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Raid Uncovers $220,000 worth of High Grade Marijuana in Elaborate Indoor Grow Operation

June 15, 2016
Dwayne Page
Raid Uncovers $200,000 worth of Marijuana in Elaborate Indoor Grow Operation
44 buckets of marijuana were found with plants up to 7 ½ feet tall and up to 3 ½ feet wide capable of producing as much as five pounds of pot per plant at an estimated street value of $2,500 per pound
Marijuana grow operation was found in a metal barn located behind a house on Poss Road
Marijuana growers set up system to steal electricity from Caney Fork Electric Cooperative to power the indoor growing operation

An estimated $220,000 worth of high grade marijuana was uncovered Wednesday in an elaborate indoor grow operation at 1117 Poss Road during a raid by the DeKalb County Sheriff’s Department, TBI agents, and members assigned to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency Task Force. A helicopter fly over of the property was also conducted by the Governor’s Task Force on Marijuana Eradication.

While no one was at home at the time of the raid arrests were made later but no names have yet been released locally because of the on-going investigation in which more arrests are expected.

Wednesday’s discovery was part of a multi-county investigation and similar raids took place in other parts of the state where indoor grow operations were suspected. Law enforcement agencies reportedly served more than a dozen search warrants in Nashville and Putnam, Cannon, Bedford, Macon, Sumner, Lewis, and DeKalb Counties and eleven people were arrested and charged in this high grade marijuana grow and distribution network operated by Cuban nationals

According to Sheriff Patrick Ray, 44 buckets of marijuana were found at the Poss Road location with plants up to 7 ½ feet tall and up to 3 ½ feet wide capable of producing as much as five pounds of pot per plant at an estimated street value of $2,500 per pound. “What we got today had an estimated value of $220,000,” Sheriff Ray told WJLE.

“This grow operation was located in a metal barn located behind a house on Poss Road. The growers had a watering, grow light, chemicals, and fertilizing system installed in the barn and they were stealing electricity from Caney Fork Electric Cooperative to power the operation,” he continued.

“In an environment such as this, plants can produce up to four times a year. The grower cuts the buds off and regrows the buds. Out of the plants we found Wednesday, that’s nearly a million dollars a year if each plant produced as much as five pounds,” said Sheriff Ray.

If you should have information on any other suspected indoor marijuana grow operation in DeKalb County, Sheriff Ray advises you to contact the Sheriff’s Department.

Warren County Crash Claims Teen with Ties to DeKalb County

June 15, 2016
Dwayne Page
Ashley Dawn Celestino
Ashley Celestino

A McMinnville teenager with ties to DeKalb County lost her life due to injuries suffered in a Warren County traffic accident Monday afternoon.

Dead is 19 year old Ashley Dawn Celestino.

According to the Southern Standard, the crash occurred during a brief thunderstorm as Celestino was driving north on Short Mountain Road in a Nissan Xterra. She lost control in a curve near the intersection with Patterson Road, went off the roadway and struck a utility pole head-on.

Celestino was transported to River Park Hospital in McMinnville where she later died. A back seat passenger, 19 year old Megan Braswell was airlifted to Vanderbilt University Medical Center. 19 year old Tristian Darna, a front seat passenger, suffered minor cuts, according to the report.

The funeral will be Friday at 4:00 p.m. at the Chapel of Love-Cantrell Funeral Home. Visitation will be Thursday from 4-7 p.m. and Friday from 10 a.m. until the service at 4 p.m.

Celestino was a Dietary worker at NHC of Woodbury and a member of the First Assembly of God. She was also associated with Lighthouse Christian Camp, a former cheerleader, and softball player for DeKalb County. She enjoyed beauty pageants as well.

She is survived by her mother, Tammy Horsley of DeKalb County. Three sisters, Tiffany and Austin Wilmore of DeKalb County, Raven Celestino and Matthew Elliot of DeKalb County, and Kelsey Murphy of DeKalb County. One brother, Jacob Fogle of Illinois. Two nephews, Brayden and Troy Wilmore of DeKalb County. A niece, Oaklyn Celestino-Elliot of DeKalb County. Grandparents, Rick and Mary Wright of Broughton, Illinois. Several aunts, uncles, and cousins survive.

Property Owners Fighting to Keep Proposed SES Substation Out of Neighborhood

June 15, 2016
Dwayne Page
Planning Commissioners  left to right around the table: Glen Nichols, Hoyte Barrett,  Beecher Taylor,  Shawn Jacobs, Norris Colvert,  Wade Smith, Jason Murphy,  City Attorney Vester Parsley,  Dwayne Snow, City Administrator Hunter Hendrixson,and  Mayor Jimmy Poss (present but not pictured)
Left to right: property owner Joe Rice, attorneys Brandon Cox and Sarah Cripps, property owner W.C. Braswell, property owners Mrs. and Mr. Gordon Murphy,  SES Manager Richie Knowles, and City Building Inspector Joe Johnson

Property owners on College Street are trying to keep a proposed new Smithville Electric System Substation out of their residential neighborhood.

Attorney Sarah Cripps spoke on their behalf during a special meeting of the Smithville Planning Commission Tuesday evening at city hall and called for the city to reject plans for the project, which she referred to as an “electrical supply and service " use, because it is to be erected in a residential zone and doesn’t adhere to the city’s chart of permitted land uses. City officials contend that SES’s plans call for a “substation” which, according to the city’s zoning ordinance, is a permitted use in any zoned district.

The facility is to be located on just over five acres at 1233 South College Street.

While SES would continue to share the existing substation on West Main Street with TVA and Caney Fork Electric Cooperative, the new one would be solely for the use of Smithville Electric System in order to provide a secondary source of power especially in times of emergencies and to ensure continued reliability for current and future demands.

During Tuesday evening’s meeting, the City Planning Commission voted to disapprove SES’s plans. Board member Norris Colvert made the motion to disapprove saying that “this proposal in a residential zone is not in keeping with policies and objectives outlined in our Smithville Land Use and Transportation Policy”. Six members voted to disapprove. Two members abstained saying they felt the planning commission needed more information about the project and its potential impact on the neighborhood.

However, according to City Attorney Vester Parsley, Jr. the Smithville Electric System Board of Directors has the authority to overrule the decision of the planning commission and proceed after a site plan review and approval from the building codes inspector as to setbacks, etc.

Parsley explained that under state law, TCA 13-4-104, a municipality may make the final decision if it has control over a utility. But if the utility is a separate entity, then the city has no such authority “In my opinion TCA has two procedures, both of which require (SES) to come before the planning commission. The procedure is that if the board (planning commission) disapproves it and the City of Smithville makes the budget for Smithville Electric then a majority of the aldermen would have to approve this substation. However, Smithville Electric is a separate entity from the City of Smithville. They have their own board which approves and disapproves projects all the time. Thus, with this (planning commission) disapproval , if a majority of the Smithville Electric System Board approves this substation they can go forward,” said Parsley.

Richie Knowles, Manager of Smithville Electric System, told the planning commission that the new substation is needed to keep the utility from having to conduct city wide power outages when work is required on the existing substation. “ We are in the middle of a project. An upgrade at our current substation and we’re going to have to take three or four city wide power outages to do that. And that is very costly to our industries. I don’t have a number for that but I know it’s a lot. And they have asked us not to take anymore city wide power outages. That’s the reason for building a second substation. So we can feed everything out of this substation for the whole city and upgrade the other substation without having to take those outages,” said Knowles.

Although city officials have had copies of SES’s site plans for some time, the planning commission apparently hadn’t seen them until Tuesday evening.

“I apologize for not bringing these plans (to the planning commission) before now. We were told by the city planner and city officials that being a part of the city and because of the ordinances we didn’t have to come before the planning commission so that was our error. We apologize for that. It was never our intent to bypass the board or any rule or regulation,” said Knowles.

“We looked at the city’s zoning ordinance and verbally gave Smithville Electric authorization to put it (substation) wherever they wanted it. They had to get permitted through the state. But from the city’s standpoint, they are permitted (authorized) to build it. There’s nothing we can do about that. It (zoning ordinance) says (substations are permitted) in all districts,” said City Administrator Hunter Hendrixson.

Cripps insisted that the SES’s proposed project is defined in the city’s “Chart of Permitted Uses” as an “electrical supply & service” use which can only be located in a General Business or General Industrial Zone.

“In the city’s “Chart of Permitted Uses in Districts” it talks about electrical supply & service. By the zoning ordinance our chief legislative body has crafted, it says that electrical supply & services are permitted in B-2 (General Business) and M-1 (General Industrial) Zones. What is the proposed construction on South College, gentlemen? I submit to you it is an electrical supply & service. Just because you call it a duck doesn’t make it a duck. Why does the Smithville Electric Board want to call it a substation? Because it gives them the freedom and the latitude to put it next to my home and next to your home without any curtailment of where this is to be constructed. But if we are intellectually honest with ourselves, gentlemen and we recognize this for what it is it is electrical supply & service. It is supply because it is the intermediary, the conduit between the hydroelectric facility at the dam and the consumer. It is there to supply electricity to the consumer. What is the service portion of that? When they receive all of this voltage, the service portion of supply & service is to convert that voltage from high levels of voltage to low levels. To ready the power then for dissemination and distribution to the consumer. This is no more a substation that I am. Its electrical supply & service,” said Cripps.

She went on to assert that the city’s zoning regulations are intended to protect residential properties from this kind of development. “When you read the objectives of the B-2 and M-1 zones it is completely consistent to have this in a B-2 or M-1 zone. That’s what they are there for. Industrial uses. This should not be erected near the homes of people like W.C. Braswell and Gordon Murphy and his wife nor to destroy the property values of land developers by putting this monstrosity in the midst of a residential area. That is completely inconsistent with the zoning plan of the city,” Cripps said

“Mr. (Joe) Rice (subdivision owner in the area) tried to sell a piece of property the other day. He had an interested purchaser and he being honest said I need to disclose to you that there are plans afoot to erect an electrical service and supply terminal. At that point, the conversation was terminated. It chilled that sale. In fact it did more than chill it, it killed it,” Cripps continued.

According to Knowles, Smithville Electric System was deliberate in its search for property to build this facility. “In the beginning when we started this project we looked for property all across the city of Smithville. This is not just something we threw together. We put a lot of thought into it. We tried to find a place that was of least impact to the city and to the cost to the neighbors as well. It was one of the reasons for buying this property because we could set it back off the street and back in the woods. Then we found out we had a wetlands issue. We didn’t know that at first because it’s not in the deed. We had to move it (substation development) forward (closer to College Street) a little bit and we have to replenish the wetland. But we’ve filed all that paper work and it has all been taken care of. We had to meet all of the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation’s requirements and they (plans) were submitted to TDEC and TDEC has approved it,” said Knowles.

Although he was not present for the meeting Tuesday, Staff Planner Tommy Lee said at a planning commission meeting in March that the city's zoning ordinance allows substations as a permitted use without review in a residential zone.

“I have talked with him (Lee) and he agrees with the project. He says it is allowed in that zoning area,” said Knowles.

“I’m going to move that we disapprove this as a planning commission because it is inconsistent with our land use plan. If we’re not respectful to this residential area on College Street then how are we not going to be respectful to Riley Avenue or Golf Course Lane or anywhere else in the city where this utility or any utility wants to do something. I think we’re setting a good precedence on the planning commission to say to utility companies if you are going to do this you are going to do it right and its going to be buffered adequately and that other things are going to be considered. If Smithville Electric System overrules us, the site plan will come back to us and we can evaluate it in conjunction with our zoning ordinance. Then we, with our building inspector, can decide whether or not the setbacks are met and the drainage and buffering and things like that are properly taken care of,” said Colvert.

Again, Parsley said he believes the issue is settled should the Smithville Electric System Board vote to overrule the city planning commission. “My opinion is that you can disapprove this as a board. Then the Smithville Electric Board can then take a vote and approve it over your disapproval. The citizens group may then do whatever they wish,” said Parsley.

County Mayor Expresses Appreciation to All in Response to Courthouse Fire

June 15, 2016
Dwayne Page
County Mayor Tim Stribling

County Mayor Tim Stribling wishes to express his appreciation to those who responded during the fire at the courthouse Tuesday afternoon.

A special thanks goes to local attorney Jim Judkins for his quick response after discovering the fire; to the Smithville Volunteer Fire Department for making sure the fire was out; to the public officials and their employees in the courthouse for the smooth evacuation of the building; to the Smithville Police Department for their investigation which led to the arrest of the individual believed to have been responsible for the fire; and to the DeKalb County Ambulance Service and Sheriff’s Department who were also on the scene Tuesday ready to provide assistance.

“In whatever way you may have rendered assistance, you have my sincere gratitude and appreciation,” said County Mayor Stribling.

Police Charge Man with Aggravated Arson for Setting Fire at Courthouse

June 15, 2016
Dwayne Page
Gary Wayne Ponder

Smithville Police have charged a man with aggravated arson for intentionally setting a fire in the courthouse Tuesday afternoon.

Police Chief Mark Collins told WJLE that 52 year old Gary Wayne Ponder of 7851 Old Mill Hill Road, Dowelltown is under a $75,000 bond and he will appear in General Sessions Court on June 30. Ponder was taken into custody by Smithville Police at his home Wednesday morning.

Chief Collins said Ponder could also be facing federal charges since the fire was set in the courthouse.

Initially authorities speculated that someone had discarded a lit cigarette into a newspaper recycling bin causing the fire. But today, police viewed video from a surveillance camera in the courthouse which showed that Ponder grabbed newspapers from the recycling bin and started the fire by lighting them with a cigarette lighter. The fire damaged the wall behind the recycling bin and cracked a window in the vestibule near the first floor entrance to the courthouse.

The warrant states “on Tuesday, June 14, Gary Ponder did intentionally set a fire in the 1st floor of the courthouse by grabbing newspapers out of a recycling bin and lighting them on fire with a cigarette lighter. The fire did cause severe damage to the courthouse, thousands of dollars worth of damage. Mr. Ponder did put several lives at risk who were at the courthouse at the time of the fire. The incident occurred at approximately 2:25 p.m. Mr. Ponder was seen on camera committing the offense.”

Arby's to Open Restaurant in Smithville by Thanksgiving

June 14, 2016
Dwayne Page
Arby's to Open Restaurant in Smithville by Thanksgiving
Future Home of Arby's Restaurant on South Congress Boulevard

An Arby’s Restaurant will be opening in Smithville possibly by Thanksgiving.

The future home of the business is at 276 South Congress Boulevard next to the Kwik-N-Ezy property across the street from McDonalds.

In an interview with WJLE Tuesday, Jewell M. Hale, the owner and developer of the property said site preparation is in progress for the 3,060 square foot building. According to Hale, a building permit and water and sewer taps have already been obtained and a retaining wall is being put in place on the back side of the property. Once the wall is finished, Hale said the lot will be graded. Framing should begin by mid July. Hale said he has 150 days from June 6 to have the facility ready for Arbys to start doing their interior décor work. Hale added that if all goes well, the restaurant should be ready to open by Thanksgiving.

The Smithville Arby's will be a corporate operation rather than a franchise and Hale will continue to own the property and be Arby’s landlord.
Hale said he would like to express his appreciation to city officials who have been so good to work with during the project.

Arby's Restaurant Group Inc is a chain of fast food restaurants in the United States of America and Canada. The company was founded in the year 1964 and has its headquarters situated in Sandy Springs, Georgia, United States. The company has more than 3,600 restaurants in United States, Canada, Turkey, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates. The restaurant menu includes roast beef sandwiches, curly fries, chicken sandwiches, appetizers, salads, wraps, and submarine sandwiches. The company ranks third position in the largest sandwich chain while Subway and Quiznos topping the list.

The parent company of Arby's Restaurant Group Inc is Roark Capital Group and Wendys Company.

Kefauver Named New DCHS Baseball Coach

June 14, 2016
Dwayne Page
Jon Adam Kefauver

DeKalb County High School has a new baseball coach.

Jon Adam Kefauver of Crossville has been named to replace former coach Tracy Slone. He comes to DeKalb County after serving three years as head baseball coach and as a Wellness and Physical Education teacher at Stone Memorial High School in Crossville.

“I’m extremely excited to have this opportunity. I knew about DeKalb County’s rich baseball tradition but being there for the interviews I could get a feel for the pride, passion, and excitement about sports. I think this will be a really great fit for me. The people I have met so far have been extremely great to me and I’m just excited to get started,” Coach Kefauver told WJLE.

After graduating from Sequoyah High School in Madisonville, Kefauver attended Carson Newman College at Jefferson City where he played collegiate baseball. He earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Physical Education there in 2007. In 2010, Kefauver earned a Master of Arts Degree in Instructional Leadership at Tennessee Tech in Cookeville.

Kefauver became head baseball coach in 2007 at Sequoyah High School where he also served as a Wellness and Weight Training Teacher, Stand-In Principal, and Assistant Principal.

During the summer of 2008, Kefauver was Summer League Baseball Coach for the Chattanooga Cyclone program.

While at Sequoyah High School, the baseball program earned regular season and district tournament championships in 2011, 2012, and 2013 as well as a region championship in 2013. Kefauver was named District Coach of the Year all three years. His win/loss record there was 117-59.

“It was a program that was down when I went in there but over a three year period my assistant and I turned things around. We were blessed with some good players and we won some championships that had never really been done there in the history of the school,” said Coach Kefauver.

In his years at Stone Memorial, Kefauver oversaw facility improvements as well as the development of a feeder program from the middle school in Crossville.

Coach Kefauver said his objective is “to impact the lives of kids through teaching and coaching. I feel honored to have the opportunity and privilege to use teaching and coaching as a tool to help in the maturity and development of students and student athletes. In my program and classroom students and athletes will learn discipline, hard work, integrity, and perseverance”.

In addition to his coaching duties, Kefauver will be a wellness/PE teacher at DCHS.

Kefauver and his wife Ferran are the parents of two sons, 3 year old Jack, and Grover who is nine months old.

(UPDATED) Fire at Courthouse

June 14, 2016
Dwayne Page
Smithville Firefighters help clear smoke from fire in newspaper recycling bin (Photo by Norene Puckett)
Heat from fire in newspaper recycling bin scorches wall and cracks glass window
Newspaper recycling bin pulled outside after fire
Quick Reaction by Local Attorney Jim Judkins Helps Put Out Fire at Courthouse

The DeKalb County Courthouse was evacuated Tuesday afternoon after a newspaper recycling bin caught fire in the vestibule near the first floor entrance.

It is believed someone dropped a lit cigarette in the bin which sparked the fire.

*The DeKalb County Courthouse is OPEN except the first floor which will be closed to the public on Wednesday, June 15 to allow SERVPRO to do cleanup after the fire Tuesday. General Sessions Court will be held Wednesday. The DeKalb County Election Commission Office will be closed all day Wednesday but will re-open Thursday. Although the fire was contained to a recycling bin and the wall behind it on the first floor the smoke spread and the smell of smoke could be detected on all floors. SERVPRO arrived at the courthouse Tuesday evening to begin the process of ventilating the first, second, and third floors of the courthouse. The public is asked to use the side entrances to enter the courthouse. To access the elevator, use the ramp on the northeast side of the courthouse.

No one was injured but heat and smoke from the fire scorched the wall behind the recycling bin and cracked a glass window. Smoke spread through the first floor and into the upper floors. The fire was contained to the area of the bin.

Local attorney Jim Judkins was the first to spot the blaze. He tried to activate the fire alarm and accessed a fire extinguisher which he used to try to put out the blaze.

"I was going into the basement of the courthouse to file a notice with the court and noticed there was a fire about waist level in the recycling bins located in the front of the basement area. I tried to find if there was a fire extinguisher or a fire alarm. An individual had already pulled a fire alarm and it wasn’t working. I then went over to the election commission office and told them to call the fire department. I was looking for anything to put it out. I grabbed a coffee pot and some drinks off their desks (election commission office) and threw that on it (fire). That put it down a little. I then tried to activate another fire alarm but it too did not go off. Someone then brought me a fire extinguisher and I got it put out. It had burned part of the wall (behind the bin) and there was a ton of smoke to the point that I had to get down on my knees to finish putting the fire out," Judkins told WJLE.

Members of the Smithville Fire Department were notified and quickly responded.

Judkins later discovered that he had not completely extinguished the fire himself. " I talked with Smithville Fire Chief Charlie (Parker). I thought I had the fire put out but when they (city firefighters) took over he (Chief Parker) said it was smoldering and they had to empty another extinguisher," said Judkins.

Woman Arrested After Firing Shots

June 14, 2016
Dwayne Page
Amanda Lynette Pedigo Davis
David Everette Phillips
Jeremy Patrick Bandy
Justin Glynn Vandergriff
Wesley Lynn Chandler

The DeKalb County Sheriff’s Department arrested 36 year old Amanda Lynette Pedigo Davis Sunday after she allegedly threatened another woman and fired shots from a handgun into her vehicle.

Davis, a resident of Seven Springs Road, Smithville, is charged with aggravated assault, reckless endangerment, and vandalism. Her bond totals $20,000 and she will be in court on June 30.

Sheriff Patrick Ray said that Davis pointed a handgun at another woman and warned that she would die if she didn’t leave the premises. Davis then allegedly fired several shots outside the residence including some which penetrated the victim’s 2016 Chevy Equinox and then exited in close proximity to neighbor’s homes. Damage to the Equinox from the gunshots was estimated at $10,000.

44 year old David Everette Phillips of South College Street, Smithville is charged with filing a false report. His bond is $2,500 and he will be in court on July 21. Sheriff Ray said that on Tuesday, June 7 two deputies went to the residence of a woman to serve an arrest warrant on her. While knocking on the door, the officers noticed two persons inside the home moving toward a back room and one of them appeared to be the woman they were looking for. After Phillips answered the door and told them she was not there, the officers continued to monitor the house from outside and saw the woman through a window. Again they knocked on the door and Phillips answered. After the deputies told Phillips they knew she was there, the woman came out and was placed under arrest. When asked by the officers why he tried to keep her from being arrested, Phillips replied “I cannot give people up like that.” The woman said the reason she didn’t come to the door the first time when the officers knocked was because she was scared.

38 year old Jeremy Patrick Bandy of Lee Street, Sparta is charged with failure to appear. His bond is $1,500 and he will be in court on June 16. Sheriff Ray said that Bandy failed to appear at the sheriff’s office to serve his court ordered weekend sentence in July 2015.

24 year old Justin Glynn Vandergriff of Lee Braswell Road, Smithville is charged with driving under the influence. He was further issued citations for violation of the implied consent law (not taking a blood test), violation of the light law, possession of drug paraphernalia, and possession of a schedule VI drug. His bond is $1,500 and he will make a court appearance on July 21. Sheriff Ray said that on Saturday, June 11 a deputy stopped a white Chevrolet truck due to a passenger side brake light which was not operating. The officer found that Vandergriff, the driver, had slow motor skills and glossy bloodshot eyes. When asked if he was under the influence of drugs or alcohol, Vandergriff said he had smoked marijuana. He submitted to but performed poorly on field sobriety tasks. During an inventory search of Vandergriff’s truck, the deputy found a marijuana grinder, a pack of rolling papers, and a cigarette pack containing three marijuana roaches.

39 year old Wesley Lynn Chandler of Page Drive, Smithville is charged with domestic assault. His bond is $2,500 and he will be in court June 23. Sheriff Ray said that on Saturday, June 11, Chandler allegedly assaulted his girlfriend by attacking and throwing her to the floor causing scratch marks to her arms. The woman said she also feared that Chandler was going to beat her.

McMinnville Man Charged in Burglaries and Thefts on Cove Hollow Road

June 13, 2016
Dwayne Page
Dakota James Stith

Burglary and theft investigations by the Sheriff’s Department last month on Cove Hollow Road has resulted in the arrest of a McMinnville man.

23 year old Dakota James Stith of Northgate Drive is charged with three counts of aggravated burglary, two counts of theft of property, and two counts of vandalism. His bond is $45,000 and he will make a court appearance June 16.

Sheriff Patrick Ray said that on Wednesday, May 11 Stith either committed vandalism or burglary and theft at three separate homes.

In one case, Stith allegedly cut a back screen door, broke a Samsung surveillance camera system, and broke parts to a Rokon motorcycle causing $370 in damage.

At a second location, Stith allegedly entered the residence by force through the front door and broke a door frame valued at $250. He then allegedly stole $2,125 worth of items including a 20 gauge shotgun, 32 inch flat screen TV, Xbox 360, fishing tackle, jewelry, plastic storage container, food, jump box, and assorted power tools.

At a third residence, Stith allegedly entered through an unlocked door and took $8,310 worth of items including a 20 gauge shotgun, 22 caliber rifle, 38 caliber Derringer pistol, and assorted change. He also took from the property a 2013 Polaris Ranger.


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