Paul Tuthill

Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief

Paul Tuthill is WAMCâââ

The first casino in Massachusetts opens to the public Wednesday.

Plainridge Park Casino, located at a harness race track near the Rhode Island border, has 1,200 slot machines, but no table games.  

The more upscale resort casinos planned in Springfield and greater Boston won’t open for at least two years. 

Casino industry expert Clyde Barrow said Massachusetts should do well with its first casino.

The University of Massachusetts is forging stronger ties with Springfield.  A new partnership in education based in Springfield is aimed at improving health care in urban and rural areas of western Massachusetts.

The University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester will open a campus in 2017 at Baystate Health’s flagship medical center in Springfield.  This will be the first regional campus for the state’s only public medical school. By placing it in western Massachusetts, officials hope to begin to address a severe shortage of physicians in the region.

What officials said is the final piece of funding for a major transportation project in western Massachusetts was announced today in Springfield.

Massachusetts is committing the remaining funds needed to complete the redevelopment of Union Station in Springfield into an intermodal regional transportation hub. It brings the total amount of federal, state, and local funds for the project to $88.5 million.

The opening date for the MGM Springfield casino may be pushed back by as much as a year

Springfield city officials Tuesday disclosed that MGM is seeking to coordinate the opening of the casino with the completion of the reconstruction of I-91.  The highway project is not expected to wrap up until 2018, a year after the projected opening date for what would be the state’s first resort casino.

An MGM spokesperson said the company planned to discuss the project timetable with the Massachusetts Gaming Commission at a June 25th meeting.

The chairman of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission confirms he is under investigation by state ethics officials.

Commission Chairman Stephen Crosby told the Boston Globe he is cooperating with the investigation and has done nothing wrong.

The newspaper said the state ethics commission received a sworn statement alleging Crosby participated in the process to award a casino license in the greater Boston area despite publicly recusing himself because of personal ties with a casino landowner.

The location for a new regional Catholic high school in western Massachusetts has been narrowed down.

A review committee for the Springfield Diocese recommends the new school be built either at the former location of Cathedral High School on Surrey Road in Springfield, or adjacent to a Catholic cemetery in Chicopee. 

A spokesman said Bishop Mitchell Rozanski will announce a final decision in a few weeks.

Cathedral was destroyed by a tornado four years ago. Mayor Domenic Sarno said it is vital to rebuild on the site.

Baystate Health, the largest employer in western Massachusetts, has announced a round of job cuts.

Twenty-four employees are being laid off, hours cut for 17 workers, and 45 vacant positions will go unfilled.  Baystate spokesman Ben Craft said the cuts are across the board and almost all at the flagship hospital in Springfield.

"Largely support and administrative positions in both the clinical and business areas of Baystate Health. There are  no physicians or bedside nurses affected. Ten management positions are included," he said.

A veteran educator with a track record of turning around struggling urban schools will be put in charge of a troubled western Massachusetts school system. The state’s education commissioner has appointed the current superintendent of schools in Wakefield as receiver for the Holyoke public schools.

Stephen Zrike, who was a principal at three Boston schools and led a network of elementary schools in Chicago, will now be in charge of the effort to improve student achievement at one of the worst school districts in the state.

Federal and local officials Monday highlighted the rebuilding and recovery that occurred since a powerful tornado tore into western Massachusetts four years ago.

   Top officials with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development got a first- hand look at the new homes built, businesses re-opened, public parks renovated, and trees planted along the 6.2 mile path the tornado carved through several neighborhoods in Springfield.  

Wage theft is rampant in the booming residential construction industry in Massachusetts, according to research from UMass Amherst.

     It has become standard practice in the home building industry in Massachusetts for subcontractors to illegally misclassify workers -- particularly immigrants — as independent contractors. The workers sometimes go weeks without pay, get no compensation for overtime, and are often paid less than they were promised. 

   Tom Juravich, a Umass Amherst labor professor detailed the abuses in a new paper.

A growing number of cities and towns in Massachusetts are being recognized for the support provided to wounded military veterans and their families.

Springfield was named a Purple Heart City during a ceremony Tuesday attended by about a dozen veterans, including several Purple Heart recipients, which culminated with the raising of a Purple Heart flag over the esplanade at City Hall.

Mayor Domenic Sarno said he was proud to accept the designation on behalf of all the city’s veterans.

"This is in honor of our veterans," he said.

A substance abuse treatment program for jail inmates from throughout western Massachusetts has moved out of its longtime home in Springfield to make way for construction of the MGM casino.

The Western Massachusetts Correctional Alcohol Center has vacated the building in Springfield where it opened 30 years ago, adhering to a May 8th deadline to turn the  property over to MGM.   But, it will be another two weeks before the rehab program is operating in its new, albeit temporary, location in a former nursing home in Holyoke.

The owners of apartment buildings in Holyoke that are deemed to be “hot spots” for criminal activity will receive letters warning they must develop a security plan in collaboration with the local police or risk losing the building to receivership and possibly face criminal charges.

At a Holyoke City Hall press conference Monday, Mayor Alex Morse and Police Chief James Neiswanger held up a letter printed on red paper stock that was sent to the owner of a 40-unit apartment building where police were called more than 250 times in a six- month period last year. 

The Massachusetts Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education, Mitchell Chester, is in Holyoke today.  It is his first visit since a state education board voted earlier this week to put the city’s public schools under state control.

       Two finalists have been announced in the search for the next president of the University of Massachusetts.

       Martin Meehan, the chancellor of UMass Lowell and John Quelch, a Harvard Business School professor are the finalists to be the next leader of the five campus UMass system.  

      University spokesman Robert Connolly said the two were recommended by a search committee at a meeting Thursday in Boston.

Former Westfield State University President Evan Dobelle has agreed to settle a lawsuit brought by the Massachusetts Attorney General that accused him of spending taxpayer money for personal travel and purchases.

      Dobelle has agreed to pay the state $185,000.  He would also withdraw a lawsuit he filed against the university claiming breach of contract and demanding payment of his legal bills. 

        In the settlement, which is still subject to approval by a state judge, Dobelle would admit no wrongdoing.  

The Massachusetts Department of Transportation has awarded a contract for a major highway project in western Massachusetts.

JF White-Schiavone of Framingham submitted the lowest bid this week to rebuild the two-mile long elevated portion of Interstate 91 through downtown Springfield. 

The project is expected to cost $183 million and take three years.  There will be detours and ramp closings during the work, which is expected to start this summer.

A blighted tornado-damaged building on Main Street in Springfield, Massachusetts will soon come under the wrecker’s ball. 

Springfield city officials will formally announce Monday the demolition of a former auto parts store, that was the scene of a recent natural gas leak that forced a temporary closure of several streets and precautionary evacuations.  The city seized the building for non-payment of taxes, but could not find an interested buyer for redevelopment.  Mayor Domenic Sarno is pursuing a blight reduction strategy.

The Massachusetts Attorney General’s office is investigating missing cash from the evidence room of the Springfield Police Department.

    Springfield Police Commissioner John Barbieri said a preliminary investigation began last month when the department was unable to locate U.S. currency that had been seized in now closed criminal cases. He did not say how much cash is unaccounted for. 

The investigation so far has not turned up any other missing evidence or property such as narcotics or guns. 

The group that is actively opposing a bid to bring the Olympics to Boston won’t identify its donors.

The group No Boston Olympics is not legally required to make public financial disclosures. Co-chair Chris Dempsey contends to do so would discourage people from donating.

" We have true grassroots support with people all around the state writing us a $25 check, writing us a $100 check," he said.

Multiple sites are being considered for the location of a new regional Catholic high school in western Massachusetts.  The new school will result from the merger of 130-year-old Cathedral High School and Holyoke Catholic High School.

      Springfield Bishop Mitchell Rozanski said in the two weeks since he announced the proposed merger he has met separately with the student bodies of both schools and started to assemble a group of advisors to work out the merger details. 

  " We are moving along quickly on that," said Rozanski.

A neighborhood market that would be in the shadow of the MGM Springfield casino is closing after 73 years.

Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno who has been coming to Albano’s Market since he was a boy brought the Key to The City and a proclamation Wednesday to honor its owners as pillars of the South End Italian-American community.  Filomena Bruschi and her sister Theresa D’Angelantonio took over the small business from their parents in 1942 and are now retiring after accepting an offer to sell to a developer.

The city council in Springfield, Massachusetts is expected to give final approval Monday to an ordinance restricting public officials from obtaining casino jobs.

The city council in Springfield, Massachusetts is poised to approve a casino ethics ordinance, but the city’s mayor has been silent so far on the issue.

The Springfield City Council is expected to give final approval at its next regular meeting to an ordinance that would put restrictions on public officials obtaining jobs at the new MGM casino being built in the city.  Supporters say it is intended to foster public trust in the municipal decision making surrounding the casino project.

A seven-member board has been appointed to oversee eight middle schools in Springfield that are among the lowest performing schools in Massachusetts.

The board will report to the Massachusetts Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education and the Springfield Superintendent of Schools.  Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno said the city and the state struck a deal on control of the 8 schools in an effort to quickly improve student achievement.

MGM is planning a spring groundbreaking for the $800 million resort casino the Las Vegas-based entertainment giant is building in downtown Springfield, Massachusetts. Several important steps in the complex project will happen over the next few weeks.

Although construction cranes won’t appear in the sky for several months, workers and visitors in downtown Springfield will shortly notice changes as MGM prepares the 14.5 acre site for the project that promises to transform Springfield, economically and culturally, for decades to come.

The Baker Administration is seeking to strengthen ties between state government and local municipalities in Massachusetts.

       Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito, who is the administration’s primary liaison to cities and towns, began a statewide tour Thursday to visit mayors and other officials.  Her first stop: Holyoke City Hall for a meeting with Mayor Alex Morse.  She offered assurances that when the administration takes steps within days to close a projected $765 million state budget gap, cities and towns will not be burdened.

Heroin deaths and overdoses surged in Massachusetts in December following a decline during the summer

State Police reported 114 suspected opioid deaths in Massachusetts last month, almost double the number from November.  The figures do not include suspected drug-related deaths in the state’s three-largest cities.   Massachusetts Lt. Gov. Karen Polito said the administration will announce a plan within a week or two to tackle the crisis.

Former Massachusetts Transportation Secretary Richard Davey is taking over as chief executive of the non-profit group trying to bring the Olympics to Boston.

      With his knowledge of the state’s public transit system, Davey can help make the case for the publically-paid for projects that will necessary to pull off what boosters say will be the most walkable Olympics in modern history.  David  Manfredi, one of the planner’s of Boston’s bid to host the 2024 summer games said the effort depends on transit projects now in the planning pipeline getting built.

The mayor of Springfield is calling on the administration of Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker to end a practice by the past administration of placing homeless families in congregate housing.

An angry Mayor Domenic Sarno said de-facto group homes for homeless families have been created in apartment buildings concentrated in a handful of city neighborhoods since last fall with city inspectors finding in some cases 3-4 families living in a single apartment.

" This is absolute BS," said Sarno at a city hall news conference.

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