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    Douglas Daponde previously was Belchertown's dean of students and athletic director and an assistant principal in Southbridge public schools.

    SOUTH HADLEY -- The superintendent of schools has chosen Douglas Daponde, assistant principal at Belchertown High School, to be principal at Michael E. Smith Middle School effective Nov. 6.

    Daponde succeeds Paul Plummer, whose death earlier this year created the vacancy.

    Daponde previously was Belchertown's dean of students and athletic director and an assistant principal in Southbridge public schools. He earned the rank of master sergeant in the U.S. Air Force.

    Robert Marchewka, assistant principal at East Longmeadow High School, was a finalist for the South Hadley position.


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    L.E. Belcher sold out in January to Atlantis Management Group, of Mount Vernon, New York.

    EAST LONGMEADOW -- The opening of a new Shell gas station and convenience store at 227 Shaker Road should only be days away, town manager Denise Menard said Tuesday. 

    Menard said the station's owners, AMG Retail LLC of Mount Vernon, New York, told the town Planning Board they'd need at least two weeks after the most recent Planning Board meeting. That time is nearly up, and she's noticed the store getting stocked with soda recently.

    The Board's most recent decision for the store was to set its hours: 5 a.m. to 1 a.m. daily.

    The 6,500-square-foot store at Shaker Road and Chestnut Street was originally developed by Springfield's L.E. Belcher Inc., according to property tax records 

    L.E. Belcher sold out in January. AMG is part of Atlantis Management Group. On its website, Atlantis says it has a network of gas stations and stores throughout New York City and New York-New Jersey-Connecticut area.


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    The Massachusetts Senate on Tuesday unveiled a comprehensive bill aimed at lowering the state's high health care costs.


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    The 11-article special town meeting warrant includes two deregionalization articles related to Hampden's possible withdrawal from the Hampden-Wilbraham Regional School District.

    HAMPDEN -- The 11-article fall town meeting warrant includes two deregionalization articles related to Hampden's possible withdrawal from the Hampden-Wilbraham Regional School District.

    The meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Oct. 30 at Thornton W. Burgess Middle School, a town-owned building that would close at the end of the school year under a districtwide reorganization plan crafted by Hampden-Wilbraham Regional School District Superintendent Albert G. Ganem Jr. and his leadership team.

    The regional School Committee has yet to accept the reorganization plan, which was the subject of two well-attended public meetings this month at Minnechaug Regional High School in Wilbraham. The committee is expected to discuss the plan again at its meeting at 7 p.m. Oct. 19 at Wilbraham Middle School.

    School district residents who attended the recent Minnechaug meetings raised concerns about the plan, which calls for a series of staggered school reconfigurations over the next five years. The earliest changes would be felt by the fall 2018 school semester, when TWB would no longer exist and Green Meadows Elementary School -- Hampden's only other school in the seven-school district -- would be a K-8 school.

    Phased school reconfigurations would continue across district over the next several years, culminating in the closure of a Wilbraham school and the conversion of Minnechaug into a 7-12 school by 2022. District officials have not publicly identified which of Wilbraham's five schools might be targeted for closure.

    According to Ganem, who has undergone a baptism by fire since becoming superintendent in July 2016, closing TWB is necessary to deal with the school district's dwindling enrollment. The student population is projected to continue to decline, leaving the district in a precarious financial and educational position: too many buildings and not enough students to fill them.

    As of Sept. 1, there were 3,072 students enrolled in Hampden-Wilbraham schools. A decade from now, the district's student population is projected total somewhere in the range of 2,600 to 2,700 students. 

    While last year's push to consolidate relied on the closure of TWB -- the 50-year-old school named after Thornton W. Burgess, the famous children's book author who lived in Hampden -- this year's push by district administrators calls for changes that would affect the entire district, beginning with Hampden's two schools. 

    This time last year, the rallying cry of district residents opposed to any plan that called for TWB's closure was educational "equity" for Hampden students, a tenet of the regional school agreement. This year, it's about equity for the entire district, according to Ganem.

    "What we really need to be looking at is equity across the district," the superintendent said at the Oct. 11 meeting at Minnechaug.

    In October 2016, Hampden voters overwhelmingly rejected a measure to amend the regional agreement to permit TWB students to temporarily cross town lines to attend Wilbraham Middle School. Wilbraham voters approved the so-called unification plan, which required approval from both towns to take effect.

    The regional agreement requires all students who are not in high school to be educated in their respective hometowns. For Hampden kids, that means only crossing town lines to attend Minnechaug in Wilbraham -- though district officials approved a mass transfer of Hampden students to Wilbraham Middle School for the current school year, further reducing TWB's enrollment.

    The idea behind temporarily merging the middle schools in Wilbraham was to give administration officials time to devise a long-range strategy to deal with enrollment issues, including the possibility of permanently consolidating the middle schools on a single campus.

    At Hampden's spring town meeting in May, voters approved nonbinding articles to authorize the Board of Selectmen to investigate the procedure and ramifications of Hampden formally withdrawing from the regional school district for all grades except high school, or grades 9-12. The measures also called for affirming the town's "no vote" against merger and establishing a plan and timetable for withdrawal to present to voters at fall town meeting.

    Fast forward five months, and Hampden voters are now poised to consider two fairly generic deregionalization articles at the special town meeting Oct. 30. The first article aims to see if residents will "vote to hear the report of the School Deregionalization Study Committee, or take any other action relative thereto."

    The second involves gauging voters' willingness to appropriate funds for legal fees or other expenses "for the purpose of modifying the regional school agreement or resolving other outstanding regional school issues, or take any action relative thereto."

    When news of the Hampden deregionalization articles was revealed at the Oct. 11 meeting at Minnechaug, some of the school and community officials in attendance expressed their frustration. The information was shared at the tail end of the 3 1/2-hour-long meeting about the proposed reorganization plan, whose momentum was stopped by the news.

    "It's disappointing," said Ganem, whose leadership team spent "hundreds of hours" on the reconfiguration plan. 


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    In June 2016, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court overturned the man's child rape conviction and ordered he get a new trial, saying the prosecutor overstepped legal boundaries when giving her closing arguments.

    SPRINGFIELD -- Adam Dirgo, whose conviction for child rape was overturned by the state's highest court in 2016, on Tuesday pleaded guilty to "inducing a person under 18 to have sexual intercourse."

    In June 2016, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court overturned the child rape conviction and ordered Dirgo get a new trial, saying the prosecutor overstepped legal boundaries when giving her closing arguments.

    Dirgo, of Springfield, was sentenced in June 2013 to 11 to 13 years in state prison after a jury convicted him of four counts of rape and abuse of a child aggravated by age difference and two counts of indecent assault and battery on a child under 14.

    After Dirgo, 37, pleaded guilty to the charge of inducing a minor, the prosecution dropped all charges for which he was tried and convicted in 2013. 

    For the charge of inducing a person under 18 to have sexual intercourse, Dirgo was sentenced by Hampden Superior Court Judge David Ricciardone to 934 days in prison, the amount of time he spent incarcerated until being released pending a new trial.

    Assistant District Attorney Eileen M. Sears said Dirgo and the girl began having sexual relations when the girl was 13.

    In its decision vacating the 2013 conviction, the SJC ruled, "Because we are left with a serious doubt whether the result of the trial might have been different had the prosecutor's errors in closing argument not been made, we conclude that there was a substantial risk of a miscarriage of justice. Based on our review of the entire case, we cannot be certain that the defendant's guilt was fairly adjudicated."


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    Most of the students will be placed under the McKinney-Vento Homeless Program, which helps legally homeless children and their families.

    HOLYOKE -- Nearly a month after Hurricane Maria left the island of Puerto Rico without power, water and many other daily necessities, Holyoke Public Schools are starting to see students arriving to the city.

    The district has registered 13 students in the public schools and more than 40 are expected to arrive in the coming months, said Stephen Zrike, the state-appointed receiver for the schools.

    Zrike updated the Holyoke School Committee on Tuesday about what the district is doing to help the incoming students.

    Most of the students will be placed under the McKinney-Vento Homeless Program, which helps legally homeless children and their families. The program provides assistance with transportation to and from school, meals, and assistance to obtain health care and needed services.

    "(McKinney-Vento) provides very relaxed standards so that we can get these students into the classroom," said Devin Sheehan, vice chairman of the School Committee. "It's a quick way to get them into school, and then we can deal with the other stuff behind that."

    School Committee member Mildred Lefebvre asked how the transition will affect high school seniors from Puerto Rico on the verge of graduation. There are currently three seniors from Puerto Rico.

    "Please don't tell me they are going to have stay back or pass the MCAS to get their high school diploma," she said.

    Zrike said by law all graduating seniors must pass the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System.

    "As of right now the expectation is that they will have to pass it to graduate," he said.

    Lefebvre said students should not be penalized for having to evacuate the island due to a disaster.

    Sheehan said each student's case will have to be reviewed.

    "Maybe we can contact the students' school in Puerto Rico and see if a diploma can be issued by them taking into account the work they complete here.  Perhaps there is a workaround," he said.

    Zrike said he will continue to update the committee on state aid, or Chapter 70 reimbursement, for the costs of educating the new students as well as any overcrowding or transportation issues that may occur as more students begin to arrive.


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    The Holyoke, Massachusetts firefighters union has endorsed Councilor at Large Daniel B. Bresnahan for re-election in the Nov. 7, 2017 election.

    HOLYOKE -- The firefighters union has endorsed Councilor at Large Daniel B. Bresnahan for re-election in the Nov. 7 election.

    "In your capacity as a councilor you have been a strong supporter of the men and women that make up the Holyoke Fire Department. You have held the position of chairperson on the Public Safety Committee and while doing so have worked very hard to maintain the levels of public safety the city of Holyoke deserves," Chad M. Cunningham, president of Holyoke Fire Fighters Association International Association of Fire Fighters, Local 1693 said in an Oct. 1 letter to Bresnahan.

    "It has been a challenging year for public safety and your hard work has not gone unrecognized. This endorsement from IAFF Local 1693 is an acknowledgement  and appreciation of your hard work on our behalf," the letter said.

    Bresnahan said receiving the union's endorsement was a "great honor."

    "It is very humbling to think that the men and women who work so hard, make so many sacrifices and risk so much consider me as one who is fighting for them in the City Council Chambers," Bresnahan said in an email.

    "As the chairman of the Public Safety Committee, I feel it is our responsibility that all the men and women working in public safety are provided with the tools and resources to ensure that not only the public is safe but also the first responders are safe while performing their duties.  I pledge that I will continue to work for and fight for all public safety responders," he said.

    Bresnahan is among 10 candidates competing on Election Day for six at large seats on the City Council.

    Votes approved a change in the 2015 election that will take affect with the 2017 races to reduce the City Council to 13 members from the current 15, eliminating two of the eight at large seats. The council also has seven ward seats.


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    View obituaries from The Republican newspaper in Springfield, Massachusetts.


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    While many people including students view marijuana as safe, college administrators are seeing problems associated with its use, according to a recent survey released by the MassINC Polling group Tuesday.

    NORTHAMPTON - While many people including students view marijuana as safe, college administrators are seeing problems associated with its use, according to survey results released Tuesday by the MassINC Polling Group.

    The group has offices in Northampton and Boston.

    Americans view marijuana as safer than alcohol and other drugs, and an increasing number of states are legalizing marijuana for medical and recreational uses, according to the survey.

    Massachusetts voters approved recreational marijuana legalization in November of 2016, with shops set to open in July of 2018. It will be illegal, however, to use marijuana on college campuses because federal laws apply. 

    The survey found that problems associated with increased marijuana use included issues with academic performance, decreased motivation and mental health issues. 

    According to the results, about 79 percent of administrators believe that colleges "should implement policies and programs to effectively reduce marijuana use among college students." But only a third think their campus "is putting a great deal or a fair amount of emphasis on the issue."

    Also, the survey found that "there are wide gaps in opinion between different administrative roles on campus. Health, residence, and safety officials are much more aware of issues around marijuana than those in academic or student affairs administration."

    The survey was sponsored by the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation and the Mary Christie Foundation and distributed with the help of the National Association of System Heads and conducted by the MassINC Polling Group.

    These results are based on a national online survey of college campus administrators conducted Sept. 6 to Oct. 3. A total of 744 administrators offered responses, and 523 completed the survey.

    When a student is found to have marijuana on campus, the most common response is disciplinary action, usually probation for the first offense, according to the survey. The survey reported that education and counseling were much less common.

    "For problem users, the most common campus response was referral to off-campus treatment," MassINC found. "That may be because the large majority of administrators reported their campus had no physicians."

    Officials in all capacities are interested in more training, according to the survey.

    University of Massachusetts researchers, meanwhile, have begun a one-year study to assess the level of marijuana use in the state before legal sales of the drug for recreational use begin. 

    The UMass study is designed to "provide public health officials, legislators and others with information to assess baseline rates and patterns of marijuana use, related risk behaviors such as use in combination with alcohol, prescription drugs and impaired driving," according to a press release.

    Report 2017 10 MCF Marijuana FINAL by ledermand on Scribd


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    James Brunault has been endorsed in his campaign for the Holyoke, Massachusetts Ward 6 City Council seat in the Nov. 7, 2017 election by Raymond H. Feyre, a longtime former councilor.

    HOLYOKE -- James Brunault has been endorsed in his campaign for the Ward 6 City Council seat in the Nov. 7 election by Raymond H. Feyre, a longtime former councilor.

    "I am pleased to announce that I am endorsing Jim Brunault for the Ward 6 seat on the Holyoke City Council. As a former Ward 6 city councilor and 24-year councilor at large, I feel I can speak of the experience, knowledge and skills that are important in that position," Feyre said in an Oct. 8 email provided by Brunault's campaign.

    "Jim has the education and work ethic to be a good councilor. Jim is honest and compassionate. Jim understands the need for jobs in Holyoke. But the most important reason I am supporting Jim: Jim is an independent thinker. We need independence on our City Council," Feyre said.

    Brunault said it was an honor to get Feyre's support.

    "I am very pleased and proud  to receive Ray's endorsement. Ray has served Holyoke for many years, and has been honored by the Parade, Commitee, the Democratic city commitee and many others. It is an honor to be endorsed by him," Brunault said.

    Brunault, 52, of 49 St. James Ave., is a counselor and job placement specialist with the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission here. He is running for the seat on Election Day Nov. 7 against Juan C. Anderson-Burgos, 46, of 236 Locust St., a banker with Citizens Bank.

    Kevin A. Jourdain, the incumbent Ward 6 councilor and the City Council president, isn't running for re-election. Jourdain also has endorsed Brunault.


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    Pittsfield police say they are searching for a 36-year-old Pittsfield man they believe shot and killed 22-year-old Asiyanna Jones on Oct. 2.

     

    PITTSFIELD -- Police have obtained an arrest warrant for a city man they believe fatally shot 22-year-old Asiyanna Jones the night of Oct. 2, the Berkshire Eagle reported.

    Police allege in court documents, the Eagle reported, that Gary Linen, known on the streets as "G-Black," came under fire from Josaiah T. Bynum, 19, on Dewey Street at about 10:45 p.m. that night. Investigators allege he returned fire, hitting the car Bynum was in as well as Jones' BMW.  Two rounds went through Jones' windshield, one hitting her in the head.

    She died shortly after 4 a.m. Oct. 3 at Baystate Medical Center in Springfield. 

    Bynum was ordered held without the right to bail after he was arraigned in Central Berkshire District Court on Monday morning, the Berkshire District Attorney's Office announced.  He was arrested as the result a traffic stop Sunday afternoon. 

    Bynum was charged with one count each of assault with the intent to murder, illegal possession of a firearm and discharging a firearm within 500 feet of a building. 

    He is currently being held in the Berkshire County Jail.

    A third man, Justin D. Crawford, 20, is being held in lieu of $25,000 bail on firearms and drug charges. Officers investigating a shots-fired incident not far from the Dewey Street shooting scene about two hours after Jones was shot said they saw Crawford standing at the door of a dark-colored Jeep SUV. When they approached him, he ran, leaving behind a bloody sweatshirt.  In the car, investigators found a 9 mm handgun with obliterated serial numbers and a 15 round magazine with just two rounds left in it.   

    The Jeep was described to police as the car Bynum was in when he fired at Linen.

    Crawford was arraigned in Central Berkshire District Court on Friday on firearms and drugs charges. He is being held at the Berkshire County Jail. 


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    A 21-year-old Webster man denied a charge of attempted murder Monday in Dudley District Court.

     

    A 21-year-old Webster man who said he was attacked by an older man with a baseball bat but took the bat from the man and defended himself during an incident in Oxford faces attempted murder and other charges, the Worcester Telegram and Gazette reported.   

    Joseph E. Vancelotte Jr. was arraigned in Dudley District Court on Monday and charged with attempted murder, assault and battery resulting in serious bodily injury, assault and battery and conspiracy.

    According to Oxford police, the Worcester newspaper reported, officers were dispatched to Esposito Court for the report of a fight at about 2 p.m. Sunday. Upon arrival, they were told that some of the combatants escaped in a vehicle registered to a Webster address. 

    Vancelotte along with 18-year-old Kristopher Couture, 20-year-old Juwan Freeman and a juvenile were detained by Webster police. 

    Vancelotte told police he and his friends were attacked by a 53-year-old man carrying a bat who reached into Vancelotte's car, grabbed the juvenile and hit him with the bat. Vancelotte told authorities he took the bat away from Gomes and hit him, causing serious head injuries. 

    Police said they determined the bat was in Vancelotte's car when the fight started, the Telegram and Gazette reported.

    Vancelotte, Couture and Freeman were released on $1,000 bail pending pretrial hearings.


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    Planning Board chairman Peter McEwan made the case that the property at 98 Southwick Rd. cannot be converted into a dog daycare, to the shock of the applicant.

    WESTFIELD - The public hearing for a plan to turn Zuber's Ice Cream & Deli into a second Agawam DogWorks location has been delayed for more than a month, after the Planning Board threw up a major roadblock on Tuesday night.

    Parsing the definition of the term "commercial kennel," Planning Board chairman Peter McEwan made the case that the property at 98 Southwick Rd. cannot be converted into a dog daycare, to the shock of the applicant.

    The public hearing will continue Tuesday, Nov. 21, at 7 p.m. in City Council Chambers, Westfield City Hall, 59 Court St.

    Agawam DogWorks, located at 860 Suffield St. (Route 75) in Agawam, offers dog daycare, grooming and training services.

    The company filed a special permit application last month, seeking permission to construct a 36-foot by 50-foot one-story building on the Zuber's property, and a 10-foot by 40-foot addition to the northwest corner of the existing building, remove sheds and make improvements to the five-acre site.

    The facility would be surrounded by an 8-foot chain link fence. The existing driveway, parking lot and utility services would remain.

    The plan received initial approval from the city's zoning enforcement officer, as long as no dogs were kept outdoors. But McEwan said that was not the right interpretation of the zoning ordinance.

    "Our thinking was that large-scale commercial kennels belonged in the country," said McEwan, referring to zoning ordinance amendments made in 2006 that defined certain terms related to animals.

    Those amendments, according to McEwan, make a distinction between "commercial kennels" and "pet kennels." Any establishment that boards dogs or provides dog daycare to more than one animal is considered a commercial kennel, he said, and those businesses are not allowed everywhere.

    "Those are only allowed in two districts, and those are Industrial A and Rural Residential," said McEwan.

    The Zuber's property is zoned Business A.

    A "pet kennel," on the other hand, is any collection of four or more pets kept for any purpose. Pet kennels, McEwan said, are allowed in Business A.

    Robert Levesque of the Westfield engineering firm R Levesque Associates, which prepared the Agawam DogWorks application, said the situation was "frustrating."

    "We have contradicting information," said Levesque, pointing to the zoning determination and conversations with city officials, including Principal Planner Jay Vinskey. "These folks spent a lot of money on a determination by the zoning enforcement officer. It's our understanding that that's the last call."

    "That's a terrible mistake," replied McEwan. "It's difficult to understand unless you were there (in 2006). That's what it comes down to."

    Levesque requested a continuance of the public hearing to give the applicant time "to determine if this interpretation of yours is correct."

    He said he was caught off-guard, especially since McEwan said he was aware of this concern several days ago, and chose not to warn the applicant that there was a snag.

    "If you had this knowledge ahead of time, did you think of letting anybody know about it?" asked Levesque.

    "No, I didn't. I didn't even look at this until, like, Friday," said McEwan. "I have great respect for you, but I'm not supposed to talk to applicants or the public prior to the hearing."

    The property is currently owned by Zuber Realty and appraised at $338,900, according to city records.


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    The Holyoke, Massachusetts City Council on Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2017 voted unanimously to increase the fines for parking violations at fire hydrants, cross walks and 17 other categories in a meeting at City Hall.

    HOLYOKE -- The City Council Tuesday voted unanimously to increase the fines for parking violations at fire hydrants, cross walks and 17 other categories in a meeting at City Hall.

    "It was generally that the fines were increased by $10," Ordinance Committee Chairwoman Linda L. Vacon said.

    The Council previously had increased the fine for overdue parking such as at a street meter to $20 from $10. Councilors then realized a host of other categories also had gone a while without being altered, she said.

    Examples of the increases: $25 from $15 for violations of parking within 10 feet of a hydrant, on the City Hall parking deck, within intersections, sidewalks and crosswalks, entrances to hotels, theaters and fire stations and double parking. (see photo above).

    The city was unable to increase fines for parking in a handicapped spot, which is $300, and in a fire lane, which is $50, because those are at the state limit, Vacon said.


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    A sleeping 15-year-old girl escaped injury when a bullet fired from the apartment below came through her floor, narrowly missing her bed.

     

    MANSFIELD -- A Mansfield man faces numerous charges after he allegedly fired a 9 mm rifle in his living room Monday night and the bullet pierced the ceiling and narrowly missed a 15-year-old girl sleeping in her bed in the apartment one floor up, the Attleboro Sun Chronicle reported.

    Police arrested Timothy Downs, 29, of Eddy Street shortly after 9:30 p.m. Monday after the girl's father handed an officer the bullet he found in his daughter's room.

    Downs is not licensed to have a firearm and faces four felony weapons charges and three related charges, the Sun Chronicle reported. 

    He was ordered held without the right to bail pending a dangerousness hearing Oct. 25.