Paul Tuthill

Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief

Paul Tuthill is WAMCâââ

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.

The city of Northampton, Massachusetts is planning a number of solar power projects that would further reduce the city’s carbon footprint, while providing a new source of revenue.

As soon as this summer, Northampton is likely to join dozens of other municipalities in the state that have turned old landfills into solar farms. And, in what appears to be a first in western Massachusetts at least, solar arrays may pop up at some municipal parking lots, according to Chris Mason, the city’s energy officer.

UMass Amherst will replace its on-campus textbook store later this year with a virtual store operated by Amazon.

  Under a five-year contract Amazon will provide online textbook ordering through the UMass Amherst website, operate an on-campus pick up location and provide free delivery to off campus addresses in Amherst and five surrounding communities.  UMass spokesman Ed Blaguszewski said the change is being made to save students money.

  "Up to about $380 annually per student based on national estimates of what students pay for books," said Blaguszewski.

The Springfield, Massachusetts city council is considering an ordinance that would put restrictions on public officials obtaining jobs at the new MGM casino being built in the city.

Under a proposed municipal ethics ordinance, the city’s elected officials—the mayor and 11 city councilors – would be barred for at least five years from obtaining a job at the MGM casino after leaving the city’s employment.  Non-elected officials who are considered “major policymakers” would face a two-year ban.

The Massachusetts doctor who was cured of the deadly Ebola virus is going to return later this week to West Africa to work in the missionary hospital where he was infected.             

 Four months after he was declared Ebola-free, and with his strength and stamina now back, Dr. Rick Sacra will leave Thursday for Liberia, where he had spent much of the last two decades working for a missionary organization.

An announcement about the long-term fate of the historic Cathedral High School in Springfield, Massachusetts is now expected by mid-February.  Advocates of rebuilding the school that was wrecked in the 2011 tornado are encouraged by word the school will operate for one more year, at least, at its temporary campus. 

       Springfield Bishop Mitchell Rozanski will begin a series of meetings on January 24th in what will amount to the final due diligence on whether to rebuild the Catholic high school with a 130-year- history in Springfield. 

Now that MGM has won Massachusetts regulatory and voter approval to build a resort casino in downtown Springfield the Las Vegas-based entertainment giant has employment and local purchasing commitments to keep. 

Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick and a host of federal, state and local officials took an inaugural train ride Monday on newly rebuilt tracks in western Massachusetts.

The trip from Springfield to Greenfield highlighted the dawn of high speed passenger rail service along what is known as the Knowledge Corridor.  For the first time in decades passenger trains will stop in Northampton and Holyoke.  Kathleen Anderson, president of the Holyoke Chamber of Commerce, said it opens a lot of possibilities including more tourism.

New property tax rates have been set in Springfield, Massachusetts.  For the first time in many years, the rates for both homeowners and business property owners have been reduced, as property values continue to recover from the Great Recession

A Massachusetts doctor cured of Ebola said he is returning in January to Liberia, where he contracted the virus, to continue working at a medial mission

     Dr.Richard Sacra said he plans to spend four weeks at the same clinic near Monrovia, where he served for 20 years.   Sacra contracted Ebola in August and underwent treatment at an Omaha, Nebraska hospital. He returned home in late September and spoke about his ordeal.

  "Of course I was concerned that I might die."

The Patrick administration today announced more funding to help strengthen the advanced manufacturing industry in Massachusetts.

       Massachusetts will distribute $1.5 million to be shared by five regional workforce development agencies across the state to help recruit and train 280 unemployed or underemployed people for careers in precision manufacturing.    A vocational high school in western Massachusetts will get $400,000 to equip its machine shop with state of the art equipment.         

A new financing plan was announced today to accelerate the redevelopment of Union Station in Springfield, Massachusetts

       City officials said a proposed addition of $3.2 million in local funds along with a previously announced $4.2 million grant from the state will allow the transit-focused elements of the project to be completed simultaneously with tenant-ready commercial space and additional parking.

     "It is a big achievement having all the money that is now needed to get this project done," said Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno.

More than 400 business owners, contractors, and tradesmen packed a meeting Thursday morning to find out how to bid for work building the MGM Springfield casino. 

MGM officials outlined a construction timetable, explained hiring goals for women, minorities and veterans, and provided contact information. Hunter Clayton, MGM Resorts top construction official said building the casino, hotel, retail stores, restaurants and other amenities is a unique and special project.

MGM officials have invited contractors to a meeting this week in Springfield, Massachusetts to discuss the company’s casino construction plans.

At the public meeting Thursday at the MassMutual Convention Center, there will be a presentation about the design and the construction timetable for the $800 million development in downtown Springfield.  Chris Boss, a carpenter from West Springfield said a project of this scope is a once in a lifetime opportunity for people in the construction trades.

The Patrick administration has awarded funding to help train people for jobs in the new Massachusetts casino industry. 

Holyoke Community College is getting a $1.75 million grant to build a Center for Hospitality and Culinary Excellence that will be used in part to prepare people for casino-related jobs.  HCC President William Messner has led the effort to partner with the casino industry on workforce development.

" We see this as simply an extension of our tradition, of our mission to provide first class training for businesses and organizations."

After failing last month to repeal the state’s casino law, activists in Massachusetts may become watchdogs over the industry.

Steve Abdow, one of the leaders of the Repeal the Casino Deal campaign, said the effort to stop casinos from coming to Massachusetts ended with the crushing defeat on Election Day, but he and fellow activists are discussing other ways to stay involved.

"We  have concerns about the impacts casinos will have on our communities. That is what we all have in common and why we did our work."

Under a reorganization that started two years ago, the community colleges in Massachusetts are becoming regional workforce development centers.  Holyoke Community College is building a new facility to help meet the demand for skilled workers in the health care industry.

Counting on casino cash, the city of Springfield, Massachusetts is planning to hire more cops.

Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno Thursday announced new police and fire department academies starting early next year. When the police cadets graduate next spring it will bring the number of uniform patrol officers in Springfield to more than 400 for the first time in two decades, according police Commissioner John Barbieri.

Supporters of the only Catholic high school in Springfield, Massachusetts are meeting this evening to urge the new bishop of western Massachusetts to rebuild the tornado-damaged school.

Massachusetts education officials have dropped a proposal to include classroom performance evaluations as a criteria for renewing the licenses for teachers, administrators and other educators. The move came just days after newly released data gave most educators in the state high marks.

Open enrollment at the Massachusetts health insurance exchange begins this week. State officials say there is a new – and functioning – website that people can use if they need to purchase insurance.

The Massachusetts Health Connector will launch the new online health insurance marketplace on Nov. 15th.  Thousands of people across the state who have Health Connector coverage now, or were placed in temporary plans over the last year, will have to use the new website to submit an application if they want to remain insured.

There is frustration and anger over a delay in rebuilding the only Catholic high school in Springfield, Massachusetts that was destroyed in the 2011 tornado.

   Parents and alumnae of Cathedral High School said they were blindsided by Springfield Bishop Mitchell Rozanski’s call for more study to help him make a decision on the school’s future.  Mayor Domenic Sarno said Rozanski had reneged on a pledge made by his now retired predecessor to rebuild the high school in the same neighborhood where it had stood since 1959

The introduction of Las Vegas-style gambling to Massachusetts will proceed at a more rapid pace now that a major hurdle has been cleared.  Voters soundly defeated a ballot question to repeal the 2011 casino law.  

   With the cloud of uncertainty caused by the repeal vote lifted, The Massachusetts Gaming Commission meeting in Boston Thursday voted unanimously to formally award licenses to build and operate full-scale destination casinos to MGM Resorts for the company’s Springfield project and to Wynn Resorts in greater Boston.  

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