Paul Tuthill

Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief

Paul Tuthill is WAMCâââ

A historic church in Springfield, Massachusetts is being moved down the street to make way for the city’s new casino. 

General Electric has committed to donating $50 million to Massachusetts philanthropy as the company prepares to move its corporate headquarters to Boston. 

The Boston Public Schools will be the biggest beneficiary, in line to receive $25 million for computer science courses and other career preparedness. Another $15 million will go to community health centers around greater Boston.  GE will reserve $10 million for workforce training programs in cities and towns outside the Boston metro area.  

A long-simmering debate over municipal residency requirements in Massachusetts has flared up in Springfield.

Three city councilors in Springfield claim six deputy or district chiefs in the Springfield Fire Department are in violation of the city’s residency ordinance.

Their public demand for the fire officials to move into the city immediately, or give up their jobs, brought a sharp rebuke from Mayor Domenic Sarno.

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker talked about his administration’s efforts on economic development in a speech to more than 700 business and government leaders in Springfield today. The Republican governor heard an appeal for regional equity from Democratic Congressman Richard Neal.

Springfield’s mayor and the city council are clashing over a residency requirement for top level city employees. 

For the second time in three years, Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno has vetoed a city council-passed measure that would limit the mayor’s ability to grant waivers to an ordinance that requires department heads and their assistants to live in the city. 

City Council President Mike Fenton said the council voted 10-1 Monday night to amend the residency ordinance.

The cities of Springfield, Holyoke, and Northampton along with Amherst and UMass have signed an agreement committing to move forward on a regional bike share program. 

The program, tentatively named “ValleyBike,” would make bicycles available to people for a small fee to make short trips. 

Christopher Curtis, chief planner with the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission, said the communities and the institution will be looking to obtain $1.1 million in federal transportation funds to buy the bicycles and build the bike stations.

The city council in Springfield, Massachusetts is expected to vote Monday on the final design plans for the MGM casino.

The council has held five public hearings on the plans for the $950 million casino development. Councilors have voted to attach conditions to the project to address the concerns raised by some abutters about traffic, parking and pedestrian access.

The council Monday will weigh MGM’s controversial request to eliminate a 25-story hotel that had been part of the original design.

Additional hearings have been scheduled to review the latest plans for the $950 million MGM Springfield casino. 

The Springfield City Council, which has already held four hearings on the site plan for the resort casino, has scheduled two additional hearings later this month. 

City Council President Mike Fenton said he’s been assured by MGM officials that the extended review will not hold up the construction of the casino which is scheduled to open in 2018.

Thanks in part to the mild snow-free winter so far, the reconstruction of Interstate 91 through downtown Springfield is ahead of schedule.

   MassDOT CEO Stephanie Pollack said the contractor on the $185 million project appears to be on track to earn a $9 million bonus by completing the work by the end of 2017.

"Between the mild winter and those rewards the contractor has every incentive to bring the project in ahead of schedule and it is my understanding that may well happen," Pollack told reporters in Springfield Wednesday.

The Springfield City Council is conducting a final review of the plans for the $950 million MGM casino.

The council is tentatively scheduled to vote Tuesday after holding a fourth public hearing on the casino project site plan. However, Council President Mike Fenton said he’ll set additional time for deliberations if necessary.

"It is possible to extend  ( the hearings) should we need further public input or councilors have additional questions," he said.

A retired police officer in Springfield, Massachusetts pleaded innocent at his court arraignment Monday to charges he stole more than $400,000 from the police department evidence room.

  Kevin Burnham, who for almost 30 years was the Springfield police officer responsible for safekeeping evidence in drug cases, is accused of stealing cash from evidence envelopes in more than 170 cases during a five year period starting in 2009 and ending the day he retired in July 2014, according to an investigation by the office of Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey

MGM has announced major demolition work will begin next week as it prepares the site in downtown Springfield where a $950 million resort casino is planned.

Almost a year after the former Zanetti school building served as the backdrop for the MGM Springfield groundbreaking, it will be demolished beginning Tuesday, according to a press release from MGM. 

The much anticipated major construction work follows state environmental and city zoning approvals. 

MGM Springfield President Mike Mathis said the casino remains on track to open in the fall of 2018.

Police in three western Massachusetts cities have seized thousands of bags of heroin and arrested more than a dozen people for heroin trafficking and distribution as they investigate recent overdose deaths. 

Police believe an exceptionally pure batch of heroin has caused the deaths of at least eight people in western Massachusetts in the last week.

Today was inauguration day for the mayor and city councilors in the largest city in western Massachusetts.

Domenic Sarno took the oath of office to formally begin a new term as mayor of Springfield during an inauguration ceremony that put his well-known optimism and civic pride on full display and included the playing of a new marketing video that boasts Springfield as a “city on the rise.”

"I have every confidence that Springfield stands on the dawn of an unprecedented renaissance," declared Sarno in his 4th inaugural address.

MGM Resorts International is planning to start demolishing buildings in mid-January to clear the site in downtown Springfield where the company intends to build the first casino in western Massachusetts.  2015 was a year of delay and downsizing for the casino project.

When MGM held the ceremonial groundbreaking for the Springfield casino in late March with the former Zanetti school building as the backdrop for photographs with construction workers and machinery no one would have predicted the building would still be standing nine months later.

After months of preparation, construction work is to start in earnest on a major highway project in western Massachusetts.

MassDOT announced Tuesday that the major rehabilitation of the elevated part of Interstate 91 through downtown Springfield will begin in mid-December.

The number of travel lanes will be reduced by one in each direction.  Seven ramps leading to and from the highway will be closed.

        MassDOT boss Stephanie Pollock said detours will be in place and key intersections monitored by newly installed cameras.

The latest plans by MGM Resorts International for building a casino in Springfield will be carefully scrutinized in the next few weeks by local officials and Massachusetts gaming industry regulators.  The public will also have opportunities to comment.

The city of Springfield’s Office of Planning and Economic Development has announced it has received a complete site plan application for the MGM casino project triggering a 30-day internal review and setting the stage for a public hearing by the city council within 45 days.

Final plans have been filed for the MGM Springfield casino project.

The filing of the final complete site plan for the project, announced by city officials Monday, triggers a 30-day review and the requirement the City Council hold a public hearing within 45-days.

At a public presentation on the casino project in Springfield last week, the city’s deputy director of  planning, Phil Dromey said his department is anxious to complete the regulatory reviews.

" It is time really to get to the nuts and bolts of this," he said.

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission is scheduled to come to Springfield on December 3 for a public meeting where officials from MGM are expected to present a comprehensive cost and design analysis of the latest plans for a casino in the city.

MGM officials say the budget to develop a resort casino in Springfield has increased to $950 million -- $150 million more than the estimated investment when the gaming commission awarded a license for the project in June 2014.

MGM has reaffirmed its commitment to build a resort casino in Springfield, Massachusetts and now plans to spend an additional $150 million in the project.

MGM will invest $950 million to develop the resort casino in Springfield despite design changes that reduce the size of the project, and eliminate a 25-story hotel tower.

MGM President Bill Hornbuckle announced the new budget for the project at a presentation Wednesday night for city officials and residents. 

The highest court in Massachusetts has effectively cleared the way for construction of a wood-burning power plant in Springfield. Plant opponents see their last hope in the hands of a local health board.

The state Supreme Judicial Court this month declined to take up an appeal of two lower court decisions that directed the city to issue a building permit for the proposed $150 million biomass plant on Springfield’s eastside.  The project had been tied up in litigation for more than five years.

Police in Springfield, Massachusetts are reporting one of the biggest heroin busts in the city in recent history.

Police, after what was described as a lengthy investigation, raided a home in the city’s Liberty Heights neighborhood Thursday night, and seized nearly 22,000 bags of heroin, three handguns, and about $3,000 cash. 

Springfield Police Dept. spokesman Sgt. John Delaney said the heroin has a street value estimated at $110,000.

MGM officials will have a chance next week to explain to a skeptical public the reasons behind the proposed downsizing of the Springfield casino.

  City officials have arranged for MGM to make a public presentation Wednesday afternoon at the 300 seat City Stage theater.  MGM has been under fire in Springfield since disclosing last month, in a regulatory filing, plans to reduce the scope of the project by 14 percent.

Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno has said his administration is carefully reviewing the proposed changes.

The highest court in Massachusetts may have dealt a fatal blow to opponents of a proposed wood-burning power plant in Springfield.

The state’s Supreme Judicial Court has refused to consider an appeal of two lower court rulings that directed the city to issue a building permit for the controversial project.

A spokesman for Palmer Renewable Energy said they looked forward to bringing the $150 million biomass energy project to fruition after  nearly 8 years of legal challenges. 

Massachusetts gaming industry regulators are soliciting public comment on MGM’s proposed changes to the Springfield casino project.

In its most recent regulatory filing on the design changes, MGM says it expects as much as an 8 percent drop in casino traffic.

Gaming Commission Chairman Stephen Crosby and the other commissioners want to know the reasons for the proposed changes and the possible impact on jobs and revenue.

Voters in Springfield, Massachusetts returned Domenic Sarno to the mayor’s office for four more years.

Sarno rolled up more than 77 percent of the vote in trouncing political novice Sal Circosta. 

Sarno said the huge margin of victory sent a resounding message that people are confident in his ability to move the city forward. Sarno said he is looking forward to another four years as Springfield’s mayor.

"I love this job. I love this job," said Sarno. " We ran on our record."

Voters head to the polls in more than 50 Massachusetts cities and towns Tuesday to cast ballots for mayor and other local offices.

Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno, seeking reelection to a fourth term, faces a politically inexperienced challenger in Sal Circosta, a former bakery story owner. 

Sarno, who won the September preliminary election with 75 percent of the vote, declined all debate invitations. It made for a sleepy campaign, in the view of Matt Szfranski, editor-in-chief of Western Massachusetts Politics and Insight.

The top executive from MGM Resorts International reaffirmed his commitment to the Massachusetts casino project in Springfield this week and apologized for a communications breakdown with City Hall over a proposal to reduce the scope of the development. He also said more changes are in store for the $800 million project, but nothing he would consider major.

The top brass from MGM Resorts International are coming to Springfield, Massachusetts this week to do some fence- mending.  Mayor Domenic Sarno and other city officials were blindsided by MGM’s proposal to downsize the Springfield casino project by 14 percent.  But, a detailed public explanation of the reasons for the changes proposed in the project will likely not be forthcoming this week.

This could be a pivotal week as officials in Springfield, Massachusetts determine how they will respond to the proposed downsizing of the casino planned by MGM Resorts.  The City Council is holding a special meeting this evening. City officials have invited top MGM officials to a meeting later in the week to explain the proposed changes.

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