for S.1073 - Escambia County Land Conveyance Act 115th Congress (2017-2018)

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Sponsor: Sen. Rubio, Marco [R-FL] (Introduced 05/09/2017)
Committees: Senate - Energy and Natural Resources
Latest Action: 07/19/2017 Committee on Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks. Hearings held. (All Actions)

https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/senate-bill/1073/all-info



https://legiscan.com/US/text/SB1073/2017

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About time. The leaseholders may now seek fee simple ownership. I also think the bill put a very important provision in the law. It says any windfall profit from the sale of a leasehold will revert to the United States. This prevents the County as the leaseholds end in some cases as early as 2050 from selling those leaseholds and keeping the profit. Those profits will revert to the United States. However, there is nothing to stop a county to creating new leaseholds which have greatly increased lease rents when the current leases end.

Some leaseholders will foolishly want to remain tenants and not owners. What is not clear is if the two counties can set a time limit to offer the fee simple option. An example: All leaseholders are given notice that they have the option to get fee simple and this offer will remain open for one year, and will permanently be withdrawn. So John Doe says F you Escambia, I am keeping my leasehold. Even though the federal government has put language to collect all profit for sales going to them to be a deterrence from Counties trying to balance their budgets on the back of leaseholders, they still can then raise rents where they profit greatly in the future. If a leaseholder chooses to remain a leaseholder on a declining year asset, they will by their voluntary stubborn act be shooting themselves in the foot as their property will decline in value. The smart leaseholder will grab this opportunity and run with it.

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2seaoat wrote:About time.  The leaseholders may now seek fee simple ownership.  I also think the bill put a very important provision in the law.   It says any windfall profit from the sale of a leasehold will revert to the United States.  This prevents the County as the leaseholds end in some cases as early as 2050 from selling those leaseholds and keeping the profit.  Those profits will revert to the United States.  However, there is nothing to stop a county to creating new leaseholds which have greatly increased lease rents when the current leases end.

Not quite yet.  This bill has passed the House but not the Senate -- it's still in committee there, it seems, though a report should be forthcoming shortly and the bill taken to the floor.  In any event, once the bill is signed into law I'm told the actual county commission motions/approvals to move the concept forward to reality will likely be later thereafter - maybe after the 2018 elections.  Could be faster,  but that's the expectation at present.

Let us hope those voices that seek to block this process will be quieted, since their objections are based entirely on emotion (fear, maybe anger, too) and not fact.   This change of form of ownership of individual defined lots and buildings will be COMPLETELY transparent to the beach visitor, since all existing public lands, beaches and access ways on Santa Rosa Island will remain protected in perpetuity -- a guarantee that doesn't exist now.  There is no "BUT..." about it!

The windfall provision itself echoes a stipulation in the original federal transfer of the island to Escambia County back in 1947, basically saying, hey, we're giving you guys these federal lands to be used for the public good, not to line your pockets, so don't transfer any titles except back to us or to the State of Florida.  

Now, given this potential new provision for title transfer to leaseholders, the "no windfall" concept works to discourage the counties (Escambia and Santa Rosa) from trying to charge the leaseholders more than the actual cost of title transfer paperwork, which some have guesstimated at around a $500 fee.  Since leaseholders have already paid significant monies for their leaseholds -- typically substantially more than mainland prices for the sale of comparable properties -- asking them to pay for their properties all over again in order to take title would be unconscionable, and, as one commissioner stated, the likelihood the county commissions would try to charge more than actual transfer costs, just so they'd have to turn right around and hand the profits over to the feds, is highly unlikely, to say the least.

As Sea knows, as a Pensacola Beach leaseholder I've been pushing for the option of fee simple since 2004 when property taxes were levied on our non-owned lands and  buildings.  So this is my favorite topic.  Thus I ask that y'all please forgive all wordiness -- we've waited a long time and it's finally looking as if we have a chance to remove this obstacle to fairness and county unity, putting us taxpaying citizens on the same footing as our mainland counterparts as full-fledged property owners. We have NO desire to "wall off the beach," nor will we ever be able to do so under this bill.  

That said, I do hope to help answer any questions or concerns, so have at it.

Have to run now but will be back later with some commentary on the second part of Sea's post, including re time limitations.

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Fee simple was always the answer.  There were intelligent leaseholders who advocated the same, and then there were the folks who wanted to fight taxation and were not putting a priority on fee simple.   Justice is often delayed, but I am very happy for an intelligent solution.

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2seaoat wrote:Fee simple was always the answer.  There were intelligent leaseholders who advocated the same, and then there were the folks who wanted to fight taxation and were not putting a priority on fee simple.  Justice is often delayed, but I am very happy for an intelligent solution.

This is good to hear, and it was always good to have your support.  Many of those "who wanted to fight taxation" were convinced -- despite our own attorneys' advice to the contrary -- that seeking fee simple would somehow undermine the leaseholders' tax case(s), since it would seem to indicate an acceptance of ownership of the properties and thus their taxability.   That mistaken position cost us all years of needless litigation, but the county commissioners were reluctant to go against so many strident voices, some of whom even made personal threats against them, and thus withdrew their former requests to Congress to proceed with a bill such as we now see finally moving through the houses.

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2seaoat wrote:Some leaseholders will foolishly want to remain tenants and not owners.  What is not clear is if the two counties can set a time limit to offer the fee simple option.

The only time limit imposed by the proposed federal bill is a requirement that Escambia County provide title to Navarre Beach to Santa Rosa County within two years of the effective date of the legislation.  (Some folks still don't realize that Escambia County currently owns it all, and leases Navarre Beach to SRC for an annual pittance, who in turn subleases individual NB properties.)  

What Escambia and Santa Rosa County commissions each do as to local regulations governing when and how fee simple will be offered to individual leaseholders is left entirely up to the counties by the bill's silence on these issues, other than the "no windfall" stipulation.

I personally agree that not taking title if/when it's offered is not a smart move -- and that's even though in my own case it will mean paying more taxes than we already do, because, in accordance with the recent Florida Supreme Court ruling in the Portofino case, our particular lease language does not grant what constitutes perpetual renewability of the land lease, i.e., everything is subject to renegotiation at the end of the lease at the whim of Escambia County -- and thus the land is now not taxable, while the house is (and why THAT is, is another long story for another day).  

So if we take title, the entire property -- land AND improvements -- will of course be taxed just as if it sat up on the mainland. Granted, that's a whole lot easier burden to swallow for us than for, say, a direct Gulf front leaseholder whose lease has the same language as ours and is thus exempt from taxation on their land -- but whose land is currently valued, on average, about five times higher than our non-waterfront location.

But in our case we see being put on the same footing as mainlanders as full taxpaying owners, along with the same rights to determine our own property's future -- such as the right to NOT rebuild after a hurricane or other total wipe-out, a right we don't currently enjoy -- as being worth the tax cost difference.  Not all will agree.  

Aside, partly in response to Seaoat's concern about future lease renewal rates' being jacked up by the counties:  The exemption from land taxes does not apply to any Navarre Beach properties, since, according to the courts, those leases -- similar to some but not all Pensacola Beach leases --are considered automatically renewable in perpetuity by virtue of their particular language, which virtually guarantees not only renewability but also lease rate stability other than for any extant escalation provision.  Again, as seen above, not all Pensacola Beach leases are thus protected -- all the more reason for those leaseholders like myself to extricate ourselves from the "declining year asset" situation.  

I would hope most leaseholders on either beach, whether or not their lease is considered automatically renewable, would opt for fee simple for all the other good reasons to do so, not the least being the value of self-determination, and the pride of ownership as a holder of a piece of the apple pie American dream.



Last edited by RealLindaL on 7/31/2017, 1:40 am; edited 1 time in total

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FT, you posted this bill -- what, may I ask, is your own position on it?

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RealLindaL wrote:FT, you posted this bill -- what, may I ask, is your own position on it?

Linda, I am certainly not completely informed about this, especially the nuances in the leases you described. I do favor fee simple ownership, but I'm not a beach resident, so I haven't delved into it.

However, giving the Navarre area to Santa Rosa County looks like a straight-up land grab to me. What does Escambia County get in return? Looks like nothing. I don't know why these two separate issues appear in the same bill.

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It simply is the path to give all leaseholders in both counties an opportunity to own their property in fee simple. It is not like Escambia gave up anything.

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2seaoat wrote:It simply is the path to give all leaseholders in both counties an opportunity to own their property in fee simple.  It is not like Escambia gave up anything.

Really, Seaoat? Because it appears to me that Escambia Co. would forever lose those tax revenues. And I think this goes back to some quid pro quo between W D Childers and Bo Johnson's bridge to nowhere.

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Floridatexan wrote:
2seaoat wrote:It simply is the path to give all leaseholders in both counties an opportunity to own their property in fee simple.  It is not like Escambia gave up anything.

Really, Seaoat?  Because it appears to me that Escambia Co. would forever lose those tax revenues.  And I think this goes back to some quid pro quo between W D Childers and Bo Johnson's bridge to nowhere.

Santa Rosa County is the steward of Navarre Beach - SRC manages it and collects all lease fees and ad valorem taxes on those properties already, not Escambia.  Escambia only collects a token amount of annual "rent" from SRC for the privilege.  

(I, too, seem to vaguely recall some sort of quid pro quo at the time this deal was struck between Escambia and SRC, having to do with the Bob Sikes Bridge, or so I thought.  But whatever it was, no one apparently considers it worth revisiting at present.)

To answer your earlier question, FT -- and Sea sort of answered it already above -- the reason this provision is in this bill is because, in order to be able to pass title to the individual leaseholders on Navarre Beach, SRC will first have to hold title to Navarre Beach itself, which it currently doesn't, since the official owner is Escambia County, which was not previously allowed by the feds to pass title to anyone including SRC - remember?  So currently there's only a token lease of that beach area from Escambia to SRC, which lease needs to be vacated by both parties in favor of full ownership, in order for this fee simple plan to work on both beaches.  

Look, here's the thing in a nutshell:  What Sea is saying is that, since SRC controls and taxes Navarre Beach already, Escambia can't lose what it doesn't have -- nor, I feel certain, would it want to be burdened with that beach anyway.  Hard enough taking care of PBeach, which is at least a little closer to the center of Escambia government.

Hope this helps.  Let me know, please, if you or anyone else have/has further questions.

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Fee simple requires ALL remainder interest be transferred. If Santa Rosa County had simply given deeds to leaseholders on Navarre, that remainder interest in the lease would not be extinguished.

In regard to Escambia traveling 13 miles to maintain Navarre Beach on piddly lease payments, it was not logistically sound and the investment by Escambia County on PB had serious economic multipliers in downtown Pensacola. To sink that kind of money into Santa Rosa County made no economic sense to folks who had to prioritize a budget to benefit Escambia County. You have to remember that prior to Gregg Brown successfully getting real estate taxes approved by the courts, the average leasehold payment was a couple of hundred dollars. Escambia County wisely ditched a drain on their budget which brought little collateral economic activity to citizens of Escambia County. It was a good decision at the time

As for Santa Rosa assuming what would be a liability to Escambia, the Navarre Beach economic multipliers allowed for shopping and commercial buildings to develop on the mainland which brought more revenue to the county as they invested in additional parking and developing the east end of the Beach when the State turned it over bringing more tourists to support the growing businesses on the mainland. There was no dirty deal in a backroom. Just economic common sense by both County boards.

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2seaoat wrote:Fee simple requires ALL remainder interest be transferred.  If Santa Rosa County had simply given deeds to leaseholders on Navarre, that remainder interest in the lease would not be extinguished.

I don't know why you have to make everything sound so complicated.  It isn't.  Santa Rosa County would not be able to provide deeds to leaseholders for something it doesn't own.  And in order for it to own Navarre Beach, the current owner, Escambia County, would have to provide SRC with title.   And in order to provide title, the lease between Escambia and Santa Rosa would necessarily have to be terminated (by mutual agreement) in the process, as Escambia can't lease out something it no longer owns - nor, of course, would SRC want or need to be a lessee on property that it now owns itself.

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2seaoat wrote:There was no dirty deal in a backroom.  Just economic common sense by both County boards.

I never said there was a "dirty deal," only a quid pro quo of some kind. I'll ask a friend who's been here longer and may remember, and will get back to you on what it was.

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http://www.pnj.com/videos/news/local/pensacola/beaches/2017/07/26/resident-dianne-krumel-opposes-beach-plan/104028544/

From Occupy Pensacola on FB:

Oppose privatizing Pensacola Beach property! Call your U.S. senators and tell them to withdraw their sponsorship of Senate Bill 1073 - The Escambia Land Conveyance Act! Congressman Matt Gaetz has already ushered a companion bill to passage in the House.
This bill authorizes Escambia County, Florida, to convey its interest in any part of the former Santa Rosa Island National Monument land that was conveyed to it by the federal government in 1947 to any person or entity, without restriction.
The bill conditions such conveyance on requirements that:
(1) all interest of Escambia County in any part of such land that is within the jurisdictional boundaries of Santa Rosa County, Florida, must be conveyed to Santa Rosa County within two years of the enactment of this bill; and
(2) Escambia County must preserve in perpetuity the areas of the conveyed monument land that, as of this bill's enactment, are dedicated for conservation, preservation, public recreation access, and public parking. Santa Rosa County shall assume ownership of the non-federal land conveyed to it free of such restrictions.
Santa Rosa County or any other person to whom such county reconveys such land may reconvey any part of it. Any proceeds from the conveyance of such land by either county shall be considered to be windfall profits that shall revert to the United States.
Sen Marco Rubio - 202-224-3041
Sen. Bill Nelson - 202-224-5274
If you don't live in Florida - call your senators as well.

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Due to the immediate prior post that FT copied from Facebook, I went back and re-read the bill, which I hadn't looked at in a while.

First -- and this doesn't really relate to the FB post --  I realize I need to make a correction to my prior statement that the bill is silent as to timelines or local regulations regarding conveyance of title (other than the timeline for conveyance of Navarre Beach to SRC as covered in subsection (c)(1) of the bill).  That's not technically correct, since the bill DOES speak to the issue.  Here's what it actually says, as applying to both counties ("The County" is Escambia):

(h) Determination of compliance.—The County and Santa Rosa County, Florida—

(1) except as provided in subsection (c)(1), shall not be subject to a deadline or requirement to make any conveyance or reconveyance of the non-Federal land authorized under this section; and

(2) may establish terms for the conveyance or reconveyance of the non-Federal land authorized under this section, subject to this Act and applicable State law.


So the result is the same, as I previously indicated -- it's up to the counties.

Secondly, in case anyone's still interested in all this, I have a fair amount to say regarding the Facebook post itself -- not the least of which is that none of what they seem to quote there is actually text directly lifted from the bill, but is instead their interpretation of it.  

Unfortunately, I just noticed the time and won't be able to respond right now, but will be back later to discuss.    I know you're all holding your collective breath.  Ha.

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RealLindaL wrote:Due to the immediate prior post that FT copied from Facebook, I went back and re-read the bill, which I hadn't looked at in a while.

First -- and this doesn't really relate to the FB post --  I realize I need to make a correction to my prior statement that the bill is silent as to timelines or local regulations regarding conveyance of title (other than the timeline for conveyance of Navarre Beach to SRC as covered in subsection (c)(1) of the bill).  That's not technically correct, since the bill DOES speak to the issue.  Here's what it actually says, as applying to both counties ("The County" is Escambia):

(h) Determination of compliance.—The County and Santa Rosa County, Florida—

(1) except as provided in subsection (c)(1), shall not be subject to a deadline or requirement to make any conveyance or reconveyance of the non-Federal land authorized under this section; and

(2) may establish terms for the conveyance or reconveyance of the non-Federal land authorized under this section, subject to this Act and applicable State law.


So the result is the same, as I previously indicated -- it's up to the counties.

Secondly, in case anyone's still interested in all this, I have a fair amount to say regarding the Facebook post itself -- not the least of which is that none of what they seem to quote there is actually text directly lifted from the bill, but is instead their interpretation of it.  

Unfortunately, I just noticed the time and won't be able to respond right now, but will be back later to discuss.    I know you're all holding your collective breath.  Ha.

I posted the PNJ video and the FB article for perspective...but I also don't understand why Navarre Beach was leased to SRC and why it should now be a "gift". I used to make that trip myself pretty often, camping at the old KOA, and just went to Navarre weekend before last to visit w/ my BIL, who lives on Navarre Beach when he's in town.

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Just found this:

http://www.pnj.com/story/news/local/santa-rosa/2017/07/24/santa-rosa-rosa-county-commissioners-meeting/503690001/

Santa Rosa County delays action on dispute with Navarre Beach Area Chamber of Commerce

An ongoing dispute between the Navarre Beach Area Chamber of Commerce and Santa Rosa County has been delayed for a little while longer.

The county recommended the Navarre chamber be given a 90-day notice to vacate the office space it shares with the county Tourist Development Office at the Navarre Visitor Information Center on U.S. 98.

The county leases the office space for $622.50 per month to the chamber, which is the oldest of the two Navarre chambers of commerce and has approximately 400 members.

More: Sea turtle center to hold memorial for Gigi

The county cited the need for office space for the TDO as the basis for its request to end the lease, as well as personality conflicts between the office and Navarre Beach Area Chamber of Commerce personnel.

At Monday's County Commission meeting, the board recommended county staff and the Navarre chamber try to work together before the chamber is served any notice to leave the space.

The current lease started April 1, 2016, and goes to March 31, 2018.

More: Santa Rosa County hits the brakes on expanding public transportation

"Whatever is going on in that office, get the chamber leadership and the staff leadership to get it figured out," said Rob Williamson, the board chairman and District 4 commissioner who represents the Navarre area and has an office in the visitor center.

TDO Director Julie Morgan said the Tourism Development Council voted in May to hire new employees and the department needs space for those people.

Morgan declined to discuss any personality conflicts with the Navarre chamber.

"I want to continue to work with them," Morgan said.

The council falls under the purview of the TDO and serves as an advisory board to the Santa Rosa County Commissioners

Jack Sanborn, owner of Adventures Unlimited in Milton and a member of the TDC, asked the board to re-consider its request to force the Navarre chamber out of the building.

Sanborn said the organization needs to work with chambers of commerce.

"The function of the TDC is often the same, welcoming the visitor," Sanborn said to the board.

After his appearance, Sanborn said a solution for the office space issue would be to dispatch a tourism representative to the north end of the county where he has his business.

"That takes care of office space," Sanborn said. "The chamber was there before. The chamber and the TDC work together all over. It's a personality thing."

*****************

Great...I happen to have a friend who is a member of the Navarre Chamber. Isn't it wonderful how the Tourism Development Office and the Chamber work together? Awesome.




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Floridatexan wrote:but I also don't understand why Navarre Beach was leased to SRC and why it should now be a "gift".  

Just wondering, FT -- have you had a chance to read what Sea and I have already said on this thread about the "why's" you pose? If so, what part did you not understand or agree with? Perhaps we weren't clear.

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RealLindaL wrote:
Floridatexan wrote:but I also don't understand why Navarre Beach was leased to SRC and why it should now be a "gift".  

Just wondering, FT -- have you had a chance to read what Sea and I have already said on this thread about the "why's" you pose?  If so, what part did you not understand or agree with?  Perhaps we weren't clear.

I appreciate that both of you explained the legalities...thank you. I understand pretty well how things go around here, having moved here in '79. I don't understand why Escambia County would just cede Navarre Beach to Santa Rosa...not that I don't get the reasoning behind it...just why? The lady who was complaining about the property belonging to the CITIZENS of Escambia County...I believe she was correct. If that is truly the case, then she has a legitimate argument...only on that part of it. I still want to see PB leaseholders have ownership...Navarre Beach as well. I also wonder what the ramifications are for commercial property, cost of insurance, etc. Is this eminent domain?





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Prior to the success of Gregg Brown the Assessor of Santa Rosa getting court approval to tax leaseholds which they believed was equitable title similar to fee simple title, Escambia County was spending more money on Navarre Beach than they were receiving from piddly lease payments. A two million dollar house on Navarre just burned down because they have no funds. I made a comment about the Burger King in Navarre Burning as I followed trucks from Midway over to Navarre. The simple truth is that before tax dollars it was a drain on Escambia County services.

http://wkrg.com/2017/07/24/3-alarm-fire-burning-in-navarre-beach/

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Also, Escambia County would have had responsibility for the four miles of Gulf Blvd. on Navarre. The national seashore was not County responsibility, but there were only two gas stations on the island which means gas tax throughout Escambia County would be supporting road maintenance in Santa Rosa County where those two gas stations could no more generate gas tax to maintain those roads. Again, prior to the success of taxing leaseholds, folks in Escambia County were subsidizing all expenses beyond the piddly leasehold collections and that they were getting no benefit. Additionally, the taxpayers of Escambia County did not own Navarre Beach. They were simply tenants. The sublease to Santa Rosa is still bound by the master lease from the United States Government. Most of this anger from the public is this misguided belief that leaseholders are being given something which belongs to the citizens of Escambia County.....sorry folks those leaseholders have protected property rights with equitable title which is just a scintilla short of fee simple already, so nobody is losing anything. Actually it took a Santa Rosa government official to bring huge revenues to Escambia County which far out weigh this idea that something was loss. No back room deals, just common sense.

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2seaoat wrote:Additionally, the taxpayers of Escambia County  did not own Navarre Beach.   They were simply tenants.  The sublease to Santa Rosa is still bound by the master lease from the United States Government.

I'm pretty shocked here. There are SO MANY completely incorrect statements in the above last two posts by Seaoat that I hardly know where to begin, but will try to come back later tonight when I have more time, and sort our the errors as best I can.

I'll start right now with the above statement about a master lease from the U.S. government. There is NO SUCH THING. The government DEEDED Santa Rosa Island to Escambia County, did NOT lease it. The only thing resembling a master lease in this entire discussion is probably the lease of Navarre Beach to SRC by Escambia County; SRC then basically subleases the individual properties to residential and commercial leaseholders.

More later, but please don't take anything in those last two posts as fact, yet.

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Actually, Linda is correct. The restrictions in the deed were such that not all the interests were transferred to Escambia County, and in fact the US Government had a remainder interest which included control elements under that deed. My calling the deed a lease is incorrect, but still conceptually valid as to the point I was making that Escambia residents were not given a free hand on how the property could be used.

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Here is the best analysis of the revenue challenges which faced Escambia prior to the tax revenues being generated. Great resource.

http://www.wfrpc.org/TA/SRIA_Financial_Analysis.pdf

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