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Company Notebook

NEPA to Manage
Life Laboratories
SPRINGFIELD — The Sisters of Providence Health System has announced a collaboration with New England Pathology Associates (NEPA) to manage Life Laboratories. Dr. Scott Wolf, senior vice president of medical affairs and chief medical officer at Mercy Medical Center, noted that the collaboration will make Life Laboratories the first and only physician-led and physician-managed clinical laboratory in the region. Dr. Lanu Stoddart will serve as the pathologist administrator, directing the operation and growth of Life Laboratories. A member of NEPA since November 2009, Stoddart has extensive experience in clinical pathology laboratory operations, serving in the past as medical director of S.E.D. Medical Laboratories in New Mexico and currently as chief of pathology at Harrington Memorial Hospital in Southbridge. Dr. Krystyna Sikorska will continue in her role as medical director of Life Laboratories. The innovative management relationship has already been recognized nationally, with NEPA invited to formally present its concept at the 2012 G2 Intelligence Pathology Institute Conference in Florida, according to Wolf. “For patients, the change at Life Laboratories will be transparent,” he said. “Likewise, daily operations of Life Laboratories will remain essentially unchanged. For physicians and their practices, however, direct access to physician managers will provide a unique feature and benefit.” Life Laboratories is a full-service medical diagnostic laboratory that conducts approximately 4 million tests per year for three hospitals, physician group practices, mental-health facilities, dozens of long-term care facilities, and hundreds of physicians.

Berkshire Hills Reports
Fourth-quarter Growth
PITTSFIELD — Berkshire Hills Bancorp Inc. recently reported fourth-quarter 2011 core earnings per share totaling $0.44, increasing by 57% compared to $0.28 in the fourth quarter of 2010. This increase resulted from ongoing organic growth together with the benefit of the acquisitions of Rome Bancorp and Legacy Bancorp, according to a statement by Berkshire President and CEO Michael Daly. Fourth-quarter GAAP (generally accepted accounting principles) net income included merger-related expenses, together with income from discontinued operations. These non-core items together equated to a net charge of $0.04 per share and resulted in GAAP net income of $0.40 per share, compared to $0.26 per share in the fourth quarter of 2010. For the full year, core earnings per share increased by 53% to $1.56 in 2011, compared to $1.02 in 2010. GAAP net earnings per share totaled $0.98 for 2011 compared to $1.00 in 2010. “Our merger integrations are now completed, allowing us to focus on revenue enhancements going forward,” said Daly.

MMWEC Refunding
Saves Utilities $16.8M
LUDLOW — A refunding bond issue recently closed by the Massachusetts Municipal Wholesale Electric Co. (MMWEC) will save $16.8 million for 28 state municipal utilities, strengthening their ability to secure stable and reliable power resources for the future, according to MMWEC CEO Ronald DeCurzio. In favorable market conditions, MMWEC issued $164.8 million in tax-exempt revenue bonds with a total interest cost of 1.2%. Proceeds from the bond issue and other available funds will be used to refund and retire approximately $214 million in higher-interest bonds issued by MMWEC in 2001. The refunding savings will be realized over the life of the bonds, which mature between 2012 and 2016. “This refunding will certainly give the municipal light departments greater flexibility to position their energy portfolios in pursuing physical assets for the longer term, from 2016 and beyond,” said DeCurzio. The 2012 MMWEC bonds are rated A+ by Fitch Ratings and have A ratings from Standard & Poor’s, all with a stable outlook, added DeCurzio. The underwriting team included Morgan Stanley, lead manager, and BMO Capital Markets. PFM Financial Management Inc. served as MMWEC’s financial advisor, with Nixon Peabody LLP acting as bond counsel. MMWEC is a nonprofit, public corporation and political subdivision of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts that provides a variety of power-supply, financial, risk-management, and other services to the state’s consumer-owned municipal utilities.

Columbia Gas Announces Reduction in Winter Costs
WESTBOROUGH — Effective Feb. 1, the winter rates for natural gas will reduce a typical residential customer’s total heating bill over the next three months by nearly 11%, according to Steve Bryant, president of Columbia Gas of Massachusetts. The reduction is a result of lower natural-gas commodity costs. Natural gas is sold in a unit measurement called a ‘therm,’ equivalent to 100,000 British thermal units (BTU) of energy. The rate reduction of $0.1378 per therm would save a natural-gas heating customer $22 in February, if using 160 therms of gas. “Lower gas bills in the middle of the winter is great news for the many families who are struggling to make ends meet,” said Bryant. “Natural-gas prices have remained stable for the last few years, and today’s cost to customers is as low as nearly 10 years ago. That is a claim we are proud to announce to our customers.” Bryant added that help is available for customers struggling to cope with household finances and winter heating bills. For more information, call (800) 882-5454 or visit www.columbiagasma.com.

Couple Chooses New Career Path Together
NORTHAMPTON and WESTWOOD — The Honorable E. Chouteau Levine, a retired Massachusetts Probate and Family Court judge, and William Levine, a veteran divorce lawyer and mediator, recently launched Levine Dispute Resolution Center, LLC (LDRC). The new firm provides private and cost-effective dispute-resolution services such as mediation, arbitration, and related impartial professional services. The Levines resolve all manner of family law and probate matters, and will also address elder, small-business, and other kinds of disputes in their Greater Boston (Westwood) and Western Mass. (Northampton) offices. LDRC is described as a first-of-its-kind venture in that, while there are many mediators in the market, there is no other partnership operating as a team with the probate and family-law experience of the Levines, according to the couple. The Levines both believe strongly that most family disputes can and should be resolved by facilitated negotiation rather than by legal confrontation, and they are launching LDRC to provide a non-threatening way for parties in dispute to do so. For more information on their services, visit www.levinedisputeresolution.com.

Colony Hills Capital Closes on Alabama Property
WILBRAHAM — Colony Hills Capital (CHC) recently announced the closing of its $28 million purchase of a multifamily housing property in the growing Alabama suburb of Hoover. The garden-style apartment property, occupying more than 45 acres, is the first to be purchased by the privately held real-estate investment group since its formation in 2008, according to Glenn Hanson, principal director and founder of CHC. “It is a momentous occasion for us to report the successful closing on our first property as a significant acquisition,” he said. “Riverchase Landing is a wonderful community that is well-located, and it holds tremendous promise for our investors.” The Hoover property is a suburb outside Birmingham. Hanson noted that the property was built in three phases, consists of 468 units, and has approximately 740,000 square feet. Colony Hills Capital is a Massachusetts limited-liability company with an express investment focus on multi-family rental properties falling within specific demographic, socioeconomic, and real-estate markets that are cash-flow-positive on acquisition, generating outsized investor returns, according to Hanson.

ESB Announces
Fourth-quarter Results
EASTHAMPTON — William Hogan Jr., president and CEO of Easthampton Savings Bank, reported to the directors at the quarterly meeting that the bank experienced exceptional growth in assets, deposits, loans, and capital in the fourth quarter. The bank’s total assets have grown to almost $942 million. Bozena Dabek, senior vice president and CFO, further reported that the bank’s total assets increased almost $56 million over last year. “That’s an increase of 6%,” she noted. “Our capital ratio ended the year at 12.06%; we continue to be one of the best-capitalized banks in the area.” Denise Laizer, senior vice president and chief lending officer, noted that, over the past year, total loans increased 10% or almost $61 million, an increase of almost $13 million over the last quarter. Total loans now stand at $648 million. Thomas Brown, senior vice president of Retail Banking, reported on the bank’s unprecedented deposit growth, which was up more than $52 million for the year. That’s an increase of 7%, and total deposits now stand at almost $756 million.

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