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    Kimberly Pine Kitts is due for sentencing on March 20 in U.S. District Court.

    An Orleans investment advisor has admitted to stealing more than $3 million from her clients, and using the money to buy luxury vehicles and vacations.

    Kimberly Pine Kitts, 51, on Nov. 19 pleaded guilty in Boston's federal courthouse to wire fraud, investment advisor fraud, and aggravated identity theft, according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney's Office.

    Kitts was also sued in July by the Securities and Exchange Commission for misappropriating client funds. The federal prosecutors say the criminal charges arose from the same conduct alleged in the SEC's complaint.

    According to the civil complaint, Kitts, then a registered advisor at Royal Alliance Associates, forged client signatures to steal money from their variable annuity and investment accounts. Over six years, Kitts allegedly made 82 unauthorized withdrawals, using fake account statements to conceal her theft.

    Kitts falsely represented to her clients that she was a certified public accountant with a Ph.D. in economics, the complaint alleges. Kitts continued her fraudulent practices until 2017, according to the SEC. 

    FINRA has barred Pitts from acting as a broker or otherwise associating with a broker-dealer firm. In the criminal case, Kitts was released on an unsecured bond, and is due to be sentenced on March 20.

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    Parents and teachers lined up to speak at a recent School Committee meeting.

    Tales of kindergarten and first-grade students who stab each other with pencils, trash classrooms, and threaten teachers were shared at a Nov. 19 meeting of the Orange School Committee.

    Parents and teachers lined up to express their concerns about Fisher Hill Elementary School, where a principal and other staffers remain on leave while the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families conducts an investigation, reports the Athol Daily News.

    At the committee meeting, stories were told of frequent "evacuations" where children aged five and six were removed from the classroom for their own safety due to unruly students.

    "My daughter is petrified," said one mother, who added that disruptive students should be removed from the classroom. A teacher said she and her colleagues are frightened, and another said that overcrowded classes make the situation more difficult.

    Principal Tari Thomas attributed the problem to "a handful of students," expressed optimism for progress, and said a new kindergarten class would be opened with $50,000 the district recently received in supplemental rural school aid.

    Parents at the meeting also alleged poor communication from school officials, the Athol newspaper reports.

    Principal Maureen Donelan was placed on leave in October for unspecified reasons. "I can promise you that the physical and emotional safety and security of our students is always at the forefront of my mind," Thomas wrote to parents at the time.

    The School Committee plans a follow-up meeting to deal with evacuation policies and student safety, said School Committee Chairwoman Stephanie Conrod.

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    The cause of the fire is being investigated by the Springfield Fire Department Arson and Bomb Squad.

    SPRINGFIELD -- Two residents were displaced in a basement fire Sunday morning.

    Firefighters who responded to the fire at 30 Putnam Circle found flames in the basement and were able to extinguish them quickly, said Dennis Leger, executive assistant to Fire Commissioner Bernard J. Calvi.

    The two residents escaped safely with their dog. There were no injuries in the fire, which was reported at 9:55 a.m., he said.

    The fire is estimated to have caused about $25,000 in damage, he said.

    The Springfield Arson and Bomb Squad is investigating the cause of the blaze, Leger said.

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    The hearing begins at 9 a.m. inside the South Lawrence East Middle School gym and will be streamed live on the Commerce Committee's website.

    The sister of Leonel Rondon, the 18-year-old man killed in the Sept. 13, Merrimack Valley gas explosions, will speak at Monday's U.S. Senate Commerce Committee hearing about the response to the gas pipeline fires and explosions.

    The hearing begins at 9 a.m. inside the South Lawrence East Middle School gym and will be streamed live on the Commerce Committee's website.

    Lucianny Rondon, Leonel's sister will speak at the beginning of the hearing. She will be there with her mother, Rosaly Rondon. The family will be with U.S. Senator Edward J. Markey.

    Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren will join U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire and Reps. Niki Tsongas and Seth Moulton at the hearing with Markey.

    The committee hearing titled, "Pipeline Safety in the Merrimack Valley: Incident Prevention and Response", focuses on the natural gas pipeline explosions and fires in Lawrence, Andover and North Andover.

    Leonel Rondon was killed, and more than two dozen others were injured. More than 100 structures were damaged.

    The committee is going to ask questions about the response and hear from Columbia Gas as well as federal, state and local authorities.

    Steve Bryan, Columbia Gas president, and NiSource CEO Joe Hamrock are expected to testify.

    As of Sunday, 5,917 residential gas meters have restored gas service, which is about 81 percent, according to Columbia Gas. The company has paid $64.13 million after receiving 23,825 claims.

    The company reports 1,235 families were living in temporary housing as of Nov 23.

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    The cars stolen had New Hampshire, Connecticut and Massachusetts plates. Only one has been recovered.

    Holland and Wales Police are warning residents that three cars have been stolen and multiple others have been broken into last week.

    Most of the cars appeared to have been stolen early Thursday morning in Holland but car break-ins have happened over several days, police said.

    The stolen vehicles are a gray Ford Explorer with New Hampshire plates, a gray Acura TL with Massachusetts plates and a silver Nissan Altima with Connecticut plates. The Nissan was later recovered on Lake Shore Drive, Holland Police said.

    Several areas for the car breaks and thefts that were targeted in Holland include Lakeridge Road and Old County Road.

    Multiple cars were also broken into in Wales starting early Thursday morning. Cars on Main Street, Union Road, Stafford Holland Road and other nearby streets were targeted. In most cases nothing was taken, Wales Police said.

    People in the two towns are being advised to make sure they remove the keys from their cars and lock their vehicles. Residents who believe their cars have been broken into and haven't reported it are asked to call Holland Police at 413-245-0117 or Wales Police at 413-245-6030.

    The crimes are being investigated by Holland and Wales police departments and the Massachusetts State Police. Anyone with any information about them is asked to call either Holland or Wales Police.

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    Read obituaries from The Republican newspaper in Springfield, Massachusetts.

    Here are the obituaries published his weekend in The Republican:

    Obituaries from The Republican, Nov. 24-25, 2018


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    People can walk through the rooms of trees until Dec. 2 when they will all be raffled off to visitors.

    SPRINGFIELD -- Leo and Tricia Plourde are huge Boston Red Sox fans and since their team won the World Series this year, it seemed appropriate to decorate their Christmas tree with baseball-themed ornaments and a Red Sox Elf on the Shelf.

    The couple - who are serving as the chairmen of the annual Feztival of Trees - are now raffling off the tree and multiple gifts under it to benefit the Melha Shriners.

    They started searching for Red Sox paraphernalia soon after the World Series and found ornaments, clothing, a fleece blanket, mugs and glasses to fit their theme. Instead of a star they topped their tree with a Red Sox hat.

    "I'm hoping a Yankees Fan wins it," Leo Plourde joked.

    The tree is just one of 55 that went on display for the Feztival of Trees the day after Thanksgiving and will remain up until Dec. 2. At that time, raffle tickets will be drawn and the winner will be able to take home the whole tree and all the gifts on it, Leo Plourde said.

    "It gives people an opportunity to celebrate the holiday," he said.

    This is the eighth year the organization, best known for raising money for Shriner's Hospital for Children, has run the event to raise money for the philanthropic group's operating expenses including running its headquarters on Longhill Street, said Glenn Surprenant, the president of the Melha Shriners.

    People pay $2 to tour the 55 trees and most visitors will also purchase the raffle tickets at $5 for a book of 15. Each tree has its own bucket so people can drop their tickets into the trees they want to win the most, he said.

    An estimated 3,500 people will visit the trees, which are located at the Shriner's headquarters on 133 Longhill St. The event will be open from 4 to 8 p.m. on Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Dec. 1 and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Dec. 2.

    Sharon Elliott, of Northampton, has come for the past three or four years and last year won a 9-foot tree with tons of toys - blocks, trucks, slime and dolls - for children of all ages. She gave a few toys to a friend who didn't have much money to spend on her grandchildren and then donated the tree and all to the World War II Veterans' Association for their children's party.

    The tree was very nice, but it was 9 feet tall and she doesn't know anyone with ceilings that high. She joked that she offered it to her nephew if he promised to cut a hole in his ceiling.

    "I think it is a good cause. My son went to Shriner's for years but even if he didn't I would come," she said.

    The trees are set up in two rooms and are created by local businesses and volunteers. Many are sponsored by different Melha units such as the Melha Clowns, which created a circus tree and the Melha Drum Corps which have a Nutcracker ballet theme.

    Probably the most popular is the Melha Trykes Tree which is decorated with gift certificates totaling more than $3,000 and an additional certificate for a 55-inch television.

    One tree decorated with a tape measure, drill bits and with power tools underneath is a handyman's dream. Another complete with a garland of crayons, watercolors and markers was perfect for a budding artist.

    Craft vendors also have tables set up near some of the trees and Santa and Mrs. Claus sit in comfortable chairs in a separate room to greet children and pose for pictures with them. There is also a children holiday crafts table in the room, Surprenant said.

    Volunteers kicked off the Sunday event with a breakfast with Santa. It was so popular they decided to do it again on Dec. 2.

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    A woman was killed and two others were injured in a one-car crash in Heath Sunday evening. Massachusetts State Police said the incident is under investigation by the Northwest District Attorney's Office.

    A woman was killed and two other people injured in the Franklin County town of Health when the car they were traveling in left Dell Road and crashed into a tree.

    Massachusetts State Police Trooper Scott Boutell, at the Shelburn Barracks, said the female victim was pronounced dead at the scene of the crash near Route 8A.

    The two injured people were transported to a local hospital. Boutell said their conditions are unknown at this hour.

    The State Medical Examiner's Office has taken custody of the woman's remains for postmortem examination. 

    The crash in being investigated by State Police detectives attached to the Northwest District Attorney's Office. 

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    Two people from Agawam and Springfield were arrested in the incident, a third suspect fled in the truck and has not been identified.

    WILBRAHAM - A passenger stole a truck while police were arresting the driver Sunday, prompting officers to ask for help to identify the thief.

    The incident, which resulted in the arrests of two other men, began when a security officer at Home Depot called police asking for help after being threatened by a man suspected of shoplifting, Police Sgt. Jeff Rudinski said in writing.

    Police responded to the business at about 4 p.m. to find the suspects fled the Boston Road store in a black Dodge pickup truck with a Massachusetts license plate of 6ZWF90. Soon after an officer spotted the truck nearby and pulled over the driver, he said.

    The officer arrested the driver for charges unrelated to the shoplifting. While the arrest was happening, the passenger jumped into the driver's seat, started the car and sped away, Rudinski said.

    At the same time, another passenger ran from the truck on foot. He was found on Boston Road and arrested, he said.

    The names of the two men and the charges they face have not been released. One man lives in Agawam and the other lives in Springfield, he said.

    Police later learned the passenger offered the driver narcotics in exchange for a ride and the two do not know each other, Rudinski said.

    The pickup truck has not been recovered and police are seeking the vehicle and the passenger who jumped into the driver's seat. The suspect, who is wanted on multiple charges, was recorded on the store camera, he said.

    Anyone who can identify him is asked to call Wilbraham Detectives or Officer Karl Osbourne at 413-596-3837. People can also send a private message on Facebook.

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    A soaker is sweeping across New England this week. Watch video

    A soaker is sweeping across New England this week. 

    Moderate to heavy rain and potentially damaging winds will hit Massachusetts Monday and Tuesday. 

    Up to two inches of rainfall is expected, with highest totals in the hilltowns of Western Massachusetts and Northern Worcester County. Rain is expected to begin Monday afternoon with the heaviest rainfall late afternoon into the evening when strong winds are also expected. 

    Wind gusts up to 60 miles per hour are expected on Cape Cod and the islands. Further inland, gusts between 25 to 40 miles for hour are likely for most of the state. The strongest winds are expected Monday evening. 

    Rain will continue to fall overnight into early Tuesday morning when it may transition into a wintery mix of rain and snow in the Berkshires as temperatures drop. Snow isn't likely elsewhere in Massachusetts early Tuesday morning, though there's a slight chance of snow on Wednesday.  

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    According to Eric Gregoire, who organized the signature drive, the goal is to have a question placed on the March municipal ballot asking voters if they would like a 9-person charter commission formed, and to simultaneously elect a commission

    LUDLOW - A movement for review of the town's charter is underway.

    About 20 volunteers have been gathering signatures in town for the past month.

    According to Eric Gregoire, who organized the signature drive, the goal is to have a question placed on the March municipal ballot asking voters if they would like a nine-person charter commission formed, and to simultaneously elect that commission.

    He said they have until Dec. 14 to collect the needed signatures.

    Gregoire said they need 15 percent of the town's 14,302 registered voters to sign onto the petition, which is 2,146 signatures certified by the town clerk. So far, about 1,000 have been collected, he said.

    If it is on the March ballot, voters will be asked: "Shall a commission be elected to frame a charter for Ludlow," Gregoire said in an interview on Friday.

    In a written statement, he said: "The signer's statement at the top of the petition states the following: 'We, request that the town of Ludlow revise its present charter or adopt a new charter. We certify that we are registered voters of that town whose residence addresses at the times set forth below were as shown below, and that we have not signed this petition more than once.'"

    During the election in March voters would indicate if they want a charter review, and, would choose nine residents to serve on the proposed charter commission, he said. Nomination papers would be available to prospective charter commission candidates, should the town clerk verify enough signatures were turned in.

    Gregoire, 29, is chairman of the Finance Committee and a Town Meeting member.

    Ludlow, population 21,502, operates with a five-person Board of Selectmen, a representative Town Meeting, and a town administrator to direct municipal administration and legislative functions.

    "I launched this Petition drive in the hopes of sparking a community-wide conversation on how we organize our government and if it's suited for the community's needs going forward. Ludlow has previously reviewed its government structure but that proposal was voted down by the voters" more than a decade ago, Gregoire said in a written statement.

    "I believe that we should be turning our attention to establishing a charter for Ludlow that sets the foundation for guiding us into the future in a more efficient and effective manner," he wrote. "I'm currently organizing community members to support this endeavor and to collect signatures so that it makes it to the ballot for voters to (decide)."

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    Northampton does not want any more natural gas service, a lawyer for the city told the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

    The city of Northampton is officially on record as opposing a natural gas pipeline project that's 25 miles away, because it would enable the expansion of fossil fuel use throughout the Pioneer Valley, including in Northampton.

    Tennessee Gas Pipeline's "261 Upgrade Projects" would amend an existing interstate pipeline system that passes through Agawam. The amendments -- including upgrades to Tennessee's compressor station at 1615 Suffield St. -- would let Columbia Gas of Massachusetts, one of Tennessee's customers, sell more gas in Hampden and Hampshire counties to the north.

    Northampton City Solicitor Alan Seewald last Monday informed the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission that the city is against the related expansion plans and wishes to be considered an intervenor in the Agawam project's federal licensing docket.

    Intervention status would give the city certain powers, such as the right to seek an administrative rehearing of any relevant FERC decision. It would also grant the city legal standing to challenge any Agawam-specific FERC decision in court.

    FERC will decide which parties are granted intervenor status.

    Columbia's expansion in the Pioneer Valley, which is dependent upon Tennessee gaining a federal certificate in Agawam, would undermine Northampton's energy policy goals and further climate change, the city's intervention petition reads.

    Northampton does not want Columbia Gas to lift its moratorium on new natural gas service in the city, according to the four-page motion filed with FERC.

    "The City recognizes the dangerous outcomes of climate change and supports a rapid attainment of a goal of 100 percent clean, renewable energy," the document states. 

    Northampton and Easthampton are currently the subjects of a moratorium on new natural gas hookups, imposed by Columbia Gas in 2014. The moratorium, premised upon the existence of pipeline constraints, "compelled the city to expand its commitment to green energy modalities," the motion reads.

    "Northampton and its neighbors are on a successful course of establishing a sustainable energy infrastructure that does not rely on fossil fuels," according to the petition.

    Expo preview

    Reached for comment last week, Narkewicz noted that the Northampton City Council in October voted unanimously to oppose the growth of fossil fuel infrastructure in the city. The vote came weeks after explosions and fires attributed to Columbia Gas rocked the Merrimack Valley of Massachusetts, killing one man, injuring others, and destroying homes.

    "Based on that resolution, members of the council, working with local climate activists, asked me to exercise the city's right to intervene in the upcoming FERC proceeding," Narkewicz told The Republican.

    Northampton City Council President Ryan O'Donnell did not return a telephone call seeking comment.

    The federal commission, which evaluates new interstate pipeline projects, may grant intervenor status to affected landowners -- and to those with environmental or other concerns -- upon showing they have a "clear and direct interest" in the proceeding which no other party can adequately represent. Petitioners must show that their intervention is in the public interest.

    Any person may submit comment for or against a pipeline project, whether they are intervenors or not, and FERC must consider that input.

    Northampton is not the only party seeking intervention status in the Agawam proceeding. The project's online docket is crammed with petitions from individual activists and activist groups, many of whom deployed identical cut-and-paste language to describe the project.

    Two established anti-pipeline groups, PLAN-NE and Berkshire Environmental Action Team, filed their motions weeks ago, and made the argument that the Agawam project should not be viewed in isolation.

    Others seeking to intervene include out-of-state energy companies that buy gas from Tennessee Gas Pipeline, such as Duke Energy of Ohio and Kentucky.

    As is standard, the Massachusetts Attorney General and Energy Facilities Siting Board have petitioned to intervene. Two Northampton Democrats, state senator-elect Jo Comerford and representative-elect Lindsay Sabadosa, filed petitions, as did the Longmeadow Select Board.

    Longmeadow has a special interest, because Tennessee Gas wants to build a meter station at the Longmeadow Country Club. The Longmeadow project is closely related to the Agawam project, because both would help Columbia Gas with its expansion plans.

    Columbia Gas has said that its plans -- called the "Greater Springfield Reliability Project" -- would allow for abundant and redundant natural gas service in the Pioneer Valley by 2020. Columbia, regulated by the state, has said that its expansion plans are dependent upon the success of Tennessee's Agawam project, which is regulated by the federal government.

    Nonetheless, the Agawam and Longmeadow projects will have to undergo a two-phased environmental review in Massachusetts, the administration of Gov. Charlie Baker has decided. That review process will provide additional opportunity for public comment.

    In Agawam, Tennessee plans to upgrade an existing compressor station, and build a new, two-mile pipeline loop heading north. Columbia would connect to that loop and build its own six-mile pipeline through West Springfield to Holyoke. From a Longmeadow meter station, Columbia would build a new pipeline up the east side of the Connecticut River to Springfield.

    Service moratoriums in Northampton and Easthampton would be lifted via a capacity swap, where Holyoke Gas & Electric would release some of its fuel to Columbia Gas in a long-term contract.

    Some members of the business community have said the moratoriums are affecting economic development, particularly when it comes to restaurants. In other local communities with pipeline constraints -- including Hadley and Deerfield -- Berkshire Gas has imposed a similar moratorium.

    The Greater Springfield Reliability Project is roughly described in a five-year plan that Columbia Gas filed with state utility regulators. However, Columbia has not filed any environmental or siting applications, so the route details remain murky.

    Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co. is a subsidiary of the Texas-based Kinder Morgan. The company builds and runs interstate pipelines, and sells natural gas wholesale. Columbia Gas of Massachusetts in turn sells natural gas to its retail customers via an underground distribution network.

    The town of Agawam has not filed a motion to intervene in the FERC docket. Mayor William Sapelli said that Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co. has always communicated effectively with local officials, and that he sees no need to file for intervention status.

    Sapelli said he supports Tennessee's 261 Upgrade Projects, in part because they would replace aging infrastructure. "It's good that they are maintaining their equipment," said Sapelli.

    The city of Easthampton, which also stands to see its natural gas moratorium lifted if the infrastructure projects move forward, has not moved to intervene. The FERC docket shows no petitions from Springfield, West Springfield, or Holyoke, communities that would also be affected.

    Those seeking intervention status are not necessarily against a project. The deadline to intervene was Friday, Nov. 23.

    Northampton motion to intervene in FERC docket for TGP 261 Upgrade in Agawam by Mary Serreze on Scribd

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    Massachusetts State Police are investigating a crash that resulted in one fatality.

    Massachusetts State Police are investigating a crash that resulted in one fatality. 

    Troopers responded to a single-car crash on Dell Road in Heath, a small town along the Vermont state line, around 7:45 p.m. Sunday. The vehicle, a 2001 Toyota Camry, veered off the roadway into the tree. 

    Police say there were three occupants in the vehicle at the time, including a 20-year-old woman from Shelburne Falls who was pronounced dead at the scene. The other two occupants, a 21-year-old Colrain woman and a 28-year-old man from Hinsdale, N.H., were transported to Baystate Medical Center for treatment of serious injuries.

    The cause of the crash remains under investigation. The identity of the woman killed is being withheld pending notification of family. 


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    In Springfield, there will be an initial list of 1,500 families and a waiting list established for additional families.

    SPRINGFIELD -- Families will line up at the Springfield Citadel of the Salvation Army this morning as registration for Toy for Joy begins.

    Danielle LaTaille, social services director for the Salvation Army in Springfield, says it is important for families to come prepared.

    "Our volunteers need parents to have photo identification, proof of address dated within last 30 days, birth certificates or passports for each child 16 years and younger and proof of financial need with them in order to get them registered," she said.

    The 96th annual Toy for Joy campaign is a collaborative effort by the Salvation Army, The Republican and MassLive. The goal is to raise $150,000 by Christmas Eve.</p>

    Registration will continue through Nov. 28 in Springfield and begin on Nov. 27 at Salvation Army Centers in Springfield and Holyoke.

    In Springfield, there will be an initial list of 1,500 families and a waiting list established for additional families. The limit had to be imposed due to last year's shortfall of more than $40,000.

    "Contributions are already beginning to arrive for this year's campaign, making all of us hopeful that the generosity of our donors will make this a merry Christmas for as many families as possible," said Cynthia G. Simison, assistant to the publisher and managing editor of The Republican.

    <p><br />Toy for Joy is also partnering with the Reading Success by 4th Grade initiative of the Irene E. and George A. Davis Foundation for a second year to help ensure each child receives a new book.</p>

    For the third year in a row, Pride Stores is partnering with Toy for Joy. Pride locations in Western Massachusetts and northern Connecticut will rally its customers in November and December to help contribute to Toy for Joy. Customers can go into any Pride in the area and purchase a $1, $5 or $10 donation card for Toy for Joy.

    To make a contribution to the Toy for Joy fund, write: Toy for Joy, 1860 Main St., Springfield, MA 01101. Contributions may also be dropped off with the coupon which accompanies this story to The Republican, 1860 Main St., Springfield, weekdays between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. through noon on Dec. 21.


    Here are the times for families to register at Salvation Army sites for the 96th annual Toy for Joy campaign. The Springfield citadel will assist families whose communities are not listed below:

    Greater Springfield Citadel: 170 Pearl St., Springfield; Registration: November 26, 27, 28. 9:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m., for info, call (413) 733-1518, serves Agawam, East Longmeadow, Easthampton, Longmeadow, Ludlow, Northampton, Palmer, Monson, Springfield, Ware, West Springfield, Wilbraham, Westfield, Southwick, Russell and Belchertown;

    Holyoke: 271 Appleton St., Holyoke; Registration: November 27 and 28, 9 a.m.- 12 p.m. and 1 p.m. - 3 p.m., for info, call (413) 532-6312, serves Holyoke, South Hadley, Granby and Chicopee;

    Greenfield: 72 Chapman St., Greenfield; Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 10:00 a.m.- 2:00 p.m. until December 8th, for info, call (413) 773-3154, serves all Franklin County communities;

    Required documentation: Photo ID for parent/guardian, proof of address dated within last 30 days, birth certificates or passports for each child 16 years and younger and proof of financial need (MassHealth, WIC card, EBT card, current pay stub, or other acceptable documentation)

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    CVE North America, Inc. hopes to benefit from the state's new SMART program.

    WESTHAMPTON -- Developers of a five-megawatt, $8 million solar plant on a rural 139-acre property off Montague and North roads may start construction this spring, now that they have a written permit with conditions in hand.

    The Westhampton Planning Board met six times to craft its Nov. 20 decision after voting Sept. 5 to approve the project, which would host more than 17,000 solar modules on 21 acres.

    As one condition of the six-page permit decision, CVE North America Inc. must provide financial surety to the town in compliance with a decommissioning agreement. The applicant will be prohibited from removing topsoil, and will not be allowed to use pesticides. The decision imposes oversight measures, and requires that an engineer certify all work before a certificate of completion is issued.

    CVE hopes to deploy the state's new solar incentive program known as SMART. The long-awaited Massachusetts tariff program, with a 1,600-megawatt target, is due to go live Monday.

    The Planning Board and Conservation Commission held several hearings over the summer where they heard from the public. Westhampton Town Meeting voters approved a solar bylaw in May. The bylaw issues standards for roof and ground-mounted solar development.

    CVE must still craft a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes, or PILOT agreement, with the town. The property is being leased to the solar developers by Kurt Meehan of Agawam.

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    Jenn Ramsay worked at Northampton Community Television for six years.

    EASTHAMPTON -- A longtime staffer at Northampton Community Television will soon take the reigns at Easthampton Media.

    Jenn Ramsay will start as executive director of Easthampton's PEG-access TV station this week, the entity's board of directors announced. The cable access station has been without a leader since May, when former executive director Kathleen Lynch was let go.

    Ramsay was full-time at Northampton's PEG station for six years, where she worked with the public, took charge of production and programming, hosted community events, and took on other key responsibilities.

    Before that, she worked in the private sector, freelanced in film and video, and was a technician at a commercial television station. She earned a bachelor's degree in communications and film from UMass Amherst, and has lived in the Pioneer Valley for 16 years.

    PEG access television stations, authorized under federal law, offer "pubic, educational, and government" programming. They are best known for taping and broadcasting government meetings. Some PEG stations, such as Easthampton Media, also train the public in media production and offer a platform for home-grown content.

    Easthampton Media is funded by Charter Communications customers in Easthampton and Southampton. The cable company sends 3.5 percent of its local revenues to the city of Easthampton. The city, in turn, cuts quarterly checks to Easthampton Media. The details are outlined in a ten-year cable franchise contract between Charter and the city.

    A separate five-year contract -- between the city and Easthampton Media -- expired in April. Mayor Nicole LaChapelle previously said she would wait for a new executive director before crafting a new contract, and that the station would continue to receive its payments from the city in the meantime.

    The station broadcasts government meetings on Channel 193, and content on channels 191 and 192. The entity hosts videos on its website. Its state-of-the-art studio in the Eastworks building was built with help from a state cultural grant procured by Lynch.

    Even though the station is funded by cable ratepayers, Easthampton Media holds its board meetings behind closed doors, and does not let the public view its minutes or financial records. Board president James Zarvis has defended the policy in the past, arguing that as a non-profit, the entity need not comply with Massachusetts Open Meeting Law.

    In a recent email, board president Zarvis said that might change. "In January's meeting, I intend to add an agenda item to discuss making our agendas, meetings and minutes public," he wrote.

    Members of the public who wish to meet Ramsay are invited to the station's production studio on Wednesday, Nov. 28, between noon and 5 p.m. The station is located in Suite 102 of the Eastworks Building at 116 Pleasant St.

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    The DA's office said Modesta Gomez, 23, will be arraigned in Lawrence District Court Monday morning in connection to the death. Authorities said she is charged with assaulting two women at the Methuen home, including the victim.

    A 63-year-old woman died Sunday evening while trying to break up a fight among family members in Methuen, according to the Essex District Attorney's Office.

    The DA's office said Modesta Gomez, 23, will be arraigned in Lawrence District Court Monday morning in connection to the death. Authorities said she is charged with assaulting two women at the Methuen home, including the victim.

    Police responded to 21 Bicknell Ave. for reports of a family fight and an unresponsive woman. The victim, identified as Martina Gomez, was transported to Lawrence General Hospital where she was later pronounced dead.

    Authorities said the victim tried to break up a fight among family members whens he appeared to suffer from medical distress. Family members then called 911.

    The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner will perform an autopsy Monday to determine the cause and manner of death.

    Modesta Gomez is charged with assault and battery and assault and battery on a person over 60.


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    The town traces its history of European settlement to 1636.

    Agawam traces its history of European settlement back to 1636, and hosts many historic buildings, cemeteries, and landscapes. For instance, the Josiah Johnson House in Feeding Hills was once the Mad Bull Tavern, and served 18th-century travelers.

    However, the town's inventory of historic assets is out-of-date and incomplete.

    Now the Agawam Historical Commission and the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission aim to update the existing inventory with more robust information and research. 

    Shannon Walsh, a historic preservationist with the Springfield-based planning commission, has been working on the project. She has been taking photographs and updating more than 300 records.

    Walsh, who started over the summer, plans to work through August of 2022. Her updated records will be listed with the Massachusetts Cultural Resource Information System, an online resource known as MACRIS.

    The existing historical inventory was done in 1985. The old records contained minimal information, and some historic properties have since been torn down.

    In a release from the planning commission, David Cecchi, chairman of the Agawam Historical Commission, said the work is important.

    "Updating the inventory has been a priority of the commission for some time," he said. "Having historical narratives and updated information will allow the commission to conduct its business confidently and knowledgeably."

    Walsh holds a master's degree in historic preservation from the Savannah College of Art and Design, was a member of the Springfield Historical Commission for more than two years, and is also a volunteer for The Trustees of Reservations

    The inventory was made possible by a grant approved by the Agawam Community Preservation Act committee.

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    A Supreme Court ruling gave states the go-ahead to require more companies to collect sales tax on online purchases.

    WASHINGTON (AP) -- Shoppers heading online to purchase holiday gifts will find they're being charged sales tax at some websites where they weren't before. The reason: the Supreme Court.

    A June ruling gave states the go-ahead to require more companies to collect sales tax on online purchases. Now, more than two dozen have moved to take advantage of the ruling, many ahead of the busy holiday shopping season.

    "Will your shopping bill look any different? ... The answer right now is it depends," said Jason Brewer, a spokesman for the Retail Industry Leaders Association, which represents more than 70 major retailers.

    Whether shoppers get charged sales tax on their online purchases comes down to where they live and where they're shopping.

    Before the Supreme Court's recent decision , the rule was that businesses selling online had to collect sales tax only in states where they had stores, warehouses or another physical presence. That meant that major retailers such as Apple, Best Buy, Macy's and Target, which have brick-and-mortar stores nationwide, were generally collecting sales tax from online customers. But that wasn't the case for businesses with a big online presence but few physical locations.

    Now, states can force out-of-state sellers to collect sales tax if they're doing a fair amount of business in the state. That means retailers such as, home goods company Wayfair and electronics retailer Newegg can be required to collect tax in more states. Those companies were involved in the case before the Supreme Court, but a wide range of businesses from jewelry website Blue Nile to clothing and outdoor company L.L. Bean and electronics retailer B&H Photo-Video are also affected.

    Before the Supreme Court's decision, Overstock was collecting sales tax in eight states. Now, it's collecting sales tax nationwide. Jonathan Johnson, a member of Overstock's board of directors, said a small number of customers reached out to ask about the change when it happened but the company now hasn't had a question about it in months. Wayfair, for its part, was collecting sales tax in 25 states before the decision. Now it's collecting sales tax in 36 of the 45 states with a sales tax.
    Where online shoppers live also can affect whether they're being charged sales tax.

    States had a strong interest in taking advantage of the Supreme Court's decision by passing laws or publishing regulations prior to this holiday shopping season if at all possible, said Richard Cram of the Multistate Tax Commission, which works with states on tax issues. Those that did have generally been following the lead of South Dakota, which brought the issue to the Supreme Court. South Dakota requires sellers who don't have a physical presence in the state to collect sales tax on online purchases if they do more than $100,000 in business in South Dakota or more than 200 transactions annually with state residents.

    A host of states -- Alabama, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, North Dakota, Washington and Wisconsin -- began enforcing their own requirements starting Oct. 1. And about another half a dozen states will start in the next two months.

    But a number of big states, including California, Texas, New York and Florida, do not yet have similar collection requirements in place. As a result, consumers shopping online from those states and others that have yet to act may not be charged sales tax on some websites for a little longer. Online shoppers in those states -- particularly those making expensive holiday purchases like televisions, computers and luxury goods -- may be motivated to try to purchase from a website that isn't charging them sales tax. While that may look like a sweet tax savings, shoppers are generally supposed to pay the tax to the state themselves, but few do.

    Still, it's getting harder to find sellers that aren't collecting sales tax online, said lawyer Eric Citron, who was involved in the Supreme Court case. And Citron said it will become even harder in 2019, with more states putting in place expanded sales tax collection requirements. States also have websites such as eBay, Etsy and Amazon in their sights.

    Amazon collects sales tax when customers purchase goods it sells, but third-party retailers selling products on Amazon make their own sales tax collection decisions. Sellers on eBay and Etsy also make their own decisions. Now states are working to require those large marketplaces to collect taxes on behalf of sellers using their platform.

    "States tend to use the powers that the Supreme Court gives them, especially when it comes to collecting taxes," Citron said.

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    At a gymnasium in a Lawrence middle school, U.S. Sen. Ed Markey is convening a Senate Committee field hearing on the deadly explosions in the Merrimack Valley.

    Sens. Ed Markey and Elizabeth Warren are joining local officials and the family of Leonel Rondon Monday morning in an Senate Committee hearing on the Merrimack Valley gas disaster.

    Markey, a member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, is convening the meeting in the gymnasium of the South Lawrence East Middle School. He will be joined by Rosaly and Lucianny Rondon, the mother and sister of Leonel Rondon, the 18-year-old who died in Lawrence on Sept. 13. 

    Warren and New Hampshire Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan, also a member of the Senate Committee, is also in attendance. 

    The hearing, titled "Pipeline Safety in the Merrimack Valley: Incident Prevention and Response," will hear testimony by Columbia Gas, as well as federal, state and local officials. Columbia Gas President Steve Bryant and NiSource President and CEO Joe Hamrock are listed as witnesses in the hearing.

    A U.S. Senate Committee field hearing is taking place at the South Lawrence East Middle School It has been more than two months since the Merrimack Valley gas disaster that killed Leonel Rondon and destroyed parts of Lawrence, Andover and North Andover. 

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