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Worcester voters could cast ballots in groceries


Worcester voters could cast ballots in groceries

WORCESTER — In a first for Massachusetts, voters in Worcester will be casting ballots in groceries next month.

State election officials have allowed voters in four wards to use local groceries as polling locations in the September primary election.

Election officials told the Worcester Telegram that the city is the first municipality in Massachusetts to tap grocery stores as polling locations.

City Clerk David Rushford said the groceries offer a clean, well-lighted location with plenty of parking, automatic doors and access for the handicapped.

Other cities and towns are keeping an eye on the experiment to see if it could be duplicated in other locations in future elections.

Patrick signs $2.2B higher education bond bill

Gov. Deval Patrick last week signed a 10-year, $2.2 billion higher education bond bill to help pay for new building and renovation projects at the state’s public colleges and universities.

The bill, which relies on borrowed money, sets aside up to $1 billion for the five University of Massachusetts campuses, and $1.2 billion for the 29 state and community colleges.

The money will help pay for expanded classrooms, new academic centers, lab space, repairs to research centers and library expansions.

Patrick has said the hefty price tag is needed to put the state’s higher education system on a par with the rest of the country and the world.

The last major higher education bond bill was a $618 million bond bill approved in 1995.

Report: Casino projections hit, but also miss mark

A new study says building three casinos in Massachusetts would allow the state to recapture up to $700 million of the $1.1 billion Bay State gamblers already spend in Connecticut and Rhode Island.

But the analysis released last Thursday also shows the casinos would create about 15,000 permanent jobs, not the 20,000 projected by Gov. Deval Patrick.

The report also found that the casinos would generate 9,000 construction jobs, far fewer than the 30,000 once projected by the governor.

The study by the Spectrum Gaming Group of Linwood, N.J., was conducted for the Patrick administration. The Legislature killed Patrick’s casinos plan earlier this year, but the governor has spoken about reviving it.

“I believe that this analysis will prove valuable for future policy deliberations if the issue of expanded gaming in Massachusetts re-emerges,” Economic Development Secretary Daniel O’Connell said in a statement.

“The analysis provides a comprehensive response to the many thoughtful questions raised by legislators and other interested groups, and reflects the integrity and financial expertise for which Spectrum Gaming is widely regarded.”

The governor filed legislation last September proposing to license three casinos he said would generate $600 million in licensing fees and $400 million in annual tax revenues. The report doesn’t estimate licensing fees, but it said tax revenues might be as high as $600 million.

Patrick’s proposal included special consideration for an Indian application, a nod to the Mashpee Wampanoags, who are proposing their own casino in Middleborough. The report said resolving the prospect of a rival Indian casino was important because it could affect the interest of commercial applicants, as well as the financing various parties could receive.

The analysis reported challenges in quantifying the social impacts of casino gambling, saying they “typically take much longer to emerge.” But it said Patrick’s proposal contained what would be the largest budget for treating gambling problems among all casino states.

House Speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi, who engineered the defeat of Patrick’s proposal partly due to concerns about social problems, said in a statement: “While I remain an opponent of allowing casino gambling in the Commonwealth, I will fully analyze the details of today’s report … and I will discuss best next steps with Gov. Patrick, Senate President [Therese] Murray and my colleagues in the House.”

Boston out of jail space for teen offenders

Young offenders in Boston are being jailed as far away as New Bedford and Worcester because the city has nowhere to put them.

The Boston Herald reported that the teen jail crunch comes after the city shut down its own holding facility in Mattapan because it couldn’t afford it.

Meanwhile, a juvenile detention wing in a police station near Government Center was recently renovated, and those cells are now used for adults.

Boston police say the city still has temporary holding cells for juveniles all over the city. But state law says minors can’t be held overnight except in a dedicated youth facility.

The city’s new policy of shuttling juveniles outside Boston began last month.

Police say the city is in talks with state officials about solving the problem.

Mass. apologizes to former inmate held too long

The state has agreed to pay $100,000 to a man who was released from prison four years after his sentence should have ended.

The Massachusetts Department of Correction has also apologized to Rommel Jones.

Jones told the Boston Globe that he accepted the apology and hopes a newly revised process designed to ensure that similar mistakes no longer happen means that no other inmates will be locked up beyond their sentence.

Prison officials acknowledged last year that Jones and 13 other inmates had been confined after their sentences had ended. They promised to implement a new system for tracking sentences.

Jones’ lawsuit had claimed he suffered “serious emotional and physical harm.”

Bay State foreclosures double in first half of 2008

Home foreclosures in Massachusetts more than doubled during the first half of 2008, with the number growing by 50 percent in June.

The Warren Group recently reported that in the first six months of the year, 6,707 foreclosure deeds were recorded, more than double the 3,083 deeds recorded in the same period a year ago.

Deeds — the final step in a foreclosure — also increased to 1,131 in June, up from 756 in June 2007.

Petitions to foreclose — the first step in the process — fell sharply during June, 350 petitions compared with 2,308 a year ago.

The Warren Group attributed the drop to a new state law that created a 90-day cooling off period before foreclosure proceedings can begin in court. Previously, those proceedings could begin within 30 days after a borrower went into default.

Ex-Boston cop gets 11 years for extortion

A former Boston police officer was recently sentenced to more than 11 years in prison for conspiring to extort $265,000 from a man on behalf of Colombian drug dealers.

Jose Ortiz pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in April to conspiracy to distribute cocaine, possession with intent to distribute cocaine, conspiracy to commit extortion and attempted extortion.

U.S. District Court Judge Rya Zobel sentenced the 46-year-old officer from Salem to 11 years, 3 months in prison.

Ortiz admitted he tried to extort a man he believed was responsible for a drug deal that had gone bad.

Ortiz, who was wearing his police uniform, told the man that he worked with two drug dealers and Colombians who had lost money in a drug deal and he was there to collect the debt.

Restoration starts on Maine meeting house

PORTLAND, Maine — After 10 years of planning, restoration work got underway last week at Portland’s historic Abyssinian Meeting House, the nation’s third-oldest black church.

The work represents an attempt to repair decades of neglect to the building that was erected in 1828 in the city’s East End and was part of the Underground Railroad that helped runaway slaves find freedom.

The initial phase of the work is expected to cost $280,000. The Committee to Restore the Abyssinian hopes to raise $3 million to completely restore the building on Newbury Street and establish a visitors center by 2011.

(Associated Press)