WSAR NEWS

Department Of Corrections Reaches Testing Goal

The Massachusetts Department of Corrections is reporting that it has met its goal of conducting universal COVID-19 testing at all 16 D.O.C facilities.

 

They utilized mobile test teams to ensure that all inmates and civility committed persons could be tested for the virus. 

 

As of Wednesday, some 7,679 tests have been performed for all D.O.C inmates, with many having been tested more than once. 

 

390 inmates or just over 5 percent of the population has tested positive. 339 of those have since recovered while 50 have an active diagnosis.

What You Need To Know About Tonight's Special Town Meeting in Swansea

Swansea’s Special Town Meeting will take place this evening at the Venus de Milo at 7 p.m.

 

A number of provisions will be made to ensure a safe environment in the era of Corona. Unregistered voters or those who registered after March 13th will not be able to attend the event.

 

The check in time is slotted for 5:45. The use of the front entrance will be prohibited.

 

Residents whose last names begin with A through L are asked to enter through the west entrance while those with last names that start with M through Z are asked to enter through the east entrance. 

 

Verbal health screening and temperature checks will be required along with face coverings. If you cannot wear a mask there will be a separate area for you. 

 

Social distancing will be practiced throughout the entire town meeting.

Unemployment In The Commonwealth Continues To Rise

During the week of May 17 to May 23, the Commonwealth had 37,618 individuals file a standard Unemployment Insurance claim. 

 

This is a decrease of 463 from the week prior. Since March 15, a total of 897,205 initial claims have been filed in Massachusetts. 

 

147,594 Commonwealth residents filed for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance last week bringing the total number of claimants who have filed for PUA to 518,796.

 

The Department of Unemployment Assistance has grown from 50 employees to over 1900 since the month of March due to the desperate needs of the pandemic. 

 

The Massachusetts D.U.A is beginning to implement additional identity verification measures after criminal enterprises stole personal information from prior national data breaches. 

 

This will temporarily delay the payment time frame for many claims after a large amount of attempted illegitimate claims were filed using the Unemployment Assistance system.  

 

Individuals who believe they may have had a false claim filed using their identity are urged to utilize the D.U.A contact form found at Mass.gov or on the phone at 877-626-6800.

Swansea Selectmen's Chairman Steven Kitchin Passes The Buck

SWANSEA SELECTMEN'S CHAIRMAN, STEVEN KITCHIN PASSES THE BUCK

 

For logically thinking people, which do you suppose should come first?  A town’s election, or a town’s special meeting?  Swansea’s Annual Town Election is currently scheduled to be held on June 22nd, however, a special town meeting has been slated for June 1st.

 

To put the matter into perspective, Swansea town meetings can sometimes attract up to 300 people, depending on the matters up for vote.  Further, over a dozen Swansea elected officials’ terms have already expired, including Select Board Chairman, Steven Kitchin, who has strongly advocated to prioritize holding the Special Town Meeting before the Annual Town Election.

 

During the May 19th Selectmen’s meeting, Kitchin refused to take a position on moving the Special Town Meeting from it’s current date of June 1st, and instead placed the responsibility upon the Town Moderator, Paul Burke, whose term has also expired and is up for re-election as well.  Kitchin said, “This is a challenging call…” and, “this decision is to be made by the moderator in consultation with the Board of Selectmen.”

 

Selectman Derek Heim made his concerns known and said, “I made this pretty clear weeks ago.  There should be contingency plans.  I am still waiting to hear how this will be handled at the Venus De Milo.”

 

Burke had stated at a previous Selectmen’s meeting that he had coordinated with the Venus De Milo to conduct the Special Town Meeting in their large banquet hall, but as of May 19th, hadn’t produced a plan to the Swansea Board of Selectmen as to how the meeting could be held safely in light of the Coronavirus pandemic.

 

Selectman Christopher Carreiro weighed in by asking Acting Town Administrator, James Purcell, “There are so many other communities in the Commonwealth in the same position.  What are other communities doing?”  Purcell responded, “They’re having meetings outside.”

Statistically speaking, the community’s most vulnerable population, the elderly, represent the greatest number of voters in Swansea.

 

In neighboring Somerset, town officials have crafted a plan that prioritizes their Annual Town Election before any Town Meeting.  Currently, Somerset’s Annual Town Election is scheduled for Saturday, June 13th, while their Annual Town Meeting has been postponed until August 3, 2020.

 

The Swansea Board of Selectmen have a scheduled meeting for tonight, Tuesday, May 26th, which is less than one week before the scheduled Special Town Meeting, meanwhile, their current posted agenda does not include any mention of delaying the June 1st Special Town Meeting.

Is A New Somerset Town Newspaper In The Works?

With Gatehouse Media deciding on the recent layoffs at the Spectator Newspaper, a town selectman is inquiring about forming a new local news publication. 

 

David Berube indicated during the most recent session of the Somerset Selectmen that he along with a group of individuals are looking at the requirements to create another newspaper.

 

“Personally, I want to start a new paper,” he said. “We are in the middle of the process. That’s on the table as is a lot of things.”

 

Berube made it known he would seek to rehire local journalists that have been laid off this Spring. 

 

He also made it clear that he is still looking for additional individuals as well as anyone who thinks they can provide assistance or help in some form. 

 

"I want to reach out to the community,” the Somerset Selectman said. “If there is anyone who feels they can add to this group to make this happen, please reach out to the town hall.” 

 

EDITED 5/28/2020:  At the request of Selectman Berube, inquiries should be directed to him at his email address:  DBER930@COMCAST.NET

 

“Leave a message for me and I will definitely get back to you to see if your input or expertise can help us in this matter."

 

Gatehouse, also recently purchased the Gannett media company who owns U.S.A Today.

Bristol County Prisoner Release Alert Notification System

The Bristol County Sheriff’s Office has updated its prisoner release alert notification system to include the criminal histories of county inmates being released by hail due to the pandemic. 

 

Bristol County Sheriff Tom Hodgson noted that he found the record for a single individual, who was released with over 70 other counts including rape, narcotics possession and distribution.

 

Hodgson indicated that he has opposed the release of prisoners due to the virus as it goes against the best interest of public safety. He says he took an oath to protect Bristol County and wants the public to know who is being released. 

 

The graphic is available on the Bristol County Sheriff’s Department website and all of their social platforms.

Fall River's Mobile Addiction Van Services Coming Soon

Fall River will share in a series of contracts through the Massachusetts Department of Health to provide mobile addiction van services in the city as well as New Bedford, Boston and Worcester. 

 

This will attempt to serve individuals with a high risk for overdose and other medical complications associated with substance abuse. 

 

SSTAR Addiction Treatment Centers will provide services in both New Bedford and Fall River with an annual grant of 350,000 dollars. Everything kicks off on the first day in July. 

 

The vans will provide treatment and basic clinical care. They will be designed to include medication for addiction treatment, narcan distribution and training as well as syringe exchanges.

 

Other services offered will include primary care services for wounds, vaccinations and screening for communicable diseases, including HIV and TB. 

 

Referrals for behavioral health services and specialty care will also be made available for those in need.

 

The overall goal of supplying these vans to the public is to provide care to individuals not receiving the correct care through other means. 

 

There is also hope that this will provide connections to long-term, community-based care in an effort to prevent overdose deaths, support long-term recovery and improve overall health and quality of life in the most vulnerable individuals.

Ayanna Pressley Questions Governor Bakers Timeline

Massachusetts House Member Ayanna Pressley took to Twitter on Tuesday with a warning to Governor Charlie Baker and urged him to reconsider his timeline. 

 

She is concerned the Commonwealth is moving too fast within its first phase of reopening the state. 

 

Pressley said, “Policy decisions that offer a false choice between public health & economic recovery will hurt our communities.”

 

Manufacturing and construction returned to work this week while later in the month, hair salons and barbershops, curbside services for retail and other sectors of the economy will make their way back online. 

 

The Commonwealth Congresswoman expressed her and her colleagues' confusion with the plan.

 

On Tuesday Pressley followed up her first Tweet urging the Governor to change his timeline with this, “Yesterday’s announcement left us with more questions than answers and I have been on the phone with families worried about childcare, faith leaders concerned it is not safe to gather, and small businesses worried about their workers’ health and access to PPE.”

 

Offices will also begin to open in the next few weeks with Boston opening their office doors on June 1st. 

Massachusetts Begins To Reopen

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts will slowly start to reopen today.

 

Governor Charlie Baker announced a four-part plan over the next several weeks and months earlier this morning at a daily press conference to start gearing up for the Massachusetts economy to come back to life. 

 

“We’ll progress through four phases, opening more sectors of the economy and activities only when the public health data indicate when it's appropriate to do so,“ Baker said. “Each phase will last at least three weeks but may last longer if the public health data doesn’t support moving forward.”

 

The Governor gave credit to the state’s residents for complying with guidelines and working together through the pandemic. 

 

“We have all been doing our jobs to fight back,” Baker said. “As a result, positive rates are moving in the right direction and hospitalizations are down.”

 

The first sectors of the economy to open up will include places of worship among other things. 

 

“The public health metrics that guide this process mean it’s possible to reopen manufacturing facilities and construction sites effective today,” Governor Baker said.

 

Churches and other places of worship will have a new set of guidelines to follow. Construction workers and manufacturers will have to limit face-to-face and customer interactions. 

 

“We’re permitting more sectors of our economy to open, effective May 25th and others on June 1st under phase one,” Governor Baker said.

 

One week from today outdoor facilities and various recreational sites will reopen, as well. Medical facilities will now be able to see more patients agreed upon a set schedule over the next two weeks. 

 

Those working from home over the last two months will possibly be able to return on May 25th. 

 

“Starting one week from now, we’re permitting office space to reopen to 25% capacity except in Boston,” Baker said. 

 

Retail and haircare will also make its return in a week with new guidelines.

“On May 25th, retail establishments may also offer curbside service,” Baker said. “Some personal services such as barbershops and hair salons may also reopen, provided that they follow the new rules.”

 

The Governor also issued a new stay-at-home advisory limiting gatherings to maintain less than ten people. Residents are advised to only leave their homes for health care, worship, work and outdoor activities. 

 

Those over the age of 65 along with those with pre-existing conditions are advised to stay home except for essential errands like groceries and health care.

The Fall River Secondary Gets Approval

A nearly 159 million dollar agreement with Skanska D.W. White JV was approved by the M.B.T.A Fiscal and Management Control Board to begin building the Fall River Secondary.

 

This marks the first major construction project for Phase One of the Southcoast Rail endeavor.

 

Phase one will connect Southeastern Mass and Boston by providing riders with what is termed a one-seat trip from Taunton, Fall River and New Bedford to SOuth Station in less than 90 minutes. 

 

The first phase is expected to be complete by 2023. The work will focus on track infrastructure, train layover space, grade crossings, bridges, parking lots and stations. 

 

At least 100 million dollars has been expended on construction work, real estate, vehicle procurement and related design and contract management. 

 

Commuter rail stations will be built in Freetown and in Fall River with 200 parking spots expected in Fall River as well as a bus drop-off area on North Main Street. 

 

A layover facility for train storage will be constructed at Weavers Cove. It will contain six tracks where trains will be stored in an 1,8000-square foot building.

Coronavirus Surge Centers In New Bedford

New Bedford City Administrators have been informed that the state will not be footing the bill for the care of Massachusetts Health Patients at the Medical Surge Facility on Acushnet Avenue. 

 

Therefore, the facility will be closed down, according to the city. The state’s decision renders it economically infeasible to continue operations. 

 

The Massachusetts Executive Office of Health and Human Services told the city that there are no patients currently at the facility and no further residents with the Coronavirus are expected to be admitted. 

 

The Acushnet Ave location is the second of two surge facilities that opened in New Bedford with the help of Southcoast Health Essex Group Management Corporation. 

 

Their hope was to serve patients recovering from COVID-19 while freeing up hospital beds in the local area. 

 

The facility located on Rockdale Avenue, which opened back in mid-April, will remain open to serve Coronavirus patients. 

 

A third facility is located on the Umass Dartmouth Campus. Originally, that location was not supposed to open unless the first two New Bedford spots reached capacity. It will now stay open due to the closing on Acushnet Ave. 

 

New Bedford’s Mayor announced that he will retain the city’s rights as lessee of the Acushnet Ave facility. 

 

Jon Mitchell said if there is a future surge of Coronavirus patients this spot can be reopened as a regional care facility.

Fall River's New Chief Of Police Talks Culture Change

In a conversation with the new Chief of Police in Fall River, Jeff Cardoza tells WSAR changes to the culture are one of his priorities in taking over the Fall River Police Department.

 

"We're striving for efficiency and effectiveness.,” he said. “We need to consider some changes.”

 

The new Police Chief maintains he will be flexible in his position. 

 

“If it doesn't work out, I'm not afraid to say I was wrong and to fix it and go back to the way it was," Cardoza said.

 

Strategies like regionalization is something that is being discussed currently in an attempt to bolster the number of officers on the force. 

 

"I have some ideas,” Cardoza told WSAR. “I've shared them with the Mayor and he has some interest in maybe going into that a bit deeper.”

 

“Perhaps, we can bring regionalization, if you will, of some services in the department that would allow us to put some additional people who are already here working on the street.,” the Chief continued. “This will have to be discussed with the union and my intention is to bring them in for the process."

 

Currently, Chief Cardoza is examining the details of the FY-2021 budget for his department.

Mayor Paul Coogan Talks Hiring New Chief Of Police In Fall River

Three contenders interviewed for the job of Fall River Police Chief last week. 

 

Mayor Paul Coogan said that the trio faced a series of questions in what will be the first of two rounds in the process. 

 

"There's a series of questions such as describing a time when their ethics are challenged or their knowledge on budgets,” Mayor Coogan said. “How will it be to run a department when you're above people who used to be friends?”

 

He told WSAR that the questioning was targeted more towards local topics. 

 

“There were a series (of questions) that were targeted toward Fall River,” Coogan said. “We talked about homelessness. We talked about panhandling."

 

A panel of seven Fall River citizens met in a local church and asked various follow-up questions as Coogan explained.

 

"What do you think is the biggest problem facing the Fall River Police Department right now?” He gave as an example. “Give us a couple of your accomplishments in your career in Fall River. We were looking to get an idea of what these people are like.”

 

The process is a thorough one and will be met with a second round of interviews with the three. 

 

“There will probably be another series of interviews that will be much more targeted to specific things I'd like to see get done in the city,” Mayor Coogan said. “Hopefully by then we'll be closer to making a pick."

 

The question of the interviewing process being too private has been brought up since the news of looking to hire a new police chief. The Mayor countered that by highlighting how past administrations like Jasiel Correia were less public than this time around, 

 

"I don't know if they're more private than they've been in the past,” the Mayor said. “I've heard mixed things about what’s happened in the past.”

 

“Last time there was no interview whatsoever and then we had a new police chief,” Mayor Coogan chuckled. “This is definitely more public than that. We did have three substantial candidates and they all did an excellent job."

 

There is currently no firm timeline for the selection of a permanent police chief.

Congressman Joe Kennedy Introduces Legislation To Guarantee Health Coverage During COVID-19 Pandemic

Massachusetts 4th District Congressman Joe Kennedy III along with Washington 7th District Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal led a group of 32 representatives this morning in introducing the Medicare Crisis Program Act.

 

The act will ensure everyone guaranteed access to health care during the current pandemic. 

 

The program expands Medicare and Medicaid eligibility during the crisis, caps out-of-pocket costs for those enrolling as well as eliminate co=pays, coinsurance or deductibles related to COVID-19 testing and related care. 

 

Congresswoman Jayapal is Co-Chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and discussed what this act entails. 

 

“Our nation’s for-profit, employment-based health care system did not make sense before COVID-19 struck, and it is proving dangerous and deadly during the crisis,” she said. “Millions of Americans are losing their job and their health insurance at precisely the moment when we need everyone to be able to access care and treatment for illness.” 

 

Over 30 million Americans have filed for unemployment over the last five weeks with that number expected to rise to 35 million. Many have lost their income and seen healthcare coverage disappear in the midst of a public health emergency. 

 

“The Medicare Crisis Program Act would guarantee health care for millions of people struggling with the health and economic realities of the COVID-19 pandemic and protect Americans from outrageous out-of-pocket costs,” Jayapal explained.

 

The thought is that expanding the number of Americans eligible for Medicare and Medicaid, the Medicare Crisis Program act will guarantee healthcare when it's needed the most. 

 

“A health care system more concerned with profits than patients was never equipped to confront a pandemic like COVID-19,” Congressman Kennedy said. “Because of our nation’s stubborn failure to guarantee universal health care, millions of people are now not only out of a job, but out of health care coverage as coronavirus ravages their communities.”

 

Kennedy along with Jayapal and their colleagues want to be able to change the way the system works as he believes this pandemic has exposed the healthcare system for its monstrous flaws. 

 

“With the Medicare Crisis Program Act, we can begin to fill in the gaps of a fundamentally flawed health care system during this pandemic and chart a path towards Medicare For All when it ends,” said Kennedy.

 

The Medicare Crisis Program Act would remain in effect for enrollees until the federal and state unemployment rate returns to within 2% of the unemployment rate in the last quarter of 2019 or they are employed and enrolled in sufficient health insurance, whichever occurs first. 

 

The Search For A New Fall River Police Chief Begins Tonight

Fall River Mayor Paul Coogan is appointing a seven member advisory committee to begin the process of selecting a new Fall River Chief of Police.

 

That process will begin tonight conducting interviews with three internal contenders whoo all currently are members of the F.R.P.D. 

 

There was no specific mention as to who will comprise the advisory committee. The Coogan Administration did say the seven members are “a cross section of the community.”

 

Members of the committee include law enforcement officials, health care workers, neighborhood leaders and members of the faith-based community. 

 

Due to the Coronavirus the interview process will not be conducted in a public forum as media is not allowed to attend.

Durfee Alumni Association Recognizes Two Distinguished Graduates

The Durfee Chimes, a publication of the B.M.C Durfee High School Alumni Association announced their two new distinguished alumnus in Robert Karam and Joseph Marshall. 

 

Karam, a 1961 graduate is principal owner of the Karam Financial Group and co-owner of SNE Broadcasting and Bristol County Broadcasting. 

 

He is also the Director of Depositors Insurance Fund, Chairman of AD Makepeace Board of Directors and former Director of Savings Bank Life Insurance. 

 

Karam received his bachelor’s degree in business administration from UMASS Dartmouth in 1967. 

 

He has devoted much of his time in the local community and received numerous awards for his service to Fall River and the surrounding area. 

 

He is a former Chairman and Vice Chairman of the Board of Trustees for the University of Massachusetts as well as for the school’s Memorial Health Care System in Worcester as Chairman. 

 

He has been awarded honorary degrees from Umass and the Southern New England School of Law. 

 

In 1995, he was awarded the Regional Leadership Award by the New Bedford Chamber of Commerce as well as the Outstanding Citizenship Award of Greater Fall River by their Chamber of Commerce back in 1987. 

 

In 2013, Karam received the uAspire First One Award from a non-profit group ensuring financial assistance and tools to all young people.  

 

Joseph Marshall is a graduate of the 1965 class. He attended Bristol Community College in 1975 and received an associates degree in business. 

 

Then, four years later he received his bachelor’s from UMASS Dartmouth in financial management analysis. He is also a graduate of the Dale Carnegie Institute.

 

In 1975, Marshall began to work for a large independent insurance agency as a sales representative. 

 

He began selling life and health insurance before obtaining the qualifications to pivot his work to financial and retirement planning for his clients. 

 

In 1988, Marshall founded his own financial services company in J. Marshall Associates in an attempt to educate the local small business market as well as the senior population. 

 

His goal is to teach planning to avoid financial disaster. He has over 500 clients. 

 

He has also served as President of the Fall River Office of Economic Development; Chairman of the Board of Assessors; President of the Bristol Community College Foundation; Founder of the Prince Henry Society and most recently President of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall Committee.

Mary Sahady on Fall River's New Fireboat

Fall River’s Interim City Administrator and Chief Financial Officer joined WSAR this week on The Marc Dion Show. 

 

Mary Sahady discussed a number of things including an update on how the city’s new fireboat and its six-figure price tag will ultimately be paid for through multiple avenues upon delivery.

 

"It's approximately 156,000 dollars,” she said. “There are some turn backs that are available in the fire budget that Chief Lynch is utilizing. He also has two small special revenue funds that he is taking from."

 

The city’s Emergency Medical Service Director will also be footing a portion of the bill. 

 

"Director (Tim) Oliveira is using some of his surpluses,” Sahady said. “I think it's about 28,000 dollars of his surpluses to fund the fire boat as it will be used by both E.M.S and the fire department."

 

Fall River’s C.F.O told WSAR that Fire Chief John Lynch was told to find the funds for the new boat within the confines of the fire department budget.

 

"In this particular case, the Fire Chief was given the direction, if you will, to find it in his expenses and his budget," Sahady explained. 

 

The city council made it clear they were not pleased finding out about this expense out-of-nowhere at their most recent council session.

Governor Baker Addresses Upcoming May 4 Date

The Coronavirus pandemic in the Commonwealth has put a halt to all non-essential businesses. 

 

The first week in May was the target date for the state to mark on the calendars in terms of potentially phasing normal life back in Massachusetts, or at least discussing it. 

 

As we creep closer towards that infamous May 4 date next Monday, Governor Charlie Baker over the weekend addressed the fluidity of that time frame. 

 

"The key metric here is not May 4,” he said. “That's where the emergency order went through and it went through there because we felt it was important to send a pretty clear message to people that certain businesses would be deemed essential by the federal government and by the Commonwealth, just as other states did.” 

 

Baker continued, “but we wanted to make clear that we didn't want people to think there would be reopening tomorrow or the day after or the day after."

 

The Massachusetts Governor emphasized that the thought in early April was to be prepared for a predicted surge of COVID-19 cases, which came a bit later than expected.

 

"May 4th was based on our assumption that we were going to be in the surge at some point in early April,” Baker said. “The surge has been a bit later than that.”

 

The Governor said a pair of steps need to be taken before considering moving along with the reopening of non-essential business. 

 

“Any decisions we make with respect to reopening are going to require two things - number one, the same thing it requires almost everywhere else which is some drop in hospitalization rates and some evidence that we are in fact over the hump,” Baker said.

 

“And the second is putting in the rules for reopening and re engagement in place which I will have a lot more to say about next week," he continued.

New Intensive Care Unit Facility At St. Luke's Hospital

A brand new Intensive Care Unit has joined the Southcoast family in New Bedford at St. Luke’s Hospital and is ready for operations. 

 

The new state-of-the-art facility cost 14 million dollars and is located on the fourth floor of St. Lukes. It adds 16 beds in various 440 square foot rooms.

 

The timeline had to be moved up about a month early to accommodate the projected surge in COVID-19 cases. 

 

Once the pandemic comes to its much anticipated conclusion the original I.C.U will be repurposed for surgical patients. 

 

Staff will remain physically distanced during this time. An advanced video monitoring system with transitional screening windows are part of the new design. 

 

The integration of this new unit is part of the ongoing process Southcoast established to give St. Luke’s level 2 trauma center status. 

Sixth Confirmed COVID-19 Case In The Bristol County House Of Corrections

The Bristol County House of Corrections had its sixth case of the COVID-19 virus this week.

 

The officer in question left work immediately after becoming ill in the early morning hours of Sunday April 19. He was in the midst of a third shift control room assignment.

 

All of those who have tested positive are employees of the facility. 

 

A nurse, a K-9 officer and another corrections officer have fully recovered and returned to duty while a mental health professional and two other officers are expected to fully recover, as well. 

 

There have been eight prisoners who have tested for the virus and all have proven to be negative. 

 

Over the past month, both officers and prisoners have all been issued face coverings in the form of masks with facilities having been disinfected thoroughly.

Governor Baker & The Importance Of Face Coverings

The Governor of Massachusetts is asking all Commonwealth residents to wear a mask as a means of protection, both for yourself and those you come into contact with.

 

Charlie Baker said at his daily noon press briefing on Wednesday that if social distancing is an issue for you, utilizing a face covering is almost necessary.

 

“Our recommendations with respect to masks and face coverings for those who can’t social distance is basically that you should,” Governor Baker said. “We back up and support every community that has moved more aggressively to make it the equivalent of an enforceable order.”

 

He continued, “I think our view is that it’s much easier and appropriate for locals to enforce those rules over us because they’re there.”

 

The invisibility factor of this particular virus in comparison to something like influenza has made covering up your face almost a staple of society. 

 

It has become the new normal.

 

“This is not like the flu,” Governor Baker said. “If you get the flu, you know it and everybody else knows it. But when it comes to this virus there are a number of people who get it who don’t know it.”

 

The goal here is to create as many hurdles as possible for the virus to spread. 

 

“One of the reasons we made the decision to issue the guidance and the advisory around wearing a mask or a face covering is because the data became pretty clear that the face covering is not just about protecting you from other people,” Baker said. “It’s about protecting other people from you because you could be somebody who has this virus and doesn’t know it.”

 

Fall River administrators have indicated they are not interested in making masks or face coverings mandatory.

Somerset Artist Brian Fox Receives A Nationally Prestigious Award

The United States Sports Academy has announced that a local Somerset resident and nationally recognized artist was named the Sports Artist of the Year in the Painter category.

 

Brian Fox has painted works for some of the more iconic people known around here locally. Between Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski, Mark Wahlberg and Steven Tyler, Fox has established quite the recognition here in New England for his work. 

 

The U.S Sports Academy said Fox has a “meticulous attention to detail and an uncanny ability to capture the iconic expressions of his larger-than-life subjects.”

 

Those larger-than-life subjects include Jackie Robinson, Keith Richards, Michael Phelps, Johnny Depp, Muhammad Ali, Derek Jeter, Pele and so much more. 

 

“Being recognized by a prestigious organization such as the United States Sports Academy is an incredible honor,” Fox said once he learned the news. “I am humbled as I am grateful.”

 

The Somerset resident created the painting for the Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial Wall in Fall River entitled “Forgotten Heroes.” It was presented before Governor Charlie Baker and Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito. 

 

Fox also has a series of werewolf paintings which have created quite the following here locally. 

 

He has held exhibits across the country from Boston to Los Angeles and everywhere in between. 

 

Fox once collaborated with Olympian Jim Craig back in 2010 to create a collection of pieces celebrating the U.S Hockey team's win in 1980 over the Soviet Union. 

 

He was commissioned by a private collector, as well, to produce an original portrait depicting “Miracle on Ice” which was ultimately signed by every member of the team. 

 

The local artist has had fun sharing his work with those who appreciate it. He came up with an idea called the “art drop” in which at various times he has hid a specific painting as a print for someone to find and keep. 

 

He said it was like a "scavenger hunt" in which he would give clues to his followers on his social media. Whoever followed the clues and found the print got to keep it for free. 

 

Fox’s Fall River studio is closed to the public, though he has held various public events to exhibit his works. 

 

You can see some of Brian Fox’s pieces at BrianFoxStudios.com.

 

The prestigous award will be presented to Fox on November 12 later in the year at a free and open-to-the-public event celebrating sports and art. 

Governor Baker Talks New Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Program

Commonwealth residents who are ineligible for regular unemployment benefits can now apply online for the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Program known as the P.U.A Program. 

 

Governor Charlie Baker made the announcement this week. 

 

“This is a federal program that came about as part of the CARES Act which we supported,” he said. “It’s designed to provide unemployment insurance to self-employed people like contractors, consultants, and the so-called gig economy community.”

 

This P.U.A Program will provide up to 39 weeks of unemployment benefits to those unable to work due to the COVID-19 virus but also ineligible for regular or extended benefits.

 

This will include self-employed workers, independent contractors, as well as gig economy workers.  

 

“All of whom are people who work and make a living but none of whom participate in the traditional unemployment insurance system because they don't have a W-2 or a regular job with a regular employer," Baker said.

 

You can apply online if you qualify at www.mass.gov/pua.

Mayor Paul Coogan On New Fireboat

The Fall River Mayor is currently looking for information on who the individual is that ultimately signed off on a new fire boat for the city. 

 

Amid everything else going on in the world pandemic-related, Mayor Paul Coogan has been on a hunt for who gave the go-ahead on a boat in which the city is on the hook for in the form of 157,000 dollars. 

 

Apparently, it was never presented to the current or the former city council as discovered in the latest session last week. 

 

"I went through the old city administrator's office the other day and flipped through old folders seeing if I could find something but I didn't," Mayor Coogan said.

 

Mayor Coogan joined WSAR for his weekly Friday conversation with Alan Zarek and explained how he first learned of the boat. 

 

"I heard about it at a meeting with the fire chief and Mary Sahady,” he said. “I knew nothing about it. It just came up one day. The Chief had said 'can you pick up the difference on the fireboat?"

 

"And I said, what boat? I had never been told anything about it,” according to the Mayor.  

 

Coogan told WSAR the nine councilors seem poised to dive in. 

 

“Council looks like they're ready to dig into it,” he said. “We had meetings with the councilors and I explained it to them that we're not familiar with it. I still have not seen any agreement or papers on it. I guess we'll see how it plays out."

 

This boat, in particular, replaced one that had service time in both Boston and New Bedford and delivered to the city four years ago.

How Will Fall River Pay For Its New Fireboat?

The Fall River City Council is looking for answers as to where 157,000 dollars will be located to pay the city’s share of a new fire boat.

 

The financing was never approved or brought before the nine councilors in 2018, according to those in attendance at the latest council session. 

 

Council discussed a transfer of just over 28,000 dollars from the EMS Stabilization fund into the Port Security fund during its first finance meeting in over two months.

 

Councilor Shawn Cadime asked Fall River Fire Chief John Lynch about a 25 percent share of the boat and how it would be paid for.

 

Lynch responded, "at the time, the administration wasn't in favor of using our funds. They were looking for other ways so at that point I was looking at different avenues for our portion. One of them was state money because sometimes they will appropriate funds like this."

 

Lynch continued and told Cadime about a grant the department accepted towards the two-year process of designing and constructing a new fire boat. 

 

"We already accepted a grant and the money,” the Chief said. “The boat was being built and will take a two-year process."

 

Cadime and Lynch then engaged in a discussion about the lack of funding, as well as the lack of communication. 

 

"I understand that,” Cadime said. “But Chief, my issue is that we accepted a grant without the necessary funding associated with it. To me, that's financially irresponsible and from a management standpoint it doesn't make any sense.”

 

The City Councilor continued, “so here we are, we have a boat and we're trying to figure out where the twenty-five percent is. I don't care what administration it was, that's just bad management across the board. I don't know how we allowed this to take place."

 

Lynch then talked about the requested transfer of funds.

 

"We have found the money,” he said. “Part of the money is right before you. There's 28,000 dollars transferred  from the EMS stabilization fund to the Port Security fund."

 

Cadime argued that the city has enough issues without trying to secure 157,000 dollars as a pandemic continues. He also argued the development of the waterfront is still leagues away. 

 

As the discussion continued, Councilor Linda Pereira indicated where she believed the fault lies in terms of miscommunication.

 

"If there's blame, it's on the previous administration because it is not the first thing that was ever snuck by the council,” she said. “And you know it. At this point, we already have the boat and have purchased it and now we have to come up with the money.” 

 

“Was this the right way to handle it?” Pereira rhetorically asked. “Absolutely not. I agree with Councilor Cadime that this should not have been done this way. The former city administrator coming to council should have brought this to light and it didn't happen." 

 

Council President Cliff Ponte also chimed in. He directed the interim city administrator in Mary Sahady to inform department heads that they need to come forward if there are other spending issues that had not been present beforehand.

 

"I take absolute exception to the fact that this council was not properly notified as well as the other city council in 2018,” he said. “Please, make sure that that memo goes out tomorrow to all department heads that if anything happens it comes before this council before the next meeting."

 

Chief Lynch said training on the boat will take about six weeks to complete. It will cost at least 5,000 dollars annually for maintenance and any repairs.

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