Paul Tuthill

Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief

Paul Tuthill is WAMCâââ

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.

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."

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