Paul Tuthill

Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief

Paul Tuthill is WAMCâââ

The largest fair in the Northeast opens its gates to the public Friday morning in western Massachusetts.

 The Big E has set attendance records in each of the last three years making it the fifth largest fair in North America. 

The fair, which will mark its centennial next year, has stayed true to its roots as a showplace for New England agriculture and industry, according to Big E President Gene Cassidy.

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker today announced funding awards for rental housing development across the state and highlighted a pilot program to open new preschool classrooms.  He did both during a visit to Holyoke. 

Baker announced funding to build or preserve almost 1,500 apartments at 23 projects in 15 communities across the state. He made the announcement at one of the sites chosen—Lyman Terrace, a 76-year-old, 167-unit public housing complex in downtown Holyoke, where tenants fought a plan a few years ago to demolish their homes.

The tribes that own Connecticut’s two casinos signed a partnership today to pursue developing a third casino to compete with the planned MGM Resorts casino in Springfield.

MGM has denied it might downsize the $800 million dollar hotel-casino complex planned in Springfield if faced with competition close by in Connecticut. 

Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno Thursday said he expects MGM to build a resort casino that will employ 3,000 people, as promised.

Close to $10 million in local, state, and federal money has been spent in the last couple of years to construct or renovate parks of all shapes and sizes in the city of Springfield, Massachusetts.  The projects have opened up new recreational opportunities, eliminated blight, and brought parks closer to the people.

Children this summer had a chance to cool off and play on a splash pad in one of Springfield’s newest parks.

The world’s largest maker of passenger rail cars is planning to break ground this week on a new factory in western Massachusetts.

Governor Charlie Baker is among the officials scheduled to speak Thursday at the ceremony to mark the start of construction on a $60 million 200,000 square foot factory on Springfield’s east side. 

CNR-MA, a subsidiary of Chinese government-owned Changchun Rail Vehicles, purchased the 40 acre site for $12 million, according to spokesperson Lydia Rivera.

MGM is setting out to fill some of the 2,000 construction jobs that were promised to build the company’s $800 million Springfield casino.

MGM officials are scheduling two days of interviews, Thursday and Friday, with minority-owned and women-owned union construction companies interested in bidding for jobs on the project. 

The Las Vegas-based entertainment company  interviewed veteran-owned businesses in July at its Springfield construction office. 

Massachusetts is joining a national movement to reexamine get-tough-on-crime policies.

Massachusetts state leaders earlier this month committed to a comprehensive review of the state’s criminal justice policies with a goal to reduce the cost of incarceration and improve public safety by reducing recidivism. 

The FBI is seeking the public’s help in solving a significant New England art theft.

The head of the Boston FBI office, Special Agent in Charge Vincent Lisi announced a $20,000 reward for the return of two N.C. Wyeth paintings stolen from a private collector in Portland, Maine.

" Anybody who has any information about these paintings, the whereabouts, or who may have stolen them can contact the FBI via our online tip line, or telephone directly," said Lisi.

The first casino in Massachusetts netted $18 million in its first full month in business.

 People gambled $181 million at the Plainridge Park Casino in July, according to the Massachusetts Gaming Commission.  The casino kept $18 million. Over a full year it works out to $217 million in gross gaming revenue, which would be more than the state’s full-year projection of $200 million.  

Casino industry expert Clyde Barrow said Plainridge Park had a spectacular opening.

A western Massachusetts-based order of Catholic sisters, consisting mostly of retired teachers, has apparently been saved from financial ruin.

Springfield Bishop Mitchell Rozanski Monday announced a $1 million donation from the diocese to the Sisters of St. Joseph, a 130- year old religious order, whose members taught generations of students in parochial schools throughout western Massachusetts and elsewhere in New England.

"Now, it is our turn to repay the tremendous debt we owe these sisters for all they have dne for us," said Rozanski.

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission has approved a delay in the opening of the MGM Springfield casino because of a highway reconstruction project.

The commission voted 5-0 Thursday to set a September 2018 opening date for the $800 million resort casino — a year later than originally planned.  

Although MassDOT says the reconstruction of I-91, which is right next to the casino site, could be done as soon as December 2017, MGM Springfield President Mike Mathis argued it was prudent to plan for a later finish.

New data shows the opioid epidemic in Massachusetts is worse than public health officials feared.

The number of opioid deaths in 2014 totaled 1,256 according to revised numbers released Tuesday by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.   Initial estimates had 1,008 people dying of drug overdoses last year. 

And, the epidemic shows no signs of lettering up.  An estimated 312 people are thought to have died of an overdose in the first three months of this year. 

The funeral for the Springfield, Massachusetts native, who was among the Marines killed last week by a gunman in Tennessee, will be private.

A spokesman for the family of Marine Gunnery Sgt. Thomas Sullivan said Monday’s funeral will be for family, friends and invited dignitaries only.  

Springfield Bishop Mitchell Rozanski will be the main celebrant and homilist for the service at Holy Cross Church in the East Forest Park neighborhood where Sullivan grew up.  Burial will be at the Massachusetts Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Agawam. 

A new report says delays in building the two licensed resort casinos in Massachusetts could cost the state $ 1 billion in lost revenue. 

Authorities in Massachusetts’ third largest city are using innovation, technology, and more police on patrol to combat violent crime.

Total crime is down about 8 percent in Springfield so far this year, according to the Springfield Police Department.  It is in keeping with a national trend of steadily declining crime rates. But, the crime that makes the headlines – homicides – stands at 13, just one shy of the total number of murders Springfield recorded for all of last year.

A native of Springfield, Massachusetts was reportedly one of the four Marines killed Thursday in an attack by a lone gunman in Chattanooga, Tennessee.   Flags across the city and state were lowered to half-staff, messages of condolence flooded social media, and the fallen Marine’s family asked for privacy to grieve. 

Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno expressed “ heartfelt condolences and sympathy” to the family of Thomas Sullivan,40, a Springfield native who was one of the four Marines shot dead by a lone gunman at a reserve center in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Jane Flavell Collins

David Hoose, of Northampton, who is terror suspect Alexander Ciccolo's attorney spoke with reporters outside Federal court in Springfield Tuesday shortly after a U.S. Magistrate ordered Ciccolo held without bail.

David Hoose, of Northampton, who is terror suspect Alexander Ciccolo's attorney spoke with reporters outside Federal court in Springfield Tuesday shortly after a U.S. Magistrate ordered Ciccolo held without bail.

Ciccolo is being held at the Wyatt Detention Center in Central Falls Rhode Island.

Ciccolo, is alleged to have stabbed a nurse in the head with a pen shortly after he was brought to the Franklin County Jail in Greenfield after his arrest July 4th.  Hoose said Ciccolo regrets assaulting the nurse.

Hoose would not comment on reports Ciccolo has a history of mental illness.  He would not discuss defense strategy in the case.

So far, Ciccolo is charged with being a felon in possession of weapons.  But government papers filed with the court said he was plotting a terrorist attack on a university. 

During the 40 minute hearing Tuesday the prosecution played what Asst. U.S. Atty Kevin O'Regan said was a nine minute excerpt of a 90 minute interview the FBI conducted with Ciccolo after his arrest.  During the portion played in court,  a soft-spoken Ciccolo said the Islamic state known as ISIL " is doing a good thing"  He said the U.S. is " unjust."

Hoose, in arguing to release Ciccolo into the custody of his mother and stepfather, who were in court, said no threats of violence were made by the defendent during the portion of the interview played in court.

He said the mother and stepfather live a remote part of the Berkshires.  He would not reveal the exact location.

Update: Alexander Ciccolo is being kept in custody until his trial. Saying the risks are great if Ciccolo is released, U.S. Magistrate Katherine Robertson ordered detention without bail around 4:30 p.m. Tuesday.

A detention hearing is scheduled this afternoon for an Adams, Massachusetts man federal authorities say was planning an attack in support of the Islamic State group. The 23-year-old son of a Boston Police captain was arrested July 4th outside his apartment in the small Berkshire County town.

Massachusetts Lottery officials say they are prepared for the new competition from the casino industry.

State lottery officials say they are using zip code analysis to detect any shift in sales patterns in the convenience stores, gas stations, and bars located near Plainridge Park, the state’s first casino that opened to capacity crowds on June 24. 

State Treasurer Deborah Goldberg, who oversees the lottery, vows the agency will compete with the casinos.

Martin Meehan began his tenure as president of the University of Massachusetts Wednesday by a holding a roundtable discussion with students at UMass Boston.

Meehan said he intends to build UMass into “the best public university system in the nation.”  During an interview in May he talked about ways to elevate the university’s stature.

"It is looking at how to improve, achieve more excellence. You can always increase your research and continue to improve," he said.

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.