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    The City Council is expected to approve $2.5 million in bonds for paving in fiscal year 2020 at its meeting Thursday night.

    NORTHAMPTON -- The city plans to borrow $2.5 million for upcoming paving projects, including on Bridge Road, Burts Pit Road, Glendale Road and Spring Street.

    The roads were built years ago before subdivisions were built and generated today's heavy traffic, Mayor David Narkewicz said.

    The $2.5 million, if approved, would be used in fiscal year 2020, which starts July 1. The city previously borrowed $1.5 million for projects for the current fiscal year, including for paving on Main and Pleasant streets, he said.

    "These are big roadways that are in difficult shape," Narkewicz told the City Council this month. "We also had Spring Street blow up last year, that wasn't one that had been on our immediate radar."

    Bridge Road, which stretches over five miles, is one of the major thoroughfares in the city and will see new paving over about one and a half miles.

    The projects also will address and upgrade stormwater infrastructure where necessary, including to culverts and swales. 

    Some recent paving and improvement projects have taken longer than projected. For instance, it took more than three years to finish work on Hinckley Street. And the city has been doing design and survey work for Burts Pit Road since last year.

    In addition, the city doubled its pothole budget for FY2020 after allocating for a "bumper crop of potholes in the last couple years," Narkewicz said.

    Ward 6 City Councilor Marianne LaBarge called the condition of Burts Pit Road "deplorable," citing numerous potholes.

    Ward 3 Councilor James Nash said he's received concerns about North Farms Road as well, including the need for traffic calming. Narkewicz said he had a "robust discussion" with residents there and that it's also high on the city's priority list.

    The motion to borrow funding for the paving projects was approved on a first reading earlier this month and will be up for a final reading during Thursday night's City Council meeting.

     

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    Read obituaries from The Republican newspaper in Springfield, Massachusetts.

    Here are the obituaries published Wednesday in The Republican:

    Obituaries from The Republican, Dec. 19, 2018

     

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    For now, the former Heritage Academy building -- located across from the Jewish Community Center -- is a cozy fit for Springfield Prep as it continues its search for a permanent home.

    SPRINGFIELD -- On a recent morning at Springfield Prep Charter School, kindergarten students were busy solving a "story problem" aimed at  teaching them subtraction.

    The question: "If you have 10 dinner napkins, but you only need enough for 7 guests, how many napkins do you take away?"

    The children were given 10 plastic cubes representing the napkins and then asked to use the cubes to find out how many napkins were needed for the guests.

    "The exercise was designed to help the children learn conceptually," said Bill Spirer, executive director of the 4-year-old college prep school. The lesson helps students visualize the problem and learn the concept before writing it on paper, he  explained.

    In a fourth-grade classroom, students -- or scholars, as they are called here -- were reading "Birchbark House," a book about a Native American girl that is one in a series set in 1847 in a place near present-day Lake Superior.

    English language arts teacher Melanie Berube asked the students to find a passage in the book that illustrated figurative language.

    Rosario Velez's hand went up and he read a sentence about the character "being open to the world." What the phrase meant, he said, was that the girl was ready to experience her world.

    During a Thanksgiving week tour of the school's temporary home in the former Heritage Academy building, Spirer said exciting, challenging and interactive lessons are one of the reasons Springfield Prep third-graders made such a strong showing the first time they tackled the MCAS test.

    The 270 students at the K-4 charter school, who mirror the demographics of the city's traditional public schools, "were among the highest performing 3rd graders in Massachusetts on the MCAS among 3rd grade peers, closing historic economic gaps," Spirer said.

    The school was in the top 5 percent in third-grade math among Massachusetts school districts -- with 77 percent of students meeting or exceeding expectations, Spirer said. And it was in the top 15 percent for English language arts -- with 72 percent of its third-grade students meeting or exceeding expectations, he said.

    There are many reasons for the schools' success, Spirer said. 

    "We follow a small-school model," he said, adding that each classroom of about 22 students has two teachers. "The teachers know the kids well and that helps kids do well," he said.

    The school's curriculum meets the same standards required of all Massachusetts schools, he said, adding that the curriculum for every subject "is modified to make sure it is rigorous and exciting."

    Springfield Prep's school day is about an hour to an hour and a half day longer than at traditional public schools.

    The school's focus on preparing for college is evident throughout the 45,000-square-foot building. Each classroom is named after a college, with banners from Yale, Western New England University and many others gracing the doorways. Every Friday, the school holds a meeting of the entire student body where good work gets recognition and a sense of collective purpose is celebrated.

    As its students' academic success continues, one of Springfield Prep's next challenges is to find a permanent home for what will be a K-8 school serving 486 students by 2023.

    Initially, Springfield Prep, which opened in 2015, operated out of available classroom space at Veritas Preparatory Charter School on Pine Street. A plan to establish a permanent home in the Melha Shrine building on Fort Pleasant Street failed after hitting too many snags to overcome.

    For now, the former Jewish day school building across from the Jewish Community Center is a cozy fit for Springfield Prep as it continues its search for a permanent home in Springfield, Spirer said.

    "Half of the building is in Springfield and half is in Longmeadow, but our mailing address is 594 Converse St. in Longmeadow," Spirer said.

    Spirer, who previously handled child welfare cases as a lawyer in New York City, said a stint as a Teach for America member made him realize that his real calling was in education.

    He seized the opportunity to lead a charter school in Springfield. "I believe in small cities," he said. "There is so much potential here."

    Staff retention has been strong, Spirer said. "We emphasize that this is a great place to teach and we give teachers they need to do their best," he said.

    That means frequent observations and coaching sessions to help teachers continuously improve, he said.

    The school, which has its own board of directors, also emphasizes family engagement, he said. "That begins with the application process," Spirer said.

    As the school prepares to add a fifth grade next August, Spirer said Springfield Prep is continuing its outreach work.

    "We work hard to let Springfield parents know this is an option," he said.

    Students are drawn from the Forest Park, South End, North End and Mason Square neighborhoods. About half of the students take school buses, while the others are driven by parents or others.

    Like other public charter schools, Springfield Prep receives funding from Springfield Public Schools for each city child enrolled.

    Students are chosen from a random lottery. Next year, Springfield Prep will accept another 54 students. The lottery drawing will be March 8 at the school. Currently there are 300 students on the waiting list for K-4 slots.


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    The director of the Western Massachusetts Network to End Homelessness is optimistic as the new year comes that the region will continue to see a reduction in the number of people without a home.

    NORTHAMPTON -- There were no proverbial fireworks to report from a recent conference on homelessness in Greenfield, but organizer Pam Schwartz said the event drew about 150 and accomplished what organizers had hoped. 

    And the director of the Western Massachusetts Network to End Homelessness is optimistic the region will see a reduction in the number of people without a home as efforts to address homelessness become more coordinated.

    The Nov. 16 summit drew government officials, lawmakers and legislators-elect, medical professionals, county sheriffs, mayors and town managers, local officials, educators and social service leaders with the goal of sharing resources and increasing collaboration.

    Schwartz said the infrastructure to address homelessness is solid and she doesn't see the need for new boards or committees. Instead, those groups should share what they all know and bolster what's in place. She said at the forum they were able to bring "the committees' work to a larger audience."

    With the sharing of information at the summit, she said, housing authorities now know that the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development will have more housing vouchers available. "More know about this resource," she said. This way more people will be able to apply for the subsidies.   

    And she said there will be a bigger push to connect people to resources. For example, agencies such as the Springfield-based Way Finders -- a program to address homelessness -- as well as hospitals, food pantries and sheriff's departments will connect people they see at risk for homelessness with resources to prevent it.

    Those service providers "can reach out and assess housing needs. It's basically getting people connected," Schwartz said. 

    The state's current 10-year contracts with providers of family shelters will expire next year. The new agreements will offer "an opportunity to incorporate some of the best practices that have evolved since the contracts were signed 10 years ago," Schwartz said. That includes focusing on getting people into new homes as quickly as possible. 

    "The work we're doing, it's not sexy. It's hard work," she said. 

    But, she said, "I'm very optimistic. There is great work going on, great collaboration going on, great opportunity to refine our system."

    The coalition issued a report defining a series of steps that can be taken. Among those are to increase funding for rental assistance, including the Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program and the Alternative Housing Voucher Program, to create more affordable housing and to make vouchers more usable by increasing what is considered a fair market rent. According to the report, vouchers are capped at the 2005 fair market rents unless a waiver is granted.

    For 2005, the fair market rate for a two-bedroom apartment in Springfield was $772 and $654 for Pittsfield/Lenox. The current rates are $1,061 and $1,048, respectively.

    Other goals include increasing prevention resources for such state programs as Residential Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT) and the Tenancy Preservation Project. 

    According to the report, in fiscal 2018 the state spent an average of $3,134 in prevention dollars through the transition program to ensure continued housing for 4,205 families.

    During that same time period, Massachusetts spent an average of $42,845 for each household that entered the state's family shelter program. 

    Legislative and Budget Prio... by on Scribd


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    The first detailed account of the gun battle emerged Wednesday as Duryl Hale, 22, of Springfield, was arraigned in Springfield District Court on a murder charge.

    SPRINGFIELD -- Three shooters opened fire during a gun battle inside the Knox St. Market last month that fatally injured the owner's wife and left her son with a gunshot wound to his face, according to a police report.

    The first detailed account of the Nov. 30 shootout inside the small, family-owned market emerged Wednesday as Duryl Hale, 22, of Springfield, was arraigned in Springfield District Court.

    During a brief hearing, Hale pleaded not guilty to murder in the death of Virginia Rodriguez-Veras, 34, of Springfield, who was shot once during an apparent armed robbery at the market at 7 Knox St.

    The arraignment came two weeks after Hale pleaded not guilty to a series of related charges, including armed assault with intent to rob, assault and battery by discharging a firearm, and being a felon in possession of a firearm.

    No new details were made public during Wednesday's hearing, but a report summarizing the gun battle and the police investigation was filed to establish a legal basis for the murder charge.

    The report states that one of Hale's two accomplices fired shots that killed the market owner's wife and severely injured their son.

    According to the report, the three suspects entered the market around 6:30 p.m. Moments later, one of the store's video cameras captured Hale and one accomplice pointing guns at market owner Santana Veras' son, the report said.

    The father, who was standing behind the counter, responded by pointing a firearm at the two men. "A gun battle ensued," with Hale firing shots at the market owner, then running out the door with the accomplice, the report said.

    The other accomplice, meanwhile, ran toward the back of the store and began wrestling with the market owner's son. After shooting the son in the face, he exchanged gunfire with the owner, who stood with his wife by the deli counter, the report said.

    "The video shows Virginia drop to the floor as the result of being shot by the third (accomplice) ... who then flees the store, leaving Virginia lifeless on the floor," the report said.

    A car picked up the three suspects outside and drove off toward Pine Street. About seven minutes later, 13 shots were reported fired outside 59 Wilbraham Ave. by three men who fled in a vehicle similar to the one that picked up the suspects  outside the market, the report said.

    A witness on Wilbraham Avenue wrote down the license plate, and the car was located about two hours later, leading to the arrest of Hale, Nasear Wise and Shondu Allen, the car's owner, the report said.

    The status of any charges against Allen or Wise was unclear Wednesday.

    A 9 mm shell casing found in the car matched ones found on Wilbraham Avenue and the bullet that killed Rodriguez-Vera at the market, the police report said. 

    In February 2016, Hale was sentenced to two to three years in prison after he admitted to four counts of armed robbery and one count of armed assault with intent to rob. According to state records, he was released from prison on Sept. 10.

    Hale also was convicted in 2014 for armed robbery. In each instance, the weapon he used was a knife. For the 2014 conviction, when he was 18, he was not sentenced to any prison time, court records show.

    Hale, who is being held without right to bail, is due back in court on Jan. 11.


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    Berkshire Gas launched the program for customers affected by its longstanding moratorium.

    Berkshire Gas Co. this month launched a program that could make its Western Massachusetts service territory less dependent on the very fossil fuels it sells.

    The natural gas utility on Dec. 5 announced $1 million in "alternative heating" grants to help eight communities affected by Berkshire's longstanding moratorium on new or expanded energy service. 

    The company in 2014 and 2015 imposed the bans on new service, citing pipeline constraints -- and recently said it had abandoned any immediate plans to lift the moratorium. The company deemed that building new pipeline or liquefied gas storage to serve the area would be too expensive.

    In announcing the grant, Berkshire invited the towns of Deerfield, Greenfield, Montague, Sunderland, Whately, Amherst, Hadley and Hatfield to send their proposals to the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources, or DOER. 

    "Recognizing the challenges imposed by the moratorium, Berkshire Gas sought the opportunity to support jobs and economic development through the alternative heating program," the company said in a news release.

    The $1 million came from a settlement agreement brokered by the office of Attorney General Maura Healey in 2015, when Berkshire's parent, UIL, merged with the Spanish corporation Iberdrola to form the publicly traded Avangrid.

    The grant money will be available on a first-come, first-served basis, and projects must benefit job creation, municipal buildings, or low- and moderate-income households, Berkshire said. Technologies may include biomass heating systems, air and ground source heat pumps, solar thermal, anaerobic digesters, and deep geothermal.

    Carole Collins, energy and sustainability manager for Greenfield, said the town does plan to apply, and is considering its options -- including retrofitting municipal buildings, or offering an affordable opportunity for homeowners to install air-source heat pumps. 

    "This is a great opportunity, considering that we can't get any more capacity from the gas line," said Collins, reached by telephone on Wednesday.

    Heat pumps can deliver up to three times more heat or cooling energy to a home than the electrical energy it consumes, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. A heat pump, with its condensers and coils, moves heat rather than converting it from a fuel.

    The DOER worked closely with Berkshire to develop the parameters of the grant program, said Berkshire Gas president and COO Karen Zink.

    "We are hopeful that this million dollar initiative will be helpful to the affected communities," Zink said in a statement.

    Not everyone was entirely impressed.

    Kathryn Eiseman, president of Pipe Line Awareness Network for the Northeast, said she supports moving away from natural gas, and supports efficient electric heating -- such as heat pumps -- particularly for lower-income households stuck with inefficient and expensive baseboard heating. 

    But the leading pipeline foe said interest has been accumulating on the $1 million since the 2015 consent agreement, and that towns should benefit from that. She also said the consent agreement stipulated that DOER should make the decisions about the grant, not Berkshire Gas.

    "It appears that the funds cannot be used towards insulation and weatherization of existing buildings, which is unfortunate as that remains an underutilized area for energy savings," Eiseman said.

    As for the inclusion of biomass heating in the list of technologies, Eiseman said it "reflects an unfortunate bias in the Baker administration towards biomass combustion, at a time when we should be focusing on carbon sequestration strategies."

    The Berkshire Gas moratorium is separate from a similar moratorium imposed by Columbia Gas of Massachusetts in Easthampton and Northampton. Columbia proposes to lift those bans through an ambitious Springfield-area expansion project done in collaboration with Kinder Morgan's Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co.


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    As the new Ways and Means Committee chairman Neal is expected to focus on health care and issues tied to the recent GOP-backed tax overhaul legislation.

    After weeks of speculation, House Democrats formally voted Thursday to name U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, D-Springfield, as the chamber's next Ways and Means Committee chairman -- a position that will make him one of the most powerful lawmakers when the new Congress convenes in January. 

    Neal, who has served as the tax-writing panel's ranking member since December 2016, officially secured the chairmanship position as the caucus met behind closed doors. The vote came after the House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee weighed in on committee leadership.

    The Springfield Democrat thanked House Democrats for supporting his bid to lead the Ways and Means Committee, which is charged with overseeing tax, trade and other revenue-related policies. 

    "We must use our majority on the Ways & Means Committee to advance policies that put American families first," Neal said in a statement. "I will continue my fight for tax policies that are fair to working families and small businesses. I will work with my colleagues to develop innovative solutions to rebuild our infrastructure needs."

    As the new Ways and Means Committee chairman Neal is expected to focus on health care -- particularly ensuring protections for pre-existing conditions -- and issues tied to the recent GOP-backed tax overhaul legislation. 

    Neal said he will "oppose efforts to privatize Social Security and slash Medicare and will propose new ways for Americans to save for retirement and access affordable health care."

    The congressman has also said he's committed to pushing for new infrastructure spending and examining the Trump administration's trade policies.

    US Rep. Richard Neal says Ways and Means Committee will request President Donald Trump's tax returns

    Neal has also said he would use the chairmanship position, if necessary, to request President Donald Trump's tax documents, telling reporters in November that although it's illegal for any one member of Congress to release a person's tax returns, the House Ways and Means Committee chairman "has the ability to ask for" such information.

    However, he acknowledged that such a move would likely spark legal challenges. 

    Neal is the latest member of Massachusetts' congressional delegation to win a high-profile post in the new Democrat-led House of Representatives.

    He joins U.S. Rep. Katherine Clark, D-Melrose, who was elected to serve as the House Democratic Caucus' new vice chair late last month. 

    US Rep. Katherine Clark elected House Democratic Caucus vice chair

    U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Worcester, meanwhile, was set to be named the House Rules Committee's new chairman for the 116th Congress Thursday.

    Neal will take over leadership the Ways and Means Committee -- which is the oldest panel in the U.S. Congress -- from current Chairman U.S. Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas, in early January.  

    Over the years, the Ways and Means Committee's membership has included eight president, eight vice presidents, 21 House speakers and four U.S. Supreme Court justices. 


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    McGovern joined House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi late last month in unveiling a series of rules change proposals reached in conjunction with the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus.

    House Democrats selected U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern Thursday to take over as their new House Rules Committee chairman, a position which gives the Worcester Democrat the power to decide when and what bills make it to the floor for consideration. 

    McGovern, the panel's current ranking member, officially secured the title of Rules Committee chairman after Democratic lawmakers met behind closed doors for morning caucus votes. 

    The House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee previously approved McGovern's chairmanship bid as it met earlier this month. 

    The Worcester Democrat reflected on his election and thanked colleagues for choosing him to lead the panel, which is among the oldest standing committees in Congress.

    "The American people demanded a new direction. That means making the House Rules Committee the place where big ideas are debated once again instead of being where democracy goes to die," he said in a statement. "I look forward to instituting a more accommodating process that helps restore the integrity of this institution as the Democratic Majority advances an agenda that works for all Americans."  

    McGovern, who noted that "Massachusetts has a long and proud history with the House Rules Committee," added that he will lead in the example set by former Bay State Congressmen and panel members Thomas "Tip" O'Neill Jr. and Joe Moakley.

    "They taught me that you don't have to agree on everything to agree on something, and that good people can disagree and still work together to get things done," he said. "Their example will guide me as I lead the Rules Committee at such an important time for our state and nation." 

    McGovern, who voiced concerns about the panel's action under current Chairman U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas, has pledged to "provide a more accommodating and respectful process" in the lower chamber if named the panel's new leader. 

    He joined House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi late last month in unveiling a series of rules change proposals reached in conjunction with the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus. 

    US Rep. Jim McGovern, Nancy Pelosi announce House rules package agreement

    The proposals, which McGovern has urged House Democrats to support, include: creating a "consensus calendar" to ensure that bills with 290 co-sponsors are promptly considered; giving preference to amendments that comply with rules and have support from at least 20 members of each party; modernizing the discharge petition process; increasing committee transparency; and overhauling motions to vacate the chair, among other things.

    Beyond pushing the bipartisan-backed rules changes, McGovern has pledged to not block marijuana-related measures from being debated on the U.S. House floor. 

    US Rep. Jim McGovern says House 'going to have votes on marijuana reform,' pledges to allow debate on pot bills

    He has also hinted that House Democrats will use their power in the new Congress to "conduct proper investigation and oversight" of alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia in the 2016 election.

    McGovern, who was named the Rules Committee's ranking member in April, is among three Massachusetts Democrats poised to hold powerful positions when the new Congress convenes in early January. 

    U.S. Rep. Katherine Clark, D-Melrose, was elected to serve as the House Democratic Caucus' new vice chair late last month. 

    US Rep. Katherine Clark elected House Democratic Caucus vice chair

    Congressman Richard Neal, D-Springfield, meanwhile, was set to secure the position of House Ways and Means Committee chairman in Thursday's caucus elections.


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    The Save North Pond group has raised $3.5 million toward the $5 million purchase of land to preserve Watch video

    SOUTHWICK - The purchase of 146-acres of land for preservation at North Pond is reaching its final stages, but the funds needed have not been raised.

    Franklin Land Trust Executive Director Richard K. Hubbard and Alain Peteroy, director of land conservation for Franklin Land Trust, met with the Southwick Select Board last week and said they are $1.5 million short of the $5 million purchase price to preserve the land.

    They said they hoped the town Community Preservation Committee would raise its commitment to the project by and additional $500,000, bringing the total town CPC investment to $1.5 million. They planned to ask the Executive Office of Energy and Environment Affairs to also increase its contribution in order to close the gap.

    Hubbard said they are up against a March 1 deadline from the Massachusetts Department of Fish and Game, which pledged $600,000 toward the purchase. They need to have the purchase locked in by March 1 or they could lose the $600,000.

    "The way their money comes in, they don't roll it over. They have to spend it," he said.

    The Franklin Land Trust website has a Save North Pond page asking for donations and states "Aside from letting the woodlands and beachfront remain open and free from development, there are many environmental reasons to conserve this land as well." The site notes the land is over an aquifer and is home to a pitch-pine forest, which is a rare ecosystem in Massachusetts, and has sensitive habitats.

    Hubbard and Peteroy sought support from the board in seeking more funding from the CPC and to let selectmen know that commission has been slow to respond to their request.

    "We submitted an application with the CPC in October and they haven't met since," said Hubbard. "We've been told they'll meet at the end of January. That's cutting it close for us for the March deadline."

    Peteroy said "everyone's kicking it down the road. We're feeling concerned."

    Hubbard said when they got involved in the preservation, they knew it would be costly.

    "We knew going into it, it would be a lot of money," he said, "but the model we were given was that a million would come from business and a million from the town and we'd be raising one million. Instead we're raising $3 million."

    Peteroy and Hubbard said they are not confident they can raise the full asking price and want to get as close as possible before asking the seller to reduce the price.

    "It would be a lot easier to go to her with $4 million or $4.5 million rather than $3 million when she's asking for $5 million," said Peteroy. "We raised over $320,000 from private individual people, businesses and small foundations. Southwick residents have given anywhere from $25 to $10,000. There is a lot of support from individuals and groups."

    She asked the board if they did not support a $500,000 second application, what would they support.

    Select Board Chair Joseph Deedy said he understood their position and if it was $200,000 it would be a done deal as far as town support, in his opinion. Board members did say they support the project.

    "By March 1 we need to say Southwick CPC is willing to put in X amount and EOEEA will put in X amount," said Hubbard, adding that if they are able to raise the last $1.5 million it would cover the purchase but not expenses incurred during the process, which are roughly $60,000. Those expenses include paying property taxes every time the Trust had to ask the seller for an extension.

    "This is one of the hardest projects we've worked on and one of the biggest. But also, it's one of the most exciting ones we've worked on as an organization - it's an amazing resource," he said.

    Peteroy said "the CPC delay for an application put in Oct. 4 is concerning" and they hoped a special town meeting would not be necessary. Hubbard said if it was, they could possibly help the town with related expenses and "maybe we could get the state to hold off."

    Peteroy said she would be "heartbroken" if the deal falls through.

    "From the perspective of the town it's an amazing space to preserve," she said.

    Selectman Douglas Moglin said there are other pressing needs at the lake that the CPC could be struggling with.

    "We're staring down the barrel to treat the lakes and stop algae blooms and a larger dredging project. We're looking at other expenses on the lakes," said Moglin.

    Hubbard said after the meeting he felt there was positive support to move forward and that "the people in Southwick have been great. They've really stepped up."


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    Blanchard pointed to the construction of a new police station and refurbishing the municipal building as important accomplishments during his tenure

    PALMER - Town Manager Charles Blanchard will retire in June when his current three-year contract expires.

    In an interview Wednesday, Blanchard, 74, said he enjoyed working for the citizens of Palmer, but it was time to depart.

    "I am definitely retiring," he said.

    Blanchard was hired in 2011.

    He said that when his last contract was negotiated three years ago, he decided then that it would be his last.

    "I've enjoyed the job," the manager said. "We've improved the town's financial position" in the past seven years.

    "You have the opportunity to make town government run as smoothly as possible," he said. "It is very rewarding to be able to respond to the people's needs."

    Blanchard pointed to the construction of a new police station and refurbishing the municipal building as important accomplishments during his tenure.

    The Sturbridge resident formerly served on that town's Board of Selectmen. 

    Ask if he'd do that again, Blanchard said: "I don't plan on it."

    He also was town administrator in Paxton for six years, retiring from that position in January 2011.


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    Initial reports appear there are no injuries in the crash.

    CHICOPEE - A motor vehicle crash has closed Sheridan Street from the entrance of Walmart to Fuller Road.

    The crash occurred at about 2:20 p.m., Thursday, and knocked down wires causing a safety issue, said Michael Wilk, police public information officer.

    Initial reports show there were no serous injuries in the crash, he said.

    Sheridan Street will be shut down from Walmart to Fuller Road and to Celebration Drive. People are asked to avoid the area while repairs are being made.

    This is a breaking story. Masslive will update when more information is known.


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    They are a Finance Committee of the Town Council; Board of License Commissioners; and a Residents' Advisory Committee

    AMHERST - With the change in government now official and the Town Council having begun its work earlier this month, the municipality is looking for residents to serve on three advisory boards.

    They are the Finance Committee of the Town Council, Board of License Commissioners and Residents' Advisory Committee.

    The finance board is expected to include five town councilors and four Amherst residents who are not members of the council.

    The town's website says, "As required by the Charter, the members of the public on the Finance Committee shall have a voice but no vote in the Finance Committee's deliberations."

    The town is seeking citizens to serve on the five-person Board of License Commissioners. The new Amherst charter says the quintet is appointed "by the Town Manger and confirmed by the Town Council."

    The charter says: "No person while a member of the Board of License Commissioners shall have any financial interest, directly or indirectly, in the sale or distribution of alcoholic beverages, marijuana, or any regulated substance that may come under the purview of the Board."

    According to the announcement on the municipal website, Town Manager Paul Bockelman "is seeking three individuals of diverse backgrounds to serve on" the Residents' Advisory Committee. The panel will "assist with evaluation and selection of candidates for appointment."

    Those interested in serving on any of the boards can apply at amherstma.gov/caf.


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    Joseph Milo Munroe turned himself in to police on Wednesday night. He was arrested on a variety of charges including assault and battery with a dangerous weapon and attempted murder.

    SOUTHWICK - A man accused of shooting his roommate in the hip, turned himself into police Wednesday night after two days of running from officers.

    Joseph Milo Munroe, 21, of Sheep Pasture Road, was charged with assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, assault and battery on a household member, attempted murder, carrying a firearm without a license and discharging a firearm within 500 feet of a building, Police Chief Kevin A. Bishop said.

    An investigation by Det. Sgt. Thomas Krutka showed the victim and Munroe started fighting at the home on Sheep Pasture Road and the victim was shot in the hip, Bishop said.

    A relative drove the injured person to Baystate Noble Medical Center. Personnel there reported to police that a man suffering from a gunshot wound had come in for help at about 3:22 a.m. on Tuesday, he said.

    Using information and evidence from the investigation, police received an arrest warrant for Munroe, but he had left the house before officers arrived, Bishop said.

    Police continued to investigation and learned of multiple locations where Munroe may have been but did not locate him. Then Southwick Police K9 Officer Michael Westcott started talking to another person who was in contact with Munroe, Bishop said.

    "Over the next 24 hours, Westcott continued conversations with the third party and Westcott was able to convince Joseph Munroe to turn himself in at the Southwick Police Department," he said.

    Munroe arrived at about 11:35 p.m. on Wednesday and was held overnight on $10,000 bail. He was arraigned in Westfield District Court Thursday morning, Bishop said.


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    Jabish Brook Middle School was built in 1962.

    BELCHERTOWN -- Selectmen on Monday were split on a proposal announced this month by Superintendent Karol Coffin to build a replacement for Jabish Brook Middle School.

    The school at 62 North Washington St., which today houses grades seven and eight, was built in 1962.

    Two selectmen said a new facility is needed, while Selectman George "Archie" Archible was skeptical, saying he was "shocked" by the idea. The fourth selectman attending, Ed Boscher said: "It's not one person's decision."

    "When I read the superintendent of schools wants to build a new school, it floored me. Enrollment is down," Archible said at Monday's meeting.

    State Department of Elementary and Secondary Education data shows middle school enrollment has been stable since 2014. This year the school has 398 students, and it had 397 in 2014.

    In the Belchertown school district as a whole, enrollment is down 4 percent over the same period, from 2,416 in 2014 to 2,323 today.

    "Something has to be done," Selectman Brenda Aldrich said. "We are replacing stuff all the time at that school. ... Jabish no longer really is feasible. ... They have to do something."

    Coffin plans to meet with Belchertown Town Administrator Gary Brougham to discuss the idea, and said she will make a presentation to the board in the new year.

    The school district is expected to ask selectmen to support a letter of interest that would be sent to the Massachusetts School Building Authority by March. That would begin the process of the town applying for state funding to pay some of the construction costs.

    Brougham told the board that when Jabish Brook was built 56 years ago, as a junior and senior high school, it cost $1 million. He said the town's population growth required a new high school that was built in the 1990s at a cost of $32 million.


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    The donation will be used to fund a digital learning specialist in the nonprofit's new technology center

    New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft is donating $100,000 to Girls Inc. of Worcester, a charity which provides mentorship, after-school programs and STEM education with the goal of empowering and supporting Central Massachusetts girls.

    The donation is part of Kraft's "challenge grant" program and will be used to fund a digital learning specialist in the nonprofit's new technology center, which is expected to open next fall, Worcester Magazine reported.

    In an interview, Girls Inc. of Worcester CEO Victoria Waterman said she learned of the donation after receiving a call on her cell phone from an unknown number.

    "Something made me pick it up," Waterman said. "The person said 'Hello, it this Victoria Waterman?' I was thinking it was a telemarketer."

    Instead, it was Kraft. The Patriots owner made small talk with Waterman before telling her that he was interested in donating $100,000 to her organization.

    According to Waterman, Kraft said he was invested in the nonprofits mission and had a personal connection to Girls Inc. Kraft's late wife, Myra Kraft, was a Worcester native, and her mother at one point served on the board of the organization, Waterman said.

    "He said I think it's important to support the most marginalized and vulnerable populations, and I like that you support low income girls of color," Waterman said.

    The donation will match any gift of over $100 to the organization, Waterman said. The matching program will run through the spring or until the $100,000 goal is met. Waterman is hoping that Girls Inc can get off to a strong start in the holiday season.

    "We're taking advantage of the time of the holidays now, trying to appeal to people through that," Waterman said.


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    Read obituaries from The Republican newspaper in Springfield, Massachusetts.

    Here are the obituaries published Thursday in The Republican:

    Obituaries from The Republican, Dec. 20, 2018

     

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    Nine states seek to stop seismic testing for oil and gas exploration on the East Coast.

    Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey has joined a nine-state lawsuit challenging a Trump administration plan to conduct seismic testing in preparation for oil and gas exploration in federal waters off the Eastern Seaboard. 

    "Approving these blasting tests paves the way for the Trump administration to open up the Atlantic coast to drilling and poses a severe threat to our coastal communities, our fishing industry, and the health of the ocean," said Healey, who announced the effort at Boston's New England Aquarium.

    Attorneys general in nine states moved Thursday to join the lawsuit, filed last week by environmental groups in U.S. District Court in South Carolina. Maryland is leading the effort, and Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, New Jersey, North Carolina, and Virginia are the other states that have signed on.

    The lawsuit names Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and the National Marine Fisheries Service, a division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

    The fisheries service this month authorized the "incidental take" of marine life, including fish and mammals, when the acoustic surveys are conducted to determine oil and gas potential in the federal lease areas. However, any actual seismic testing would need a separate permit from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.

    The Trump administration proposes to open the Atlantic, Pacific, and Alaskan coasts to exploration and drilling. Two leases areas are proposed off the coast of New England, starting in 2021 and 2023. 

    The BOEM, relying upon statistical models, said in 2016 that 4.59 billion barrels of oil -- and 11.76 trillion cubic feet of gas -- could be present in the North Atlantic Region. However, only a portion of that could be "economically recoverable."

    When the BOEM visited Boston in February to host a public information session, environmentalists held a rally outside the event.

    "People come to Massachusetts to eat fish in our restaurants, and to stay in our hotels," said Senate Majority Leader Bruce Tarr, who vowed a bipartisan fight on the state level to protect ocean resources.

    Healey in March said drilling and exploration "threatens Massachusetts' $7.3 billion fishing industry, the 90,000 jobs that it supports and the state's 1,500 miles of coastline that is marked by destination beaches."


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    The Holyoke City Council raised the Sewer Use Fee by $1.25 per 1,000 gallons used, translating into a 23 percent average increase for homeowners.

    HOLYOKE -- Shortly after the City Council set the fiscal 2019 tax rate, the body raised the sewer use fee by $1.25, setting the new rate at $6.65 per 1,000 gallons used.

    The $6.65 rate translates to into a $471.50 annual average bill for homeowners, a 23 percent increase.

    While the sewer rate remained flat for decades, the sewer fund deficit grew, averaging $300,000 to $900,000 annually.

    Now, Department of Public Works Superintendent Michael McManus is predicting a $956,000 deficit for FY 2019.

    In a recent Ordinance Committee meeting, McManus said the goal remains reducing the deficit and stabilizing the sewer fund.

    The council transferred nearly $33,000 in free cash to cover shortfalls in the sewer enterprise fund, an end-of-year budget maneuver that has become all too common.

    Councilor Linda Vacon, who chairs the Ordinance Committee, said the council should raise the sewer fee "as little as possible," citing an increase in property taxes, coupled with the 1.5 percent Community Preservation Act surcharge for home and business owners.

    Vacon said the focus should remain on shoring up the city's stabilization account and servicing debt.

    "In the meantime, I do think the sewer fund should pay for itself," she said. "The only deficit we saw sitting in front of us, when we balanced the budget, was $32,000 in the sewer fund."

    Vacon recommended a 25-cents increase in the sewer rate while other councilors suggested raising the fee incrementally.

    Councilor Joseph M. McGiverin said 20 years ago the council created the enterprise fund, which ties into the general budget. "That's been the issue I'm most concerned about, especially the last four or five years," he said.

    McGiverin said the sewer fund should operate solely as a standalone fund not reliant on periodic infusions of free cash.

    In a recent memo, the Massachusetts Department of Revenue noted the shortfalls in the sewer fund as a chronic problem, which saps the free cash account.

    In five years, around $4 million was used to shore up the sewer fund, McGiverin said. "Again, we're looking at an operational deficit of close to a million dollars this year," he said.

    The Department of Revenue certified $1.4 million in free cash for the current fiscal year. Deficit spending drove the figure down to around $200,000, which included the $33,000 used for the enterprise fund.

    An increase in the sewer fee, according to McGiverin, nearly wipes out the deficit.

    The city introduced an enforcement mechanism in the past year to collect unpaid sewer fees. The Water Department holds the right to cut off water service to homes or businesses for delinquencies.

    McManus will report in the coming months if the new enforcement tool raised sewer fee collections.

     

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    Astronauts Frank Borman, James A. Lovell Jr., and William A. Anders took part in successful seven-day mission, which include 10 orbits of the moon.

    On Dec. 21, 1968, a Saturn V rocket carrying the Apollo 8 spacecraft blasted off from launch complex 39A at Cape Kennedy, Florida, for NASA's first lunar mission.

    Astronauts Frank Borman, James A. Lovell Jr., and William A. Anders took part in  successful seven-day trip, which include 10 orbits of the moon and paved the way for the first lunar landing seven months later by Apollo 11.

    The Apollo 8 mission occurred during a turbulent time: The wake of two political assassinations, race riots and the divisive Vietnam War.

    In the midst of this, the trio achieved a series of amazing scientific firsts: They were became the first humans to travel beyond low Earth orbit; view the Earth as a whole planet; orbit the moon; look upon the far side of the moon with their own eyes; witness an earthrise; and return safely home.

    The astronauts made a Christmas Eve television broadcast where they read from the Book of Genesis during their ninth orbit of the moon.

    At the time, it was the most watched TV program ever with a quarter of the people alive at the watching -- either live or delayed -- the Dec. 24 broadcast.

    Upon their return, Borman, Lovell and Anders were name TIME magazine's "Men of the Year" for 1968.

    President Lyndon B. Johnson awarded the Distinguished Service Medal of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration to the three astronauts at a White House ceremony on Jan. 9, 1969.

    Borman and Anders never returned to space, while Lovell commanded the ill-fated Apollo 13 mission in 1970.

    The Apollo 8 command module is now displayed at the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry.


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    "The one (dressed) in cammo told me I needed to teach my son some respect. The one in plaid was chasing my son ... with a hammer," the victim's mother told police.

    CHICOPEE - One of the men banging on the door of a Chicopee apartment late Monday night was angry. The other had a hammer.

    After forcing their way inside, the men walked into the victim's bedroom, smashed his television and then struck him on the head with the hammer as he ran out the back door, according to an arrest report.

    The victim's mother witnessed the attack and described the assailants to police, the report said. "The one (dressed) in cammo told me I needed to teach my son some respect. The one in plaid was chasing my son around the apartment with a hammer," she said.

    The suspects -- Andrew Newell, 23, and Christian Barbosa, 26, both of Chicopee -- were arrested several hours later and charged with home invasion, assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, assault with a dangerous weapon and vandalizing property.

    They denied the charges Tuesday in Chicopee District Court, and were ordered held without bail for a dangerousness hearing Dec. 24.

    The pair were arrested after a neighbor saw them leaving the apartment and wrote down the license plate of their pickup. The vehicle was traced to an Anthony Street address where police found the suspects. The victim's mother later identified both men, the report said.

    In an interview with police, Newell said he became enraged after learning the 21-year-old victim had been disrespecting Newell's girlfriend. The realization "enraged him to the point of black out," according to the report. 

    "He went to the victim's house but doesn't remember much because he was blacked out from anger. He puts himself at the house and chasing (the victim) with Christian but denied having a hammer in his hand," the report said.

    Barbosa agreed to speak to police, but denied any role in the assault, the report said.


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