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    Maintenance costs and parking are among questions the Holyoke City Council has in deciding whether to buy a church.

    HOLYOKE -- The good news is that because of recent City Council votes there's plenty of free cash in the budget to buy a church.

    The bad news is that some of the Council votes have prompted rancor, including rejection of $142,000 for firefighter raises, and some councilors question the wisdom of taking ownership of the closed, 117-year-old Mater Dolorosa Church.

    Next up for consideration of the Mater Dolorosa Church purchase is the Monday meeting of the Council Development and Government Relations Committee (DGR) at 6:30 p.m. at City Hall.

    It's possible that after the DGR meeting a special meeting of the City Council could be called next week to consider the church purchase, said Councilor Joseph M. McGiverin, chairman of the Finance Committee.

    Once issues are discussed again and questions asked related to the proposed purchase of the church at the DGR meeting, the Finance Committee can consider whether to recommend approval of a $50,000 transfer for the church purchase, he said.

    Before the City Council met Tuesday, questions existed about how the $236,000 available in free cash at that point could be stretched to pay for what was then a total of $346,000 in proposed transfers. 

    Firefighters in Holyoke seek return to bargaining after Council rejects contract funding

    But rejection of the $142,000 to fund retroactive pay increases for firefighters in a new contract and dismissal of other proposals leaves about $200,000 in free cash as councilors decide whether to buy the church, McGiverin said.

    "It's in progress, but there's a lot of questions," he said.

    Mayor Alex B. Morse and Bishop Mitchell T. Rozanski, of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield, announced May 31 an agreement had been reached for the city to buy the church at Maple and Lyman streets. Morse had begun talks with Rozanski in October to try to avoid Diocese plans to demolish the structure.

    Springfield Catholic diocese agrees to sell Mater Dolorosa Church to Holyoke

    The Diocese owns the church at 71 Maple St. It was closed in 2011 because of declining parishioner numbers and concerns about the steeple's stability, diocese officials said, but others have said the church structure is sound and will last for years.

    The Diocese combined Mater Dolorosa with the former Holy Cross Church to form Our Lady of the Cross at 23 Sycamore St.

    If the City Council approves the funding, the plan is for the city to hire a company to operate and maintain and do fundraising for the church. The structure would be used to hold cultural events and banquets and possibly to house a a transition program for special needs students, officials have said.

    Morse reiterated his reasoning for having the city buy the church during the DGR meeting June 18, which The Republican watched on cable television.

    Mater Dolorosa Church was built and paid for by Polish immigrants, who for decades attended services and embraced the building as a centerpiece, a "historic treasure in the city," Morse said.

    "So, to some extent, I think it's an obligation, to some extent, even a moral obligation," he said. "If not for our intervention, this church will get demolished."

    But among questions posed by McGiverin and others are:

    • can the city afford to pay for long-term maintenance and upkeep if for some reason a company to handle such duties can't be found
    • an estimated budget for short- and long-term maintenance of the church
    • a list of maintenance needs at the church such as the roof and modernization of bathrooms to meet handicapped accessibility codes
    • the uncertainty in the purchase and sale agreement between the city and Diocese on availability of parking at the site, though officials said at the DGR meeting that the agreement says that parking is "not to be unreasonably withheld."

    The heating system in the church consists of three zones. One is connected to natural gas and the other two could be retrofitted to heat with gas. The system is more modern than officials had thought, Rory Casey, Morse's chief of staff, told the DRG committee.

    Timing is another issue. Officials have said the city's purchase of Mater Dolorosa Church must be completed by June 29, before the beginning of the new fiscal year July 1.

    But DGR Chairman David K. Bartley, a lawyer, said his reading of the purchase and sale agreement between the city and the Diocese was that it was signed Monday, June 18, and that the deal's "drop-dead date" would be a month from then, July 18.

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    Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey weighed in on the controversial case of Wayne Chapman, a convicted child rapist who was determined by two examiners to no longer be sexually dangerous.

    Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey weighed in on the controversial case of Wayne Chapman, a convicted child rapist who was determined by two examiners to no longer be sexually dangerous.

    The determination open the door to his release, and prompted outcry from victims and proposed legislation from Gov. Charlie Baker.

    The Supreme Judicial Court asked Healey to offer her thoughts on the matter.

    "Wayne Chapman's crimes are horrendous, and my heart goes out to the victims and their families. We must ensure that when it comes to sexually dangerous people, we have a system in place that fairly balances public safety with due process, and allows victims to be heard," Healey said in a statement accompanying the brief.

    "Our brief asks the court to give victims a voice in this process and provide a way for the opinions of qualified examiners to be reviewed by a court before a sexually dangerous person is released," she said.

    The brief is available below. The Johnstone ruling from 2009 repeatedly referenced in the brief is available here

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    To discourage people from luring bears, coyotes and other critters -- wittingly or unwittingly -- into residential areas, West Springfield Mayor Will Reichelt has crafted a new ordinance with graduated fines for residents who continue to feed wildlife after they are warned not to the first time.

    WEST SPRINGFIELD -- To discourage people from luring bears, coyotes and other wild animals into residential areas, West Springfield Mayor Will Reichelt has crafted a new ordinance with graduated fines for residents who continue to feed wildlife after they are warned not to the first time.

    The mayor has a simple message for town residents: "Don't feed the animals!" says Reichelt, referring to wild animals, of course, not household pets.

    To prevent people from attracting bears and other critters to their backyards, Reichelt has crafted a new ordinance with fines for residents who continue to wildlife, which can be dangerous for both humans and animals.

    "An Ordinance Relative to the Feeding of Wild Animals" is now in the hands of the West Springfield Town Council, which earlier this week referred the proposal to its Ordinance & Policy Committee.

    The ordinance "essentially says what we've been trying to say: Don't feed the wildlife," Reichelt said.

    Only now, that order comes with a set of teeth.

    A first-time offender will receive a simple warning, but get ready to grab your wallet if you violate the policy again. Reichelt's proposed graduated fine schedule is as follows:

    • $25 for a second offense;
    • $100 for a third;
    • and $300 for each subsequent offense.

    "If you complain because your neighbor is feeding animals, and there are bears in your yard, we don't really have a tool right now besides trying to talk with your neighbor about not doing it," Reichelt said. "So this provides a fine structure."

    Feeding birds on private property is permitted, but only via bird feeders installed at least 5 feet above the ground, according to the mayor.

    "You can't scatter food on the ground," he said. "Your feeding shouldn't create a disturbance, so you shouldn't be feeding so much that your house has now become a bird sanctuary for the entire neighborhood."

    Bird feeders should be located away from homes, while trash cans and other potential food sources for wild animals should be secured to reduce the chance of attracting bears and other hungry creatures.  

    Police and animal control officers have experienced a "sharp increase" in calls involving human-wildlife conflicts in West Springfield, says Reichelt, noting that most of the issues involve people who are either wittingly or unwittingly feeding local wildlife through a variety of food sources, including barbecue grills, bird feeders and unsecured trash barrels.

    Local and state officials cite numerous reasons why people should avoid direct contact with wildlife. Pets can be injured by bears and other wild animals, which also can transmit diseases to domestic animals and humans.

    Another concern of wildlife biologists is that bears may lose their fear of humans if they routinely find tasty food sources in people's backyards, which can be bad news for bears and people alike. MassWildlife  officials occasionally have to tranquilize and relocate nuisance bears that keep returning to the scene of the crime. 

    "If West Springfield curbs the amount of food available to these wild animals, we will see a decrease in the wildlife conflicts that we are currently experiencing," Reichelt said.

    Omnivorous bears are essentially "a stomach on feet," said David W. Wattles, a black bear biologist for MassWildlife, who recently addressed a crowd of about 200 people who attended a "Living With Bears Presentation" at the West Springfield Public Library.

    "They will eat just about anything," said Wattles, adding that the distribution range of bears continues to expand into central and eastern parts of the state.

    The bulk of the state's modern-day black bear population has traditionally been located in woodlands west of the Connecticut River in Berkshire, Franklin, Hampden and Hampshire counties. There are now an estimated 4,500 to 5,000 animals living in the commonwealth, according to MassWildlife.

    A mature female bear can weigh anywhere from 140 pounds to 250 pounds, while a mature dominant male can "easily (weigh) over 450 to 500 pounds," Wattles said.

    WATCH the recent "Living With Bears" presentation at the library:

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    The proposal came in response to a June 7 motion by The Republican / MassLive challenging an impoundment order. The Boston Globe joined the effort this week.

    SPRINGFIELD -- The Hampden district attorney's office on Wednesday appeared to offer a concession regarding impounded court documents on Stewart Weldon, resident of a Springfield home where the bodies of three women were found last month.

    The DA's office is now proposing to release redacted portions of the records. The proposal came in response to a June 7 motion by The Republican and MassLive asking the court to terminate or modify an impoundment order for documents related to one of Weldon's two open kidnapping cases. The Boston Globe filed a motion to join the effort Tuesday.

    According to documents filed Wednesday in Springfield District Court, the district attorney's office "now proposes redacted copies of the incident and warrant reports in this matter be maintained for public inspection."

    But the district attorney's office is seeking to extend the impoundment order for redacted portions "at least as long as the completion of the criminal charges in this matter."

    The suggested redactions include witness statements, information that would identify an alleged victim and other details of the investigation.

    A hearing on the matter is scheduled Thursday in Springfield District Court.

    Weldon, 40, has been held on bail since his May 27 arrest following a traffic stop. He was arraigned May 29 on kidnapping and other charges.

    On June 4, he was arraigned on charges of kidnapping and assault to rape in a case involving a second alleged victim.

    He has pleaded not guilty in both cases.

    Officials have released little information about the second case. Records show the alleged offenses occurred Feb. 1, and investigators said the alleged victim did not come forward until late May.

    At Weldon's June 4 arraignment, Assistant District Attorney Max J. Bennett asked Springfield District Court Judge John Payne to impound Springfield police incident reports dated May 31, as well as related documents.

    Payne agreed to shield the records from public view until June 29, when Weldon is due back in court.

    Prosecutors later sought and won the impoundment of records relating to a search of 1333 Page Blvd. -- the property where Weldon lived with his mother, and where investigators found the three women's bodies.

    Weldon has not been charged in connection with the women's deaths.

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    The DA's office previously identified the women as Kayla Escalante, 27, America Lyden Canales, 34, and Ernestine Ryans, 47.

    SPRINGFIELD -- Autopsy results likely will not be available until later in the summer for three women whose remains were found at the Page Boulevard home of Stewart Weldon.

    In a Wednesday filing seeking to extend the impoundment of certain portions of court documents related to the case, Assistant District Attorney Elizabeth Dunphy Farris wrote: "No autopsy report has been issued to the Hampden District Attorney, and the cause and manner of deaths have not been released by the (Office of the Chief Medical Examiner). ... On information and belief, that information may not be available until mid-July 2018, or thereafter."

    The DA's office previously identified the women as Kayla Escalante, 27, America Lyden Canales, 34, and Ernestine Ryans, 47. Their deaths are considered suspicious.

    Weldon has not been charged in connection with their deaths but is being held in lieu of a combined $2 million bail in two kidnapping cases.

    He was arrested May 27 following a traffic stop in Springfield during which a female passenger, who has two children with Weldon, told police he repeatedly beat and raped her while holding her captive for a month.

    Investigators searched Weldon's home at 1333 Page Blvd. three days later, eventually finding the women's remains.

    Weldon was subsequently charged in a second kidnapping case, but a judge approved a prosecution request to seal police reports and other documents related to the case.

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    For some, it's worth it for the free two-day shipping alone. But others can't justify the cost--waiting isn't that hard.

    Amazon Prime gets you a lot these days. Beyond the free two day shipping, Prime members have access to Prime Video, can sign up for unlimited books for a small additional fee, receive discounts on groceries at Whole Foods and a whole lot more. All those perks clock in at $119 a year. For some, it's worth it for the free two-day shipping alone. But others can't justify the cost--waiting isn't that hard. What do you think?


    Here's what you get for your $119 Amazon Prime membership.

    Amazon Prime: 22 benefits every member gets

    Even with all those perks, some think Prime membership is too pricey.

    Others think a Prime membership is absolutely worth the cost. 

    The Tylt is focused on debates and conversations around news, current events and pop culture. We provide our community with the opportunity to share their opinions and vote on topics that matter most to them. We actively engage the community and present meaningful data on the debates and conversations as they progress. The Tylt is a place where your opinion counts, literally. The Tylt is an Advance Local Media, LLC property. Join us on Twitter @TheTylt, on Instagram @TheTylt or on Facebook, we'd love to hear what you have to say.


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    "I have a pretty longstanding policy about not commenting on legislation I haven't read," Gov. Charlie Baker said. "But based on what I've heard so far, it certainly fits the contours of what I thought a grand bargain on this stuff would look like."

    BOSTON -- The Massachusetts House and Senate passed a "grand bargain" on Wednesday that would establish a paid family and medical leave policy, raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour and establish an annual sales tax holiday.

    House Speaker Robert DeLeo, D-Winthrop, called it a compromise that "will be fair to the workers of the commonwealth and fair to the businesses as well."

    "This compromise is designed to benefit working families, support businesses across the Commonwealth, and grow our economy," said Senate President Harriette Chandler, D-Worcester.

    The House passed the bill 126-25, largely along party lines with Democrats supporting the bill and Republicans opposing it. There was some debate on the House floor over the lack of a training wage for teenagers and over a roll-back of "premium" pay on Sundays and holidays.

    The Senate passed the bill unanimously, 30-0.

    Gov. Charlie Baker had been pushing lawmakers to develop a bargain to avert proposed ballot questions that would have established paid leave, raised the minimum wage and rolled back the state sales tax.

    "I have a pretty longstanding policy about not commenting on legislation I haven't read," Baker said Wednesday. "But based on what I've heard so far, it certainly fits the contours of what I thought a grand bargain on this stuff would look like."

    Raise Up Massachusetts, a coalition of labor, clergy and liberal organizing groups, said the organization will withdraw its ballot question on paid family and medical leave if the bill is signed into law. 

    But the coalition has not yet decided whether it will withdraw its ballot question that would raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour.

    "Over the next several days, we will continue having conversations among our coalition and expect to reach a decision on whether to take our minimum wage question to the ballot early next week," the coalition said in a statement.

    The Massachusetts House released the bill Wednesday morning after months of negotiations between lawmakers, Raise up Massachusetts, and business groups. The bill sped through the Legislature in a day. 

    Paid Leave

    The bill would establish a paid family and medical leave program, paid for by a 0.63 percent payroll tax, with contributions from employers and employees. The total cost of the leave program is estimated at $775 million. Businesses with fewer than 25 employees would not have to pay in to the fund.

    The average per employee cost would be approximately $4.25 a week, split between the employer and employee, according to Sen. Jason Lewis, D-Winchester, Senate chairman of the Committee on Labor and Workforce Development. 

    Workers would receive up to 12 weeks of family leave, 20 weeks of medical leave and up to 26 weeks total in a year. They could use it to care for a new child, address a medical issue or deal with having a service member overseas.

    Workers would be paid 80 percent of their salary up to a certain limit (around $670 a week), then 50 percent after that, to a maximum of $850 a week.

    The leave program would go into effect Jan. 1, 2021.

    The bill was hailed by some lawmakers as a major step forward. "No one should ever have to choose between a paycheck and caring for themselves or their families members," said Senate Ways and Means Committee Chairwoman Karen Spilka, D-Ashland, a long-time advocate for paid family and medical leave.

    Minimum wage 

    The bill would raise the minimum wage to $15 over five years. There would be a lower wage increase for tipped workers. There would not be a "training wage" for teenage workers. 

    It would eliminate time-and-a-half pay on Sundays and holidays, phased out over five years.

    It would not lower the state sales tax, but it would establish a permanent sales tax holiday beginning in 2019. 

    Raise Up Massachusetts, in a statement, said it objects to some provisions of the compromise.

    "While it is a major victory for the nearly one million Massachusetts workers who will see their wages go up as the minimum wage increases to $15 an hour, we are troubled by the size of the increase in the sub-minimum wage for tipped workers, which doesn't go as far as our proposed ballot question," the coalition wrote. 

    Today, tipped workers are paid a minimum of $3.75, plus tips. The ballot question would increase that to $9. The compromise bill would raise it to $6.75 over five years.

    Raise Up Massachusetts said it is "strongly opposed" to eliminating Sunday time-and-a-half pay. It is also concerned that not all workers would be covered by the minimum wage increase. For example, municipal workers are not covered.

    Jon Hurst, president of the Retailers Association of Massachusetts, said in a statement that the legislation "contains very costly initiatives that will negatively impact the thousands of small business owners." "The new payroll mandates passed today will significantly increase costs, resulting in businesses being less competitive, forcing some doors to close and good jobs to be lost," Hurst said.

    But Hurst said the results would have been "far worse" had the initiatives went to the ballot, and the Legislature deserves credit for a "balanced resolution." Hurst said retailers learned from the experience that they need to push back against "costly ballot initiatives."

    Hurst did not say explicitly that he would withdraw the question to lower the sales tax from the ballot. But State House sources say the retailers have agreed to withdraw their question if the compromise becomes law.

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    "Thank you very much, I enjoy working with you," South Hadley Town Administrator Michael Sullivan told the board after the evaluation was completed.

    SOUTH HADLEY - The Selectboard at Tuesday's meeting publicly released the results of its annual evaluation of Town Administrator Michael Sullivan, saying he has done an exemplary job the past year.

    South Hadley's chief municipal executive earned a perfect score of 5 from all five board members in the area of fiscal management.

    He was graded on a five-point scale, with a 5 denoting always exceeds expectations, 4 denoting often exceeds, 3 meets expectations, 2 sometimes meets expectations and 1 does not meet expectations.

    In the other four categories on which he was graded, Sullivan earned the following average scores based on the grades of individual board members:

    • Policy development, 4.8
    • Innovation, 4.5
    • Organizations management, 4.2
    • Community relations, 3.9

    "Mike has done a superb job. ... He is hardworking, creative, assertive, a true leader the community is (fortunate) to have," Selectboard Chairman Ira Brezinsky said.

    "Thank you very much, I enjoy working with you," Sullivan told the board after the evaluation was completed.

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    The board of selectmen began discussing the contract renewal last year, but wanted to complete a performance evaluation of Ware Town Manger Stuart Beckley first.

    WARE -- After months of negotiating, selectmen at Tuesday's meeting signed a new three-year contract with Town Manager Stuart Beckley.

    The vote approving the labor pact was 4-1, with Keith Kruckas, who was newly elected to the board in April, casting the dissenting vote. Chairman John Carroll, Vice Chairman Alan Whitney, Tracy Opalinski and Michael Fountain voted in favor.

    "We came to an agreement," Carroll said.

    The pact will be in effect from July 1, 2018, to June 30, 2021. Beckley will earn $102,000 the first year, $104,000 in year two, and $106,000 in the third year of the agreement.

    "I do thank the board and the town, I do like working here," Beckley said following the vote.

    The board began discussing the contract last year, but wanted to complete a performance evaluation of Beckley first. The results of that evaluation have yet to be made public.

    It was the first performance review by selectmen of Beckley since 2014, although his contract said he was to be evaluated annually. The town manager asked selectmen to evaluate him in September.

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    The requirement to pay employees time-and-a-half on Sundays and holidays would be phased out over five years under a deal Massachusetts lawmakers are rushing to Gov. Charlie Baker's desk.

    The requirement to pay employees time-and-a-half on Sundays and holidays would be phased out over five years under a deal Massachusetts lawmakers are rushing to Gov. Charlie Baker's desk.

    Massachusetts is one of two US states that have the requirement. Rhode Island is the other.

    The retail industry is the business sector subjected to the requirement as part of operating on Sundays or holidays, though Amazon, the online retail giant with a facility in Fall River, is exempt.

    The proposal to eliminate time-and-a-half pay calls for it to be phased out as a higher minimum wage is phased in.

    The proposal has the minimum wage increasing from the current $11 to $12 on Jan. 1, 2019; $12.75 on Jan. 1, 2020; $13.50 on Jan. 1, 2021; $14.25 on Jan. 1, 2022; and $15 on Jan. 1, 2023.

    California is the only state with a $15 minimum wage law that would be phased in by 2022.

    The proposal in Massachusetts calls for time-and-a-half pay (currently 150 percent of minimum wage) falling to 140 percent of minimum wage on Jan. 1, 2019; going down to 130 percent on Jan. 1, 2020; 120 percent on Jan. 1, 2021; and falling to 110 percent in Jan. 1, 2022. It's completely phased out on Jan. 1, 2023.

    If Massachusetts companies want to provide time-and-a-half pay or other incentives for employees to work on Sunday and holidays, they'd still able to, according to Jon Hurst, head of the Retailers Association of Massachusetts.

    Massachusetts Legislature passes 'grand bargain' on minimum wage, family leave, sales tax

    The lifting of the requirement for retail employees means "premium" pay, as time-and-half is sometimes called, becomes market-driven in that sector, Hurst said.

    The requirement for time-and-a-half pay was never in place for government employees, hospitals or restaurants, it's whatever the market has called for, whether it's time-and-a-half, a comp day or other incentives, Hurst added. 

    The requirement for retailers to pay time-and-half for Sundays and holidays has irked the brick-and-mortar members of his association, who have argued in the current economy, the requirement was a burden that put them at a competitive disadvantage against online retailers like Amazon.

    The elimination of time-and-half would hurt low-income and vulnerable workers, opponents say.

    But if the minimum wage rose to $15 an hour while the time-and-half pay requirement stayed in place, retailers would be hit with a $22.50 an hour pay on holidays and Sundays, forcing them to likely close up shop on those days, according to Hurst.

    "We wouldn't be pushing this [elimination of time-and-a-half pay] if the advocates weren't pushing for a $15 minimum wage," he said, referring to Raise Up Massachusetts, a coalition of labor, faith and community groups. Hurst's group is dropping a proposed sales tax cut ballot question due to the compromise bill headed to the governor's desk.

    The compromise bill also includes an annual sales tax holiday weekend in August, something retailers have long pressed for.

    But the Raise Up coalition has not decided yet whether to drop plans to move ahead with their own separate November ballot question raising the minimum wage to $15.

    "Our coalition is also strongly opposed to the Legislature's decision to eliminate Sunday time-and-a-half pay, which cuts wages for thousands of retail workers who are working on Sundays to pay their bills," Raise Up Massachusetts said in a statement on Wednesday.

    The group also expressed concerns that the minimum wage component of the legislation landing on Baker's desk "would not cover all workers, including some public employees."

    The coalition added: "Over the next several days, we will continue having conversations among our coalition and expect to reach a decision on whether to take our minimum wage question to the ballot early next week."

    Online competition, state mandates are hurting Massachusetts retailers, report says

    The coalition has also pushed a ballot question mandating paid family leave and medical leave but is pulling back due to the compromise bill.

    The compromise bill calls for 12 weeks of family leave for all workers and up to 20 weeks of medical leave.

    The compromise emerged on Beacon Hill after months of talks between interest groups and legislative leaders, and after the Supreme Judicial Court knocked a proposed "millionaires tax" off the November 2018 ballot.

    Baker, who called for a "grand bargain" that would keep the complex and controversial questions off the ballot, has not specifically said if he supports the proposal approved by the Legislature.

    Material from Associated Press and State House News Service was used in this report.

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    The driver of a fuel tanker truck that ran off the side of Interstate 91 north Wednesday afternoon was killed, Massachusetts State Police said. Watch video

    WHATELY -- The driver of a fuel tanker truck that ran off the side of Interstate 91 north Wednesday afternoon was killed, Massachusetts State Police said.

    Massachusetts State Police accident investigators said the driver was pronounced dead at the scene just after the noon crash.

    The victim's identity is being withheld pending notification of family.

    Police said the truck, hauling 9,000 gallons of gasoline, was traveling in a construction zone in which the two-lane, limited access highway was reduced to one lane of travel on the northbound side. The driver apparently lost control of the truck, which ran off the right side of the highway into a ditch and rolled over.

    Travel on the highway was blocked by state police troopers, with traffic directed off the highway at the North Hatfield exit to continue up Route 5. Vehicular traffic was allowed back on the highway at the Route 116 entrance in South Deerfield.

    Southbound travel was also directed off the highway until past the crash area.

    The closed sections of I-91 are not expected to reopen until midnight.

    Authorities are offloading the gasoline from the tank and diesel fuel in the tractor. When the off-loading is completed, the wreckage will be removed.

    The incident remains under investigation by the State Police Collision Analysis and Reconstruction Section, the Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Section and detectives attached to the Northwest district attorney's office. 

    According to the North West Incident Management team, a small amount of gasoline leaked from the ventilation system of the tank trailer, but there was no breaching of the tank itself.

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    Myers Info Systems is a media software company that purchase 110 Elm St. in Westfield

    WESTFIELD -- Myers Information Systems owner Crist Myers announced this week he will move his Northampton-based business to Westfield.

    Myers Information Systems, a 36-year-old media software company, provides broadcast management software and support to multimedia facilities of all types and sizes.

    "Our competitors are in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Tel Aviv and London," said Myers, a Longmeadow resident.

    The company has 20 employees as well as consultants and short-term contract employees, and Myers said he expects to expand once he relocates to Westfield.

    Myers purchased 110 Elm St. - which was most recently home to Stella's Taproom - for $375,000 and plans to renovate the three-story building into office space. He said the company will likely move in the first quarter of 2019.

    Myers said he planned to make a "significant investment" in the property.

    "The first floor will be open, collaborative space and the second floor will be open space and semi-private offices," said Myers. "The third floor will be conference rooms, private offices and administrative space."

    Myers said Northampton has been good to his business, but it's time to expand. He searched up and down the Connecticut River Valley and I-91 corridor before finding the right place in Westfield.

    Myers said he needed at least 6,000 square feet and wanted the right vibe for his employees.

    "I wanted the right space to create a really awesome environment," he said.

    The building, which is approximately 6,800 square feet and was built in 1880, is a great location, said Myers. Being close to the bike trail would be a draw for some of his staff, and having a walkable downtown with restaurants and close parking played a role in his decision to buy in downtown Westfield.

    "Westfield has been very welcoming," said Myers, who noted that city Advancement Officer Joe Mitchell and Mayor Brian P. Sullivan went above and beyond to show him available properties and tout Westfield's amenities. Myers said Whip City Fiber was a big draw and his employees are looking forward to having the high-speed service.

    Sullivan said he is happy to have Myers Information Systems in the city.

    "One of the things we got to know about Crist is how important his employees are to him," Sullivan said, adding that Myers is also committed to being part of the community.

    Mitchell said having a technology company downtown is a great companion to the existing businesses. It will also be enticing to potential developers of a future multi-use space in the former JJ Newberry's lot.

    "There are a lot of good existing businesses here," said Myers, "and we hope to be a catalyst for more."

    The City Council agenda Thursday includes a request from Sullivan to give Myers a tax exemption that would allow the company to begin moving forward quickly.

    "The city is partnering with Myers Information Systems and by granting the exemption for the first couple of years to allow Crist Myers to invest in his building and bring his people to Westfield," Sullivan said.

    "That exemption will allow us to invest more in this building," Myers said.

    City Council President John J. Beltrandi III said both he and Ward 3 Councilor Andrew K. Surprise support the exemption and welcome Myers to the city.

    "We've been talking about downtown investment and here's the key to opening it up," said Beltrandi. "This will help bring create the steady foot traffic we're looking for."

    Financial details of the tax exemption weren't immediately available.

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    The child's body was found near the Main Street bridge near the water treatment plant in downtown Russell.

    A child's body was recovered Wednesday afternoon from the Westfield River, local television stations reported.

    A Massachusetts State Police spokesman said the child was reported missing at about 3:45 p.m.

    The child's body was found near the Main Street bridge near the water treatment plant in downtown Russell.

    This is a developing story that will be updated

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    The county sheriff, register of probate, superior court clerk, and register of deeds spoke up for Comerford in the race to fill former Sen. Stan Rosenberg's seat.

    GREENFIELD -- Following a recent endorsement by Northwestern District Attorney David Sullivan, all other elected officials associated with the Franklin County Justice Center today expressed support for Democrat Jo Comerford in the region's state Senate race.

    In front of the courthouse, Sheriff Christopher Donelan, Register of Probate John F. Merrigan, Superior Court Clerk Susan K. Emond and Register of Deeds Scott A. Cote endorsed Comerford in the Hampshire, Franklin & Worcester Senate District race.

    Also supporting Comerford, a progressive activist from Northampton, was Greenfield Town Council President Karen "Rudy" Renaud.

    Comerford's "advocacy on behalf of ordinary working people and commitment to social justice are unprecedented," said Merrigan.

    Merrigan said Comerford would "hit the ground running," and Donelan said "it's important to elect people who can be powerful legislators the first day they arrive at Beacon Hill." Renaud said Comerford would "be a senator for all people."

    Comerford is one of six Democrats in the primary field, and one of five who waited for Sen. Stan Rosenberg to resign before announcing write-in campaigns. Only Chelsea Kline, of Northampton, returned papers before the May 1 deadline to appear on the Sept. 4 primary ballot.

    Rosenberg, who had planned to run for re-election, stepped down as Senate president in late 2017, was stripped of his committee assignments, and resigned May 3 following the release of a scathing ethics report. Rosenberg's husband, Bryon Hefner, has pleaded not guilty to criminal charges. A legislative aide filed a lawsuit Friday naming Rosenberg and Hefner, claiming Hefner sexually assaulted him and that the two conspired to give Hefner unfettered access to the Statehouse.

    The Franklin County politicians gathered Wednesday praised Rosenberg. Donelan said Rosenberg and Stephen Kulik, D-Worthington, who is retiring, were "two of the most effective legislators in Massachusetts."

    Comerford previously said she decided to run after hearing of Rosenberg's resignation. On Wednesday, she acknowledged the former longtime senator, thanked her supporters, and promised to work for the region.

    "I know that Stan was a great advocate for Franklin County and for Greenfield, and I would be honored to take up that work," she said.

    Over two decades, Comerford has been director of the Western Massachusetts American Friends Service Committee, program director for the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts, executive director of the National Priorities Project and campaign director for the national progressive group MoveOn.

    The other write-in candidates are Steven Connor, David Morin, David Murphy and Ryan O'Donnell.

    Comerford's campaign touted Wednesday's endorsements as "major" and "unprecedented."

    "It is unusual for elected officials to endorse this early in a campaign, if they endorse at all, but the importance of this Senate seat, to their respective offices and work and to the people they collectively represent is too important to not take this stand now," the campaign said in a statement.

    Mary Serreze can be reached at

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    Ware Town Manager Stuart Beckley said trapping the beavers requires a permit from the Board of Health, and the Conservation Commission would need to approve any plan to drain the water.

    WARE - Prendville Road has become part of an approximately five-acre pond and is impassible, the result of beavers making dams.

    Prendville is an unpaved public street directly off Route 9 near Pig Park BBQ.

    Representatives of the town's Conservation Commission told selectmen Tuesday that the beavers should be trapped and moved, and the dams should be breached so the built-up water slowly drains out. They also said steps could be taken to discourage the beavers from coming back.

    Selectmen agreed, and said they would do what they can to assist.

    Ware Town Manager Stuart Beckley said trapping beavers requires a permit from the Board of Health, and the Conservation Commission would need to approve any plan to drain the water.

    "This is something we ought to move on quickly," said Tom Barnes, a member of the Conservation Commission. "The beavers are making the people's land into wetlands."

    Andrew Choquette, the commission's administrative assistant, showed selectmen recent photos he had taken along Prendville Road.

    "This is an absolute problem," Selectman Keith Kruckas said.

    "We are going to apply for an emergency permit" from the Board of Health, Barnes said.

    Selectmen endorsed that plan of action.

    Barnes said if the needed permits are granted, work could begin next month.