Between the Lines: Updates on Some of 2016’s Big Stories – Detox, Pipelines, and Gun Rights

Some topics are too rich to write about just once. For all the people wondering, “What ever happened to …?” this week’s column features updates on issues I’ve written about in this space before. If you’ve got a topic from this column in mind that you’d like to see updated in 2017, let me know at editor@valleyadvocate.com.

Tennessee Gas Pipeline

While Tennessee Gas Pipeline has withdrawn plans to build a 420-mile Northeast Expansion Pipeline — which would have cut through a number of Western Mass communities — the company has not given up on building the Connecticut Expansion to the existing pipeline in Sandisfield and Agawam. That project took a major step forward last week. TGP, a subsidiary of Kinder Morgan, has agreed to pay $640,000 to settle a lawsuit against the state for an easement through state forest.

Tennessee Gas will pay $300,000 to the state Department of Conservation and Recreation to identify and acquire additional conservation land in the vicinity that provides ecological functions equivalent to the land impacted by the pipeline. Another $300,000 will go toward mitigation and improvements to Otis State Forest, including $60,000 for recreational improvements. The remaining $40,000 is for the fair market value of pipeline easements.

In May, Berkshire Superior Court granted Tennessee Gas temporary construction easements and a permanent, 6-acre pipeline easement through Otis State Forest by eminent domain as authorized by the federal Natural Gas Act.

Rehab in the Valley

Addiction and how to address it are topics that got a lot more attention in 2016 than they have in a while. In Massachusetts, Gov. Baker has made tackling an epidemic of opioid addiction and overdoses a signature focus of his administration by providing additional funding for treatment and supporting community-centered councils to study the disease. Yet, when a recovery center is looking to set up shop in a residential community, it is often met with unease by the people who live there. At first, it may seem difficult to have a center for getting over drugs next door, but if a neighborhood can get used to an addiction-recovery jail being down the road, surely a rehab center for non-criminals should be shown less hostility. And that’s just what happened on Mill Street in Springfield. After many protests against the project, the Hampden County Sheriff’s Department entered into a 10-year lease on a former Mill Street nursing home for the department’s 30-plus-year-old addiction center, which had to move from its location on Howard Street to make room for the MGM casino. In December, MassLive reported tension between the jail and the community was at an all time low. In consultation with neighbors, the sheriff’s department made some aesthetic change to the center to better blend in with the community. For example, county sheriff’s cruisers must park in the back, there is no sign on the building, and windows facing people’s homes are frosted. It’s great to see a happy outcome for everyone on Mill Street.

Dylan Francisco

Dylan is the 15-year-old Springfield boy who was shot and killed in July after he allegedly banged on the door of Jeffrey Lovell’s Chicopee home. Lovell, 42, worried by Francisco allegedly breaking a glass pane on his door, shot Francisco in the abdomen through the locked door. At some point during the encounter, someone from Lovell’s home called police. Turns out Francisco, who had been drinking alcohol with two friends, mistook Lovell’s home for that of an acquaintance. Francisco was pronounced dead shortly thereafter. The incident caught the attention of many because it challenges the “Castle Doctrine,” which says you can protect your home with deadly force, and requires answers to thorny questions such as: How afraid do you have to be to justify using your gun to kill someone? And how can anyone gauge levels of fear? A murder charge was dropped against Lovell in favor of a manslaughter charge. In August, Lovell pleaded not guilty to manslaughter in the Hampden Superior Court and bail was set at $10,000 cash. A trial date for 2017 is yet to be set.

Contact Kristin Palpini at editor@valleyadvocate.com.

Kristin Palpini

Author: Kristin Palpini

Editor of the Valley Advocate

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