BERKSHIRE COUNTY

Coverage of Berkshire County, Massachusetts.

Former State Sen. Ben Downing Launching Campaign For Massachusetts Governor

Feb 8, 2021
Former Massachusetts state Sen. Ben Downing.
Facebook / Downing campaign

Democrat Ben Downing, a former Massachusetts state senator who went on to work in solar energy, is announcing Monday that he'll run for governor in 2022, mounting a campaign he said will aim to infuse state government with a sense of urgency.

A PCB disposal site that was allowed under the consent decree to clean up the Housatonic River abuts the Allendale Elementary School playground in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, in a file photo.
Nancy Eve Cohen / NEPR

Officials in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, are asking the state Department of Public Health to do a cancer study in a neighborhood near two General Electric toxic waste disposal sites. 

Gavel.
Joe Gratz / Creative Commons / flickr.com/photos/joegratz

For Efrem Sigel, serving on a jury was life-changing — and eye-opening. Sigel was one of 12 who sat in the jury box in 2017 and ultimately convicted Abraham Cucuta.

The great seal of the Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohican Indians, from a gravestone in the Stockbridge Cemetery.
Nancy Eve Cohen / NEPM

Updated Feb. 4, 2021  

Williams College and the Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohican Indians are launching a new collaboration focused on historic preservation. The school is providing a three-room office for the tribe in downtown Williamstown, Massachusetts, and funding student interns.

A PVTA rider waits at the Amherst College stop on Boltwood Avenue in 2019.
Staff photo / Daily Hampshire Gazette / gazettenet.com

A new survey shows that COVID-19 is keeping people from riding public transportation in Massachusetts.

The main entrance to Berkshire Medical Center in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, in 2017.
Shannon Young / The Republican / masslive.com

A rehab and nursing facility in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, has had one of the largest COVID-19 outbreaks in Berkshire County, according to the city health department.

Mercy Medical Center in Springfield, Massachusetts
Don Treeger / The Republican / Masslive

The top doctor at a Springfield, Massachusetts, medical facility said the region has enough capacity to treat patients for COVID-19 and other illnesses — at least for now.

Bonney Hartley, historic preservation manager of the Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohican Indians, stands in the Stockbridge Cemetery, which was once her ancestor's land.
Nancy Eve Cohen / NEPM

The Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohican Indians today are based in Wisconsin. But their homeland spanned the Housatonic and Hudson river valleys, and stretched from Manhattan into Vermont.

Courtesy of Springfield No One Leaves

 

The pandemic has taken a crisis of housing affordability and made it worse. In western Massachusetts and elsewhere, growing numbers of people are falling behind on rent and are in danger of being evicted, even with well-funded assistance programs.

A stretch of the Housatonic River.
Nancy Eve Cohen / NEPM

Updated 3:30 p.m. 

The federal Environmental Protection Agency has issued a revised final permit for the next stage of cleanup of the Housatonic River. General Electric polluted the river with PCBs for decades when it operated a plant in Pittsfield, Massachusettts. 

The office of the bishop of the Springfield Catholic Diocese.
Nancy Eve Cohen / NEPR

The Springfield Roman Catholic Diocese said it will expand which clergy accused of sexual abuse it lists on its website.

The incoming bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese in Springfield, Massachusetts, William Byrne, appeared at an introductory press conference in October 2020.
Adam Frenier / NEPM

On Monday, the Rev. Bill Byrne will be installed as bishop of the Springfield Roman Catholic Diocese. He succeeds Mitchell Rozanski, who left this summer to become archbishop of St. Louis.

Two people enjoy a ski outing.
File photo / The Republican / masslive.com

Ski season is beginning to ramp up across New England. Some mountain operators said they're adjusting to more than pandemic-related safety restrictions.

Well into November, Hillcrest Commons had a perfect record: not a single confirmed coronavirus infection.

Its parent company, nonprofit Berkshire Healthcare Systems, puts out daily numbers for each of its 18 facilities. Hillcrest Commons Nursing & Rehabilitation Center was at zero, zero, zero — until November 18th.

Views from the summit of Mt. Holyoke at Skinner State Park in Hadley, Massachusetts.
Nancy Eve Cohen / NEPM

The Massachusetts state auditor's office has issued a report on the program that compensates cities and towns with state-owned land that is not subject to property tax.

A health care worker places a cotton swab into a vile after taking a sample from someone being tested for COVID-19 last month at a drive-through testing area at Somerville Hospital.
Jesse Costa / WBUR

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker announced on Monday an expansion of free COVID-19 testing in the western part of the state.

An inmate is tested for COVID-19 at the Hampden County Correctional Center in Ludlow, Massachusetts.
Mark Murray / Hampden County Sheriff's Office

Earlier this week, the sheriff of Hampden County announced that 10% of inmates in the department's Ludlow, Massachusetts, jail had tested positive for COVID-19.  But the sheriffs of the other three counties in western Massachusetts said they see no need to test all their inmates.

Downtown Pittsfield, Massachusetts.
Nancy Eve Cohen / NEPM

The Pittsfield, Massachusetts, Board of Health has rescinded an earlier order to close indoor dining in the city.

City Hall in Pittsfield, Massachusetts.
Kenneth C. Zirkel / Creative Commons / commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Kzirkel

After several dozen people began camping in Pittsfield's Springside Park this summer, the city first relaxed its rules that prohibited people from being there after dusk. But last month the Park Commission set Tuesday as the day to start enforcing those rules.

RN Alyssa Anderson administers a COVID-19 test at Saint Francis Hospital and Medical Center in Hartford in March 2020.
Joe Amon / Connecticut Public / NENC

With virus rates rising across the state and the holidays looming, western Massachusetts residents who want to get a COVID test are often waiting in hours-long lines, if they can get one at all.

WAM Theatre based in Lenox, Massachusetts, took on "The Thanksgiving Play" this season. The show is a sendup of white elementary school teachers trying and failing to do better at teaching this part of American history.
Illustration by Katari Wilson / WAM Theatre

In late October, Native American playwright Larissa FastHorse was among the recipients of a prestigious MacArthur Genius Grant. Among her achievements is "The Thanksgiving Play," now on stage (so to speak) at WAM Theatre, based in Lenox, Massachusetts.

In this pandemic year, the video went live last night and is up through the weekend.

A fire ripped through the Doris Duke Theatre at Jacob's Pillow in Becket, Massachusetts, on November 17, 2020.
Monterey Fire Department / Facebook

A fire destroyed an important dance performance theater at Jacob's Pillow in Becket, Massachusetts, Tuesday morning.

Theater At Jacob's Pillow Destroyed In Fire

Nov 17, 2020

On Tuesday morning, a fire destroyed a theater at Jacob’s Pillow, the site of the nation’s longest-running dance festival, located in Becket, Mass.

Christina "Smiles" Remmes is a Northampton, Massachusetts, resident experiencing homelessness.
Carol Lollis / Daily Hampshire Gazette / gazettenet.com

When someone gets diagnosed with COVID-19, they must separate from others — maybe hole up in a room, or the basement — in order to not spread the virus to others. But for folks without homes in western Massachusetts, that's nothing like what they may have to go through this winter.

A mail-in ballot for the September 1, 2020, Massachusetts state primary.
NEPM

While people await the results of the presidential race, local election officials in Massachusetts are living another version of "hurry up and wait."

A lawn sign in Lee, Massachusetts, designed by Reed Anderson of Great Barrington, calls for no local dumps for PCB waste from General Electric.
Nancy Eve Cohen / NEPM

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has posted 585 pages of public comments on a proposed plan to clean up toxic waste from the Housatonic River and dispose some it in Lee, Massachusetts.

A sign near the Housatonic River in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, in 2009 after a GE/EPA cleanup of part of the river
Nancy Eve Cohen / NEPM

Last month the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency wrapped up a public comment period on its controversial plan to remove toxic PCBs from the Housatonic River. The agency said it hopes to issue its final plan by the end of the year.

That would be before any possible change at the White House.

Great Barrington Town Hall in Great Barrington, Massachusetts.
John Phelan / Creative Commons / commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Town_Hall,_Great_Barrington_MA.jpg

The town of Great Barrington, Massachusetts, has made it known it disapproves of a declaration that bears its name.

An ice cream shop in summer 2020 at Look Park in Northampton, Massachusetts.
Sam Hudzik / NEPM

Concern is growing in parts of New England about the potential for another spike in COVID-19 cases.

A location in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, used by the think tank American Institute for Economic Research.
genericface / Creative Commons / flickr.com/photos/genericface

Great Barrington, Massachusetts, recently played host to a meeting that’s causing controversy in the scientific community and caught the attention of the White House.

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