1. Articles from maryserreze

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    1. State agrees to release engineering money to towns for rural broadband

      State agrees to release engineering money to towns for rural broadband

      Massachusetts officials have agreed to release engineering and design grants directly to rural towns that plan to build "last mile" municipal broadband networks. Previously, the towns were bound to accept "professional services" provided internally by the Massachusetts Broadband Institute, a state agency. The policy, announced Monday, marks a radical shift for MBI and opens a range of options for dozens of small towns in Central and Western Massachusetts that have been struggling for years without high-speed residential internet. MBI unveiled the new policy at its Feb. 27 board meeting in Westborough, said Paul McMorrow, a spokesman for Gov. Charlie Baker ...

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    2. Entrepreneurs and public investment fuel Easthampton's growth

      Entrepreneurs and public investment fuel Easthampton's growth

      While still traditional at its core, Easthampton has undergone a remarkable transformation in recent years, thanks in part to an influx of young families, artists and entrepreneurs drawn by abundant mill space, reasonably priced homes, walkable streets and abundant natural beauty.  Creative development has benefited from proactive zoning and key public infrastructure investments. Three renovated 19th-century mills on Pleasant Street -- Mill 180, the Keystone Mill and Eastworks -- now host light manufacturing, restaurants and breweries, craft fabrication studios, and live-work artist lofts -- all backed by an adjacent bike path, a nearby public park, a well-lit parking lot and modern utilities.

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    3. Northampton invests in its downtown and Pleasant Street corridor

      Northampton invests in its downtown and Pleasant Street corridor

      Mayor David Narkewicz said he has no intention of letting downtown Northampton rest on its laurels. The city's recent progress is obvious -- a newly redesigned Pulaski Park anchors the west end of Main Street, new shops have opened or moved to larger spaces and a number of major developments are underway. "Pulaski Park was a major investment in our downtown, and a major investment in our local economy," said Narkewicz. "It has transformed that end of Main Street." Designed by Stephen Stimson Associates of Cambridge, the park opened in July thanks in part to Community Preservation Act funds and ...

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    4. ISO New England secures surplus power capacity for 2020-2021 at lower price

      ISO New England secures surplus power capacity for 2020-2021 at lower price

      ISO New England's annual forward capacity auction concluded Monday with more than enough power resources competing to meet the region's demand for electricity in 2020-2021. The clearing price of $5.30 per kilowatt-month, resulting in an overall cost to consumers of $2.4 billion, was the lowest since 2013. Last year's auction price cleared at $7.03 per kilowatt-month, creating a $3 billion commitment. ISO New England executive Robert Ethier said in a press release that the competition and lower prices seen in the 11th annual auction are "indicative of a market that works." The ISO, based ...

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      Mentions: Holyoke
    5. Diners spent $95 million at Northampton restaurants in 2016; downtown vacancy rates dropped, according to report

      Diners spent $95 million at Northampton restaurants in 2016; downtown vacancy rates dropped, according to report

      Diners here spent $95 million on food and drink in 2016, sending over $700,000 to the city's coffers through a local meals tax, according to an annual report on the downtown economy.  The "Downtown Economic Indicators" report, compiled by economic development director Terry Masterson, looks at 220 first-floor storefronts in the immediate downtown area. The report examines business activity, storefront vacancies, retail rents, parking income, and restaurant and hotel tax revenue for 2016. At 6.4 percent, storefront vacancies are slightly down from 2015, when the figure stood at 7 percent. Out of the 14 vacant storefronts, 10 ...

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      Mentions: Northampton
    6. Wired West unveils new vision for broadband fiber network in 27 rural communities

      Wired West unveils new vision for broadband fiber network in 27 rural communities

      Wired West is still pushing for a fiber-to-the-home network spanning up to 27 towns. Its leaders are still touting fiber as a blazing-fast, future-proof technology, and say the regional concept would be more economical than one where each town goes it alone. But now, following a shift in state policy, they propose to merely operate the network instead of trying to do everything themselves, including actually stringing cable on utility poles.

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    7. Six internet companies vie for $20 million in rural broadband grants

      Six internet companies vie for $20 million in rural broadband grants

      State officials have unveiled grant proposals from six companies that hope to provide broadband internet service to as many as 40 unserved Massachusetts towns. The applications from Charter Communications, Comcast, Crocker Communications, Fiber Connect, Mid Hudson Data Corp. and Westfield Gas & Electric (Whip City Fiber) were submitted in response to a Nov. 18 solicitation from the Massachusetts Broadband Institute, or MBI, which has allocated $19,680,000 to subsidize the cost of deploying rural broadband. The deadline for submitting applications was Jan. 11.

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    8. 'Lumberyard' affordable housing in Northampton wins $5 million from state

      'Lumberyard' affordable housing in Northampton wins $5 million from state

      The Lumberyard Apartments -- a 70,000-square-foot affordable housing project planned at 265 Pleasant St. -- will move forward with a $5 million investment from the state. The Baker administration announced Tuesday that its Department of Housing and Community Development will award the project $1.79 million in state and federal low-income housing tax credits and $3.3 million in direct rental housing subsidies.

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      Mentions: Amherst Northampton
    9. Farms in Hadley, Leyden, and Amherst win state infrastructure grants

      Farms in Hadley, Leyden, and Amherst win state infrastructure grants

      Massachusetts Department of Agriculture awards annual infrastructure grants to farms that are not only committed to economic success, but to land conservation. The Baker administration on Friday announced $375,000 in such grants. The grants will fund diverse projects, including orchard development, hay barn construction, farm stands, and improved milking operations -- all capital investments designed to improve viability.

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      Mentions: Amherst
    10. Eversource reports spending $940 million on Massachusetts power grid in 2016

      Eversource reports spending $940 million on Massachusetts power grid in 2016

      Eversource Energy in 2016 invested $940 million to improve and maintain the Massachusetts power grid, the company announced this week. The stated goal of the grid modernization effort is to increase the "efficiency, reliability and resiliency" of the electric system and make it less vulnerable to weather-related outages. In Western Massachusetts, a massive new transformer at the Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Facility substation, combined with a mile-long high-voltage power line, are expected to "improve the flow of electricity along the commonwealth's electrical superhighway."

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    11. Three rural communities get $1.9 million in state broadband money

      Three rural communities get $1.9 million in state broadband money

      Three rural western Massachusetts communities without high-speed Internet could be on their way to joining the 21st century. The Massachusetts Broadband Institute last week approved $1.9 million in grants to support rural broadband deployment in Warwick, Alford, and Otis. Warwick will overhaul an older municipal wireless network to achieve broadband speeds across multiple spectrums, including Verizon 4G LTE, according to the state's Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development. Alford and Otis will implement municipal fiber-to-the-home networks.

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    12. Rotting Monroe paper mill to be torn down for public park on Deerfield River

      Rotting Monroe paper mill to be torn down for public park on Deerfield River

      The state last week awarded the town of Monroe $520,000 in grant funding to help remove a cavernous, green-painted wooden structure, part of the former Ramage Paper Mill, and turn the site into a public park.  Jeffrey Phillips of Connecticut, who bought the complex 20 years ago, has not responded to a Housing Court order to demolish the building, and not paid taxes since 1999, local officials say. Monroe Town Meeting members voted Nov. 14 to take the building by eminent domain.

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      Mentions: Greenfield
    13. Berkshire Gas proposes major new distribution main to lift moratorium in upper Pioneer Valley

      Berkshire Gas proposes major new distribution main to lift moratorium in upper Pioneer Valley

      The Berkshire Gas Co. proposes a new 12-inch natural gas distribution main in order to lift its ongoing service moratorium in the upper Pioneer Valley. The line would start at the Tennessee Gas Pipeline 200 Line, which traverses the state's southern tier, and travel 19 miles north to a rebuilt metering station in Northampton. Berkshire would then "loop" its existing six-inch line north of Northampton to send more natural gas into Franklin County.

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    14. Montague voters advance Strathmore Paper Mill cleanup in Turners Falls; condos planned

      Montague voters advance Strathmore Paper Mill cleanup in Turners Falls; condos planned

      A 10-building vacant paper mill complex along the Connecticut River and power canal in the village of Turners Falls is on its way to productive redevelopment after voters approved funding to jump-start cleanup at the site. A tax override of around $385,000, which passed 361-242 on Monday, will help fund the removal of asbestos at the former Strathmore Paper Mill, a 270,000-square-foot complex on 1.9 acres.

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    15. Massachusetts Broadband Institute pulls funding from WiredWest, advises towns to walk away from proposed contract

      Massachusetts Broadband Institute pulls funding from WiredWest, advises towns to walk away from proposed contract

      The Massachusetts Broadband Institute has halted state funding to WiredWest, saying the rural broadband aggregator's draft operating agreement with member towns is "not compatible with the best interests of the Commonwealth, the towns, or their residents." The institute is further recommending that towns not sign a proposed WiredWest operating agreement, which is now before local officials with a Jan. 9 deadline for approval. "Because of overall concerns with project operations and sustainability, the MBI will not authorize expenditure of state funds" for the broadband model as described, institute director Eric Nakajima wrote in a Dec. 1 letter to local ...

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    Massachusetts Broadband Institute pulls funding from WiredWest, advises towns to walk away from proposed contract Montague voters advance Strathmore Paper Mill cleanup in Turners Falls; condos planned Berkshire Gas proposes major new distribution main to lift moratorium in upper Pioneer Valley Rotting Monroe paper mill to be torn down for public park on Deerfield River Three rural communities get $1.9 million in state broadband money Eversource reports spending $940 million on Massachusetts power grid in 2016 Farms in Hadley, Leyden, and Amherst win state infrastructure grants State reassures communities as MassBroadband123 operator declares bankruptcy Baker administration relieves MassBroadband of $20 million in grantmaking authority Six Massachusetts towns win broadband infrastructure grants to build fiber optic networks Massachusetts House passes health care bill to help community hospitals UMass Amherst tuition costs held at bay by efficiency, spokeswoman says