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    Those running the Bright Nights 5k will have an extra day to prepare.

    Still feeling sluggish after Thanksgiving dinner? Those planning to race in the Bright Nights 5k Road Run on Monday are in luck. 

    Inclement weather has resulted in the race being postponed until Tuesday night at 6:30 p.m., according to an email sent by the Spirit of Springfield. 

    Otherwise, the details for the race will remain the same. Registration will begin at 5 p.m. and runners are asked to enter Forest Park at 200 Trafton Road for Cyr Arena. Bib numbers will be distributed at check in and a post-race dinner will be served. 


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    Officials with Columbia Gas and its parent company NiSource apologized to Merrimack Valley residents Monday and pledged to ensure that the gas explosions that destroyed homes, injured dozens and killed at least one person in September never occur again.

    Officials with Columbia Gas and its parent company NiSource apologized to Merrimack Valley residents Monday and pledged to ensure that the gas explosions that destroyed homes, injured dozens and killed at least one person in September never occur again. 

    Columbia Gas of Massachusetts President Steve Bryant and NiSource CEO Joe Hamrock offered their apologies and condolences to those impacted by the Sept. 13 incident in testimony during a U.S. Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee field hearing in Lawrence. 

    They further stressed their commitment to helping residents return to their homes in the coming weeks and rebuilding trust with Merrimack Valley residents.

    Offering that Columbia Gas' work "has been far from perfect," Bryant apologized "for the hardship and frustration that this has caused."

    He acknowledged that Columbia Gas has "more work to do," adding that his company knows it has the responsibility to restore pipeline service to the region. 

    Bryant further offered his condolences to the family of Leonel Rondon, who was killed in the explosions. 

    "I will carry that in my heart for the rest of my life. ... I'm deeply sorry for the loss of your beloved son and brother. Each day you are in my prayers and those prayers will continue," he said.

    Hamrock also said he is "deeply sorry" for what happened in Lawrence, Andover and North Andover and offered his prayers to the Rondon family. 

    "I am here on behalf of Columbia Gas to apologize. We are deeply sorry, I am deeply sorry," he said. "I also want to reaffirm our responsibility to repair damage as safely and quickly as possible and to express our resolve to ensure a tragedy like this never happens again."

    Arguing that "an apology is not enough," Hamrock added that his company is "working around the clock to make things better." 

    "We're going to get everyone back in their homes and businesses. We know it's too early to ask any of you to trust us, but we're committed to restoring service," he said.

    U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts, said while she was glad to hear the officials apologize, she doesn't believe the company "takes safety seriously."

    "The people in this room has been injured, you have not ... Personal responsibility means you step up in this, not just simply that you back away and talk about how other people can deal with this problem."

    This is a breaking news story and will be updated. 


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    General Motors will lay off 14,700 factory and white-collar workers in North America and put five plants up for possible closure as it restructures to cut costs and focus more on autonomous and electric vehicles.

    General Motors will lay off 14,700 factory and white-collar workers in North America and put five plants up for possible closure as it restructures to cut costs and focus more on autonomous and electric vehicles.

    The reduction includes 8,100 white-collar workers, some of whom will take buyouts and others who will be laid off. Most of the affected factories build cars that won't be sold in the U.S. after next year. They could close or they could get different vehicles to build. They will be part of contract talks with the United Auto Workers union next year.

    Plants without products include assembly plants in Detroit; Lordstown, Ohio; and Oshawa, Ontario. Also affected are transmission factories in Warren, Michigan, as well as Baltimore.

    About 6,000 factory workers could lose jobs in the U.S. and Canada, although some could transfer to truck plants.


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    U.S. Sen. Ed Markey, D-Massachusetts, questioned Monday whether the CEO fo NiSource -- the parent company for Columbia Gas -- should continue overseeing the utility in wake of the September gas explosions that ravaged parts of the Merrimack Valley.

    U.S. Sen. Ed Markey, D-Massachusetts, questioned Monday whether the CEO fo NiSource -- the parent company for Columbia Gas -- should continue overseeing the utility in wake of the September gas explosions that ravaged parts of the Merrimack Valley. 

    Markey, who convened a U.S. Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee hearing in Lawrence to look into what caused the deadly incident, pressed NiSource CEO Joe Hamrock on whether he believes he should still head the company. 

    "I'm not sure you should be allowed to continue to be the CEO of this company. I think it's imperative that there be some price that you pay for what has happened," he said to the applause of Merrimack Valley residents in attendance. 

    Hamrock, however, argued that the consequences of the Sept. 13 gas explosions motivate him to dedicate the rest of his career to ensuring "nothing like this ever happens again."

    "I  take responsibility and accountability," he said, adding that his company will restore communities impacted by the gas explosions. "We won't stop, we're here for the long run."

    U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Salem, asked Steve Bryant whether he should stay on as Columbia Gas of Massachusetts' president.

    Bryant said he has no plans to resign, noting that his focus is on restoring service to customers impacted by the gas explosions. 

    When pressed further, Bryant offered that he's the "best qualified" person to lead Columbia Gas in that effort.

    Moulton, however, offered a different take on Bryant's qualifications. 

    "I beg to differ based on your response that evening when it took five hours to notify your customers of a problem," he said. "It's hard for me to imagine that you're the best person ... and I suggest you resign."

    This is a breaking news story and will be updated.


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    Holyoke City Council Nelson Roman announced he will vacate his Ward 2 seat Dec. 31. The council must choose a Ward 2 resident to finish Nelson's term.

    HOLYOKE -- Ward 2 City Councilor Nelson R. Roman will relinquish his seat Dec. 31 and will step down as the executive director Nueva Esperanza to take a job at a Chicago nonprofit.

    In his resignation letter to City Council President Todd McGee, Roman said he accepted a position to work on homeless issues on behalf of teens and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender populations.

    "This opportunity will allow me to increase the impact of my nonprofit service while working in a new major metropolitan," Roman said. "My time in the Holyoke City Council has (been) profound and one of the most rewarding experiences of my lifetime."

    Roman said he joined the council four years ago with a "robust" agenda for Ward 2. "I believe we have begun to lay the foundation with the work of the residents of the entire City and through my colleagues on the Holyoke City Council," he wrote.

    He thanked McGee and the council for their support.

    "I look forward to this new era in Holyoke politics, and I look forward to working with and supporting whoever is selected to serve in my stead for the next 12 months," Roman said. He plans to address his City Council colleagues during the body's Dec. 4 regular session.

    On Monday, Roman said he arrived at his "painstaking" decision to accept the Chicago position in late October. He said as a former homeless person who is gay and HIV positive, he wanted to devote his energy to those issues. "It's what I love the most and what I'm passionate about," he said.

    Roman said his partner will make the move with him to Chicago. A Waterbury, Connecticut native, he will spend the upcoming holidays with his family.

    He called several city councilors about his pending exit from the council, including conversations with Ward 3 Councilor David K. Bartley and Ward 4 Councilor Jossie Valentin. Through a simple majority vote, the council must select a candidate for Roman's seat.

    Roman said he spoke with Nueva Esperanza's executive team about the job offer. He expects to leave the organization in early or mid-December.

    In a Nov. 25 Facebook pos, Roman said, "Well I will make it super official because I have just submitted notice to the two places I love working at and with."

    He added, "I am proud of the work we have accomplished together and look forward to reflecting back on all that we have done."

    Roman was first elected in 2015 and won re-election in 2017.  

    He will hold a farewell gathering at Capri Pizza Dec. 12 from 5 to 8 p.m.


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    Columbia Gas officials told Massachusetts congressional lawmakers Monday that the company was aware that engineers who worked on it systems were "not always professional engineers."

    LAWRENCE -- Columbia Gas officials told Massachusetts congressional lawmakers Monday that the company was aware that engineers who worked on it systems were "not always professional engineers."

    Columbia Gas of Massachusetts President Steve Bryant, who testified at a U.S. Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee hearing focused on September gas explosions in the Merrimack Valley, acknowledged that engineers who work on the company's system may not always have certain qualifications. 

    "I am aware of the fact that engineers who work on our systems are not always professional engineers. That's something standard in the industry," he told Massachusetts lawmakers who convened the Lawrence event. 

    U.S. Sen. Ed Markey, D-Massachusetts, argued that such a standard is "too low" and called on Columbia Gas and its parent company, NiSource, to address that issue by ensuring all future work is signed off on by qualified engineers. 

    "It's unacceptable and shows a culture of complacency to allow someone so unqualified to make decisions," he said.

    NiSource CEO Joe Hamrock said while he was not personally aware of the practice, the company is reviewing it and has begun to implement changes to ensure qualified engineers are used. 

    The National Transportation Safety Board, which is investigating the Sept. 13 explosions, noted in a recent report that "the Columbia Gas field engineer who developed the engineering plans told NTSB investigators that he developed them without reviewing engineering drawing that documented the regulator-sensing lines."

    The board contended that it's "critical that an engineer with the appropriate qualifications and experience review engineering plans for a gas company, if not develop them."

    It recommended that Massachusetts eliminate the professional engineer licensure exemption for public utility work and require a professional engineer's seal on public utility engineering plans.

    The NTSB further suggested that NiSource "revise the engineering plan and constructability review process across all its subsidiaries to ensure that all applicable departments review construction documents for accuracy, completeness and correctness, and that the documents or plans be sealed by a (professional engineer) prior to commencing work."


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    The exit was closed at the request of Ludlow police.

    LUDLOW -  A gas leak on Harding Avenue in Ludlow has resulted in Exit 7 of the Massachusetts Turnpike being temporarily closed.

    The state police closed the exit at the request of the Ludlow police.

    Harding Street is directly across Center Street from the entrance to Exit 7.

    Center Street is also closed between Cherry Street and Stivens Terrace. 

    This is a developing story and more information will be added as it is known.


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    Heart 9/11 has helped repair hundreds of homes in Puerto Rico damaged by Hurricane Maria in 2017.

    For more than a year, Carmen Ortiz Colon's home in the mountains of Orocovis, Puerto Rico, was constantly leaking after Hurricane Maria heavily damaged the property.

    "It was difficult to keep anything dry, and we suffered a lot those first few months because we did not have electricity and we needed to use candles, but the rain would always get in the house, " she said in Spanish during a phone call from her home in Puerto Rico.

    Now she has a brand new roof and a dry home thanks to the efforts of Heart 9/11 and the New England Regional Council of Carpenters Local 336.

    "We are currently working with professional carpenters who volunteer their time and their skills to repair homes damaged by Hurricane Maria," said Almarie Vivoni, project manager for Heart 9/11, "an expert-led, volunteer driven nonprofit disaster relief organization committed to a mission of rebuilding communities and rebuilding lives of individuals coping with disasters and related trauma" all over the world, according to its website.

    Since arriving in Puerto Rico, the organization has facilitated repairs on more than 50 homes and completed roof replacements on more than 150.

    Recently, Springfield City Council President Orlando Ramos, who started his career as a carpenter, joined fellow Springfield carpenter Carlos Melendez and other members of the New England Regional Council of Carpenters Local 336 to work on roof replacements for families still suffering from the effects of Hurricane Maria, which devastated the island in 2017.

    "These are my brothers and sisters, and there was no way I was going to pass up an opportunity to go to my homeland and contribute to the rebuilding of Puerto Rico," Ramos said.

    Vivoni said the people who qualify for help sustained damage to their homes, but not enough to receive full federal funding for new homes and repairs.

    "We also help people who can't get help, and we put a safe roof over their head," she said. "As soon as they have a safe roof, they can receive help from other organizations."

    The volunteer carpenters not only worked on repairing the homes themselves, but also taught valuable skills to volunteers on the island who are a part of Heart 9/11's mission to train locals to respond after natural disasters and tragedies.

    "We have an apprentice program where we have already trained 20 people from the community to develop the skills to not only support themselves as carpenters, but to be ready to help if there is another emergency," Vivoni said.

    As for Ortiz Colon and her family, they are excited to celebrate the holidays in their home.

    "We couldn't really get new furniture because everything was being damaged by water every time it rained," she said. "Now I feel like I have my home back. I am so grateful to God and to all of the wonderful people who made this happen."

    Ramos said it was a great experience to see Dona Carmen, (Dona a loving term for elderly women) walk into her home for the first time after the repairs.

    "Dona Carmen embodies everything the Puerto Rican culture stands for," Ramos said. "She was so humble and polite and very welcoming to all of us, and I'm so glad to have met her and worked on her home. I just wish I could have stayed longer and done more homes."


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    With many Merrimack Valley residents still displaced by a series of deadly gas explosions that ravaged the region on Sept. 13, Columbia Gas officials committed Monday to ensuring that all those impacted by the deadly incident are back in their homes by Christmas.

    LAWRENCE -- With many Merrimack Valley residents still displaced by a series of deadly gas explosions that ravaged the region on Sept. 13, Columbia Gas officials committed Monday to ensuring that  all those impacted by the deadly incident are back in their homes by Christmas. 

    Columbia Gas of Massachusetts President Steve Bryant, in testimony at a U.S. Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee hearing in Lawrence, said his company "will have people back in their homes by Dec. 16."

    Although previous service restoration deadlines for customers in Lawrence, Andover and North Andover had been pushed back, Bryant said he doesn't foresee additional delays when it comes to getting residents back into their homes.

    "They will be there before Christmas," he said, when pressed by U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts. "All of them that we can complete."

    Warren raised concerns about Bryant's assertion, offering that residents "want to hear all are going to be completed" by the Dec. 16 date. 

    "It will be effectively completed with all customers in their homes before Christmas," Bryant said. 

    Joe Hamrock, CEO of NiSource -- Columbia Gas' parent company, noted that as of Nov. 24 service had been restored to more than 6,000 individual and business customers. 

    He stressed that his company is "on track to restore heat and hot water in the early part of the Dec. 2 to Dec. 16 date range."

    This is a breaking news story and will be updated.


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    Traffic has been allowed to resume through the area as the leak is reportedly contained.

     This is an update to a story posted at 11:29 a.m.

    LUDLOW - Exit 7 of the Massachusetts Turnpike and Center Street have reopened to traffic after officials managed to contain a gas leak on nearby Harding Street, officials said.

    Both the entrance and exit lanes for Exit 7 were closed as was traffic along Center Street, one of Ludlow's busiest roadways, shortly after 11 a.m.

    At around 11:45 a.m., official said the leak was contained and traffic would be allowed to proceed as normal.

    No information has been released as yet about the leak itself.


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    West Hartford is home to a dining scene that will offer stiff competition. 'You have to bring your A-plus game,' Yee said.

    WEST HARTFORD -- Partners led by Peter Picknelly and Andy Yee will open their new Union Kitchen restaurant Dec. 5 following renovations by the same design firm that helped them renovate The Fort in Springfield and other Yee restaurants.

    "I'm going to say it's polished casual -- high-gloss polished casual," Yee said. "When you walk in there you feel like you are going to hug your friend. You are going to hug your family."

    Union Kitchen  -- the name is meant to refer to the uniting of the partnering families, Picknelly has said -- is adjacent to a McLadden's Irish Publick House location just blocks from the Blue Black Square shopping center.

    In September, Yee and his partners at the Student Prince Cafe and The Fort Dining Room, including Picknelly of Peter Pan Bus Lines and father-and-son business consultants Michael K. Vann and Kevin B. Vann, bought the McLadden's Irish Publick House chain. There are three locations: in Northampton at the site of the old Pleasant Street Theater and in Simsbury West Hartford, Connecticut.

    McLadden's owner Michael Ladden came on as beverage chief for all Yee's restaurants and retains a small ownership stake in McLadden's, Yee said Monday.

    These are the Yee group's first Connecticut restaurants.

    The West Hartford McLadden's came with a neighboring restaurant space also owned by Ladden called The Noble. It was a speakeasy-themed restaurant that never really caught on with customers, Yee said.

    That's why they decided to redo it as Union Kitchen, with a menu of American classics and comfort food.

    The other McLadden's locations continued on with only a few changes.

    With West Hartford offering a number of good restaurants, Yee said Union Kitchen will face significant competition. 

    "You have to bring your A-plus game," he said. 

    Yee called Union Kitchen chefs Zach Shuman and Brian Graham "culinary wizards' for their work developing the restaurant's menu which includes selections like a vegetable lasagna with ricotta, mushrooms, tomatoes, and baked cheese for $16 and seared duck breast with grain mustard demiglace, potato pudding, greens and pomegranate dressing for $30.

    Entrees are mostly priced between $20 and $30.

    "You don't want to go over $40 in this market," Yee said.

    He said Ladden has helped develop a drink menu of wine, cocktails and craf beers.

    "We want it to be a place for date night without the kids, where you can pop in for something quick," Yee said.

    Niemitz Design Group of Boston helped create the look of Union Kitchen.

    Outside of the partnership group with Picknelly and the Vanns, the Yees own the Halfway House Lounge, Johnny's Bar & Grille, Johnny's Tavern, Johnny's Tap Room and IYA Sushi and Noodle Kitchen in South Hadley, as well as Johnny's Roadside Diner in Hadley.

    The Yee's closed the Hu Ke Lau in Chicopee in April and are redeveloping the site.


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    Sherad Therrien, 28, of Agawam, admitted fatally shooting John Alexander, 22, on Sept. 28, 2013, in Springfield.

    SPRINGFIELD -- About 300 people were questioned over four days to assemble the jury for Sherad Therrien's murder trial in Hampden Superior Court.

    Jurors reported for the trial Monday morning, were sworn in and listened to Judge Mark D. Mason explain how the trial would proceed. They then boarded a charter bus and went to the scene where John Alexander was shot and killed in September 2013.

    But that was it for the jury as Therrien, at about 2 p.m., decided to plead guilty to a reduced charge of voluntary manslaughter. He also pleaded guilty to armed assault with intent to murder, for shooting at another man who was with Alexander, and to illegal possession of a firearm and ammunition.

    The large courtroom was nearly full, with family members and friends of Alexander and Therrien on opposite sides.

    Sentencing is set for Dec. 3 at 9 a.m. so family members of Alexander can give victim impact statements. 

    Mason indicated he will accept the sentencing recommendation of 10 to 11 years in state prison agreed upon by Assistant District Attorney Karen J. Bell and defense lawyer Joan Williams.

    Bell has said in pretrial hearings the fact that Alexander and Therrien were affiliated with rival gangs would be presented at trial and would show a motive in the shooting. 

    Williams has said she would argue that Therrien was not the shooter.

    Alexander, 22, was shot in the head as tried to take cover behind a car on Westminster Street 3 a.m. on Sept. 28, 2013, Bell said.

    Therrien, 28, of Agawam, was indicted in September 2016 on a murder charge in Alexander's death.

    Bell said there were several reasons why the prosecution reduced the charge of murder to voluntary manslaughter.

    She said evidence at the trial would show Alexander had a gun, which was recovered near his body. It would also show he fired a shot toward Therrien, she said.

    Another reason for the plea was the reluctance of witnesses to testify and the stress the witnesses were feeling, Bell said.

    Bell, in summarizing the facts of the case Monday at Therrien's plea session, said he drove to Westminster Street, where he pointed a gun at Alexander and another man. He got out of his car and fired seven rounds, one of which hit Alexander in the right temple. 

    Mason heard numerous motions from both sides on various days prior to the start of jury selection.

    Assistant District Attorney Shane T. O'Sullivan prosecuted the case with Bell. 

    Joining Williams on the defense team was lawyer Joseph M. Kenneally.


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    John A. Dyer will begin serving his sentence on Jan. 10.

    PITTSFIELD - A Springfield man will serve two to three years in state prison after pleading guilty on Monday to possession of cocaine with intent to distribute.

    This is the second time John A. Dyer has been ordered to serve up to three years in prison in the past five years after admitting to drug offenses

    Dyer, 43, pleaded guilty in Berkshire Superior Court and was sentenced by Judge John Agostini. He will begin serving his sentence on Jan. 10 at the Massachusetts Correctional Institution at Cedar Junction in Walpole, said Frederick Lantz, spokesman for Berkshire District Attorney Paul J. Caccaviello.

    Dyer was arrested on March 24, 2017, in Pittsfield on the drug charges. Pittsfield Police conducted the investigation, he said.

    In July 2014, Dyer also pleaded guilty to separate counts of possession of cocaine, marijuana and oxycodone, each with intent to distribute, as well as having an open container in a motor vehicle, and two counts of driving without a seatbelt.

    Those charges stemmed from traffic stops in Cheshire in 2012 and Dalton in 2013.


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    The judge agreed to recommend that Bemben serve his sentence at the Hampshire County House of Correction instead of MCI-Cedar Junction or another state prison.

    NORTHAMPTON - The admitted mastermind behind a violent home invasion and drug robbery in Amherst in 2016 has been sentenced to three to four years in state prison.

    Patrick Bemben, 27, of Hadley, also must serve four years of probation following his release under a sentence imposed Monday by Judge Richard Carey in Hampshire Superior Court.

    The sentence was less than the five to six years in state prison recommended by First Assistant District Attorney Steven Gagne, but more than the six month jail term proposed by defense lawyer David Hoose.

    The judge agreed to recommend that Bemben serve his sentence at the Hampshire County House of Correction instead of MCI-Cedar Junction or another state prison. Under state law, the Department of Corrections is not bound by a judge's recommendation.  

    Moments after the sentence was imposed, Bemben, dressed in a gray suit and tie, was handcuffed and led from the courtroom. He nodded and appeared to wink at his family members and supporters in the gallery.

    Bemben, then a senior engineering student at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, spent months in 2016 planning to rob a drug dealer who had stopped selling him marijuana and refused to return his phone calls, according to testimony and court records. He recruited six others who went to the at home on South East Street with guns, knives, a hatchet, pepper spray and other weapons.

    The defendants hoped to pocket up to $100,000 in cash, plus a large quantity of marijuana and Ecstasy. But the night raid turned into a bloody melee, and Bemben and his recruits scattered as police arrived. Suffering from head and facial injuries, Bemben was arrested nearby.

    It took seven months for investigators to round up the other suspects. One, Warrens Gelin, 23, of Springfield, was sentenced last month to four to five years in state prison after pleading guilty to armed robbery, illegal possession of a firearm, aggravated assault and battery with a dangerous weapon and related charges.

     

    Four others -- Stephanos Georgiadis of Hadley, Joseph Barcelos of Belchertown, and John Niemiec III and Brittany Buckowski, both of Sunderland -- are awaiting trial. Niemiec and Buckowski served as drivers, but did not participate in the robbery, police said. 

    On Nov. 21, Bemben pleaded guilty to 11 counts, including aggravated assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, armed robbery with a rifle, breaking and entering in the nighttime and wearing body armor during the commission of a felony. The sentencing was postponed to give the defense time to prepare for the hearing.

    On Monday, Hoose pointed out that his client had no criminal record and was in the throes of heroin addiction when he began plotting to rob his former drug dealer.

    Addiction altered Bemben's thinking, causing him to "perseverate over a slight" - his drug dealer's decision to stop selling him marijuana, Hoose said. 

    While Bemben and his accomplices were armed and well-equipped, the planning for the raid was haphazard, with no precautions taken to avoid a motion detector outside the house and a last-minute decision to hire a U-Haul to carry away drug-related equipment they hoped to steal, Hoose said.

    Bemben never assaulted anyone during the raid and never denied his role as instigator once he was arrested, Hoose said. 

    In past two years, Bemben has had "exceptional" success in overcoming his addiction, a testament to his strong will and the support of his family and friends, Hoose said. He has also earned an associate degree at Greenfield Community College, according to Hoose, who proposed a six month jail sentence.

    "He has to go to jail, but not for so long that it undoes what he's been able to accomplish," the lawyer said.

    Gagne, however, said a five to six year sentence was justified "due to the severe nature of the multiple felonies and the inherent risk to human life they posed."

    One victim was pistol whipped and another suffered a severe hatchet wound as a result of Bemben's plan; months later, a semi-automatic rifle dropped by the defendants was found in nearby woods, where it posed a potential danger to children and neighbors, Gagne said.

    The three victims suffered physical and psychological damage from a raid that had its origin in a "perceived slight," the prosecutor said.

    "He (Bemben) felt he was being disrespected. And his response was drastically out of proportion," Gagne said.

    "He orchestrated this over months; without him, this never would have happened," the prosecutor said.


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    No information about the suspect has been released.

    SPRINGFIELD -A woman was seriously injured after being stabbed Monday afternoon.

    Police have arrested a suspect in the assault that was reported at 3:47 p.m., said Ryan Walsh, police spokesman.

    A caller reported the stabbing occurred near the area of School and Union streets. Officers who initially responded found the woman who was rushed to Baystate Medical Center with serious injuries, Walsh said.

    Police arrested the suspect shortly after the incident. No information about the suspect will be released until Tuesday, Walsh said.

    Police blocked a large brick apartment building with yellow crime scene tape as they continue to investigate the stabbing.


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    Garrett Vil, 27, was found guilty of assault and battery resulting in serious bodily harm and threatening to commit murder.

    PITTSFIELD -- A city man was found guilty of beating a woman and threatening to kill her, following a trial in Berkshire Superior Court.

    A jury Monday afternoon found Garrett Vil guilty of assault and battery resulting in serious bodily harm and threatening to commit murder. Judge John Agostini immediately sentenced him to 4 to 5 years in prison to be served at the Massachusetts Correctional Institution at Cedar Junction in Walpole, said Frederick Lantz, spokesman for Berkshire District Attorney Paul J. Caccaviello.

     

    The 27-year-old, who is also known as Garrett Johnson and Garrett Johnson-Vil, was also given a concurrent six-month sentence in the house of corrections on the threatening charge, he said.

    He was found guilty of assaulting a 24-year-old woman in a Pittsfield hotel on March 4, 2017. She was beaten so badly she had to have surgery to repair her eye socket, Lantz said.

    The jury, which deliberated for about six hours over two days, found Vil not guilty of mayhem, assault and battery by means of a dangerous weapon, assault and battery and two counts of intimidation of a witness or other person, he said.


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    The Springfield City Council delayed a vote on the tax rates Monday after concerns were raised about increasing homeowners' bills.

    SPRINGFIELD -- The City Council delayed a vote Monday night on setting the new tax rates after some members raised concerns about increasing homeowners' bills.

    As a result, the council is scheduling the vote for Wednesday at 6 p.m. at City Hall.

    Mayor Domenic J. Sarno had recommended that the property tax rate for residential properties remain at $19.68 per $1,000 valuation, the same rate as last fiscal year.

    Due to a rise in residential property values, the annual tax bill for an average single family home would rise by $81.

    Under that level residential rate, the business rate would be $39.30 per $1,000 valuation, a 2 cent increase over last year.

     

    Some councilors also raised concerns about raising the business rate.

    The average single-family home rose in value this year from $147,300 in fiscal 2018 to $151,400 this year.

    Nancy Creed, president of the Springfield Regional Chamber, urged the council to keep the business rate the same, rather than an increase, due to the business rate being one of the highest in the state.

    That would have increased the homeowner rate by 1 cent per $1,000 of assessed value. A City Council subcommittee recommended the 1 cent increase by a 3-2 vote.

    Both the level rate for homeowners and the 1 cent increase failed to pass the council Monday, leading to the vote planned Wednesday. 

    The total tax levy for fiscal 2019 is $205.3 million, as compared with $198.3 million last fiscal year, Board of Assessors Chairman Richard Allen said.

    The property valuation totaled $8.2 million this fiscal year, an increase of more than $279 million over fiscal 2018. Sarno and Allen said the rise in property valuation is good news for Springfield, reflecting a stronger real estate market.

    The council and a finance/tax rate subcommittee conducted multiple meetings and hearings to discuss the tax rates and accept public comments.

    The new tax rates are for the fiscal year that began July 1 and ends June 30.

    The city mailed two estimated quarterly bills in advance of the tax rate being set, and will send adjusted actual bills for the final two quarters of the fiscal year.

    The council, in setting the tax rates annually, has the power to narrow or widen the tax burden between homeowners and business property owners.


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    The City Council has granted a special permit for a wood storage and recycling company at 125 Paradon St., in East Forest Park, at the former Diamond Match property.

    SPRINGFIELD -- The City Council granted a special permit Monday for a wood recycling business on Paridon Street at the former Diamond Match property in East Forest Park, after the owner made improvements to the site and gained support from the neighborhood association.

    The council vote was 11-1 in favor of the special permit following a hearing at City Hall, with the lone no vote cast by Councilor Adam Gomez.

    Representatives of the East Forest Park Civic Association and other residents spoke in favor of the permit, while two residents spoke against the permit.

    Beth Hogan, president of the East Forest Park Civic Association said she and other residents were impressed by the business, Armster Reclaimed Lumber and its wood recycling operations. Many residents attended the association meeting and a a separate open house, leading to a unanimous vote of support by the association board, she said.

    "Overall, both events reflected positively on the business and the efforts by the company to improve the property, with the residents of East Forest Park," Hogan said.

    The property had failed a Fire Department inspection in October, and was directed to clear all lumber that was staged outside the fenced area in the front parking lot, and to provide access lanes for fire trucks throughout the property. The property is at 125 Paridon St.

    Both the Fire Department and Planning Department recently re-inspected the property and said it passed, having made significant improvements.

    Some residents had been highly critical of the condition of the property at a prior hearing before the council. The hearing in October was postponed after a weekend fire on the site, and a no-show by the owner at the hearing who mistakenly thought it was being automatically postponed.

    Residents Mary Russell and Johnnie Ray McKnight both raised concerns about the business at Monday's hearing, with McKnight saying he was concerned that children trespassing on the site could be injured playing on the stacks of woods. Russell raised concerns about the site's appearance and impact on property values.

    Resident Frank Ryan was among residents saying he was pleased to see a business on site, after years of being vacant, partially used, and an eyesore.

    The owner, Klaas Armster, said he is fully screening the exterior fence, as required and improving security.

    Council conditions on the permit included that truck traffic be limited to the hours between 6 a.m. and 7 p.m. Armster said there is very little truck traffic, and he agreed to the hours set.


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    The residents of the group home have all found housing until repairs can be made.

    SOUTHAMPTON - A shed was destroyed in a fire and residents of a group home were temporarily displaced Monday.

    Southampton firefighters responded to the fire at about 1:45 p.m. to find the shed engulfed. They quickly stopped a shed fire at 314 College Highway before it spread to the nearby home, according to the department's Facebook Page.

    The fire did cause some damage to the electrical system of the house, some windows were broken and the siding was melted, according to Western Mass News.

     

    The fire was caused by improper disposal of smoking materials. Displaced residents have been moved to temporary housing while repairs can be made, according to Western Mass News.

    The home is owned by Berkshire Omega Corp., a real estate arm of Berkshire County Arc. It has five bedrooms, four bathrooms and is assessed at $526,000, according to the Town of Southampton records.

    The Southampton Police Department and Massachusetts State Police Fire Investigation Unit assisted on the scene of the fire, Southampton fire officials said.


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    Donations buoy the Toy for Joy program.

    For the Toy for Joy campaign, financial contributions mean happy families. 

    Now in its 96th year, the campaign annually seeks to raise money to purchase Christmas presents for families throughout Western Massachusetts. It is a collaborative effort between the Salvation Army, The Republican and MassLive. 

    The goal this year is to raise $150,000 by Christmas Eve.

    "The past couple of years we've just gone over $100,000," said Danielle LaTaille, social services director for the Salvation Army, and a longtime organizer for the event.

    These donations translate directly into Christmas presents for families who need them, and, in a tradition continuing for the second year, each child will receive a new book, thanks, in particular, to support from the Reading Success by 4th Grade initiative of the Irene E. and George A. Davis Foundation.

    All families who benefit from Toy for Joy must document proof of need at the time of registration. Registration got underway yesterday in Springfield and begins today at Salvation Army units in Holyoke and Greenfield.

    "We really try to go with what's popular," said LaTaille. Personal experience can help with this, she said. "I have a 5-year-old son and a 10-month-old daughter and nieces and nephews, so we kind of know what's popular," she said. 

    The program provides a different set of toys for each age range group, starting with 0-11 months old to 13-16-year-old children. Every child of the same gender and age range gets the same toys.  

    "We just try to fit each age range with something that we think the kids would enjoy," she said. "We try to really pick a quality toy, something that's going to really last for them." 

    In recent years, Toy for Joy has also begun giving out books. This year the campaign is 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.

    LaTaille said that the event's organizers try to pick books that are engaging, ones that are "fun and interactive" for children whose attention may also be captured by iPhones or television. 

    "We really try to make the books fun and exciting so that kids build a love of reading," she said.   

    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.

    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.


    TOY FOR JOY REGISTRATION

    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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