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- 12/28/18--16:01: _Amherst police lieu...
- 12/28/18--17:48: _911 working normall...
- 12/29/18--05:00: _Two nuclear plants ...
- 12/29/18--06:05: _Should you tip your...
- 12/29/18--11:05: _Police: Ludlow man ...
- 12/29/18--11:19: _Springfield police ...
- 12/29/18--12:39: _MIddlefield takes C...
- 12/29/18--18:26: _Pittsfield police a...
- 12/30/18--03:02: _Here's how business...
- 12/30/18--03:01: _Since Massachusetts...
- 12/30/18--03:32: _Western Mass. Baseb...
- 12/30/18--07:00: _Applications open f...
- 12/30/18--16:37: _Obituaries from The...
- 12/31/18--06:05: _Elizabeth Warren an...
- 12/31/18--11:24: _Emissions from New ...
- 12/31/18--14:13: _Easthampton trees v...
- 12/31/18--15:33: _Obituaries from The...
- 12/31/18--17:38: _Westfield kicks off...
- 01/01/19--11:29: _Stanton Foundation ...
- 01/01/19--12:01: _South Hadley Select...
- 12/28/18--16:01: Amherst police lieutenant files employment discrimination lawsuit
- 12/29/18--05:00: Two nuclear plants win 'zero carbon' energy contracts in Connecticut
- 12/29/18--06:05: Should you tip your Uber driver?
- 12/29/18--11:19: Springfield police searching for missing woman
- 12/29/18--12:39: MIddlefield takes Comcast deal for broadband network
- 12/29/18--18:26: Pittsfield police arrest 2 suspects minutes after armed robbery
- 12/30/18--03:02: Here's how businesses use public records to drum up clients
- 12/30/18--03:32: Western Mass. Baseball Hall of Fame Class of 2019 touches all bases
- 12/30/18--16:37: Obituaries from The Republican, Dec. 29-30, 2018
- 12/31/18--11:24: Emissions from New England power plants fall again
- 12/31/18--15:33: Obituaries from The Republican, Dec. 31, 2018
- 01/01/19--11:29: Stanton Foundation awards South Hadley $21K for dog park design
The lawsuit, which seeks unspecified damages, alleges wrongdoing by Amherst Police Chief Scott Livingstone and Capt. Jennifer Gundersen.
AMHERST - A 30-year veteran of the Amherst Police Department, Lt. David Knightly, has filed a lawsuit in Hampshire Superior Court alleging employment discrimination against both the department and the town.
The lawsuit, which seeks unspecified damages, alleges wrongdoing by Amherst Police Chief Scott Livingstone and Capt. Jennifer Gundersen. The two are not named as defendants.
Contacted on Friday, Amherst Town Manager Paul Bockelman said he has no comment at this time.
The complaint says Knightly is the department's oldest ranking officer, and alleges that Gundersen discriminated against him because of his age. The court document says he is 51 and was hired in 1988.
It alleges Livingstone discriminated against him involving a disability matter, created a hostile work environment and arbitrarily revoked a 10 percent pay increase.
The suit alleges Livingstone "kept a separate file in his office of information to use to embarrass Mr. Knightly."
Gundersen will be soon become South Hadley's police chief. Her swearing in is scheduled on Jan. 4.
In an interview, South Hadley Town Administrator Michael Sullivan said that he was aware of the lawsuit during the hiring process.
"We were aware of the controversy," Sullivan said.
"It is commonplace for someone in management to be accused of something. It doesn't necessarily mean anything," he said.
Gundersen "is well-regarded by her peers," he said. "Knightly didn't bring an action against her personally. She comes to South Hadley with great experience, particularly in areas of accreditation."
According to the complaint, a breakdown in the professional relationship between the captain and lieutenant was spawned by "a disagreement regarding a new recruit" in April 2017.
"Prior to the events precipitating this complaint, Mr. Knightly supervised the Amherst Police Department's Field Training Program for new recruits," the lawsuit says. "Following the disagreement, Capt. Gundersen began to take adverse actions against Mr. Knightly."
The suit alleges that Gundersen made it difficult for him to access sick leave, and referred to Knightly multiple times as "old" in a prejudicial manner. The complaint alleges she referred to him as "the last of the old guys" and "old timer" and "old salt."
It says Knightly met with the town's human resources director Sept. 26, 2017, to convey concerns about his treatment.
The lawsuit says that Livingstone requested a meeting with him two days later, when he told the chief "Capt. Gundersen was harassing him because of his age." The complaint further alleges "Chief Livingstone repeatedly told Mr. Knightly that he was disappointed that Mr. Knightly spoke to Human Resources rather than speaking directly to him first."
Allegations in the complaint state:
"Mr. Knightly attempted to convey to Chief Livingston the effect Capt. Gundersen's conduct and statements had upon his mental health. Mr. Knightly told Chief Livingstone that he had begun to see a therapist due to the stress related to Capt. Gundersen's conduct.
"Chief Livingstone said to Mr. Knightly, 'Dave, when did you turn into a p---y?'
"Mr. Knightly was too stunned to respond, and Chief Livingstone then told him that his complaint better not go any further and that if Mr. Knightly moved forward with the matter Chief Livingstone would embarrass him."
The lawsuit was filed in October in Hampshire Superior Court by Knightly's attorney, Tani E. Sapirstein of the Springfield law firm Sapirstein & Sapirstein PC. A trial date has not been set.
Problems with the national 911 system have been corrected, state officials said, and the system if fully operational. Emergency calling was disrupted across a large swath of the country through most of the day.
The state's 911 emergency phone system has been fixed and is operating normally, officials said Friday evening.
The State 911 Department said problems with the nationwide system that caused intermittent failures throughout the day, but the problems have been corrected.
State system engineers conducted extensive testing, and have determined the state system is operating normally, officials said. All emergency calls are being routed to the appropriate local and regional dispatch centers.
Resident are asked not to call 911 to test the system. Calls to 911 should only be placed in an emergency.
HARTFORD -- Two nuclear power plants, an offshore wind project, and nine solar farms will help Connecticut utilities provide "zero-carbon" electricity to their retail customers. Gov. Dannel Malloy on Friday announced the winners of a major clean energy procurement, and the selection of Millstone Power Station in Connecticut and Seabrook Nuclear Power Station in New Hampshire effectively secured the role...
HARTFORD -- Two nuclear power plants, an offshore wind project, and nine solar farms will help Connecticut utilities provide "zero-carbon" electricity to their retail customers.
Gov. Dannel Malloy on Friday announced the winners of a major clean energy procurement, and the selection of Millstone Power Station in Connecticut and Seabrook Nuclear Power Station in New Hampshire effectively secured the role of atomic power in the state's climate strategy.
"Make no mistake, we are facing a climate crisis with the future of the planet at stake," said Malloy in a statement. "Despite President Trump's refusal to listen to scientists on this matter, the reality is that urgent and significant action is needed to dramatically reduce our dependence on carbon-based energy sources."
The clean energy procurements, mandated by the state legislature, are equal to 45 percent of Connecticut's total electric load. More than 80 percent of the new carbon-free energy will be sourced from nuclear power.
Orsted US, which plans its 200 megawatt Revolution Wind project, won utility support Friday for another 100 megawatts. The modest offshore wind procurement, while laudable, represents "a very timid step in comparison to other states in the region," noted John Humphries, organizer with the CT Roundtable on Climate and Jobs.
Emily Lewis, senior policy analyst at Acadia Center, also praised the offshore wind carveout while calling for a stronger mandate.
Massachusetts, for example, in 2016 committed to developing 1,600 megawatts of offshore wind, and in May awarded an 800-megawatt contract to Vineyard Wind, which is in the process of gaining its environmental permits.
Still, the incremental wind procurement in Connecticut will spur a $10.5 million investment in the New London Port, according to Malloy.
The Connecticut clean energy contracts will support 165 megawatts of new grid-scale solar in New Hampshire, Maine, and Connecticut. Two of the projects incorporate battery storage.
Some on Friday criticized the nuclear-heavy choices.
"We're glad the state will see some new solar and wind come online as a result of this procurement, but are still very concerned that as a whole, these choices don't put Connecticut on the road to a clean energy economy," Claire Coleman, attorney at Connecticut Fund for the Environment, told the Connecticut Mirror.
"The future is off-shore wind, solar, geothermal, and smart strategies for efficiency and energy storage - but the small investments in these newer resources compared to the heavy investment in nuclear largely don't reflect that. Instead the state has doubled down on the energy sources of the past," Coleman said.
Robert Klee, Connecticut's energy and environment commissioner, said the state remains committed to keeping Millstone as a "valuable zero-carbon resource" -- provided the energy is affordable -- "as we work towards long-term replacement through smart investments in offshore wind and solar paired with grid-scale storage."
"At the same time," said Klee, "we believe ratepayers deserve, and can get, a more competitive price for Millstone's output."
Connecticut's electric companies -- Eversource and United Illuminating -- were instructed to negotiate better terms than those sought by plant owner Dominion, which has claimed the 2,100-megawatt Millstone is "at risk of early retirement.""Dominion has sought a rate of return that is not in the best interest of ratepayers," Friday's press release from Malloy and Klee acknowledged.
State lawmakers, regulators, watchdog groups, and power generators have long battled over Millstone's status as a potential "clean energy source." They have fought over whether the plant, which faces competition from low-priced natural gas plants, really needs financial supports.
The Connecticut legislature in 2017 authorized Millstone, with its 1,500 employees, to bid into clean energy procurements along with wind, solar, storage and geothermal. Utility regulators in December ruled that the plant could be at risk of closing after 2020, and the pending contracts announced Friday reflect that interim determination.
The Seabrook nuclear plant in New Hampshire is not claiming any financial duress, and bid in with below-market wholesale power prices, according to Malloy and Klee.New England utilities draw their electricity from a six-state wholesale power grid.
Taxi drivers get tips. Lyft requests tips. Should Uber be any different?
Taxi drivers get tips. Lyft requests tips. Should Uber be any different? Some Uber drivers say yes, as reduced fares mean longer hours in the car. Others say part of the allure of Uber is that you don't have to budget for a tip. What do you think?
It wasn't until 2017 that Uber added an option for tipping. The company followed in the footsteps of other ride-share services like Lyft and Via.
Tipping may be new to Uber, but that doesn't excuse riders from paying a few extra bucks at the end of each ride. According to USA Today's Madeline Purdue:
Uber drivers have complained about reduced fares, meaning they have to work longer hours to make what they previously would make. Tips can compensate for this discrepancy in pay.
Taxi and limousine drivers receive tips, as well as Lyft and other ride-hailing drivers. These drivers are providing a service, and usually services are met with tips.
Uber isn't part of the service economy; it's part of the gig economy. The former warrants a tip, whereas the latter does not. According to Vox's Aditi Shrikant:
Unlike cab drivers, Uber or Lyft drivers are not technically in the service industry. Although Uber drivers are providing a service, they make their own schedule and are not beholden to a company that pays below minimum wage. Being in the gig economy is a choice they can opt out of at any time.
Although workers in the gig economy likely face similar financial struggles to those in the service industry, only 35% of riders are likely to tip their Uber drivers, and millennials are less likely to tip. Shrikant explains a few reasons why riders are not inclined to tip:
A rider who doesn't tip says it's because when the app was introduced, tipping wasn't an option, which seems to signal that tipping is not an expectation. If it wasn't a priority then, why should it be a priority now?
Something else the second non-tipping rider said was that she has stopped taking Ubers and Lyfts because she doesn't like that a portion of her fare goes to Lyft and Uber, and not back into her local economy as it would if she took a cab. And this idea of a non-local, impersonal service may be why people see tipping as optional.
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A Ludlow man is facing a charge of attempted murder after an incident last week.
LUDLOW - A local man spent Christmas Eve in Palmer District Court, where he was arraigned for a long list of charges stemming from a recent violent episode.
Christopher Barroso, 40, was taken into custody last Friday after he allegedly assaulted a woman at a residence on Pine Street, causing her "severe" injuries.
Ludlow police responded to Barroso's residence around 1:21 p.m. Friday for an emergency report of a man beating a woman. There they discovered a victim who had suffered "severe but non-life threatening injuries," police said.
The woman was subsequently given emergency medical assistance while police attempted to arrest Barroso, who had locked himself inside the home. Barroso eventually gave himself up to police.
He is now facing charges for assault to murder, mayhem, assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, strangulation, assault and battery on a household member, malicious destruction of property over $1,200, resisting arrest, and other charges.
After his arrest Barroso was held on $250,000 bail. He was arraigned Christmas Eve in Palmer District Court. He will return to court for a dangerousness hearing on Monday.
Springfield police are asking for the public's help in locating a missing woman.
SPRINGFIELD - Police are searching for Glenda Perez, a 32-year-old city woman who has gone missing.
Police did not provide details on when Perez went missing, but said she may be in the city's downtown metro area or the Liberty Street or Bay Street areas.
Anyone who has information on Perez's whereabouts has been encouraged to contact the Springfield Police Department at 413-787-6302 or Detective John Lopez 413-750-2379.
Town Meeting voters rejected appropriating $1.3 million to build municipal fiber.
A tiny Hampshire County hilltown has decided to go with a Comcast cable deal rather than build their own fiber optic network.
Middlefield Town Meeting voters on Dec. 20 approved 69 to 49 a proposal from Comcast to build a cable network to serve at least 96 percent of the households.
The town, with population less than 600, will pay around $231,680; the state will pay $776,000 through the Massachusetts Broadband Institute; and Comcast will kick in $268,000, according to the Country Journal newspaper. The numbers are estimates.
Conversely, a town-owned fiber network built by Westfield Gas & Electric's Whip City Fiber division would require the town to appropriate $1.3 million, and $545,000 of that would be covered by the state, leaving the town with an approximate $979,677 to fund.
That proposal failed 39-89. Going with fiber would have raised property taxes significantly, the weekly hilltown paper reports.
Of the 44 original towns in Western Massachusetts that had no broadband service, some have chosen to pursue town-owned fiber; some have accepted turnkey deals from cable companies; and some are pursuing other solutions, such as hybrid wireless.
Charlemont, in Franklin County, last month rejected a Comcast deal and decided to build municipal fiber.
The state subsidy for the Comcast builds comes from the Massachusetts Broadband Institute, and the municipal funding for the fiber builds comes from infrastructure grants available directly from the Baker administration. The monies were included in bond bills passed by the state legislature.
The towns are also devoting time and money to bridging the digital divide. The endeavor to build rural broadband began under former Gov. Deval Patrick and has continued, with reformed grants and programs, under Gov. Charlie Baker.
Two suspects were arrested minutes after a local sandwich shop was held up at gunpoint Friday night. Jameial Beckett, 35, and 37-year-old Ivelisse Ruusukallio were taken into custody as they walked away from the robbery scene.
Two Pittsfield residents were arrested Friday night minutes after they allegedly robbed a West Housatonic Street sandwich shop.
Pittsfield police said in a press release posted to the department's Facebook page, that 35-year-old Jameial Beckett and Ivelisse Ruusukallio, 37, were taken into custody on not far from Angelina's Sub Shop at 97 West Housatonic St.
At about 9:38 p.m. a clerk at the shop had reported a masked man entered the store, showed a firearm and fled with cash.
Beckett and Ruusukallio were stopped by police as they walked near the scene and were subsequented arrested.
Pittsfield police said they had flooded the area with uniformed officers and plain-clothed detectives about 30 minutes earlier after a masked man briefly entered the nearby Big Y Express but fled, apparently intimidated by the number of customers.
After arresting the two suspects, police searched the area and recovered additional physical evidence.
Beckett is being held in lieu of $7,500 cash bail while Ruusukallio was being held in lieu of $2,500 cash pending arraignement in Pittsfield District Court Monday.
While the commercial use of public records has sometimes been criticized by privacy advocates, others say it is part of having transparent government.
When someone can no longer pay their mortgage, Eagle Home Buyers steps in. The Holyoke-based real estate company buys properties from distressed homeowners, rehabilitates the buildings and sells them.
One way Eagle Home Buyers finds clients is by making public records requests to city governments, seeking lists of homeowners who have not paid property taxes and whose homes are near foreclosure.
"If a person is tax delinquent and also in pre-foreclosure, it's an indicator they're in financial difficulties and may not know how to get out of that difficulty, may not know they have options," said Stephen White, who works in acquisitions for Eagle Home Buyers.
Look through any city or town's public records log, and it is likely that many of the public records requesters are not journalists or advocates. They are businesses, looking to drum up clients or to compile databases that can be purchased by other companies. While the commercial use of public records has sometimes been criticized by privacy advocates, others say it is part of having transparent government.
Richard Varn, executive director of the Iowa-based Coalition for Sensible Public Records Access, which is backed by businesses that collect large amounts of data, said the collection of public data allows for a range of commercial transactions, whether buying a car or house or checking credentials of a daycare provider. He compared it to an Uber driver making money using public roads or a bottling plant making money bottling public water.
"We don't understand why people pick on public records, don't treat public records like they treat every other thing people use to make money," Varn said.
Business requests are common in a city like Worcester, where records access officer Joshua Martunas said businesses, lawyers and journalists are the most common requesters.
Martunas said businesses often contact the city looking for people with unclaimed money, unpaid taxes or code violations. That information gives businesses a list of potential customers they can contact to issue loans, offer to buy a property or sell property cleaning services.
Martunas said most requests by businesses can easily be turned around within the 10 days allowed by state law, and most do not incur charges. Under state law, up to two hours of work responding to a records request must be provided free. "The majority of records requests that come are in relatively straightforward," Martunas said. "I don't think the requests coming in are any kind of burden on myself or the departments I work with."
Jeffrey London wrote to the city of Newton earlier this year requesting information about checks issued by the city that were stale or outdated and were never cashed.
London owns Parr Recovery in Newton. The company requests lists of outdated checks from public agencies around the country, then contacts the person or company the check was made out to. Parr Recovery will offer to represent that company and get the check reissued, and Parr Recovery gets a percentage of the check.
"I wouldn't be in business without public records," London said.
One common request by businesses is for lists of pet licenses.
Ted Teller, the owner of Above and Beyond Pet Services in Belmont, which provides dog walking and pet sitting services, asked Belmont for a list of 2018 dog and cat licensees, according to that community's public records log. Teller declined to comment.
Brian Olney, who lists his profession on LinkedIn as a marketing professional for the New York-based Fi - HQ, which provides "technology for dogs and their humans," made a similar request to Belmont.
Public and Private Sector Solutions, of Michigan, is a public procurement company. Governments hire it to help agencies get better deals negotiating technology prices.
A Public and Private Sector Solutions representative in June asked Massachusetts' environmental agency for purchase orders and quotes for any personal computers, laptops or tablets bought within 30 days.
Senior procurement consultant Greg Faremouth said Public and Private Sector Solutions uses public records requests to get information about prices paid for technology by governments around the country. That helps agencies negotiate better prices.
"We can understand more about the competitiveness that public institutions enjoy or don't enjoy so we can help them in the future," Faremouth said. "A lot of times, they don't have the right information and don't understand what others paid for like deals."
"The public records law allows us ... to generate the information so we can share it with others," Faremouth said. "So when they go to the negotiating table with the vendor, (they can say) this is what someone else paid, why wouldn't I enjoy the same type of pricing?"
"That's entirely legal because Congress has completely failed to regulate the data broker industry," Crockford said.
Crockford said she sees data brokers as "problematic" because consumers do not know how their information is being used, and because it makes the information accessible mainly to people who have money to pay data brokers. For example, companies can hire data brokers to collect court data and conduct background checks on employees. Or, marketing agencies can target divorcees with ads for Realtors.
Crockford said some of these listings could be made available to everyone.
"I do find it troubling to some degree that information that's ostensibly public and could be available to everyone on the internet is collected by private companies and then sold at the same time," Crockford said.
At the same time, she thinks government should do a better job telling people what information is public.
"One thing governments could do to inform the public conversation about privacy in the era of big data and automation would be to disclose on public records websites information that's been released to corporate entities," Crockford said.
But Varn says data brokers are actually a democratizing force, since smaller companies can buy information that previously only large companies, who had their own data troves or had the ability to make hundreds of records requests, could access.
Varn said there are lots of "beneficial and legal purposes" the data can be used for -- such as seeing if a company has been fined, or better understanding a market.
Varn noted that businesses pay for the records.
"They aren't getting them free," Varn said. "You pay the cost of the record just like everyone else does."
An increasing number of city and town clerks have been using computer software for the first time to manage public records requests -- and they're often making more of the documents available online.
A candidate for Framingham state representative was seeking a list of all city voters who applied for absentee ballots. A reporter wanted information about Framingham Mayor Yvonne Spicer's expenses. Insurance companies are asking for police records of clients' car accidents.
The city of Framingham posts on its website a log of public records requests, along with the documents that were provided -- such as a list of absentee voters or building project files.
"If it's not private information they're requesting, if it's basic public records they're entitled to, they can search our database before logging a request," said Mike Tusino, the records access officer for Framingham. "It's a great log of what's been done and a good resource for the community."
Framingham is not alone.
Since Massachusetts updated its public records law last year, an increasing number of city and town clerks have been using computer software for the first time to manage public records requests. One side-effect of that shift is that more of these requests are becoming fully public on the internet, making it easier for people to search for information about city and town affairs.
"The current public records process reflects an earlier era, where documents were on paper -- and you wouldn't allow a member of the public to go through your filing cabinet and take what they want," said Tamara Manik-Perlman, CEO and co-founder of NextRequest, which sells software to manage public records requests. "As more records are digital ... for many categories of public information and data, there's no reason people should not be able to access them directly."
In June 2016, Gov. Charlie Baker signed the first major overhaul of the state's public records law in 40 years, which went into effect in 2017. The new law set concrete timelines for public agencies to comply with records requests and limited how much money public agencies can charge for copies. Cities and towns must now appoint a single records access officer who is responsible for overseeing requests.
In a city like Framingham, which received more than 2,000 public records requests last year, Tusino said, "We needed the software to just manage everything we were doing and stay compliant with the law." Framingham started using the platform of a company called FOIA Direct when the new law went into effect.
FOIA Direct, the only Massachusetts-based company to provide public records management software, officially launched in January 2017 to coincide with the new law. The company has 30 municipal clients so far, according to president and CEO Herbert Myers.
Myers said previously, public records requests "were getting lost in the mix." With the new law allowing for financial penalties if the law is not followed, communities want to make sure public records requests are responded to properly.
California-based NextRequest, which offers similar software and also lets municipalities make records requests public online, has 11 paying municipal customers in Massachusetts, with the first one signing up in 2016.
The software lets requesters direct public records requests to a specific agency, then provides tools for city officials to track requests. While there are differences between the companies, the basic benefits are similar. The software tracks how many days a city has left to respond to a request and notifies officials about deadlines. It lets different departments upload information and provides a simple way to issue an electronic response. It can be used to generate reports, determine fees and collect payments online. It can offer automated replies for particular requests.
Newton City Clerk David Olson said in a large city like Newton, where documents are scattered across state government, "The software makes it easy for the employees to communicate and make sure requests are getting to the right place, and that we're keeping track of getting them done within the time frames we have to supply public records."
Newton adopted NextRequest in early 2017, soon after the new law went into effect. "Prior to that, it was individual departments doing their own thing, and it was very rarely pulled together into one complete record," Olson said.
Newton makes public those requests that do not include personal information and that city officials think will attract wider interest. Most of the requests on the city's website relate to information about specific properties -- for example, documents about underground tanks or hazardous material.
Manik-Perlman, of NextRequest, said the option to make requests public came from a recommendation by the Obama administration. "One of the things they identified as an opportunity for transparency and efficiency was a 'release to one, release to all' policy," Manik-Perlman said.
Manik-Perlman said if a record does not contain personal or sensitive information, making it public on the web makes it easier for people to get that information and limits the time government officials have to spend duplicating responses to requests.
However, not all towns want this option. Some smaller towns have found different solutions to managing public records requests.
The Rhode Island-based LL Data Designs customizes public records software for clerks in around 45 small Massachusetts towns. The software is not web-based, so records cannot be shared between departments or published on the internet. But it does track and organize requests and produce reports.
LL Data Designs owner Lisa Pagano said she gives small town clerks a "cheaper alternative" to the larger web-based companies, and she customizes the software to meet their needs.
Pagano charges around $2,000 for her software, with a $500 annual maintenance fee. FOIADirect generally charges $3,000 to $10,000, depending on the size of the city, while the paid version of NextRequest starts around $5,000 and varies based on agency size and request volume. NextRequest also offers a free version.
Pagano said she has been customizing municipal software for decades, but her work on public records management in Massachusetts only started after the 2017 law change.
"When the law first came out in Massachusetts, everybody was like, we have to get something, we have to get something," Pagano said.
Great Barrington town clerk Marie Ryan, president of the Massachusetts Town Clerks' Association, said LL Data Designs lets her track requests and pull reports more quickly and easily than using an Excel spreadsheet, which she did until 2017.
Ryan said before the law change, town departments would give people copies, without keeping track of requests. The new law required her to start tracking requests, centralizing them and meeting deadlines.
Some clerks, however, still say they do not need specialized software.
Marlborough City Clerk Lisa Thomas, president of the Massachusetts City Clerks' Association, said all records requests come through her office, other than those that go to the police. When a request comes in, she logs it in an Excel spreadsheet and sends it to the legal department, which forwards it to the appropriate department. The relevant department keeps track of the timeline and produces the documents. Then, Thomas makes a pdf and responds.
Thomas said she thinks clerks often need software if they have a weak information technology department.
"I know what I'm doing, so save the money," Thomas said. "We've not had any complaints."
From the inventor of the curveball in the 19th century to the world champion Boston Red Sox of 2018, the Western Mass. Baseball Hall of Fame will honor a well-rounded Class of 2019 at its induction banquet Jan. 31 at La Quinta Inn and Suites, 100 Congress St., Springfield. Old-time baseball will be represented by Candy Cummings, a Ware...
From the inventor of the curveball in the 19th century to the world champion Boston Red Sox of 2018, the Western Mass. Baseball Hall of Fame will honor a well-rounded Class of 2019 at its induction banquet Jan. 31 at La Quinta Inn and Suites, 100 Congress St., Springfield.
Old-time baseball will be represented by Candy Cummings, a Ware native whose invention of the curveball in 1867 brought a new dimension to the craft of pitching.
Red Sox baseball will be represented by Dana LeVangie, an American International College graduate whose work as first-year pitching coach had a lot to do with the team's remarkable 119-victory season.
Professional baseball also will be represented by Mark Belanger, a former Pittsfield High School superstar athlete who played 18 seasons as a big league shortstop; and Mike Laga, a Northampton resident who played 188 games in the majors and 1,121 in the minors over a 10-year career.
Local baseball will be represented by Karl Oliveira of Palmer, still a player/manager for St. Joseph's of Thorndike in the Tri-County League at the age of 55; and Jim Jachym of Westfield, an ace pitcher who later turned to coaching.
Women in baseball will be represented by Justine Siegal, holder of a doctoral degree from Springfield College. She has made it into the professional game as a coach, batting practice pitcher and guest instructor. The instructor role came in the Arizona Fall League, where she worked with major league prospects. Along with being inducted into the WMass Hall of Fame, she will serve as keynote speaker.
Youth baseball will be represented by a 2018 Pittsfield team which brought the Little League state championship home to a city which has a rich history in the game.
Induction ceremonies will be hosted by the Valley Blue Sox, winners of the 2017 and 2018 championships in the New England Collegiate Baseball League. Westfield Bank will co-sponsor the induction, which is set for 7 p.m. at La Quinta. Tickets for the banquet are $50, or $450 for a table of 10. Dinner is included, and each guest will receive a pair of tickets to a 2019 Blue Sox home game at Mackenzie Stadium, Holyoke. To purchase induction tickets, call 413-533-1100 or visit https://valley-blue-sox.ticketleap.com/2019-hof/
"We're proud to partner with the Blue Sox as presenting sponsor of the induction banquet," said Jim Hagan, President and CEO of Westfield Bank. "Western Massachusetts has a rich baseball history, and we're pleased to support an event that recognizes the accomplishments and contributions of local athletes and coaches."
This will mark the sixth class of electees to be honored since the WMass Baseball Hall of Fame was instituted in 2014 at the suggestion of Clark Eckhoff, then owner of the Blue Sox franchise.
Currently, the induction program is being put together by Fred Ciaglo of Hadley. now in his second year as president of the Blue Sox; and Chris Weyant of Wilbraham, their new general manager.
WMass Baseball Hall of Fame keynote speaking roles have gone to Rob Bradford, a Boston baseball broadcasting personality who graduated from Springfield College; Joe Castiglione, long-time radio voice of the Red Sox; Bill "Spaceman" Lee, a Red Sox pitcher of the 1970s; Tom Grieve of Pittsfield, a former player and general manager of the Texas Rangers; and Dan Duquette of Dalton, a former GM of the Montreal Expos, the Red Sox and Baltimore Orioles.
Garry Brown can be reached at email@example.com
IF YOU GO
What: 2019 Western Massachusetts Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremony
When: Jan. 31, 7 p.m.
Where: La Quinta, 100 Congress St., Springfield
Tickets: $50 each or $450 for table of 10. To purchase, call 413-533-1100 or visit https://valley-blue-sox.ticketleap.com/2019-hof/
Fifty-five downtown apartments are available for low- and moderate-income households.
NORTHAMPTON -- Those interested in learning more about the Lumberyard affordable housing development at 256 Pleasant St. have been invited to attend an informational meeting.
Valley Community Development Corporation plans an open house for Saturday, Jan. 5, between 10 and 11 a.m. at Northampton Center for the Arts at 33 Hawley St.
The new, downtown building, located at the site of the former Northampton Lumber, holds 55 apartments. Forty-three are designated for households with incomes up to 60 percent of the area median, and 12 for low-income households.
Families and persons who are homeless, or at risk of homelessness, will be given preference for six of the apartments. Seven units are equipped for the hearing-impaired, with five wheelchair-accessible, according to the non-profit housing developers.
When the $20 million project was first presented in 2014, it elicited criticism at a joint public hearing of the Planning Board and Central Business Architecture Committee. Davis Square Architects subsequently made a number of design changes.
The project ran into other snags, including the discovery of an 1847 storm water conduit that needed relocation. A lawsuit from an abuttor, who charged that the project would impinge upon her property, was eventually settled.
State and city officials attended the November 2017 groundbreaking. The project was developed jointly by the Valley CDC and Way Finders, formerly known as HAPHousing.
Project funding came from various sources, including a Northampton Community Preservation Act grant, low income housing tax credits, and a state Massworks infrastructure grant.
Applications for the apartments are available on the Valley CDC website.
Read obituaries from The Republican newspaper in Springfield, Massachusetts.
Here are the obituaries published this weekend in The Republican:
U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren announced Monday that she had formed an exploratory committee as a prelude to a run for president in 2020.
U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren announced Monday that she had formed an exploratory committee as a prelude to a run for president in 2020 -- ending speculation as to whether the high-profile Massachusetts Democrat would mount a White House bid.
The senator revealed her 2020 intentions in a video message.
"We can make our democracy work for all of us. We can make our ecomomy work for all of us.We can rebuild America's middle class - but this time, we gotta build it for everyone," she said in a 4 minute, 29-second statement posted on Twitter and her campaign website.
Every person in America should be able to work hard, play by the same set of rules, & take care of themselves & the people they love. That's what I'm fighting for, & that's why I'm launching an exploratory committee for president. I need you with me: https://t.co/BNl2I1m8OX pic.twitter.com/uXXtp94EvY-- Elizabeth Warren (@ewarren) December 31, 2018
Warren also changed the handle on her official Twitter account over the weekend. It is now @ewarren and her profile information ends with, "Official account: 2020 Exploratory Committee." Previously her account handle was @elizabethforma. She has 2.14 million followers. The banner header reads, "We will rebuild the middle class."
Warren, who won re-election to the U.S. Senate over Republican challenger Geoff Diehl in the 2018 midterm contest, had been coy about whether she would serve the full six-year term on Capitol Hill.
For years, Warren, a progressive leader and high-profile figure in Democratic politics, has faced questions over whether she would make a White House run.
Ahead of the 2016 election, Democracy for America and MoveOn.org Political Action launched the "Run Warren Run" campaign to push the senator to enter the presidential race.
Although the Democrat decided against running in 2016, rumors about a potential White House run continued to swirl as Warren gained national attention for her vocal criticism of President Donald Trump and GOP leaders.
That speculation hit a fever pitch just months ahead of her re-election, when the senator told supporters at a Holyoke town hall that she would consider running for president after the 2018 midterm election.
"It is time for women to go to Washington and fix our broken government and that includes a woman at the top," she said. "After Nov. 6, I will take a hard look at running for president."
The Washington Post reported that ahead of the September town hall announcement, Warren had launched campaign activities across the country to position herself "for an all-but-certain 2020 presidential bid."
Warren doubled down on her plan to consider a White House run when asked in a late-October WCVB U.S. Senate debate whether she'd serve her full term if re-elected.
"I've already said that I will take a look at running for president after the election," she told. "But I can guarantee this: No matter what I do, I will work for the people of the commonwealth of Massachusetts."
The Democrat further stoked rumors of a 2020 White House run after releasing DNA test results that appeared to back her claims of Native American ancestry -- an issue which had dogged the senator since her 2012 run against Republican Scott Brown.
In addition to the DNA results, Warren's campaign also put out a video highlighting her "family story" and Native American heritage.
Political observers had predicted that Warren would announce her 2020 plans in early 2019.
The electricity sector has grown cleaner since 2001, according to ISO New England.
Air pollution from the region's power plants continued to decline in 2017, continuing a long-term trend, according to a new draft report from ISO New England.
Across six states, nitrogen oxide emissions decreased by 6 percent, sulfur dioxide by 11 percent and carbon dioxide by 7 percent over 2016 levels, according to the entity's annual electric generator air emissions report.
Total generation was down by 3 percent, reflecting an overall drop in demand for electricity. A smaller portion of the power was generated by fossil fuels, and more by renewables. ISO New England is the "independent system operator" that runs the region's wholesale power markets.
The emissions report, released earlier this month, comes as New England continues to see rapid change in its power mix.
Pilgrim Nuclear Station in Plymouth is due to shut down in 2019, removing 680 megawatts of capability -- enough to power 600,000 homes. Two other nuclear plants remain -- Millstone in Connecticut and Seabrook in New Hampshire. The two atomic energy plants recently won "zero-carbon" energy contracts with Connecticut utilities.
Separately, Massachusetts plans to procure 3,200 megawatts of offshore wind by 2035, which could provide a fifth of the state's energy. One project, the 800-megawatt Vineyard Wind, hopes to start construction in 2019.
Massachusetts also has launched incentives for 1,600 megawatts of new solar capacity across the state.
The new ISO New England report contains some interesting data. While coal generation fell by 870 gigawatt hours in 2017, utility-scale solar and wind increased by 995 gigawatt hours, more than making up for the loss.
Still, 48 percent of the region's electricity was generated by natural gas, and 31 percent by nuclear power. Coal and oil each represented only 1 percent. Wind, solar, hydro, and other renewables made up the difference.
In fact, power sourced hydro generation grew 15 percent over the year in New England, with solar and wind up 31 percent.
The numbers showed a spike in petroleum oil use for power generation during December 2017, when a deep cold snap caused wholesale natural gas prices to soar.
ISO New England has been tracking the power sector emissions numbers since 2001. Since that year, the sector has seen a near-eradication of sulfur dioxide emissions, a three-quarters drop in nitrogen dioxide and a one-third cut in carbon dioxide emissions.
The fact that the power sector has grown cleaner now leaves transportation as the biggest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions in Massachusetts.
The William J. Dwyer Conservation Area is located along the Manhan River.
EASTHAMPTON -- Trees and a sign in a conservation area near the Manhan River were recently spray painted with racist and anti-Semitic slurs and vulgar images.
The vandalism took place at the Edward J. Dwyer Conservation Area, which is located off Pleasant Street and managed by the all-volunteer Passcommuck Conservation Trust.
The area by the river has been prone to problems, said Marty Klein, a longtime board member with Passcommuck, which preserves and maintains conservation land.
"You would not believe the bottles and beer cans that we pull out of there," Klein said when reached by telephone Monday.
He said Passcommuck was notified of the vandalism on Thursday, when Easthampton police sent a board member an email describing "racist words and symbols, and vulgar images" painted on three trees near a bench along the river.
Police have not identified a suspect, Klein said. Passcommuck is having the sign repainted, and is working on cleaning the trees.
Klein posted photos of the damage to Facebook after blurring out the offending words and symbols. He attributed the damage to "local idiots." He said he was reluctant to post to social media, "but decided the community needs to be aware that hate lives among us."
"If only we didn't have to deal with this kind of distraction," he wrote on Facebook. "Ugh."
Klein told The Republican that about three years ago, Passcommuck installed a trail camera in a tree to try to dissuade vandalism and littering at the location, which he described as "party central."
"Someone smashed the camera," he said.
Klein said the Passcommuck Conservation Trust condemns any message of hatred, and that the organization's properties are meant to be places where people can enjoy the natural world in peace.
Read obituaries from The Republican newspaper in Springfield, Massachusetts.
Here are the obituaries published Monday in The Republican:
Westfield's first-ever First Night celebrated the city's 350th anniversary.
WESTFIELD - Westfield's first-ever First Night celebration Monday brought thousands of people to the city.
The Westfield 350th Committee organized the event at the Amelia Park Complex, which included s'mores, ice sculptures, giant puppets, fireworks and more.
Committee President Harry Rock said it was the kick-off to numerous events leading up to the 350th anniversary of Westfield May 17-19.
For visitors, it was a great way to end 2018 and ring in the new year with family and friends.
"Usually we stay home New Year's Eve," said Southwick resident Jo-Ann Davidson. "But this was a nice, family-oriented event. It's something fun for the kids, who don't usually make it to midnight."
One of Davidson's five children, Janelle, 10, enjoyed the ice sculptures in Amelia's Garden, which included one shaped like the city's clock tower and another that replicates the Great River Bridge.
Ariel Laudermith of Longmeadow recently moved to the area from Chicago and said she never heard of First Night for families before.
"We were looking for something to do today and this seemed to have an array of activities - and it does! It's awesome," she said.
Laudermith said she was worried Western Massachusetts would not have enough family activities.
"Chicago has a lot of things to do with kids and I was worried there wouldn't be much here, but I'm so happy to see this," she said.
Westfield Boys and Girls Club Director of Operations Kellie Brown said it was wonderful to see so many people.
"We've had about 2,000 people come through," she said. "There were two sessions of ice-skating with 250 people in each - it's great."
Brown said she thought she was prepared for the crowds.
"We got the facility ready and the staff ready, but we didn't expect this," said Brown. "It's beyond my wildest dreams. What a way to start Westfield's 350th year!"
Westfield On Weekends Founder Robert Plasse, who joined the parade as one of the winter white celebrants, said the event was a success.
"Harry Rock and the committee created a wonderful event that I'm so excited about," said Plasse. "These events leading up to the 350th celebration gives us a chance to meet as a community and celebrate our differences and be together. This is just the first big celebration of our 350th year."
The next event in the 350th celebration is the Jan. 9 session of the free Historical Lecture Series. The lecture on Shay's Rebellion will be presented by Dennis Picard at 6:30 p.m. at First Congregational Church.
For more on the events and how to sponsor or volunteer, visit westfield350.org.
The Stanton Foundation awarded the Town of South Hadley a $21,000 grant toward the design of a dog park. If approved, The Friends of the South Hadley Dog park would finance and operate the parcel.
SOUTH HADLEY - The Stanton Foundation has awarded the town a $21,578 grant toward the design of a proposed dog park.
The Friends of South Hadley Dog Park leads the effort to build the three-acre park off Mulligan Drive.
The foundation will award additional funding for park construction, around $200,000. If awarded, the second grant would cover 90 percent of construction cost, with the Friends group kicking in the remaining 10 percent.
In a statement, Town Administrator Michael J. Sullivan said, "We hope, once this process is finished in the next several weeks and a landscape architect is chosen, we will receive a construction grant from the Stanton Foundation to build the facility."
Sullivan added, "The Friends of South Hadley Dog Park continue to be a catalyst for this endeavor and work on details related to the park. "We think it's beneficial for the socialization of canines and their owners as well."
He thanked Town Meeting and the Select Board for their continued support of the project.
The Stanton Foundation, of Cambridge, awards grants for dog parks, K-9 training for law enforcement, mobile pet adoption and research in canine health and welfare. The average dog park design grants range from $10,000 to $25,000, according to the foundation's website.
Communities can use the grants for design, park construction or capital improvements in parks the foundation supported. The foundation views dog parks as "part of its mission of encouraging positive dog/human relationships."
The foundation requires the recipient to identify a municipally owned parcel before awarding a grant. The town must provide a 10 percent match in "hard construction" costs, with the revenue deriving from the town budget or contributions.
During the Nov. 7 special Town Meeting, members voted in favor of a lease agreement with the Friends for establishing the park on town-owned land. Selectman Bruce Fourcier said the dog park "hinges" on the Friends obtaining nonprofit status.
"The friends have a robust fundraising campaign before us," Fourcier told meeting members.
He said some members expressed concerns about the proposed park's proximity to the Ledges Golf Course. He said Sullivan informed him that builders would install netting or other protection for the dogs. The park would have separate spaces for small and large dogs.
Bob Berwick, the group's president, said Sullivan made it clear from the outset that citizens or an organization would manage and finance park operations. He told Town Meeting members the group's main concern is self-funding, and not burdening taxpayers.
"We're committed to that, and we remain committed to that," Berwick said.
"We cannot foresee the future," he added. "What we can do is tell you that we're committed to raising enough money so that we can meet our annual expenses, provide money to the town should the town incur any expenses so that we can pay that back."
Berwick also told meeting members the park's longevity, or having enough funding in place, is paramount in case the Friends group no longer existed.
Frank Stanton, a former president of CBS, created the foundation, which also sponsors programs around international and nuclear security and history education.
Brezinsky is shifting his focus to his work as town administrator in Goshen, a position he accepted in October.
SOUTH HADLEY - Selectboard Chairman Ira Brezinsky will not seek a third full term. Instead, Brezinsky will focus his efforts as town administrator for Goshen, a community of over 1,000 residents.
The town of Goshen appointed Brezinsky in October as its first-ever town administrator.
Brezinsky said the Massachusetts Municipal Managers Association forbids members to serve separate communities, which the organization considers a conflict. His current Select Board term expires in April 2018.
"Although I could have run again, I decided it was best not to and move onto this new and exciting stage of my career," Brezinsky said.
He and his wife, Shelly, will remain in South Hadley during the term of his three-year contract with Goshen.
In all, Brezinsky served two and a half terms on the South Hadley Selectboard. He became chairman in April 2018.
In recent months, Brezinsky closed his business, BRW Electronics, formerly a Radio Shack franchise, after 33 years.
He has resided in South Hadley since shortly after marrying his wife in 1977, and has served on several town boards and committees over the years. He served a decade on the South Hadley School Committee, followed by stints on the Appropriation Committee, Charter Commission and, finally, the Select Board.
"I tried to make a difference here and there, offer my opinions," he said. "It's interesting to work with other people and being part of a group, a committee or a board, to try to move things forward, whether it's to improve services, keep a check on taxes or fees."
Over the years, Brezinsky remained steadfast in his opposition to changing South Hadley's form of government. While on the Charter Commission, Brezinsky sided with members who opposed changes that called for a mayor and city council.
He favored a stronger town administrator and streamlining town government. "After that, we made some significant progress in terms of adjusting our form of government," he said.
The town eliminated several elected positions such as treasurer and tax collector and reduced the number of Town Meeting members. He said Michael J. Sullivan, hired in 2012, is the embodiment of a strong town administrator.
Sullivan served a decade as Holyoke's mayor followed by three years as town administrator for Maynard in the Boston area.
"In my opinion, he (Sullivan) has done a tremendous job of making that transition," Brezinsky said. "He was the first Town Administrator who came in once those changes had been made in 2012. Over the past six years, he's been instrumental in helping the town move into these new roles and responsibilities."
Brezinsky considers Sullivan a mentor in helping him prepare as Goshen's town administrator.
He added that taxes stabilized in the last few years in South Hadley with only minor increases. "The overall spending for the town decreased by a small amount, which is almost unheard of," he said. "We've done a lot to improve the level of services."
Improvements in technology let South Hadley "do more with less," Brezinsky said, and set the town on "sound financial footing."