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Court Dockets

The following is a compilation of recent lawsuits involving area businesses and organizations. These are strictly allegations that have yet to be proven in a court of law. Readers are advised to contact the parties listed, or the court, for more information concerning the individual claims.

CHICOPEE DISTRICT COURT

Michael Elbery v. Haddad Motor Group Inc.
Allegation: Deliberate destruction of rear brake systems, extortion to pay for new brake system: $2,170
Filed: 5/18/21

Valerie Rodriguez-Ortiz v. Aldi Inc.
Allegation: Negligence; slip and fall causing personal injury: $3,790.41
Filed: 6/1/21

HAMPSHIRE DISTRICT COURT

Michael A. Klein v. Netto Construction, Kevin Netto, and Jovita Netto
Allegation: Breach of contract; unfair, deceptive, and inadequate practices: $32,465
Filed: 5/20/21

Worldbridge Partners Hartford, LLC v. Hampden Care Facility Inc. d/b/a Insa Inc.
Allegation: Breach of recruitment agreement and services rendered: $12,500
Filed: 6/16/21

HAMPSHIRE SUPERIOR COURT

Sofia Cincotta v. University of Massachusetts Amherst
Allegation: Negligence causing personal injury: $32.453
Filed: 4/20/21

Ada Langford, Christopher Maschino, Alyssa Phillips, Mark Schwaber, Stephen Seward, and all others similarly situated v. Vervata Health, LLC
Allegation: Wage and hour violations, wrongful termination: $46,000
Filed: 4/28/21

David R. Knightly v. Town of Amherst
Allegation: Employment discrimination
Filed: 5/4/21

Western Builders Inc. v. 35 Village Hill Road, LLC
Allegation: Breach of contract, breach of implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, unjust enrichment
Filed: 5/21/21

Suzanne Melanson v. Turning Leaf Centers Northampton, LLC; Thomas Kasper; and Sajid Khan
Allegation: Failure to pay paid time off, breach of contract, breach of Wage Act, breach of implied covenant, unjust enrichment: $150,000
Filed: 5/24/21

Christine Guimond v. Kim’s Family Corp.
Allegation: Negligence; slip and fall causing personal injury: $38,570.82
Filed: 5/27/21

Yadim Medore v. Denis Kitchen
Allegation: Motor-vehicle negligence causing personal injury: $519,711.67
Filed: 6/17/21

Cover Story

The Next Stage

The governor calls the last phase of his reopening plan the ‘new normal.’ It’s a phrase people are already tired of, even if they use it themselves. Life in the new normal isn’t like it was during the pandemic, and it isn’t like it was in 2019, either. As the stories below reveal, it’s a different time — a time everyone has been waiting for since workers packed up their things and headed home to work in March 2020. It’s a time of opportunity and a chance to recover some of what’s been lost. But there are still a number of challenges and questions to be answered, involving everything from workforce issues to when business travel will resume, to just how much pent-up demand there is for products and services.

Hall of Fame

Shrine is poised to rebound from a season of hard losses

Bradley International Airport

Facility gains altitude after pandemic-induced declines

White Lion Brewing

After a year to forget, this Springfield label is ready to roar

The Starting Gate at GreatHorse

Reopening timeline prompts excitement, but also trepidation

The Sheraton Springfield

Downtown mainstay sees new signs of life, anticipates many more

The Clark Art Institute

This Berkshires staple has exhibited patience and flexibility

The Federal Restaurant Group

At these eateries, guests will determine pace of reopening

 

 

Community Spotlight

Community Spotlight

By Mark Morris

Michelle Theroux

Michelle Theroux says businesses in town, including her own, Berkshire Hills Music Academy, are anxious to ramp up operations as the economy reopens.

 

For Mike Sullivan, the past 15 months have been a learning experience on many levels.

As town administrator in South Hadley, Sullivan has learned just how essential online payment systems and Zoom meetings have become for residents who need to do business with the town.

“As we make more access points available to the public, we’ve seen participation in government increase,” Sullivan said, adding that, while many people are looking forward to meeting in person again, Zoom is also here to stay.

The pandemic also taught him about the efficiencies of running Town Hall. By limiting in-person visits to appointment only, staff have been able to more efficiently get business done. Going forward, he looks to follow a model other towns have adopted of limiting hours or closing to the public one day a week.

“There are multiple ways to take care of business,” Sullivan said. “I appreciate that some people have complicated business they need to conduct in person, and we will accommodate them. When residents use online platforms or even ‘snail mail’ instead of visiting Town Hall, it saves money for the town and for everyone’s individual taxes.”

Sullivan made plenty of adjustments to keep South Hadley moving forward during the pandemic. Attendees to last year’s town meeting, for example, never left their cars.

“People tuned into the discussion over their car radios, just like an old drive-in movie,” he said. A similar drive-in town meeting is planned for this year, but there will also be a seating area for those who feel safe enough to leave their cars. “We’re looking forward to getting back to some semblance of normalcy.”

Michelle Theroux, president of the South Hadley and Granby Chamber of Commerce, said one indication of a return to normalcy is the “we’re hiring” signs around town. She acknowledges there are many factors why people are not immediately returning to work, but even with recruitment issues, the signs represent a positive step.

“The good news is that people are looking to hire, and they are in a position to bring people back into the workforce,” she said.

As the end of the pandemic nears, Theroux credits the South Hadley community for its support of small business. From restaurant takeout orders to holiday shopping, it was local people who provided enough support so that no chamber-member businesses permanently closed due to the pandemic.

“Certainly, many downsized and did what they had to do to survive,” she said. “It’s a real credit to community support because small business is such an important part of South Hadley.”

Because small business is such an essential part of South Hadley, banks in town worked with the chamber to secure Paycheck Protection Program funds for businesses in town. In addition, the chamber recently partnered with the Northampton chamber and the Massachusetts Office of Travel & Tourism to secure $20,000 in state grants.

“The good news is that people are looking to hire, and they are in a position to bring people back into the workforce.”

The chamber also spread the word among its members on how they could help each other, as well as support businesses that are not necessarily top of mind.

“If you look at the South Hadley Commons, we all think of the great restaurants there,” Theroux said. “The Commons also has a movie theater and a number of small boutiques that offer unique and personalized items you can’t find at a big-box store.”

 

Forward Momentum

One key project that kept going during the pandemic involves the Woodlawn Shopping Plaza. At one time the site of a Big Y supermarket, the parcel now features various retail stores anchored by Rocky’s Hardware. The site has been approved for a 60-unit, mixed-income apartment complex that will occupy three acres in the back of the parcel.

“Way Finders of Springfield is running the housing-complex project, and they are waiting for federal funding to come through before they break ground,” Sullivan said.

Theroux is excited about the project because it provides a glimpse at the future of development.

“At Woodlawn, you have a multi-use site with different types of businesses and living options all in one central location,” she said, while predicting that the entire area surrounding Woodlawn will see a revitalization over the next several years. As one example, Northampton Cooperative Bank and PeoplesBank have recently opened branches in or near the Woodlawn Plaza.

Sullivan also pointed with pride to the new senior center on Dayton Street, which is scheduled to open June 30.

“We were able to successfully build the senior center during the pandemic, and the costs were below the estimated bids,” he said. “Even with increases in some of the materials, we will still come in nearly $700,000 under the original estimate.”

South Hadley at a Glance

Year Incorporated: 1775
Population: 17,791
Area: 18.4 square miles
County: Hampshire
Residential and commercial tax rate: $19.46 (Fire District 1); $19.80 (Fire District 2)
Median Household Income: $46,678
Median Family Income: $58,693
Type of government: Town meeting
Largest Employers: Mount Holyoke College; the Loomis Communities; Coveris Advanced Coatings; Big Y
* Latest information available

Six years ago, Mohawk Paper opened a plant in South Hadley to great fanfare and optimism for a long relationship with the community. Last year, in pursuit of more favorable taxes and incentives, the company closed its operations in South Hadley and moved to Ohio.

As tough as it was to see Mohawk pack up and leave, Sullivan noted that E Ink, the company located across Gaylord Street from the former Mohawk plant, has good news moving forward. “E Ink is planning to double in size because they have a new product line coming out.”

E Ink makes the agent used in tablets like the Amazon Kindle, which allows an electronic page to read like a physical book. In addition to tablets, E Ink screens are used in a variety of applications ranging from signage at MBTA stations and international airports to retail price signs.

On top of contributing as a successful company, Sullivan noted that E Ink is a strong supporter of community projects and events in South Hadley.

Meanwhile, the Ledges Golf Club, owned by the town and a financial drag for many years, is on its way to performing at par. At the beginning of the pandemic last year, golf courses across the state were mandated to stay closed for several weeks. Sullivan called the lost months a “kick in the shins” because, once it opened, the Ledges did brisk business all season and came close to hitting a break-even point.

“This year, we made $200,000 in revenue in just March and April,” Sullivan said. “By the end of the fiscal year next June, we think the Ledges will break even.”

In addition to her duties as chamber president, Theroux’s full time job is executive director of Berkshire Hills Music Academy (BHMA), a music-infused program that helps young adults with special needs to expand their social, vocational, and life skills. Before the pandemic, BHMA employed just over 100 people. Though it normally offers both residential and day programs, state mandates forced BHMA to quickly shift to remote classes for its day students. After furloughs and layoffs due to the new mandates, 64 staff remain.

“Our current state is a hybrid model where we have about 40% of our day students back on campus, with the rest joining us by remote,” Theroux said. “Once we can fully reopen, we’d like to staff up to where we were before the pandemic.”

Looking ahead to the fall, she wasn’t sure what to expect for new enrollments, but was pleasantly surprised to see strong numbers for BHMA’s incoming class.

“Once their loved one is vaccinated, many families are all in on our program, and that’s a huge positive for us,” Theroux said. “Three months ago, I would not have been as confident about what next year would look like.”

 

Back to School

After more than a year of remote learning, Mount Holyoke College students have begun to return to campus. While remote learning is still available, many have indicated they plan to return to campus in the fall.

“The presence of Mount Holyoke students back on campus will provide a real boost to South Hadley feeling normal again,” Theroux said.

Sullivan is on the move, too. After a long career of public service, he has announced he will retire in June. Looking back, he points to a number of projects he’s helped shepherd to success. One area of particular pride is the progress South Hadley has made in hiring a more diverse workforce. As an example, he mentioned Police Chief Jennifer Gundersen, who recently joined South Hadley’s force after several years in Amherst.

“Certainly, many downsized and did what they had to do to survive. It’s a real credit to community support because small business is such an important part of South Hadley.”

Sullivan in only one of South Hadley’s leaders who are moving on. Planning Director Richard Harris is also retiring, and the superintendent of schools left in December to pursue another professional path.

While grateful for their service to the town, Theroux sees this as a time for South Hadley to bring new faces into leadership roles.

“As we emerge from the pandemic, I’m optimistic about the future and a new era of leadership for our town,” she said, adding that she looks forward to people once again enjoying all that South Hadley has to offer.

Coronavirus Features Special Coverage

Welcome Mat

At the practice she owns in Wilbraham, Excel Therapy & Conditioning, Dr. Sara Hulseberg is used to multiple physical therapists and coaches treating a host of patients each day, and for the center’s gym to be a hive of activity for members recovering from injury or improving their performance.

It’s quieter now, with a fraction of the usual patients in treatment rooms and in the gym at a time, and plenty of space between everyone.

That’s life in the capacity-limited world of doing business in the age COVID-19, but Hulseberg has rolled with the punches because … what choice does she have?

“With the way things are going for some of my friends who have closed down, I’m thrilled we’re still open,” she told BusinessWest. “I’ve had to take advantage of PPP loans and disaster-relief loans in order to make sure we can stay open, but we are still able to serve our patients and clients, and they’re excited to be coming in.”

That said, she added, it’s difficult to make a profit in survival mode, when the first priority is keeping the doors open and keeping employees paid.

“Those are small victories, and it’s a testament to the fact that we’re doing something right, because people feel safe coming in for group classes. In so many places, group classes have all but disappeared. I’ll take the small victories, and hopefully, we’ll find a way to combat this season and actually start making money again. The goal is to serve people, but it would be nice to make money while doing it.”

On the other hand, Nick Noblit, general manager of Yankee Mattress in Agawam, hasn’t struggled too badly with the past eight months of forced 25% capacity, because that capacity isn’t too onerous in a store with more floor space per customer than most.

“With the way things are going for some of my friends who have closed down, I’m thrilled we’re still open. I’ve had to take advantage of PPP loans and disaster-relief loans in order to make sure we can stay open, but we are still able to serve our patients and clients, and they’re excited to be coming in.”

He did feel the weight of the restrictions during the state’s tax-free holiday back in August — when the store typically does about two months of business in one weekend.

“At that point, we were still at minimum capacity, and we did have to have a greeter at the door monitoring how many people were in the store at one time. We had some folks waiting outside or in their cars, and we had water for them.”

Still, Noblit added, “it wasn’t a huge issue for us, to be honest. I can imagine a retail store that sees a lot more foot traffic, like a small grocery store or a small drugstore — they’re more affected.”

No matter to what extent each business is affected by capacity limits, they collectively cheered Gov. Charlie Baker’s raising of those limits from 25% to 40% on Feb. 8.

For many operations just trying to survive, every bit helps, especially when they’ve not only followed state mandates for keeping their workplaces safe, but in many ways gone above and beyond, said Nancy Creed, president of the Springfield Regional Chamber.

Nancy Creed says businesses have become adept at pivoting

Nancy Creed says businesses have become adept at pivoting and dealing with state mandates, but some, like restaurants, have been especially challenged economically.

“I have to give our business community a lot of credit because when sector-specific protocols came out, and everyone needed to sanitize all these things to keep people safe, they stepped up to the plate, and did that at a lot of expense to themselves. They deserve a lot of credit.

“I really think it’s a testament to our community that the business community said, ‘we want to be part of the solution and not part of the problem,’” she added. “I give them a lot of credit because they could have thrown in the towel if they wanted to.”

Raising capacity limits isn’t a cure-all to businesses’ struggles, of course, especially when the governor has moved in both directions in the past year, loosening restrictions only to tighten them again. But it’s a start.

 

Traffic Report

Businesses affected by the capacity change include restaurants, arcades and recreational businesses, driving and flight schools, gyms and health clubs, libraries, museums, retail stores, offices, places of worship, and movie theaters, to name a few. Workers and staff do not count toward the occupancy count for restaurants and close-contact personal services.

“Clearly, the restaurant industry has been the most impacted,” Creed said. “With other business sectors and office workers, it’s easier for them to reduce their capacity limits because they can work remotely. And small restaurants have struggled the most — when you have six or eight tables to begin with, it’s not worth doing in-person dining if you have to scale down to one or two tables.”

While some sectors are struggling more than others, she added, most members she’s heard from understand the reasons for the state’s mandates, even when they feel they’re too strict.

“I’m not hearing people complain as much; I think they’re now used to it and able to figure out what to do. I’m hearing a lot of stories of restaurants that are doing well with takeout, which helps make up for the low capacity, but it’s still not easy.”

The same goes for outdoor dining — like takeout, a feature many restaurants either launched or vastly expanded out of necessity, but plan to stick with post-pandemic.

“A lot of places will continue with that because they can expand their capacity with outdoor dining and had such success with it,” Creed said. “Customers are telling them, ‘we’ve always wanted outdoor dining, and we hope you keep it.’”

Yankee Mattress saw intriguing changes in customer behavior as well.

“The number of people who don’t want to stop in, we made up for over the phones,” Noblit said, noting that 2020 was a strong year for online sales as well. “Because of the shutdown, we were closed almost three months, and during that period of time, the only way you could get a mattress was online.”

Nick Noblit says he’s had to manage overflow lines rarely during the pandemic, most notably during tax-free weekend in August.

Even after stores were allowed to open later that spring, many customers continued to use the online option, which was a bit surprising, he added. “This is definitely an item, I believe, you should try before, so you know what’s comfortable for you. But it was a sign that our customers in this area took the pandemic very seriously and are taking precautions, and if that meant calling over the phone and making decisions based on our products and our name, that’s OK too.”

While companies have rolled with the capacity changes, and, as noted, honed new ways to do business in the long term, what they don’t like is sudden change, like what happened in Amherst and Hadley last week.

On Feb. 8 — the morning the 40% capacity change went into effect statewide — the Amherst Board of Health issued an emergency order that will continue the 25% limit in town, as well as an early-closing order, due to an outbreak of COVID-19 on the UMass Amherst campus that, at press time, had risen to 540 cases. The town of Hadley followed, also keeping capacity levels at 25%.

“This is not the direction that we, as a town, nor our businesses, want to go, but it is imperative that the town take decisive action immediately to address this increase in cases,” Amherst Town Manager Paul Bockelman said.

Claudia Pazmany, executive director of the Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce, which has members in both towns, said some businesses chose to close completely for two weeks, either for safety or because UMass students are quarantined to their rooms for the time being, cutting off a supply of customers and, in many cases, employees.

“They’re crushed. They were finally opening at 40%,” Pazmany said, adding that some businesses consider the move unfair, especially the ones that have a strong track record in safety, sanitization, and keeping exposure down over the past year.

“As a chamber, we’re so concerned for everyone’s safety, and a lot of businesses are choosing to close temporarily for the safety of their staff,” she added. “Personally, I don’t want to see anyone struggling, but we want to keep the safety of businesses and the community paramount. It’s tricky; it’s such a layered issue.”

Even as the extension order went down, Amherst Public Health Director Emma Dragon emphasized that “it is in the interest of the health of our entire community that we continue the restrictions that are currently in place. Never has it been more important to follow those key public-health protocols of wearing a mask, washing hands, and maintaining social distance.”

 

Doing Their Part

Mention those tips to many business owners, and they’ll say they’ve been insisting on all that — and much more — from the beginning. “The biggest thing, early on, was the uncertainty, not knowing how the surge was going to affect us,” said Dr. K. Francis Lee, owner of Advanced Vein Care Center in Springfield.

But there are lessons, he says, in how his office responded to the pandemic — and continue to respond — that apply to many places of business. The first was making sure employees understood safety protocols and the importance of keeping themselves out of harm’s way.

“We immediately talked to our staff about their concerns, and our staff came to understand that this pandemic was real, and something that affects everyone’s bottom line — not just the business bottom line, but each person’s bottom line,” he said. “Our people took this very seriously, and everyone knew they had to behave in a way that minimized exposure and minimized transmission, to not bring it into the office and spread it amongst each other.”

The second step was communicating with patients, who were screened twice by phone before appointments — with questions about possible COVID exposure — and then again on the day of the appointment. If there was any doubt, patients were rescheduled or moved to telehealth visits.

“This is something that hits close to home for each individual; at the end of the day, it’s all about their jobs and our business functioning, and people are responsible for doing their part.”

Finally, Lee put in physical safeguards in the office, from PPE — he collected so much, he was able to donate 1,000 facemasks to Baystate Health last April — to installing 22 HEPA-filter air purifiers, at least one for every room. “We have a 50-page COVID safety protocol,” he added.

For customers who visit Yankee Mattress, Noblit said, the store is completely sanitized multiple times a day, with attention paid to common touch points like door handles and surfaces, while customers are given a sanitary sheet — he calls it a ‘comfort test guard’ — to lay on as they try various mattresses. Plastic barriers also went up at counters to separate customers from staff.

“We wanted customers to feel safe and come in and do what they needed to do, and not have to worry about any issues with that,” he noted.

Making people feel confident to go about their business should be a community-wide effort, Lee suggested.

“It comes down to normalizing people’s behavior. That involves dealing with the COVID virus itself, which involves paying a lot of attention to science, and that’s what we did in the first place. We started inside people’s heads — we helped our people understand that this is real, and if people screw up, the whole office could shut down. But we never had to shut down — except for April and May, when everyone was shut down.

“Everyone understood this was their own job security at stake,” he continued. “Major workplaces have been shut down because of this. This is something that hits close to home for each individual; at the end of the day, it’s all about their jobs and our business functioning, and people are responsible for doing their part.”

For just about every customer-facing business, there’s a balance to strike between commerce and safety. Because Excel isn’t just a gym, but a full therapy practice, Hulseberg doesn’t have to maintain a laser focus on gym membership. “Our gym, at its core, is a love note to our patients,” she said. “We tend to run our gym differently than the big chain conglomerates, so the limits have hurt us less.”

Specifically, during the past several months of 25% capacity, she sold memberships only up to that level.

“I don’t want people buying memberships and then finding it too occupied or they don’t feel safe,” she said, adding that she implemented a timed appointment platform online, but members can also call last minute to check on availability. “It gives everyone peace of mind that we’re here for a massage or a group class, but everything has a cap on it, and we have safety requirements in mind.”

 

Winds of Change

In fact, even though the state has raised the capacity limit to 40%, Hulseberg is keeping it at 25% — for now.

“We’ve had a year’s experience with this,” she said. “We’re going to wait to implement any of their changes because they tend to roll back on us, and we end up spending time and money implementing new changes, just to have them roll back in a week or two.”

Besides, she said, she doesn’t want to be part of the problem that leads to a spike — although gyms and wellness practices, by and large, have not been identified as viral-spread locations. “We’re just happy we’re hanging on thus far and people are enthusiastic about what we’re doing, so we don’t have to close our doors.”

The worry that loosened restrictions can just as easily be re-tightened is common to most businesses, Pazmany said.

“The one guarantee this year is that whatever we’re dealing with today will change tomorrow,” she said, and that reality has worn on business owners, especially those in Amherst and Hadley, who can’t seem to catch a break right now — and who continue to remind customers that they’re still open for business.

“They are exhausted,” she added. “They’ve implemented safety protocols, they’ve kept everyone safe, they’re building confidence because they want everyone back. They’ve proven you can trust them, and trust is everything to a small business. So they were excited to expand to 40%. I can tell you, if this is prolonged, it could mean more closures. They need to get to 40%.”

It’s a reminder that all these numbers — case counts, capacity limits, profit-and-loss statements — add up to something significant for a regional business community that’s just trying to get back to normal … or, whatever capacity level passes for normal these days.

 

Joseph Bednar can be reached at [email protected]

Agenda

Virtual Town Hall to Discuss Baystate Mary Lane Closure

Feb. 23: Baystate Health will hold a virtual town hall at 5 p.m. to discuss the closure of the Baystate Mary Lane Outpatient Center in Ware and future plans for patient care. All are welcome to attend. Baystate Health’s goal over the next several months is to work collaboratively with the Baystate Mary Lane team and engage with the community in developing an orderly transition plan for programs and services to Baystate Wing. In June, the emergency facility will close, and cancer care services will be transitioned to the D’Amour Center for Cancer Care. Over the next two years, imaging/3D mammography and rehabilitation services, as well as ob/gyn and pediatric medical practices, will relocate to Baystate Wing. Cancer patients who receive care at Baystate Mary Lane will be offered transportation at no charge following the transition of care to Springfield. To support access to outpatient appointments at Baystate Wing Hospital when the two Baystate medical practices at Baystate Mary Lane transition over the next two years, Baystate will look to the foundation it has built with the Quaboag Connector and, if feasible, will further invest in this resource. More information will be forthcoming as needs, services, and transportation options are evaluated. To register for the virtual town hall, visit baystatehealth.org/easternregion.

 

40 Under Forty Nominations

Through Feb. 26: BusinessWest is currently accepting nominations for the 40 Under Forty class of 2021. The deadline for nominations is Friday, Feb. 26. Launched in 2007, the program recognizes rising stars in the four counties of Western Mass. Nominations, which should be as detailed and thorough as possible, should list an individual’s accomplishments within their profession as well as their work within the community. Nominations can be completed online at businesswest.com/40-under-forty-nomination-form. Nominations will be weighed by a panel of judges, and the selected individuals will be profiled in BusinessWest in May and honored at the 40 Under Forty Gala in late June. Event sponsorship opportunities are available.

 

Institute for Trustees

Starting April 7: Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation (BTCF) announced it is partnering with the Essex County Community Foundation (ECCF) in presenting the 2021 Institute for Trustees, an annual conference inviting nonprofit leaders to gather together for educational workshops and networking opportunities. Building on the success of BTCF’s 2018 Board Leadership Forum and designed for board leaders and executive directors, the event features 24 virtual workshops from leading nonprofit experts and opportunities to connect with hundreds of peers equally committed to their leadership roles. This partnership is part of a broader effort between BTCF and ECCF to leverage resources in support of building capacity and leadership within the nonprofit sector, given the challenges facing organizations due to the pandemic and its economic consequences. The Institute for Trustees kicks off on April 7 with a keynote address by Phil Buchanan, president of the Center for Effective Philanthropy, titled “Leading for Nonprofit Impact Amid Unprecedented Challenge.” Beginning April 9, workshops and opportunities to connect with fellow attendees through topic-driven, informal peer discussions will be spread over the course of four weeks. Workshop topics include racial equity, endowment building, crisis planning, governance, advocacy, finance, and much more. To register for the program, visit eccf.org/ift. Registrations will be accepted at a discounted early-bird rate of $110 until March 7. After that, registration will cost $130 and will close April 7.

 

Springfield Partners for Community Action Scholarships

Through April 23: Springfield Partners for Community Action announced it will award a number of $1,000 scholarships that can help recipients with tuition and alleviate the cost of going back to school and investing in bettering themselves. All applicants must be Springfield residents, and income-eligibility guidelines may apply. Scholarships will be awarded to those attending accredited/licensed schools in Massachusetts. Applications must be received by April 23. Late entries will not be considered. If selected, recipients must be available to attend an awards event (most likely virtual) in June. Visit www.springfieldpartnersinc.com/whatwedo/scholarshipsprogram for the application form and information on how to apply.

 

Company Notebook

Bay Path Recognized for Supporting Students Throughout Pandemic

LONGMEADOW — Bay Path University announce it was selected as a winner of the Virtual Innovation Awards: Excellence in Delivering Virtual Student Services hosted by NASPA – Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education. Bay Path is among 10 schools recognized across the nation for exemplary virtual student support services, and one of only three schools to receive the top award of $50,000. The award highlights the effectiveness of the work being done to support both Bay Path’s traditional undergraduates and adult students enrolled in its online undergraduate degree program, the American Women’s College. These best practices will serve as case studies to inform the field at large. As Bay Path’s online program for adult women, the American Women’s College has been continually developing and enhancing its virtual support services since 2013. At the onset of the pandemic, university staff were able to put these supports into overdrive to ensure campus-based undergraduate students could easily access services despite the abrupt move to remote. Some of the virtual services that have allowed Bay Path University to be responsive to its diverse student body, whether in person or online, include a virtual career-services hub; UWill, a telecounseling service; and Tutor.com, which provides access to online tutoring services 24/7. Similarly, programming related to orientation, peer-to-peer engagement, community building, and multi-cultural affairs was provided by a support team that was able to quickly pivot to virtual platforms and social-media tools.

 

 

STCC to Reinstate Five Programs

SPRINGFIELD — Springfield Technical Community College (STCC) will restore five programs that were discontinued last year in response to projected budget shortfalls brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. The STCC board of trustees voted to support biomedical engineering technology, biotechnology, civil engineering technology, dental assisting, and landscape design and management. STCC President John Cook said the college will work to reinstate programs after open, transparent, and public conversations with college stakeholders about needs and resources. In June, the college announced the discontinuation of seven programs as part of a broad set of cost-saving measures. Trustees established a committee to examine these programs, including costs, enrollment, facilities and equipment needs, and to consider questions of sustainability. Beyond the five programs, at a future time, trustees will continue the examination of two programs: automotive technology and cosmetology. STCC will work to relaunch the five programs in fall 2021, and the gross annual operating cost of these programs is approximately $500,000.

 

United Personnel Services Wins ClearlyRated’s Best of Staffing Award

SPRINGFIELD — United Personnel Services was recently honored in the Best of Staffing Client, Employee, and Talent Awards from ClearlyRated, in recognition of high levels of satisfaction from customers, job seekers, and employees. Winners have proven to be industry leaders in service quality based entirely on ratings provided by their clients and staff. Focused on helping to connect people with the right job opportunities, United Personnel Services received satisfaction scores of 9 or 10 out of 10 from 90.9% of clients and 78% of placed job candidates, significantly higher than industry averages. These ratings led to United Personnel’s fourth consecutive year of recognition as a Best of Staffing company from ClearlyRated.

 

Holyoke-based Startup Aims to Spark Non-alcoholic Beer Revolution

HOLYOKE — New to the beer and brewing industry, Ezra Bleau is introducing his business, Na Brews, with the launch of a Kickstarter campaign, “Na Brews (Nah Brooz) – Craft Beer for All People, for All Occasions.” This campaign will raise money for his mobile de-alcoholization production plan, increasing access to social, healthy alternatives nationwide. The main draw of the campaign is a $20 pledge to be part of the “world’s largest non-alcoholic beer collaboration, which he intends to do during a livestreamed interactive event with his brewer. The company has been in contact with the Guinness Book of World Records and is working on certifying the event. Participants will be a part of this new craft beer every step of the way, selecting everything from style, grains, and hops to label design. With their $20 pledge, each participant’s name will be included in the collaboration can label for a future keepsake, and they will also be sent a can for their enjoyment and have exclusivity to purchase more before it is opened up to the general public. NA Brews currently is an e-commerce operation based in Holyoke, offering online retail sales of non-alcoholic beer, spirits, and wine selections, including specialty boxes and subscription services for others to enjoy in the comfort of their own home or any social setting. Bleau also has a manufacturing and full alcohol-free production plan, partnering with independent breweries in surrounding communities to produce quality craft non-alcoholic beer.

 

Berkshire Bank Foundation Supports MCLA’s Summer STEM Academy

NORTH ADAMS — The Berkshire Bank Foundation awarded Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA) $20,000 to fund the Berkshire Bank STEM Academy, which accepts up to 20 incoming first-year students enrolled in a STEM major or who have expressed interest in STEM fields. Designed to introduce incoming students to careers in STEM, the residential, five-day academy includes opportunities to network with STEM faculty, students, and staff in the interest of developing a deeper relationship with those involved in STEM careers in the Berkshires. The program’s ultimate goal is to encourage more students to secure jobs in the Berkshires and remain here after graduation. This summer will mark the ninth year of the Berkshire Bank STEM Academy. Alumni of the program, which was developed to serve low-income and first-generation college students, have gone on to be leaders at MCLA as residential advisors, tutors, and supplemental instructors. Graduates have gone on to have careers at Raytheon, General Dynamics, Edge Pharma, and as public-school teachers. Students are selected based on their responses to surveys taken upon their acceptance to the college. Interested students should e-mail program director Dr. Sara Steele, assistant professor of Psychology, at [email protected] to have their name prioritized in the selection process.

 

Country Bank Reports $1.3 Million in Community Philanthropy in 2020

WARE — Country Bank reported that its donations and sponsorships for 2020 totaled $1.3 million. Through the bank’s philanthropic efforts, it provided support to local nonprofits throughout the communities it serves; in 2020, more than 400 of these organizations received donations. The pandemic has left businesses and individuals facing continued looming uncertainties. Many nonprofits struggled from the economic fallout, and they looked to community partners like Country Bank for assistance. Country Bank donated more than $500,000 to area hospitals and first-responder housing efforts to provide the financial and tangible emergency resources needed to support their mission during the pandemic. Organizations receiving support included the Baystate Health Foundation, Quaboag Valley Community Development Corp., Christina’s House, Springfield Rescue Mission, Ronald McDonald House, and Behavioral Health Network Inc. Recognizing the importance and overwhelming need to help organizations that address hunger, Country Bank also provided monetary donations to food programs throughout the region that exceeded $100,000. The recipients of these funds included Friends of the Homeless, Rachel’s Table, the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts, and many local food pantries.

 

Meyers Brothers Kalicka Unveils New Website

HOLYOKE — Meyers Brothers Kalicka, P.C. (MBK) announced a new website, mbkcpa.com, this week. The primary goal during the redesign process was to create a more user-friendly and valuable resource for clients and community alike. More specifically, the firm wanted users to easily locate information about accounting services, industries it serves, the firm’s story and team members, career opportunities, and community support. The website also features an active blog with articles about taxation, accounting, advisory, news, and community. Additionally, the firm offers free newsletters centered around taxation, business, not-for-profits, and healthcare. These newsletters help readers stay informed on recent provisions and guidance, access articles, get invitations to special webinars or podcasts, and gain industry knowledge. You can subscribe to any or all of these newsletters for free by adding your e-mail address into the ‘subscribe’ feature located in the footer of the new website.

 

Community Comes Through to Help Amherst Survival Center Families

AMHERST — Hannah Rechtschaffen, director of Placemaking for the Mill District, and Andy Haase of Cowls Building Supply recently delivered more than 400 games purchased by W.D. Cowls Inc. to the Amherst Survival Center, augmenting dozens of community donations already collected and delivered from North Amherst Motors, the Toy Box, North Square Apartments in the Mill District, and Cowls Building Supply. In December, Lev Ben-Ezra, executive director of the Amherst Survival Center, outlined to Cinda Jones, president of W.D. Cowls, how the community could help her cause this winter. Ben-Ezra explained that the center was looking for ways to brighten the winter for families stuck at home, including craft kits, valentines, and other fun activities. Her hope for February was to distribute more than 400 games and puzzles to local families, and she asked the Mill District for help generating donations. Now, with more than 500 games donated in January, the Amherst Survival Center is providing families with games and activities along with groceries in February. Community members who want to help the Amherst Survival Center serve more families can donate online at amherstsurvival.org/donate.

 

WNEU Offers Free Graduate Courses to Current Students

SPRINGFIELD — Western New England University announced that all current students (class of 2021 to class of 2024) will be offered two graduate courses free of charge with acceptance to a WNEU master’s-degree program upon completion of their bachelor’s degree. “As our undergraduates consider next steps, especially with the current economic climate, we want to help provide them with the opportunity to advance their credentials in what could prove to be a difficult time as the nation returns to post-COVID normalcy,” said Matt Fox, executive director of Graduate Admissions. According to the NACE Job Outlook Survey, 2021 hiring will be “more positive than expected given that the pandemic shut down the economy, plummeted the stock market, and raised the unemployment rate.” Nearly 17% of organizations responding to the NACE survey plan to increase their hiring levels of 2021 graduates, compared to 2020 graduates, and about 53% plan to maintain their level of hiring. Fox outlined the many benefits this opportunity offers, including improving employment and future advancement opportunities, deferred undergraduate loan payment, and what essentially equates to a 20% reduction in graduate tuition. For more information, visit www1.wne.edu/admissions/graduate/two-grad-courses.cfm.

 

Ludlow Elks Supports Program at Scantic Valley YMCA

LUDLOW — The Ludlow Elks awarded the Scantic Valley YMCA a $2,000 Beacon Grant from the Elks National Foundation to help the Y launch MOVE2Function, a movement-disorder fitness program. The Ludlow Elks have provided financial and in-person support for the Scantic Valley YMCA’s healthful-living programs. LIVESTRONG at the YMCA supports those impacted by cancer. The latest program to receive the Ludlow Elks support is MOVE2Function, offering those impacted by movement disorders evidence-based functional fitness programming to support them in making changes to support and improve all aspects of their health. Movement disorders include Parkinson’s disease, muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, stroke, and essential tremor. In 2019 and 2020, the Ludlow Elks supported the Interactive Health Fair at the Scantic Valley YMCA, which was open to the public. With previous funding, the Ludlow Elks provided the food along with preparing and serving it. Attendees enjoyed a healthy meal while interacting with company representatives, YMCA staff, and college students to learn about such topics as nutrition, heart health, fitness, balance programming, blood pressure, and eye screenings.

 

UMassFive Directs $4,000 to Local Survival Centers

HADLEY — UMassFive College Federal Credit Union announced it has directed $4,000 in donations to local survival centers in Amherst and Northampton. The donations were made possible thanks to UMassFive winning a Credit Union Give Back Sweepstakes held by its credit-card servicer, PSCU. This sweepstakes selected 25 credit unions from across the country to receive $4,000 to donate to local charitable organizations of their choice. UMassFive chose to direct donations of $2,000 each to the Amherst Survival Center and the Northampton Survival Center in support of the extra cost burden that 2020 placed on the organizations. Both organizations had to pivot operations quickly to meet the most pressing needs of their communities throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, and have seen more need than ever before.

 

Country Bank Supports Quaboag Valley CDC

WARE — Country Bank announced a $25,000 donation to the Quaboag Valley Community Development Corp. (QVCDC) to support various programs to help local communities in the region. A portion of the donation will be used toward a matching grant for a senior-citizen outreach program. This project was funded through the U.S. Department of Housing and Community Development, Massachusetts CDBG Program. Projects are developed and administered by local officials with the assistance of the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission. Services for the outreach program include grocery shopping and prescription pickups for low-income seniors in Ware, Hardwick, Belchertown, and Warren. The QVCDC also offers various programs to assist businesses in the region with navigating these unchartered times. One of the latest programs includes companies with up to five employees that could be eligible to receive up to $10,000 in grant funding through a Microenterprise Assistance Grant.

 

Community Spotlight

Community Spotlight

By Mark Morris

Jennifer Nacht

Jennifer Nacht says a heavy focus on outdoor experiences last year helped Lenox weather the economic impact of the pandemic.

For the past year, the town of Lenox showed what happens when uncertainty meets a can-do attitude.

Despite the formidable challenges of COVID-19, Town Manager Christopher Ketchen said, Lenox residents and businesses have been remarkably resilient.

“Throughout the pandemic, our residents demonstrated how much they love our town,” Ketchen said. “They make their homes here, and our businesses are invested in their customers and their community.”

What began as a normal year of planning events at the Lenox Chamber of Commerce was suddenly derailed in March. Once they realized the pandemic was going to last more than a couple months, Executive Director Jennifer Nacht said, chamber members and town officials quickly met to put together a plan to salvage at least some activity for Lenox.

“We went through each season and developed a general outline of things we could do,” Nacht said. “Even though we did not know what the year was going to look like, we were able to turn around some great activities.”

Like many towns, Lenox encouraged restaurants to offer tented outdoor dining and allowed them to expand outdoor seating into public parking spaces. The town also added covered dining terraces in public spaces around town.

“The select board lifted alcohol restrictions so people could bring a bottle of wine to Lilac Park, for example, where we had set up a dining terrace,” Nacht said.

“You couldn’t get a parking place at the trailheads in town. Even obscure trailheads that were once known only to a handful of locals were crowded.”

Some developments last spring were rough. In May, the town learned that, due to COVID-19 concerns, Tanglewood had canceled its 2020 season. For some perspective on the importance of Lenox’s largest summer attraction, a Williams College study in 2017 estimated the economic impact of Tanglewood to Berkshire County and Western Mass. at nearly $103 million annually.

Because they didn’t know what to expect when Tanglewood called off its season, Nacht said everyone concentrated their efforts on making Lenox a welcome and inviting place. Outdoor dining was a first step that helped to establish a more vibrant atmosphere, and it inspired further activities.

For example, the Lenox Cultural District and the chamber organized Lenox Loves Music, an initiative that featured live music performed at the Church Street Dining Terrace for seven straight Sundays in August and September. It was a hit.

“Because we were able to turn on a dime and get everything set up, we were able to make the outside experience fun,” Nacht said. “As a result, we were better able to weather the financial impact of the pandemic.”

 

Hit the Road

If entry points to walking and biking trails are any indication, Ketchen said the pandemic helped many people discover the town’s outdoor attractions for the first time. “You couldn’t get a parking place at the trailheads in town. Even obscure trailheads that were once known only to a handful of locals were crowded.”

For more than 40 years, Lenox has held Apple Squeeze, a harvest celebration that takes over much of the downtown area with 150 food and craft vendors. The event was canceled for 2020 because of concerns that, even with restrictions, too many people would gather, leading to unsafe crowd sizes.

Lenox Loves Music

Lenox Loves Music was a hit during a time when live music was in short supply.

As an alternative, the chamber and American Arts Marketing developed the Lenox Art Walk and scheduled it for the late-September weekend when the Apple Squeeze would have taken place. Forty artists set up in different areas around town in ‘artist villages,’ which were arranged so no more than 50 people could be in one area at a time. Foot-traffic flow was also designed to keep people moving through the exhibits.

Nacht said the Art Walk received great feedback, and the artists involved loved exhibiting their work. The event also led to phone calls from event organizers from several Eastern Mass. towns who wanted to know how to stage a similar event.

The old adage about necessity being the mother of invention definitely has proven true for Lenox. “We just tried some different things that we probably would have never attempted, or done so quickly, had it not been for the pandemic,” Nacht said.

In the beginning of the summer, traffic in town was about half of what it would be during a normal season. As the weather became warmer and travel restrictions eased around the state, both traffic and business picked up.

“We began seeing more day trippers, many from the Boston area who had never been out our way,” Nacht said, adding that good weather in the summer and fall extended the outdoor season nearly to Thanksgiving.

While lodging in the area was restricted by the number of rooms that could be offered, she noted, from September through November, inn and hotel rooms were booked to the capacity they were allowed.

As the owner of the Scoop, a Lenox ice-cream store, Nacht was one of many business owners forced to move customer interactions outdoors. She found a fun way to adjust.

“We did it sort of Cape Cod style, where people order at one window and pick up their ice cream at a second window,” she explained, adding that, while 2020 was not as successful as previous years, the Scoop still saw steady business throughout its season. Even non-food stores, inspired by all the outdoor activity, set up tents in front of their shops to add to the vitality.

In a normal year, Lenox Winterland is a tradition to kick off the holiday season that features a tree-lighting ceremony and Santa Claus meeting with children. In this very-not-normal year, Winterland was forced to cancel.

Instead of losing their holiday spirit, however, the Cultural District and chamber presented a creative alternative. Local businesses and artists teamed up to decorate 30 Christmas trees, which were displayed in a tree walk through town. Nacht said the inaugural Holiday Tree Walk was so well-received, plans are in the works to expand and make it an annual event.

“Despite the obstacles of COVID, we had a decent tourism business,” she said. “We’ll continue to offer more fun events to keep the vibrancy of the town going and improving.”

 

Passing the Test

Lenox has always been proud of its cultural amenities, such as Tanglewood, Edith Wharton’s house at the Mount, Shakespeare and Co., and others. As those were scaled back, Ketchen said, the town’s outdoor amenities gained exposure they might not have otherwise.

“Once we are allowed to enjoy our cultural institutions to their fullest again, people will also have more awareness of all the recreational opportunities Lenox has,” he told BusinessWest. “That’s a big positive for us as we look to the future.”

While Nacht hopes to see Tanglewood up and running, at least in some form, in 2021, she admits the past year was quite the learning experience. “We are so dependent on Tanglewood, it was an interesting test to see what we could do without Tanglewood there.”

Despite the challenges put on municipal budgets, Ketchen said Lenox was able to pursue several modest infrastructure projects in 2020, such as maintaining roads and public-utility infrastructure. “When folks are ready to come to Lenox for the recreation and the culture, the public utilities and infrastructure will be waiting for them.”

“We began seeing more day trippers, many from the Boston area who had never been out our way.”

In short, Lenox is not only weathering the COVID-19 storm, it’s finding ways to come out stronger on the other side. Indeed, when this community, which depends on cultural tourism, was challenged to find creative solutions to stay afloat, it answered the call. Nacht credited Lenox businesses for making quick and significant adjustments in their operations.

“It was really inspiring to see our businesses make the best out of a not-so-great situation,” she said. “It says a lot about their commitment to our town.”

Undaunted by the near future, Nacht noted several businesses are planning for April openings. And she looks forward to the new year knowing that Lenox can present all the outdoor events that worked well in 2020.

“With knowledge, you just learn to do things better, and we learned a lot last year,” she added. “Once the tulips come out, that’s when we start to see everything come alive again.”

Court Dockets

The following is a compilation of recent lawsuits involving area businesses and organizations. These are strictly allegations that have yet to be proven in a court of law. Readers are advised to contact the parties listed, or the court, for more information concerning the individual claims.

 

HAMPSHIRE DISTRICT COURT

Gerald Laclaire v. Family Ford of Northampton Inc. and John S. Sarat Jr.

Allegation: Non-payment of wages: <$50,000

Filed: 11/9/20

 

Scott Tillinghast v. Center for Human Development Inc. and Innovative Care Partners, LLC

Allegation: Non-payment of wages, breach of contract: $2,000

Filed: 11/9/20

 

Peak Performance Roofing v. Crocker Building Co. Inc.

Allegation: Breach of contract: $10,960

Filed: 11/16/20

 

American Builders & Contractors Supply Co. Inc. d/b/a ABC Supply Co. Inc. v. Laurin Builders Inc. and Ronald D. Laurin a/k/a Ronald Laurin

Allegation: Breach of contract for goods sold and delivered, breach of personal guaranty: $3,871.84

Filed: 11/16/20

 

National Lumber Co. v. Unlimited Construction Services Inc., Neri D. Teo, Joel Cardenas, Sergeant House LP, and Travelers Casualty and Surety Co. of America

Allegation: Money owed for goods sold and delivered: $24,320.07

Filed: 1/7/21

 

Maria Terron v. Meadowbrook Preservation Associates LP, Poah Communities, and Preservation of Affordable Housing Inc.

Allegation: Negligence; slip and fall causing injury: $4,155.08

Filed: 1/12/21

 

NORTHAMPTON SUPERIOR COURT

Regina Post v. HFS of America Inc. and Eric M. Moberg

Allegation: Motor-vehicle negligence causing personal injury: $18,505.19

Filed: 11/3/20

 

Cecile Humphrey as personal representative of the estate of Christopher Humphrey v. Anthony’s Dance Club Inc.

Allegation: Wrongful death: $15,954+

Filed: 11/3/20

 

University of Massachusetts Building Authority and University of Massachusetts v. Adams Plumbing & Heating Inc.; Bruner/Cott & Associates Inc.; Garcia, Galuska & DeSousa Inc.; Halton Group Americas Inc.; Lee Kennedy Co. Inc.; Leftfield, LLC; Tekon Technical Consultants Inc; and WSP Group

Allegation: Negligence causing personal injury and property damage: $2,857,280

Filed: 11/30/20

 

Jane Philipson v. Eagle Crest Property Management, LLC and 18 Piece Chicopee, LLC

Allegation: Negligence causing personal injury and property damage: $613,000+

Filed: 1/4/21

 

Karen Lindsey v. AGR Realty Inc.

Allegation: Negligence; slip and fall causing personal injury: $83,004.80

Filed: 1/7/21

 

Brigitte Kahnert and Jens Christiansen v. Lia Automotive Inc. d/b/a Lia Toyota of Northampton

Allegation: Negligence; slip and fall causing personal injury: $54,836+

Filed: 1/15/21

 

Company Notebook

Mount Holyoke College Receives Largest Gift in Its History

SOUTH HADLEY — Mount Holyoke College announced it has received the largest gift in support of financial aid in its history. Alumna Liz Cochary Gross and Philip Gross have committed $10 million to be directed to scholarships and financial aid.  Nancy Nordhoff, a 1954 graduate, also committed $1 million to support future Mount Holyoke students across the economic spectrum. These two gifts are the seed for Mount Holyoke’s new Meet the Moment Scholarship Challenge. This challenge offers donors the opportunity to double — or triple — their impact with their endowment gifts. For first-time donors to endowed financial aid, the Meet the Moment Scholarship Challenge will match two dollars for every one dollar contributed for gifts between $50,000 and $250,000. For repeat endowed financial-aid donors, the challenge will match new gift commitments between $50,000 and $250,000 dollar for dollar. The college is seeking to raise at least $20 million in new gifts and commitments over the next 18 months. As of Jan. 14, Mount Holyoke has already secured more than $5 million in gifts and commitments toward this effort, above and beyond the $11 million in challenge gifts.

 

Big Y Participating in Nexamp Community Solar Program

SPRINGFIELD — Big Y World Class Market has taken another step in supporting the production and consumption of clean energy by contracting with Boston-based Nexamp to participate in its community solar program. Under the agreement with Nexamp, Big Y is subscribing to 19 solar projects across Massachusetts, representing a total of 57 megawatts of capacity. Big Y will receive 50% of the energy credits generated by these projects. The projects included in Big Y’s agreement with Nexamp are located in Massachusetts in the National Grid and Eversource utility service territories. Big Y and other subscribers to these community solar projects are allocated a portion of the project’s output and receive discounted credits on their utility bills.

 

Monson Savings Bank Gives $15,000 to Nonprofits Chosen by Community

MONSON — After Monson Savings Bank asked community members to cast their votes for their favorite charitable organizations as a part of the Monson Savings Bank 2021 Community Giving Initiative, more than 3,400 votes were received. Now that the votes have been tallied, Monson Savings Bank is donating a total of $15,000 among the top 10 vote recipients. In total, 200 organizations received votes. The recipients include Women’s Empowerment Scholarship (Greater Springfield), Wilbraham United Players, Shriners Hospitals for Children – Springfield, Rick’s Place (Wilbraham), I Found Light Against All Odds (Greater Springfield), Academy Hill Private School Scholarship (Springfield), Scantic Valley YMCA (Wilbraham), Monson Free Library, St. Michael’s Players (East Longmeadow), and Link to Libraries Inc. (Hampden). This was the 11th year of the Monson Savings Bank Initiative.

 

Comcast Introduces Fastest Internet Speeds over Wi-fi Across Northeast

PHILADELPHIA — Comcast announced it has introduced the fastest internet speeds over wi-fi available across the Northeast, including 14 states from Maine to Virginia and Washington, D.C. Customers can now take advantage of advanced wi-fi technology that is capable of delivering speeds faster than a gig to support the ever-increasing number of connected devices in their homes. The speed increase was rolled out in Comcast’s Northeast markets on Jan. 7 for no additional charge to customers, and will be introduced to the rest of its service areas throughout 2021. Comcast is one of the first U.S. internet service providers to offer a Wi-Fi 6 certified gateway with the latest version of its xFi Advanced Gateway, which is capable of delivering multi-gigabit speeds via ethernet and laid the groundwork for gigabit speeds over wi-fi. Customers on the upgraded Xfinity gigabit tier will require an xFi Advanced Gateway, or one of the wi-fi-6-capable devices approved to work with the Xfinity network to receive the faster speeds. Comcast will be reaching out to customers who need to upgrade their equipment for no additional cost if they don’t have a capable device in their home.

 

Nursing Schools Almanac Names AIC Among Best Schools for Nursing

SPRINGFIELD — Nursing Schools Almanac has released its 2020 rankings of the best nursing schools in the U.S. In collecting data on more than 3,000 institutions nationwide, only 20% made the list of the best nursing schools in each geographic region. The nursing program at American International College (AIC) was named in both the New England and Massachusetts categories, placing 45th in the region and 21st in the state. Each school was evaluated on three dimensions: the institution’s academic prestige and perceived value, the breadth and depth of nursing programs offered, and student success, particularly on the NCLEX licensure examination. Nursing Schools Almanac combined the assessments into an overall score and ranked the schools accordingly.

 

The Royal Law Firm Announces New Strategic Association

SPRINGFIELD — The Royal Law Firm announced it has established a mutual of-counsel association with Minasian Becker LLC, a boutique commercial real-estate and business law firm, as of the third quarter of 2020. Complementing Royal’s business-side-only litigation practice, this association will provide Royal clients with the added benefits of commercial real-estate and corporate transactional work. The Minasian Becker team of attorneys has represented regional, national, and international companies and nonprofit organizations with their commercial real-estate and business-transaction needs for more than 25 years. Amy Royal, founding partner of the Royal Law Firm, believes the relationship with Minasian Becker will be an attractive supplement to Royal’s existing law practice of labor and employment law and other business-related litigation. With this alignment of their practices, Royal and Minasian Becker will offer their clients locations in Arlington, Springfield, and Rockport in Massachusetts, as well as in Hartford, Conn. Royal attorneys are admitted to practice in the state and federal courts of Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Vermont, and New York. Both law firms are nationally certified as women’s business enterprises and women owned small businesses, and are able to offer the benefits of diversity to their clients.

 

Boston Children’s Hospital, Baystate Health Collaborate on Specialized Pediatric Care

SPRINGFIELD — Boston Children’s Hospital and Baystate Health have formed a collaboration that will improve patient access to highly specialized pediatric care and strengthen the coordination of care between Boston Children’s and Baystate Children’s Hospital in Springfield. The collaboration will provide patients throughout Western Mass. with improved access to pediatric specialty care at Baystate Children’s Hospital, and it will streamline care planning among providers at Boston Children’s and Baystate Children’s. The collaboration anticipates that the two hospitals will jointly develop pathways to ensure that children and adolescents get the right care in the right setting. In some instances, Boston Children’s clinicians will be available to provide care at Baystate Children’s. The two hospitals already work collaboratively in cardiology, neurology, and dermatology, and by enhancing medical education, remote consults, information technology, and other initiatives, the two institutions will be better able to coordinate care for their patients.

 

Boulevard Machine & Gear Moves to Larger Headquarters

WESTFIELD — Boulevard Machine & Gear, a precision-machining facility, announced it has moved its headquarters to a new, larger space in Westfield to accommodate steady business growth over the last decade. The new address is 326 Lockhouse Road. Boulevard Machine will leverage its new facility to provide additional capacity for its customers while providing new internal operational efficiencies. The new facility also will provide Boulevard with improved, state-of-the-art production space to facilitate internal and external collaboration and communication, while providing the company with further room for growth with its ongoing investment in equipment. The newly constructed factory will accommodate leading-edge manufacturing technologies, lean equipment layout, and automated workflow, resulting in increased efficiency and better overall customer experience, company President Susan Kasa said. Boulevard Machine, founded in 1954, was acquired by Kasa in 2006. It is a certified woman-owned business that provides precision-machined components for the aerospace, defense, and medical markets.

 

Balise Auto Boosts Square One’s Campaign for Healthy Kids

SPRINGFIELD — Balise Auto, a long-time supporter of Square One, recently committed $15,000 toward the agency’s Adopt-A-Classroom initiative. “We have been so impressed by Square One’s dedication and ability to find creative and effective ways to support the education of children and families in our community,” said Alexandra Balise, director of Marketing at Balise Auto. “Balise is proud to support Square One and their ongoing efforts to shape the leaders of tomorrow.” Square One’s Adopt-A-Classroom program is part of the agency’s Campaign for Healthy Kids, a multi-year fund-development initiative focused on the agency’s commitment to providing healthy meals, physical fitness, social-emotional well-being, and a healthy learning environment. The gift from Balise comes at a critical time, as Square One continues to provide full-day remote-learning support for children in kindergarten through grade 5, in addition to its traditional preschool classrooms, childcare offerings, and family-support services. Square One currently provides early-learning services to more than 500 infants, toddlers, and school-age children each day, as well as family-support services to 1,500 families each year.

 

Academy of Music Raising Funds for Restroom Renovations

NORTHAMPTON — Northampton’s historic Academy of Music Theatre announced its “We Care!” campaign, which will expand and renovate the public restrooms in the 130-year-old landmark to provide more toilets and sinks and upgrade the facilities for cleanliness and hygiene. Among the improvements slated for the $325,000 project are the expansion of the existing restroom facilities and the installation of new plumbing, HEPA-filtered hand dryers, touch-free toilet and sink fixtures, and partitions to serve a larger patron population, as well as new wall, floor, and ceiling finishes. The project is led by Northampton-based Thomas Douglas Architects, whose previous design for the renovation of the Academy of Music’s auditorium earned a Massachusetts Historical Commission Preservation Award. The Academy secured $225,000 last winter for the project from state and foundation sources, including the Massachusetts Cultural Facilities Funds, Smith College, and the Beveridge Family Foundation. The “We Care!” campaign aims to raise the remaining $100,000 from the Pioneer Valley community.

 

Architecture Environment Life Inc. Wins Citation Award from WMAIA

EAST LONGMEADOW — Architecture Environment Life Inc., known to many as ArchitectureEL Inc. or AEL, received a Citation Award from the Western Mass. chapter of the American Institute of Architects (WMAIA). In partnership with the Western Mass. section of the Boston Society of Landscape Architects (BSLA), WMAIA hosted its biannual Celebration of Architecture and Design Awards program last month to encourage and recognize distinguished architectural and landscape-design achievement and honor project teams, including the clients and consultants who work together to improve the built environment. The WMAIA Design Awards, held every two years, includes two Honor Awards for exceptional work, easily distinguishable by exceptional quality of design and function; two Merit Awards for work that demonstrates a high level of design quality worthy of recognition; and two Citation Awards for work that demonstrates a level of design quality worthy of mention. ArchitectureEL Inc. applied for this award by submitting a portfolio displaying its design for New Valley Bank at 1930 Wilbraham Road in Springfield. Judging for the award was informed by the AIA Framework for Design Excellence, which contends that design is not solely about aesthetic components, but also concerns how buildings perform for people.

 

Big Brothers Big Sisters, Restaurants Team Up to Raise Funds for Programs

WEST SPRINGFIELD — Big Brothers Big Sisters of Hampden County (BBBSHC) and four area restaurants partnered in December to raise money to support BBBSHC’s youth-mentoring programs. The four restaurant partners were located throughout Hampden County and included Springfield’s Nadim’s Downtown Mediterranean Grill, Hampden’s La Cucina di Hampden House, Wilbraham’s Blue Elephant Restaurant, and Holyoke’s Delaney House. Staff, board members, and volunteers from BBBSHC delivered close to 100 dinners to more than 40 donors during four Fridays in December. Participants chose from customized menus created specifically for the fundraiser. BBBSHC Executive Director David Beturne formed the partnerships as a creative way to raise funds for his organization during a trying time that has seen revenues and staffing levels cut by more than half. BBBSHC captured 50% of the revenue, and the restaurant partners captured the remaining 50%. Between the fundraiser itself and a sponsorship from Freedom Credit Union, BBBSHC was able to pull in just over $7,000.

UMassFive Donates Hundreds of Winter Coats and Clothes to Amherst Survival Center

HADLEY — UMassFive College Federal Credit Union announced that its members, staff, and community partners have donated hundreds of winter coats and clothing to Amherst Survival Center. Donations were gathered through a collection drive held at UMassFive’s Hadley and Northampton branches throughout the month of December. “This is a drive that we hold annually, and we weren’t sure what to expect in terms of donations during the pandemic,” said Cait Murray, Community Outreach manager at UMassFive. “We were pleasantly surprised to receive a record number of donations this year. The generosity of our members, staff, and community partners is truly remarkable.” Five vehicle loads of donations were dropped off at the Amherst Survival Center, where they were sorted and distributed to the community. To support the Amherst Survival Center directly, visit amherstsurvival.org.

 

RT Consulting, LLC Acquires Sage Benefit Advisers, LLC

PETERBOROUGH, N.H. — RT Consulting, LLC, has acquired Sage Benefit Advisers, headquartered in Peterborough, N.H. Formed in 2006, RT Consulting is a national employee-benefits administration firm focused on employee-benefits compliance, healthcare advocacy, data transparency, communication, education, and partnerships with clients and brokers. Since inception, RT has grown to become a robust HR-management tool helping to ease the burden of all the critical activities within human resources, such as enrollment, communication, navigation, and administration. RT Consulting has worked with companies of all sizes and industries, including technology, automotive, healthcare, finance, manufacturing, and energy, and has also done extensive work with associations. The acquisition of Sage Benefit Advisers positions RT to expand its comprehensive advisory and administrative services.

 

Economic Outlook

Technology

In 2020, virtually every business was caught off guard by pandemic restrictions, which forced them to focus primarily on ways to stabilize and survive. For those that are back in operation, 2021 offers a chance to return to strategic growth — with the right tools.

“While businesses are not in control of whether or not there are secondary or terciary waves of infections, they can adopt a technology plan to support their new workplace environment and ensure productivity,” said Sean Hogan, president of Hogan Technology.

While business owners may have been surprised that their employees actually kept working while remote, they also want to ensure the technology employees are using works, too, he noted.

“In 2020, many businesses were using workarounds to solve communication breakdowns, but by now, there’s no reason for lapses in productivity,” he explained. “In fact, there are plenty of technology tools at our fingertips that businesses are utilizing successfully to keep team members engaged, productive, and efficient, regardless of the physical limitations imposed by the pandemic.”

Sean Hogan

Sean Hogan

“For this workplace-interaction strategy to be successful, employees must be backed with technology tools that support key functions.”

Successful small to mid-sized businesses are well aware of the benefits of strategic planning, Hogan noted, and even though the pandemic has posed unforeseen variables, businesses now have enough information to build workplace-interaction strategies that will support revenue growth in 2021. “Although businesses may consider themselves to be lucky to have survived, they need to expand their thinking in terms of setting new goals, instead of being caught in reaction mode once more.”

COVID-19 has forced companies to adapt, he went on, and at this point, every business owner essentially needs three distinct strategic plans for workplace interaction, and the most sophisticated businesses are creating contingency plans for all three potential environments.

The first is a fully remote workplace. Many organizations that were flexible enough to sustain a fully remote workforce have opted to keep everyone remote until further notice. Such a work environment presents its own unique set of challenges, Hogan said, but also new opportunities.

“For this workplace-interaction strategy to be successful, employees must be backed with technology tools that support key functions,” he explained. “For example, employees need to be empowered to remain in constant communication with other team members. Additionally, business owners need to provide them central access to data, with responsible levels of cybersecurity on the network.”

A remote team means more exposure to the network, he added, but it also brings more flexibility than ever before. A full transition to this model means the business won’t be interrupted by further restrictions or lockdowns.

The second model is a hybrid workplace, which majority of businesses believe will be the most likely scenario in 2021. Over the past year, companies have cycled through lockdowns, partial openings, and full reopenings depending on health-risk factors.

If a business owner wants to plan for a hybrid model going forward, he or she must consider ways to secure entrances, exits, and access points with tools like body-temperature scanners or touchless door-access controls. They can also benefit significantly tools like cloud voice with call forwarding, to make transitions seamless when staff migrate from the office to remote-work environments.

“In order for hybrid to work, remote technology needs to be secure and seamless,” Hogan said, “while workers and customers need to feel safe in person.”

The third model is an in-person workplace with social distancing. “For a minority of businesses, all activities are dependent on the physical location remaining open,” he noted. “For these businesses, owners need to consider how to adhere to and accommodate various safety measures to ensure compliance and worker safety.”

Regardless of which workplace environment is chosen, Hogan said, three critical aspects must be addressed to ensure success. The first is that employees need access to cloud voice to keep team members in constant communication and to ensure that office calls are properly routed to cell phones when team members are out of the office. Second, the team needs to be able to collaborate effectively.

Lastly, every workplace environment needs to be kept secure. For in-person strategies, this means secure access points, with tech like body-temperature scanners to ensure illnesses cannot spread. For remote workplaces, this means cybersecurity precautions have to be considered because, generally speaking, home networks pose much higher risks than office environments.

“We are currently meeting with customers, and, depending on what they want to achieve in 2021, we are devising custom technology plans to help them accomplish their strategic goals,” Hogan said. “This is what leaders do — they step up and lead in times of uncertainty. We are using our expertise to provide structure and clarity so that businesses can continue to thrive. Technology just happens to be our particular expertise, but this effort is about honoring our responsibility to the business community at large.”

Law

Planning for PFML

By John Gannon, Esq. and Meaghan Murphy, Esq.

 

John S. Gannon

John S. Gannon

Meaghan Murphy

Meaghan Murphy

COVID-19 has created an extraordinary level of uncertainty and anxiety for businesses across the world. Since March, countless employers have been forced to dedicate just about all their energy and resources to sustaining a viable business in the face of mandatory closures, layoffs and furloughs, and ever-changing reopening regulations and guidelines.

In the midst of this chaos, it is easy to forget that the most generous paid-leave law in the country is coming to Massachusetts on Jan. 1, 2021. The Massachusetts Paid Family and Medical Leave (PFML) law provides all employees up to a total of 26 weeks of paid, job-protected family and/or medical leave to each year (up to 12 weeks of paid family leave and up to 20 weeks of paid medical leave). The PFML obligations extend to all employers in Massachusetts, regardless of size. As we approach the Jan. 1 PFML kickoff date, here are five things all businesses should be thinking about as they prepare to implement this complex new law.

 

Private-plan Exemption

The Massachusetts PFML program is a state-offered paid-leave benefit available to anyone who works in the Commonwealth. PFML is funded through a Massachusetts payroll tax paid by employees and employers with 25 or more employees. Interestingly, there is an avenue for employers to receive an exemption from collecting and paying PFML contributions. If a business offers company-provided paid-leave benefits that are greater than or equal to the benefits provided by the PFML law — typically through a private insurance carrier — it may be granted an exemption from the state PFML program.

Employers seeking an exemption need to submit an application with the state, which usually can be facilitated by the private carrier that is administrating the paid family and medical leave benefit.

Importantly, businesses that opt out of the state PFML program still need to abide by the job-protection and anti-retaliation provisions in the PFML law. Generally, employees who take family or medical leave under the law must be restored to their previous position or to an equivalent position when they return from leave, with the same status, pay, employment benefits, and seniority as of the date of leave. In addition, it is unlawful for any employer to discriminate or retaliate against an employee for exercising PFML rights (more on this below).

 

Employer-notice Obligations

Businesses are required to notify their workforce about the Massachusetts PFML program, including the new benefits and protections that apply to them. This notification includes displaying the PFML workplace poster in a highly visible location; providing written notice of contributions, benefits, and workforce protections to your eligible employees; and collecting acknowledgments of receipt of such written notice signed by all eligible employees.

Both the workplace poster and model employer-notice forms can be found on the state’s PFML website: www.mass.gov/info-details/informing-your-workforce-about-paid-family-and-medical-leave. Failure to provide the notice can lead to in a fine of $50 per employee for first violations, increasing to $300 per worker for subsequent violations.

Handbook Policies

In addition to meeting their PFML poster and written-notice requirements, employers should review and update other workplace policies that will be impacted by the new law. For example, other leave policies (e.g., sick, PTO) should be updated to note that PFML leave runs concurrently with those other leaves. Employers may also want to update attendance and related discipline policies, including procedures for requesting time off and/or call-out procedures.

It goes without saying — but we’ll say it anyway — that employers should establish and enforce their PFML policy and all other workplace policies consistently.

 

Performance Management

Employers should examine and recommit to their performance-management, discipline, and documentation policies and procedures. This is because employees who are let go or disciplined after taking PFML may have a lawsuit for retaliation if a business cannot prove the employment decision was related to poor performance or misbehavior. In fact, any adverse action taken against an employee during or within six months of PFML leave is presumed to be unlawful interference or retaliation.

As a result, employers’ expectations for performance and workplace conduct, and the consequences for failing to meet those expectations, should be clearly defined, and employers should document all such failures in a timely manner. This is critical to defending against a potential claim by an employee that his termination constitutes unlawful retaliation for his PFML leave use.

 

Training

Employers should make sure all managers receive training on performance-management and discipline policies and procedures, as well as how to properly document such issues. Managers should be disciplining employees consistently and holding them accountable for performance and discipline issues. If an employee who has used PFML leave is terminated for performance-related or disciplinary reasons, employers want to be in a position to support their lawful reasons for termination with proper documentation.

A manager turning a blind eye to performance or discipline issues, or failing to properly document them, can cost employers significantly down the road in the face of a lawsuit filed by a disgruntled employee. Well-trained managers are worth their weight in gold.

 

Bottom Line

Jan. 1 is fast approaching. Massachusetts employers need to be prepared to meet their PFML compliance obligations, which not only involves understanding how PFML benefits work, but also planning for increased frequency of employee time-off requests and longer leaves of absence. Employers with questions about how the new PFML law will impact their business should seek advice from legal counsel. u

 

John Gannon is a partner with Springfield-based Skoler, Abbott & Presser, specializing in employment law and regularly counseling employers on compliance with state and federal laws, including the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Fair Labor Standards Act, and the Occupational Health and Safety Act. Meaghan Murphy is an associate with the firm and specializes in labor and employment law; (413) 737-4753.

Opinion

Editorial 2

Amid a tumultuous presidential election, the contentious plans to fill a Supreme Court seat, and continued upheaval on the broad matter of racial equality, additional stimulus measures to help individuals and businesses weather the pandemic have seemingly been pushed to the back burner, if not off the stove.

Indeed, while there are almost weekly pronouncements of optimism that a stimulus package may soon be passed, overall, there seems to be little actual movement toward getting a deal done, even as the pandemic shows no signs of easing and the announcements of massive job cuts — the latest from the likes of Disney and several of the major airlines — continue to dominate the business news.

In our view — and in the view of untold numbers of owners of businesses both large and small — this is no time to be taking our eyes off the ball. Despite some protestations to the contrary, COVID-19 is far from over, and help will be needed before there are more business failures.

That’s because … well, anyone can look at a calendar and see that there’s more trouble around the corner. Fall is here, and winter is right behind it. A second wave of the virus is predicted, and some would say it is already here. And while some states are actually loosening restrictions on what businesses can open and under what circumstances, the threat of another shutdown like the one that crippled this state’s business community looms large.

Despite some protestations to the contrary, COVID-19 is far from over, and help will be needed before there are more business failures

The harsh reality is that many, if not most, businesses have not come close to recovering the losses they’ve sustained over the past six to seven months. We’ve interviewed business owners across virtually every sector of the economy, from printers to restaurateurs to banquet-facility operators, and many are reporting that revenues are down 60%, 70%, or even 80% or more from last year.

And, as we said, winter is coming, which means restaurants that had been holding on, or nearly holding on, with outdoor dining will have to close those areas soon. It also means all events have to move indoors, which means, essentially, there can be no events. It means businesses and individuals that are hunkering down and reducing their spending in every way possible will only ratchet up those efforts even further.

In this climate, businesses, nonprofits, and, yes, individuals will need additional support. Individuals will need stimulus checks and unemployment benefits — perhaps not the additional $600 a week that has hampered efforts to bring people back to the workforce, but some assistance. And small businesses especially will need another round of Paycheck Protection Act support. Those checks bought business owners some invaluable time during the height of the crisis, and from all indications, more time is needed.

No one knows when the pandemic will actually subside and we can return to something approaching normal. What is now clear, at least to most observers, is that this won’t happen anytime soon. This business of printing money and incurring trillions of dollars in debt to help people and businesses through the crisis is at the very least unnerving and perhaps dangerous. But now that we’ve started down this road, we have to stay on this path and do what’s needed to minimize the damage from this generational catastrophe.

 

Features

Telecommuting Can Be Taxing

By Carolyn Bourgoin and Lisa White

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the related public-health concerns, many businesses have implemented work-from-home (WFH) arrangements for their employees. Whether due to government-mandated shutdowns or voluntary efforts of employers to protect workers, there has been a significant rise in telecommuting that continues even as some states begin to relax restrictions.

Carolyn Bourgoin

Carolyn Bourgoin

Lisa White

Lisa White

Businesses with telecommuting workers need to evaluate the potential payroll and business-tax consequences created by those employees working from home in states where the business would not otherwise have a taxable presence.

Though most states have existing guidance addressing telecommuting for both businesses and workers, the unusual circumstances created by the COVID-19 pandemic has necessitated the need for states to revisit these rules. Unfortunately, there is also little uniformity among the states in both the existing guidance and the temporary guidance being issued.

In order to remove some of the uncertainty and to limit the potential adverse state tax consequences of employees working remotely, the Remote and Mobile Worker Relief Act (RMWR) was introduced to the Senate in July as part of the American Workers, Families, and Employers Assistance Act. The RMWR contains special provisions prohibiting a state and its localities from taxing the wages of an employee who is performing services in a state other than their state of residence due to the COVID-19 public-health emergency.

“Businesses with telecommuting workers need to evaluate the potential payroll and business-tax consequences created by those employees working from home in states where the business would not otherwise have a taxable presence.”

For calendar year 2020, this protection is afforded for a period not to exceed 90 days. Businesses would also be provided protections under this tax-relief package concerning their telecommuting employees. Remote workers performing duties in a state or locality where the employer does not otherwise have a presence would not automatically cause the business to be subject to taxation in that state. However, as it is unclear when or if this bill will pass, employers must continue to review the guidance of the respective states and localities where their remote workers are performing services.

Massachusetts Guidance

Massachusetts issued temporary guidance providing tax relief where an employee is working remotely in the state due to the COVID-19 pandemic. A recent technical information release (TIR 20-10) issued by the Department of Revenue provides that the presence of one or more employees working remotely in Massachusetts will not by itself create a withholding responsibility with respect to that employee if the remote work is due to any one of the following:

• A government order issued in response to the COVID-19 pandemic;

• A remote-work policy an employer adopts to comply with federal or state guidance or public-health recommendations relating to COVID-19;

• A worker’s compliance with quarantine requirements due to a COVID-19 diagnosis or suspected diagnosis; or

• A worker’s compliance based on a physician’s advice due to a worker’s COVID-19 exposure.

For businesses, wages paid to a non-resident employee who, prior to the pandemic, was performing services in Massachusetts, but who is now telecommuting, will continue to be treated as Massachusetts source income, subject to income tax and withholding. The information release further provides that, while it is in effect, the presence of one or more remote workers in the state due to the COVID-19 pandemic will not automatically create a Massachusetts sales and use tax-collection responsibility or a corporate excise tax-filing responsibility.

These provisions are effective until the earlier of Dec. 31, 2020 or 90 days after the state of emergency in Massachusetts is lifted. Employers must maintain written records to substantiate the pandemic-related circumstances that caused an employee to fall under the TIR’s provisions.

Massachusetts issued its temporary guidance with the understanding and expectation that other states either have adopted or are adopting similar sourcing rules. However, similar to the relief provided in the Senate bill discussed earlier, it would still be prudent for an employer to still review the guidance of the respective states and localities where their remote workers are performing services.

Guidance from Neighboring States

New York: New York is one of five states that has a ‘convenience of the employer rule,’ treating as New York wages any compensation earned by employees of a New York company while they are working outside the state. Under this rule, the wages of a telecommuter could be sourced to both New York and the telecommuter’s resident state, requiring payroll withholdings for both states.

A bill was introduced in the New York Senate in May that would offer relief to businesses by exempting the non-resident employee wages from New York income tax and withholding requirements for a specified amount of time. However, as of the time of this article, the New York Department of Revenue has remained silent on its position regarding these matters.

Connecticut: Connecticut is another state with a ‘convenience of the employer rule.’ However, the state only applies this rule in determining Connecticut source income of residents of states that also apply the convenience rule. Otherwise, wages are sourced to Connecticut based on the portion of services performed within the state.

The Connecticut Department of Revenue has not issued any form of guidance to date, but did respond to a state survey this past May regarding telecommuting due to the COVID-19 crisis. The agency replied that it was working on guidance that would ensure ‘fair and equitable treatment’ to both its individual residents and Connecticut-based businesses.

Rhode Island: Rhode Island has issued formal guidance similar to that of Massachusetts, providing that the presence of one or more remote workers in the state due to the COVID-19 pandemic will not automatically create an income tax-filing responsibility and sales and use tax-collection responsibility. Wages paid to a non-resident employee who is now telecommuting will continue to be treated as Rhode Island source income subject to income tax and withholding.

Businesses with telecommuting employees in other states must check to see if those states offer tax relief from withholding taxes, income-tax nexus, and sales and use tax-filing obligations created by these remote workers during the COVID-19 health crisis. Unfortunately, there is no set time frame or requirement that states issue such guidance.

Passage of the Remote and Mobile Worker Relief Act would help to remove some of the uncertainty surrounding the tax treatment of these workers. Employers in the meantime are left to monitor potential changes to state tax laws where their remote workers are located during the COVID-19 pandemic to determine whether they have relief from tax filings in the telecommuting state.

Carolyn Bourgoin, CPA is a senior manager, and Lisa White, CPA is a manager for the Holyoke-based accounting firm Meyers Brothers Kalicka, P.C.; [email protected]; [email protected]

Court Dockets

The following is a compilation of recent lawsuits involving area businesses and organizations. These are strictly allegations that have yet to be proven in a court of law. Readers are advised to contact the parties listed, or the court, for more information concerning the individual claims.

HAMPSHIRE DISTRICT COURT

East Coast Builders Group, LLC v. Kent Pecoy & Sons Construction Inc. d/b/a Pecoy Cos. and Sturbridge Development, LLC
Allegation: Breach of contract: $27,500
Filed: 7/20/20

East Coast Builders Group, LLC v. Kent Pecoy & Sons Construction Inc. d/b/a Pecoy Cos. and Sturbridge Development, LLC
Allegation: Breach of contract: $24,349
Filed: 7/21/20

HAMPSHIRE SUPERIOR COURT

Francesca Torsiello, Cassandra Torsiello, and Kimberly Torsiello v. Trustees of Hampshire College, Five College Consortium Inc., Kevin Fournier, Raymond Labarre, Dianna Williams, Eva Rueschmann, and Byron McCrae
Allegation: Breach of contract, breach of civil rights: 871,000
Filed: 5/4/20

Easthampton Precision Manufacturing Inc. v. Samson Manufacturing Co.
Allegation: Breach of contract: $68,300.20
Filed: 5/8/20

Susan Lee Hanley, personal representative of the estate of Triona Hanley v. Athena Health Care Associates Inc. d/b/a Highview of Northampton; Malcolm Dean; Gina Ianacone, RN; Jane/John Doe 1; Jane/John Doe 2; Lara D’Benedetto, LPN; Margaret Russo, MD; and Jane/John Doe 3
Allegation: Medical malpractice, wrongful death: $1,000,000
Filed: 6/5/20

Jane Doe and John Doe v. Smith College, et al
Allegation: Willful negligence; willful infliction of pain, suffering, and emotional distress; fraud, mistake, duress, and undue influence; breach of contract and warranty: $15,000,000
Filed: 6/10/20

Western Builders Inc. v. Russell Street Hospitality, LLC and Gator Pearson, LLC
Allegation: Breach of contract: $416,983.35
Filed: 6/20/20

East Coast Builders Group, LLC v. Kent Pecoy & Sons Construction Inc. d/b/a Pecoy Cos., et al
Allegation: Breach of contract, unjust enrichment: $50,548
Filed: 7/21/20

Court Dockets

The following is a compilation of recent lawsuits involving area businesses and organizations. These are strictly allegations that have yet to be proven in a court of law. Readers are advised to contact the parties listed, or the court, for more information concerning the individual claims.

HAMPDEN DISTRICT COURT

Pignatare & Sagan, LLC v. Steven J. McNamara and Robert J. McNamara d/b/a T.J.J. Brothers Inc.
Allegation: Money owed for professional services rendered: $19,070
Filed: 2/18/20

Pignatare & Sagan, LLC v. FRS McNamara Wilbraham, LLC
Allegation: Money owed for professional services rendered: $8,095
Filed: 2/18/20

HAMPDEN SUPERIOR COURT

Leon Booklall v. Waste Management of Massachusetts Inc.
Allegation: Employment discrimination: $50,000+
Filed: 2/21/20

Jorge L. Alvarez v. KFC/Taco Bell
Allegation: Negligence causing personal injury: $50,000
Filed: 2/25/20

S & S Activewear, LLC v. Bolduc’s Apparel, LLC d/b/a Bolduc’s Apparel/Lil Dogs and Todd Adelson a/k/a Todd M. Adelson
Allegation: Money owed for goods sold and delivered: $143,244.72
Filed: 2/25/20

Theresa Bernard v. Lancer Transportation & Logistics Inc., Todd Goodrich, R.M. Sullivan Transportation Inc., and Robert M. Sullivan
Allegation: Breach of agreement, interference with advantageous business relationship: $235,000
Filed: 2/26/20

Dennis J. Clark et al v. CDA Roofing and Siding Contractors et al
Allegation: Breach of contract, unfair and deceptive acts or practices: $40,000
Filed: 3/3/20

Coronavirus Cover Story Features Special Coverage

Life in Limbo

It was becoming clear weeks ago that the novel coronavirus would have some sort of economic impact once it washed ashore in the U.S. — but it’s still not clear, and perhaps won’t be for some time, how severe and wide-ranging the damage could be, as people cancel travel plans, curtail business operations, shut down college campuses, and take any number of other actions to stay safe. It’s a fast-moving story, and one that’s only beginning.

The first confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus had barely shown up in the U.S. when some of Bob Nakosteen’s students in an online graduate economics course started dropping the course because they were dealing with a more immediate issue: supply-chain interruptions in their own companies.

“These companies have supply chains that stretch into China, and, well … the word ‘disruptive’ doesn’t even capture it,” Nakosteen said. “Those chains have been completely severed. These people are absolutely in crisis mode.

“A situation like this interacts with the ethic of lean production,” he went on. “People keep limited inventories — and that’s great as long as there’s a supply chain that’s frictionless and reliable. As soon as you get a disruption in the supply chain, which could happen because of a strike, because of a virus, for any number of reasons, there’s no inventory buffer. It doesn’t cause delayed difficulty to the firm; it causes an immediate one. And that’s what you’ve got now.”

Editor’s Note:

The coronavirus pandemic is impacting this region and its business community in ways that are far-reaching and unprecedented. Visit COVID-19 News & Updates  and opt into BusinessWest Daily News to stay informed with daily updates.

More than a week has passed since we spoke with Nakosteen — a professor and chair of the Department of Operations and Information Management at Isenberg School of Management at UMass Amherst — for this story, meaning another week for the supply-chain situation for manufacturers and other companies to deteriorate.

In fact, when it comes to the economic impact of the virus that causes the respiratory illness known as COVID-19, now officially a pandemic, virtually everything has only gotten worse.

“We have to assume everything will be affected. Airlines are experiencing reduced demand, cancelling hundreds and thousands of flights,” he said, noting that reduced tourism will hit numerous sectors, from hotels and restaurants to ground transportation and convention halls, that rely on travelers.

“How many firms are curtailing business travel? The NCAA now plans to play playing games with empty stands,” he went on, a decision that became official soon after — not to mention the NBA suspending its season outright. “What happens to the people who provide parking and concessions? Now multiply that over hundreds or thousands of events that are scheduled to take place over the next couple of months. It’s going to have an economic effect.”

UMass Amherst

UMass Amherst is one of several area colleges and universities that are sending students home and will conduct remote classes only for the time being.

Nakosteen’s own campus is certainly feeling that impact. The day before BusinessWest went to press, the five campuses in the UMass system suspended in-person instruction and will transition to online course delivery, at least through early April and perhaps beyond. That followed a similar move by Amherst College, whose president, Carolyn Martin, told students the college was taking to heart the announcement by Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, that the U.S. is past the point of totally containing COVID-19. Other area colleges have since followed suit, or are considering their options.

“While there continue to be no reported cases of the virus on our campus, we need to focus on mitigating its possible effects,” she said, using language that will no doubt be similar to the statements other colleges, in Massachusetts and across the U.S., are currently preparing. “We know that many people will travel widely during spring break, no matter how hard we try to discourage it. The risk of having hundreds of people return from their travels to the campus is too great. The best time to act in ways that slow the spread of the virus is now.”

While all travel is slowing — for example, the governors of Massachusetts and Connecticut have both curtailed out-of-state business travel by government employees, and President Trump issued a European travel ban — Don Anderson, owner of the Cruise Store in East Longmeadow, has seen vacation travel take a major hit.

“We’re a society where, when you’re growing up, you eat your meal, and then you get your dessert. Now we have a situation where people are not having their dessert — their vacation,” he told BusinessWest. “Imagine kids not going to the islands or not going to a park, to the annual parade, not going anywhere. We are a society that works our butts off, we put in overtime, so we can have our time off. To have a year with no time off, that’s not who we are. As Americans, we want our vacation, we want our escape, so we can recharge and come back and work our butts off again.”

But they’re increasingly calling off those vacations, even though Fauci told reporters last week that cruise ships, with all the precautions they’re taking (more on that later), are safe for healthy young people.

“These companies have supply chains that stretch into China, and, well … the word ‘disruptive’ doesn’t even capture it. Those chains have been completely severed. These people are absolutely in crisis mode.”

“The bottom line is, we are unintentionally punishing ourselves by not having an escape. A good portion of our customers are going on trips, but many are not,” Anderson said, adding that he expects the industry to recover after the crisis is over. “That’s what we’re all hoping. Otherwise, it’s a dire situation for the industry and even more so for the economies that travel impacts directly and indirectly, including the United States.”

For now, though, businesses of all kinds are in a sort of limbo, bearing the initial brunt of an economic storm spreading as quickly as coronavirus itself — no one really sure how severe it will get, and when it will turn around.

Sobering Education

Many companies, from small outfits with a few employees to regional giants, are grappling with similar questions about what to do if the virus threatens their workforce. On that upper end, size-wise, is MassMutual in Springfield, which has certainly talked strategy in recent days.

“MassMutual is taking appropriate action to protect the health of our employees, their families, and our community and assure the continuity of our business operations,” Laura Crisco, head of Media Relations and Strategic Communications, told BusinessWest. “This includes limiting non-essential domestic and international business travel and ensuring employees are prepared to work remotely, including proactively testing work-from-home capabilities.”

In the meantime, MassMutual is limiting non-essential guests at its offices, enhancing cleaning protocols at its facilities, and limiting large-scale meetings, she added. “We are continuously monitoring this evolving situation, reassessing our approach, and staying in close communication with our employees.”

Most importantly, Crisco said, anyone who is sick is encouraged to stay home, and the company is also communicating basic guidance on how to prevent the spread of germs, such as thorough hand washing, using hand sanitizer, covering coughs and sneezes, avoiding close contact with people who are sick, avoiding touching faces with unwashed hands, and frequently cleaning and disinfecting touched objects and surfaces.

Kevin Day, president of Florence Bank, told BusinessWest the institution has disaster plans in place for a host of circumstances, from epidemics to natural disasters, and has developed strategies for meeting basic customer needs in case staffing is reduced.

Bob Nakosteen

“As soon as you get a disruption in the supply chain, which could happen because of a strike, because of a virus, for any number of reasons, there’s no inventory buffer. It doesn’t cause delayed difficulty to the firm; it causes an immediate one.”

“We just checked with all our managers and asked, ‘are we comfortable that everyone is cross-trained enough, so that, if your area was out, we could function?’ Pretty much everyone said, ‘yes, we have the plans right here, we know exactly what we’d do.’

He understands, however, that no one can anticipate the extent of the crisis quite yet.

“It’s not like we haven’t seen challenges in the past. Whatever challenge is presented, we’ve just got to get the right people in the building together and think about how to continue to do what we do, which is open the door and serve the customers. We have those things in place,” Day said. “As it ramps up, and all of a sudden your employees start coming down with it, the escalation would get much greater, and you might have to take more draconian steps.”

‘Draconian’ might be a word some people used when they first heard about the college shutdowns, but there’s a logic behind that move.

“While at this time there are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 on our campus or in the surrounding community, we are taking these steps as a precautionary measure to protect the health and well-being of our students, faculty, and staff,” Kumble Subbaswamy, chancellor of UMass Amherst, said in a statement to students. “By reducing population density on campus, we will enable the social distancing that will mitigate the spread of the virus. There is presently no evidence that our campus is unsafe, but our transition to remote learning is intended to create a safer environment for all — for the students who return home and the faculty and staff who remain.”

He conceded that the move is a massive disruption for students and families, but said the university is committed to helping those with the greatest needs on an individual basis. Meanwhile, the Provost’s office is working with the deans to identify laboratory, studio, and capstone courses where face-to-face instruction is essential, and students in these courses will be notified whether they can return to campus after spring break.

At the same time, Martin said Amherst College will consider making exceptions for students who say it’s impossible to find another place to stay.

“It saddens us to be taking these measures,” she added. “It will be hard to give up, even temporarily, the close colloquy and individual attention that defines Amherst College, but our faculty and staff will make this change rewarding in its own way, and we will have acted in one another’s best interests.”

Elementary-, middle- and high schools may close as well, after Gov. Charlie Baker, as part of his emergency declaration last week, freed school districts from mandatory-days rules, so that they have the flexibility to make decisions on temporary closures due to coronavirus.

Specifically, the longest any school district will be required to go is its already-scheduled 185th day. No schools will be required to be in session after June 30. Schools may also disregard all attendance data for the remainder of the school year.

Reaction or Overreaction?

While some economic impacts may be inevitable, Anderson questioned whether some businesses are being hurt more than others based on, in his case, media spin that has focused on a couple of recent outbreaks on cruise ships.

“Honestly, I’m more concerned walking into the supermarket — that tomato I’m grabbing or fresh produce I’m purchasing, I don’t know how many people before me have touched it. I don’t know who’s touching the elevator button. I don’t know who entered their pin number on the debit/credit-card reader. Even when we voted, everyone who used the polling booth shared the same pens,” he said, adding quickly that election officials in East Longmeadow, where he is a Town Council member, did occasionally wipe down the voting surfaces and pens, as did other communities.

“What we do know is there’s been well over 20,000 deaths of American citizens from the flu this season alone, but I’m not seeing large, front-page stories about that,” Anderson noted. “Why aren’t there long lines out of the local CVS or Walgreens to get the flu vaccine?”

Dr. Robert Roose

Dr. Robert Roose

“We are regularly in touch with the state Department of Health as well as monitoring guidance from the Centers for Disease Control. That’s important to ensure all of our activities are aligned with the latest data and resources.”

The key, he said, is a balanced and measured response — and for people to use healthy practices all the time. As one example, he noted the hand-washing stations at the entrance of all restaurants on cruise ships. While at least two cruise lines have temporarily suspended voyages, those still operating strictly follow those protocols.

“You have dedicated crew reminding everyone and watching so you wash your hands before going in,” he said. “It’s not something you see in stateside restaurants. But on cruise ships, you have to wash your hands. These washing stations were a consequence years ago of the norovirus impacting a small number of cruise-ship passengers. As a result, the incidences onboard ships has lowered.”

Meanwhile, U.S. Travel Assoc. President and CEO Roger Dow worried about bold moves like barring European travel. “Temporarily shutting off travel from Europe is going to exacerbate the already-heavy impact of coronavirus on the travel industry and the 15.7 million Americans whose jobs depend on travel,” Dow said in a statement.

While many businesses struggle with the economic impact of the novel coronavirus and the anxiety it’s causing among Americans, others see it as a chance to expand their services.

For example, the Springfield-based law firm Bulkley Richardson launched a COVID-19 response team last week comprised of attorneys in the areas of business, finance, employment, schools, healthcare, and cybersecurity. Understanding that each business will be affected differently, the firm noted that taking proactive measures may help minimize the risk of business interruptions, and the COVID-19 response team has developed — and posted on its website — a catalog of issues to be considered by each business owner or manager.

Meanwhile, Associated Industries of Massachusetts published an expansive guide to employment-law issues that might arise due to the virus, dealing with everything from quarantines and temporary shutdowns to remote work and employee privacy issues. That guide is available at aimnet.org/blog/the-employers-guide-to-covid-19. John Gannon, a partner with Skoler, Abbott & Presser, also answers some relevant questions in this issue.

Righting the ship if COVID-19 sparks an actual recession could be difficult, for a number of reasons, writes Annie Lowrey, who covers economic policy for the Atlantic. She notes several reasons why a coronavirus recession could be difficult to reverse in the short term, including its uncertainty, demand and supply shocks at the same time (that supply-chain issue again), political polarization in the U.S., the global nature of COVID-19, and the fact that monetary policy is near exhaustion, as the Federal Reserve has already cut rates to near-historic lows, leaving little room to maneuver in the coming months

“They really don’t have much space to cut,” Nakosteen added. “Normally when the economy runs into trouble, the Federal Reserve runs in to the rescue. The problem now is we don’t have much room to rescue.”

He also cited the psychological factor that can quickly turn economic anxiety into something worse. “People say, ‘oh my God,’ they start drawing in their tentacles, and that’s when you have a recession.”

Lives in the Balance

None of this is to suggest that the economic impacts of COVID-19 outweigh the human ones. This is, foremost, a health crisis, one the healthcare community, particularly hospitals, are bracing for.

“We have an emergency preparedness committee, but those policies are sort of general,” said Dr. Joanne Levin, medical director of Infection Prevention at Cooley Dickinson Hospital. “We’ve had a lot of incidents in the past decade — we’ve prepared for Ebola, measles, H1N1, a lot of things. But each epidemic is different in how it’s transmitted and what to watch for. With each epidemic, we have to go through the emergency preparation plan and figure things out.”

Dr. Robert Roose, chief medical officer at Mercy Medical Center, echoed that idea. “We have a standard infection-control committee and a plan that we would activate whenever we have a surge of infectious-disease patients,” he told BusinessWest. “This particular situation is rapidly evolving. We are regularly in touch with the state Department of Health as well as monitoring guidance from the Centers for Disease Control. That’s important to ensure all of our activities are aligned with the latest data and resources.”

Meanwhile, the state Department of Public Health (DPH) continues to offer guidance to the public at www.mass.gov/2019coronavirus. It’s also urging older adults and those with health issues to avoid large crowds and events, while individuals who live in households with vulnerable people, like elderly parents, should also consider avoiding crowds. The DPH is also issuing guidance to long-term-care facilities, where sick visitors could endanger dozens of people very quickly.

Still, coronavirus is also an economic story, one with a plot that’s only beginning to take shape. It also may be a long story, with no end in sight.

“We’re in a position where we don’t know exactly what’s going to happen, but we can speculate on what parts of the economy are going to be affected,” Nakosteen said. “We’re all watching it play out without a whole lot of idea how it will play out.”

Joseph Bednar can be reached at [email protected]

Court Dockets

The following is a compilation of recent lawsuits involving area businesses and organizations. These are strictly allegations that have yet to be proven in a court of law. Readers are advised to contact the parties listed, or the court, for more information concerning the individual claims.

HAMPDEN DISTRICT COURT

American Builders & Contractors Supply Co. Inc. d/b/a ABC Supply Co. Inc. v. Cole Home Improvement, LLC; Stephen D. Cole a/k/a Stephen Cole a/k/a Steve Cole; and Lincoln Cole a/k/a Lincoln P. Cole

Allegation: Breach of contract for goods sold and delivered, breach of personal guaranty: $19,013.57

Filed: 1/30/20

 

Rhonda Skinner v. Family Dollar Stores of Massachusetts, LLC and Congregation Sons of Zion Inc. of Holyoke

Allegation: Negligence; slip and fall causing injury: $24,000

Filed: 2/6/20

 

Luis Vazquez v. K & D Auto

Allegation: Sale of defective vehicle, unfair and deceptive business practices: $3,475.27

Filed: 2/6/20

 

Margarita Casillas v. Walmart Inc.

Allegation: Negligence; slip and fall causing injury: $7,016.72

Filed: 2/12/20

 

Edward F. Corcoran Plumbing & Heating Co. Inc. v. 360 laundry, LLC

Allegation: Breach of contract for labor and materials: $15,446.12

Filed: 2/21/20

 

HAMPDEN SUPERIOR COURT

Jason Codding v. Holyoke Mall Co., LP

Allegation: Negligence causing personal injury: $25,000

Filed: 1/17/20

 

Tammy Isaac-Brown v. Cumberland Farms of Massachusetts Inc.

Allegation: Negligence; slip and fall causing injury: $100,000

Filed: 1/21/20

 

Gaetano “Guy” Santaniello v. Kane Scrap Iron & Metal Inc.

Allegation: Negligence; slip and fall causing injury: $200,000

Filed: 1/21/20

 

Joseph S. Puc v. Stuart Hershman, M.D.; Shivam Narendra Upadhyaya, M.D.; Dana R. Sajed, M.D.; and the Massachusetts General Hospital Inc.

Allegation: Medical malpractice: $50,000+

Filed: 1/22/20

 

Kristen Fay v. Walmart Stores East, LP; WSE Management, LLC; and Walmart

Allegation: Employment discrimination

Filed: 1/23/20

 

Richard M. Green Jr. v. the Whiting-Turner Contracting Co.

Allegation: Negligence causing personal injury: $510,000

Filed: 1/30/20

 

Irene Kathuria v. Dental Dreams, LLC and Sameera Houssain

Allegation: Employment discrimination: $120,000+

Filed: 2/4/20

 

Commerce Insurance Co. a/s/o Janette Vega v. Pioneer Valley Transit Authority

Allegation: Motor-vehicle negligence: $6,592.36

Filed: 2/5/20

 

NMD Inc. d/b/a A & M Landscaping v. JGS Lifecare Corp. f/k/a Jewish Geriatric Services Inc.

Allegation: Breach of contract, unjust enrichment: 44,802.50+

Filed: 2/5/20

 

Zachary Charbonneau v. PM Auto Transport Inc. and Matthew S. Hoydilla

Allegation: Motor-vehicle negligence causing personal injury: $64,308.75

Filed: 2/5/20

Coronavirus

Coronavirus in the Workplace

By John Gannon and Andrew Adams

John S. Gannon

John S. Gannon

Andrew Adams

Andrew Adams

For those of you not living under a rock or in Antarctica, COVID-19 (the novel coronavirus), has become a topic of everyday discourse. As the number of reported COVID-19 cases rise, so do the concerns for businesses and their employees.

Employers are wondering what, if anything, they can do to help their workplace remain safe. At the same time, employees may fear coming into the office and working alongside sick colleagues or customers. Can these folks stay home? Can employers force them to stay home? Do businesses have to pay employees who stay home? Should they pay them? These are some of the questions we tried to answer during this rapidly evolving situation.

How Does Coronavirus Relate to Workplace Laws?

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is tasked with enforcing workplace anti-discrimination laws such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Several years ago, the EEOC put out guidance explaining that the ADA is relevant for employers to consider during pandemic preparation because it regulates the types of questions and actions employers can take when dealing with employees suffering from medical impairments.

“Employers should maintain flexible policies that permit employees to stay home to care for a sick family member. Employers should be aware that more employees may need to stay at home to care for sick children or other sick family members than usual.”

Recently, the EEOC referenced this guidance when discussing coronavirus, and also stated that the guidance does not interfere with or prevent employers from following the guidelines and suggestions made the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) about steps employers should take regarding coronavirus.

CDC’s Recommended Strategies for Employers

The CDC’s “Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19): Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers” lists several suggestions for employers to implement in their practices. We summarize the most relevant recommendations below:

• Actively encourage sick employees to stay home.

• Ensure sick-leave policies are flexible and consistent with public health guidance. Employers should maintain flexible policies that permit employees to stay home to care for a sick family member. Employers should be aware that more employees may need to stay at home to care for sick children or other sick family members than usual.

• Separate sick employees. Employees who appear to have acute respiratory illness symptoms (i.e. cough, shortness of breath) upon arrival to work or become sick during the day should be separated from other employees and be sent home immediately.

• Emphasize staying home when sick, respiratory etiquette, and hand hygiene by all employees. The CDC recommends that employers provide soap and water and alcohol-based hand rubs in the workplace, and instruct employees to clean their hands often with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% to 95% alcohol, or wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.

• Advise employees to take certain steps before traveling, including checking the CDC’s Traveler’s Health Notices for the latest guidance and recommendations for each country to which employees will travel.

• Employees who are well but have a sick family member at home with COVID-19 should notify their supervisor and refer to CDC guidance for how to conduct a risk assessment of their potential exposure.

• If an employee is confirmed to have COVID-19, employers should inform fellow employees of their possible exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace but maintain confidentiality as required by the ADA.

Some Questions and Answers

Here are some of the most common questions we have been getting from businesses in connection with the coronavirus outbreak:

Can employers ask for more information from employees who call out sick? Yes, employers can ask employees if they are experiencing flu-like symptoms, as long as they treat all information about sickness as confidential.

Can employers request that employees stay home if they are experiencing flu-like symptoms? Yes, but employers should consider whether they will pay employees who are asked to stay home due to possible coronavirus exposure. Also, absenteeism policies should be relaxed if you require an employee to remain at home, or if the employee is required to stay at home due to a mandatory requirement. Employers should be mindful of employment laws that speak to sick-time usage, including the Massachusetts Earned Sick Time Law.

When an employee returns from travel during a pandemic, must an employer wait until the employee develops influenza symptoms to ask questions about exposure to pandemic influenza during the trip? No. If the CDC or state or local public health officials recommend that people who visit specified locations remain at home for several days until it is clear they do not have pandemic influenza symptoms, an employer may ask whether employees are returning from these locations, even if the travel was personal.

May an employer encourage employees to telework (i.e., work from an alternative location such as home) as an infection-control strategy during a pandemic? Yes. The EEOC states that telework is an effective infection-control strategy. In addition, employees with disabilities that put them at high risk for complications of coronavirus may request telework as a reasonable accommodation to reduce their chances of infection.

Do we have to pay employees who stay home sick? As a general rule, non-exempt/hourly employees are only required to be paid for any time they perform work. If a non-exempt employee is required by you or a public health authority to stay home, they do not need to be compensated for that time, unless they have company-provided sick-time benefits. However, businesses need to consider fairness in this situation.

Employers should encourage the use of unused vacation or personal time if the employee is out of sick time, and also be wary of employee morale problems that could arise if employees are required to remain out of the office and are forced to go without pay. This is especially true given the comments that members of Congress on both sides of the aisle have made regarding the need for American businesses to step up and pay workers for time out that may be occasioned in a pandemic scenario.

In short, employers without telecommuting options should consider paying employees for time spent under self-quarantine, even if the employee is out of sick-time benefits. Employers should also remember that their exempt employees should be paid full salaries if they perform any work during a work week, even if it is done at home.

Employers should be carefully monitoring the CDC website for updates and information. In addition, now is a good time to review your company sick-leave policy and consider whether you will allow for more time off during pandemics. We also recommend that employers consult with labor and employment counsel on this complex situation if they are planning to take action against sick employees or instituting any new policies.

John Gannon is a partner with Springfield-based Skoler, Abbott & Presser. He specializes in employment law and regularly counsels employers on compliance with state and federal laws, including the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Fair Labor Standards Act, and the Occupational Health and Safety Act. He is a frequent speaker on employment-related legal topics for a wide variety of associations and organizations. Andrew Adams is an associate with the firm and specializes in labor and employment law; (413) 737-4753.

Court Dockets

The following is a compilation of recent lawsuits involving area businesses and organizations. These are strictly allegations that have yet to be proven in a court of law. Readers are advised to contact the parties listed, or the court, for more information concerning the individual claims.

CHICOPEE DISTRICT COURT

Tareka Leialoha v. Bel-White Trust

Allegation: Negligence; slip and fall causing personal injury: $43,112.42

Filed: 1/7/20

FRANKLIN SUPERIOR COURT

Debra Gagnon as personal representative of the estate of Jean v. Schouler v. New England Health Center, LLC; Synergy Health Center, LLC; and Next Step Healthcare, LLC

Allegation: Malpractice, nursing-home negligence causing injury: $123,113

Filed: 2/13/20

HAMPSHIRE DISTRICT COURT

Manuel Batson Jr. v. Nini’s Italian Cuisine and Lounge Inc. and Nini’s Real Estate, LLC

Allegation: Negligence; slip and fall causing personal injury: $7,157,57

Filed: 2/13/20

HAMPSHIRE SUPERIOR COURT

Vanessa Brower v. Amherst Nursing Home Inc. d/b/a Center for Extended Care at Amherst

Allegation: Wrongful termination, discrimination, retaliation, interference: $25,000+

Filed: 2/5/20

Rosemary Eads v. Echo Hill Townhouse Condominium Trust and Structural Preservation Systems, LLC

Allegation: Negligence; slip and fall causing personal injury: $36,174.22

Filed: 2/3/20

WESTFIELD DISTRICT COURT

Richard Sabonis v. Bedard Sheet Metal Co. Inc.

Allegation: Negligence; multiple dog bites causing injury

Filed: 1/30/20

F. Michael Joseph, Esq. v. Michael B’Shara a/k/a Michael D. B’Shara and Michael’s Pasta-in-the-Pan Inc.

Allegation: Unpaid attorney services: $10,375

Filed: 2/11/20

Court Dockets

The following is a compilation of recent lawsuits involving area businesses and organizations. These are strictly allegations that have yet to be proven in a court of law. Readers are advised to contact the parties listed, or the court, for more information concerning the individual claims.

HAMPDEN DISTRICT COURT

Marvin Jordan v. Prevalent Transport Inc. and Sergey Kucherenko

Allegation: Violation of wage-and-hour laws: $2,783.75

Filed: 11/12/19

E.B. Thomsen Inc. d/b/a Thomsen Food Service v. Eight Eight One Entertainment Inc. d/b/a the Tap Room Grill and John Siniscalchi

Allegation: Money owed for goods sold and delivered: $13,203.58

Filed: 11/13/19

HAMPDEN SUPERIOR COURT

Tyra Dixon v. Michael Kors Retail Inc. and Cesar Delaza

Allegation: Employment discrimination: $25,000+

Filed: 11/12/19

Zena Sky Perez v. Rocky’s Ace Hardware Inc. and Mitchell Johnson

Allegation: Employment discrimination: $25,000+

Filed: 11/12/19

Elizabeth Sullivan, individually and on behalf of those similarly situated v. Med Express Urgent Care, P.C. Massachusetts

Allegations: Unpaid wages: $50,000+

Filed: 11/12/19

Thomas Graziano v. Meredith Corp. d/b/a Western Massachusetts News, Raymond S. Hershel, and David A. Madsen

Allegation: Defamation, employment loss, wage loss, emotional distress, damage to reputation: $489,500

Filed: 11/12/19

FCIA Management Co. Inc. v. Turley Publications Inc.

Allegation: Breach of contract, failure to provide services paid for: $37,996.03

Filed: 11/13/19

HAMPSHIRE DISTRICT COURT

Commerce Insurance Co. a/s/o Elena Volpe v. Jeffrey Miller d/b/a Cosmic Cab Co. and Daniel Hale

Allegation: Negligence causing personal injury and property damage: $9,062.88

Filed: 11/1/19

Edgardo Cancel v. Corps Logistics Inc. and James Duffney individually

Allegation: Non-payment of wages, breach of contract, retaliation, violation of overtime laws: $2,516

Filed: 11/19/19

PALMER DISTRICT COURT

Christopher Shalvoy v. Custom Creations Enterprises, LLC and Custom Creations Inc.

Allegation: Defendants misclassified plaintiff as an independent contractor: $8,262

Filed: 11/4/19

WESTFIELD DISTRICT COURT

Brenda McNair v. Knight Associates Realty Inc. and Meadow Village, LLC

Allegation: Negligence causing personal injury: $34,664.53

Filed: 11/22/19

Company Notebook

City, MGM Springfield Win Economic-development Award

SPRINGFIELD — MGM Springfield and the city of Springfield Office of Planning and Economic Development (OPED) have received a 2019 Excellence in Economic Development Award from the International Economic Development Council (IEDC) for the MGM Springfield project. The award was presented by the IEDC last month at its annual conference in October in Indianapolis. The Gold Excellence in Public-Private Partnership Award was presented to Brian Connors, the city’s deputy director of Economic Development, and was the only award category highlighted during the conference keynote event. The award recognizes outstanding and innovative development projects that have significantly enhanced revitalizations. OPED’s team was led through the MGM Springfield project by now-retired Chief Development Officer Kevin Kennedy, and also included Phillip Dromey, deputy director of Planning, and Scott Hanson, principal planner. The MGM Springfield project represented a $960 million private investment, resulting in several new-to-market amenities, including a downtown movie theater, bowling alley, ice-skating rink, four-star hotel, and several new retail and restaurant offerings. In addition, MGM’s commitment to populate existing offsite entertainment facilities became another highlight to economic spinoff, as did the commitment to $50 million each year in spending with local vendors. The project has created several thousand construction and permanent jobs and greatly enhanced local revenues, which helped fund additional public-safety, early-education, and park improvements.

United Personnel Named Among Top 100 Women-led Businesses In Massachusetts

SPRINGFIELD — United Personnel announced it has been named one of the top 100 women-led businesses in Massachusetts by the Commonwealth Institute, a nonprofit that supports female business owners. The list, published in the Boston Globe, was developed based on revenue, number of full-time employees in the state, team diversity, and innovation. The rankings feature a wide range of industries, including manufacturing, business services, healthcare, education, human services, and retail. United Personnel was number 75 on the list, and was one of only two companies based in Western Mass. represented. Focused on helping to connect people with job openings at local companies, United Personnel has seen decades of success as a women-led organization. Founded by Mary Ellen Scott in 1984 with her late husband, Jay Canavan, United Personnel is now on its second generation of female leadership under President Tricia Canavan.

Hampshire College Maintains Accreditation, Advances Plans

AMHERST — Hampshire College remains in compliance and will continue its accreditation, according to a vote by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE) at its meeting on Nov. 22. NECHE reviewed Hampshire’s progress report and five-year plans before acting to continue the college’s accreditation. The commissioners lifted their notation on Hampshire’s compliance with the standard of organization and governance, citing significant progress in this area. NECHE recognized such progress as the hiring of a new president, substantial achievements with respect to good practices for governing boards, and considerable progress in realistic planning with respect to enrollment, fundraising, and finances. The commissioners continued Hampshire’s notation on the standard of institutional resources and asked the college for a full progress report in two years, in December 2021. A team of Hampshire College administrators and trustees, led by Wingenbach and board chair Luis Hernandez, met with the NECHE commissioners on Nov. 21 and reported that Hampshire’s leadership is secure and its board of trustees governance is strong. The college is actively recruiting new students for 2020, its 50th-anniversary year, as it plans to rebuild to full enrollment by 2023-24. The college has also been conducting a rapid, community-wide process to reinvent its curriculum and student experience. In the coming months, Hampshire will draw on the continued support of its alumni, donors, friends, and community members to meet admissions and fundraising goals. Hampshire College also kicked off a major capital campaign, announcing it has already raised $11.2 million in gifts toward its campaign goal of $60 million by 2024. “Change in the Making: A Campaign for Hampshire” is currently led by four alumni co-chairs: Ken Burns (’71), award-winning documentary filmmaker; Gail Caulkins (’73), president of the Greenacre Foundation and former Hampshire College trustee; Lucy Ann McFadden (’70), retired astrophysicist, Goddard Space Flight Center, NASA, and a member of the Hampshire board of trustees and chair of its advancement committee; and Julie Schecter (’71), director and trustee of numerous organizations, including the SHIFT Foundation, co-founder of Hampshire’s Ethics and the Common Good program, vice chair of Hampshire’s board of trustees, and chair of its trusteeship and governance committee. The co-chairs are working actively to secure additional major gifts, supported by a campaign council, a diverse group of volunteers that represents the board of trustees, major donors, college leaders, faculty, staff, students, and parents. The campaign is administered by Chief Advancement Officer Jennifer Chrisler and the college’s Advancement Division staff.

People’s United Bank to Close Three Springfield-area Branches

SPRINGFIELD — Following its acquisition of United Bank, People’s United Bank plans to close three Springfield-area branches in April, all of them because they are near other People’s United locations. The closures include the former United branch at 1355 Boston Road in Springfield, the former United Branch at 1414 Main St. in Springfield, and a former Farmington Bank location at 85 Elm St. in West Springfield that People’s United acquired in 2018. All employees have been offered jobs at other People’s United offices. People’s United Financial announced in July it was purchasing United Financial Bancorp for $759 million.

Elms College Ranked in Top 15% of State’s Best Schools for Veterans

CHICOPEE — Elms College ranks in the top 15% of 2020 Best Colleges for Veterans in Massachusetts, according to data-analytics company College Factual. The college is also in the top 15% of colleges and universities in the company’s national rankings. In the list of Best Colleges for Veterans in Massachusetts, Elms College was rated ninth out of 70 higher-education institutions for veteran friendliness as reviewed by College Factual. Elms improved its standing five slots over last year’s 14th position. According to College Factual’s national list, Elms College moved from the top 25% to the top 15% with a rating of 214 out of 1,751 institutions, improving its position by 225 slots over last year’s standing at 439. This list highlights colleges and universities that are working hard to provide quality educational outcomes to veterans, active-duty military students, and their families, College Factual stated. Some of the factors taken into account by College Factual include affordability to veterans, support services, and resources specific to the needs of veterans, whether they are traditional or non-traditional students.

UMassFive Opens Branch at Northampton VA Medical Center

NORTHAMPTON — UMassFive College Federal Credit Union introduced its newest branch location at the Northampton VA Medical Center. As of October, the Northampton VAF Federal Credit Union has formally merged with UMassFive College Federal Credit Union, and former Northampton VAF members have transitioned to banking with UMassFive. With this merger, current employees of the Northampton VA Medical Center and their immediate family members are now eligible for UMassFive membership. Along with the merger, the existing credit-union branch located in Building 1, Room B204 of the Northampton VA Medical Center has been completely renovated. The new, open floor plan includes seated service areas where UMassFive representatives can provide members access to a range of credit-union products and services, including checking, auto loans, home-equity loans, solar loans, mortgages, credit cards, and investment guidance. The space also now features a video teller machine that can be accessed in the branch entryway, and allows members to perform video transactions with UMassFive tellers, even while the branch is closed. As with other UMassFive locations, members at the Northampton VA branch will have access to free financial workshops on topics like budgeting essentials, homebuying, identity theft, and planning for retirement. The hours for this new UMassFive branch are Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Off-hours access to the lobby video teller machine are available when the building and basement are open, and during regular video-teller hours. Any credit or debit card may be swiped for after-hours entry.

Freedom Credit Union Launches Cherish the Children Campaign

SPRINGFIELD — To a child in need, one special gift can be a holiday wish come true. That’s the spirit behind Freedom Credit Union’s 12th annual Cherish the Children campaign, which provides presents to hundreds of local children in time for the holidays. Freedom Credit Union (FCU), headquartered on Main Street in Springfield and serving members throughout Western Mass. through 10 additional branches, will host this year’s endeavor through Dec. 23. Equipped with ‘wish lists’ of names, ages, and gift ideas from the local area offices of the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families (DCF), FCU aims to provide gifts for a total of 600 children in need. From the wish lists, FCU has produced a tag for each child, which they will place on holiday trees at all Freedom branches, excluding the Roger L. Putnam Vocational Technical Academy. Employees and members are encouraged to choose one or more tags from a tree, purchase the item the child has requested, bring it to the branch (unwrapped and with tag attached), and place it under the tree. Monetary donations are also welcome, as FCU’s own ‘elves’ will be going on a festive shopping spree at local stores that provide them a discount for this campaign.

Yankee Home Improvement Holds Annual Food Drive

CHICOPEE — For the second year in a row, Yankee Home is engaging customers in a pay-it-forward event to provide food for those in need this holiday season. For every non-perishable food item donated, Yankee Home will give customers 1% off the cost of their home-improvement service, up to 10%. All food items will be donated to Rachel’s Table, a program of the Jewish Federation of Western Massachusetts that works to eliminate hunger and reduce food waste in the community. Through the end of December, Yankee Home will be accepting non-perishable food items Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at its 36 Justin Dr. headquarters in Chicopee. While the discount is capped at 10% of the total cost of the service, people are encouraged to donate as much as they can. The discount applies to installed, new work only. A Yankee Home specialist can provide complete details.

Florence Bank Receives Award From U.S. Small Business Administration

FLORENCE — Florence Bank was recently recognized by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) as the Western Massachusetts Third Party Lender of the Year for loans the bank administers to small businesses in the area. Michael Davey and Erin Couture, both vice presidents and commercial loan officers with the bank, accepted the award on Nov. 8 at an event held during SBA’s annual meeting at Clark University in Worcester. Davey explained that third-party loans, called SBA 504 loans, are offered by the bank in collaboration with certified development corporations such as Granite State Development Corp., Bay Colony Development Corp., and BDC Capital/CDC New England. He said the program allows small-business owners who might be lacking the traditional 20% down payment to purchase business property with only 10% down, while also reducing the bank’s exposure to risk.

Court Dockets

The following is a compilation of recent lawsuits involving area businesses and organizations. These are strictly allegations that have yet to be proven in a court of law. Readers are advised to contact the parties listed, or the court, for more information concerning the individual claims.

CHICOPEE DISTRICT COURT

The Freeman Manufacturing & Supply Co. v. Diecutting Tooling Services Inc.

Allegation: Money owed for goods sold and delivered: $8,486.23

Filed: 10/28/19

FRANKLIN SUPERIOR COURT

Lloyd Bowser v. FIC Restaurants Inc. and SIC Property, LLC

Allegation: Negligence; slip and fall causing personal injury: $257,366.03

Filed: 10/17/19

HAMPDEN DISTRICT COURT

Perkins Paper, LLC v. Stone & Skillet, LLC; Dan Crothers a/k/a Daniel Ryan Crothers a/k/a Daniel R. Crothers; and Kyle Meekins a/k/a Kyle Lennon Meekins a/k/a Kyle L. Meekins

Allegation: Failure to make further payments in accordance with contract: $57,660.05

Filed: 10/18/2019

HAMPDEN SUPERIOR COURT

Kristine Mitchell v. 61 Cooper Street Operations, LLC and Genesis Healthcare, LLC

Allegation: Negligence; slip and fall causing personal injury: $76,222.96

Filed: 10/15/2019

The estate of Mary Garibian and Sarkis Garibian v. East Longmeadow Nursing Home Inc. d/b/a East Longmeadow Skilled Nursing Center and other unnamed employees

Allegation: Medical malpractice

Filed: 10/15/2019

Gary Nault v. LLMT, LLC

Allegation: Balance due on uncompleted project, services, labor, and materials: $33,333

Filed: 10/18/2019

Guns Inc. et al v. Mass Gun Shop d/b/a Pioneer Valley Arms

Allegation: Fraud/interference with business, conversion, intentional interference with advantageous business and contractual relationships

Filed: 10/21/2019

Sertex, LLC v. Westfield Gas and Electric Light Department, et al

Allegation: Breach of non-raiding agreement by hiring one of Sertex’s key technical employees

Filed: 10/21/2019

HAMPSHIRE SUPERIOR COURT

Split Excvating Inc. v. Silverman Realty Group Inc. and Haven Plaza East, LP

Allegation: Fraud, breach of contract, breach of warranty, breach of covenant of good faith and fair dealing, negligent misrepresentation, unjust enrichment, negligence: $59,745.25

Filed: 10/22/19

Lisa Thibodeau v. PBHQ Whitney Inc.; Colebrook Management, LLC; and G & H Landscaping Inc.

Allegation: Negligence; slip and fall causing personal injury: $250,000

Filed: 10/23/19

WESTFIELD DISTRICT COURT

Carl Lehberger v. David W. Berry Jr., Bruce Cooper, and Berry Construction Group, LLC

Allegation: Assault, battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent infliction of emotional distress, property damage/loss: $7,738.86+

Filed: 10/9/19

Court Dockets

The following is a compilation of recent lawsuits involving area businesses and organizations. These are strictly allegations that have yet to be proven in a court of law. Readers are advised to contact the parties listed, or the court, for more information concerning the individual claims.

CHICOPEE DISTRICT COURT
Carmen Lopez v. Gleason Johndrow Landscaping Inc.
Allegation: Negligence; slip and fall causing injury: $5,729+
Filed: 10/11/19

FRANKLIN SUPERIOR COURT
Christian Goodchild v. Veterinary Emergency & Specialty Hospital, Dr. John Benson, and Dr. Kira Randall
Allegation: Negligence, negligent infliction of emotional distress: $37,500
Filed: 8/23/19

Tricia Torrey v. United Personnel Services Inc. and James Kervick
Allegation: Employment discrimination: $70,000
Filed: 9/12/19

HAMPDEN SUPERIOR COURT
Kathleen Rapoza and Joseph Rapoza v. Bond Street Development
Allegation: Negligence; slip and fall causing personal injury: $219,026.03
Filed: 10/3/2019

Smith & Wesson Inc. v. Frontier Enterprises, LLC
Allegation: Money owed for goods sold and delivered: $47,433.88
Filed: 10/4/2019

Heritier Kampew v. Balise Motor Sales Co. Inc.
Allegation: Fraud, emotional distress, defamation: $100,000
Filed: 10/7/2019

Michelle Magner v. Balise Motor Sales Co., James E. Balise Jr., and Timothy Ingerson
Allegation: Employment contract: $25,000
Filed: 10/7/2019

Jonathan Crothers, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated v. Crosstown Courier Service Inc. and Christopher J. Noyes
Allegation: Money owed for labor and services: $25,000+
Filed: 10/15/2019

HAMPSHIRE SUPERIOR COURT
Mason Woolley v. Smith College and Hampshire College
Allegation: Breach of contract, violation of covenant of good faith and fair dealing, unjust enrichment: $32,500
Filed: 10/8/19

PALMER DISTRICT COURT
Daniel Narreau v. Zoetis Inc.
Allegation: Breach of contract, negligence, gross negligence, animal cruelty, negligent design and manufacturing: $7,000
Filed: 10/15/2019

WESTFIELD DISTRICT COURT
John Deere Construction & Forestry Co. v. Joshua A. Ayotte d/b/a Ayotte Tree Services
Allegation: Default on loan for equipment purchased: $13,540.02
Filed: 9/3/19

Court Dockets

The following is a compilation of recent lawsuits involving area businesses and organizations. These are strictly allegations that have yet to be proven in a court of law. Readers are advised to contact the parties listed, or the court, for more information concerning the individual claims.

HAMPDEN DISTRICT COURT
Anna Coriano v. Chapin Laurel, LLC; Atlas Property Management Inc.; and Ilya Shnayder
Allegation: Negligence causing personal injury: $2,094
Filed: 8/12/19

HAMPDEN SUPERIOR COURT
Crystal Rodriguez v. Big Y Foods
Allegation: Negligence; slip and fall causing personal injury: $11,903.08
Filed: 7/26/19

Ted Decosmo v. MGM Springfield, LLC
Allegation: Breach of contract, unjust enrichment: $25,000+
Filed: 7/29/19

Carlos Santiago v. Wil-Sites Truck Lines, LLC and Top Truck Services Corp.
Allegation: Negligence causing personal injury and property damage: $288,000
Filed: 7/29/19

F.P. McNamara Rubbish Removal Inc. v. Joseph Freedman Co. Inc. and Stevens Street Realty Inc.
Allegation: Nuisance, negligence, trespass: $25,000+
Filed: 7/30/19

NMD Inc. d/b/a A&M Landscaping v. Wingate Healthcare Inc., SRC East Longmeadow Inc. d/b/a Wingate at East Longmeadow, and SRC Springfield Inc. d/b/a Wingate at Springfield
Allegation: Breach of contract, unjust enrichment: $55,245
Filed: 7/31/19

Anileda Tudisco v. Riverside Park Enterprises d/b/a Six Flags New England
Allegation: Negligence causing personal injury, breach of warranty: $368,132
Filed: 8/2/19

HAMPSHIRE SUPERIOR COURT
Jehann Elbisi v. Related Village Park, LLC
Allegation: Negligence causing personal injury: $6,388
Filed: 8/7/19

Kate Faulkner v. Double Edge Theatre Productions Inc.
Allegation: Negligence causing personal injury: $233,202.13
Filed: 8/9/19

PALMER DISTRICT COURT
QuadGraphics Inc. v. Turley Publications Inc.
Allegation: Balance due for marketing and printing services rendered: $4,795
Filed: 8/23/19

WESTFIELD DISTRICT COURT
Saltine Warrior Inc. v. C and C Contractors, LLC and Reginald Cole
Allegation: Breach of contract, unpaid bills: $7,572.34
Filed: 8/7/19

Court Dockets

The following is a compilation of recent lawsuits involving area businesses and organizations. These are strictly allegations that have yet to be proven in a court of law. Readers are advised to contact the parties listed, or the court, for more information concerning the individual claims.

CHICOPEE DISTRICT COURT

Lazarito Martinez v. Diane Rose and the May Institute

Allegation: Motor-vehicle negligence causing personal injury: $3,435

Filed: 7/2/19

FRANKLIN SUPERIOR COURT

Barbara Sullivan v. Healthcare Services Group Inc.

Allegation: Negligence; slip and fall causing injury: $700,000

Filed: 6/27/19

Robert T. Akey v. Meadowview Manor Condominium Trust, Steve Moran, and Noreen Nowak-Moran

Allegation: Negligence causing personal injury: $16,234.78

Filed: 7/3/19

Chrysta Marini v. Demetrious Konstantopoulos and Demetrious Konstantopoulis d/b/a Castaways

Allegation: Assault and battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent infliction of emotional distress

Filed: 7/3/19

HAMPDEN SUPERIOR COURT

Catherine Kelly v. L & J Properties, LLC and Q & M Christy’s Inc. d/b/a A Bica Bar & Grill

Allegation: Negligence; slip and fall causing personal injury: $28,496.94

Filed: 6/20/19

Stacey Hathaway v. Eastern States Exposition and Donna Woolam

Allegation: Employment discrimination: $450,000

Filed: 6/21/19

Yvette Frisby v. City of Springfield

Allegation: Negligence causing personal injury: $9,476.80

Filed: 6/21/19

NGM Insurance Co. as subrogee of Beverly A. Scott and James Scott v. Pioneer Valley Transit Authority

Allegation: Motor-vehicle negligence: $12,420.17

Filed: 6/27/19

Steven S. Follett and Caitlin C. Follett v. Dan Roulier & Associates Inc., the Joseph J. Mottes Co., and Becker Construction Co.

Allegation: Breach of contract, breach of covenant of good faith and fair dealing, negligence, breach of implied warranty of habitability, breach of express warranty: $250,000

Filed: 7/1/19

International Container Co., LLC v. Sheboygan Paint Co.

Allegation: Breach of contract: $1,000,000+

Filed: 7/2/19

Systemart, LLC v. Cloudbourne Global Inc. f/k/a Ospyn Technologies Inc.

Allegation: Balance owed for staffing services: $39,337.88

Filed: 7/3/19

Syme Inc. d/b/a Packaging Specialties Inc. v. BKA Inc. d/b/a Custom Pak Inc.

Allegation: Breach of contract: $109,853.04

Filed: 7/3/19

HAMPSHIRE SUPERIOR COURT

David S. Reid v. Louis S. Strauss, M.D.

Allegation: Medical malpractice: $505,100+

Filed: 6/21/19

Court Dockets

The following is a compilation of recent lawsuits involving area businesses and organizations. These are strictly allegations that have yet to be proven in a court of law. Readers are advised to contact the parties listed, or the court, for more information concerning the individual claims.

HAMPDEN SUPERIOR COURT

Richard Green Jr. v. the Whiting-Turner Contracting Co.
Allegation: Negligence causing personal injury: $406,225.60
Filed: 6/6/19

Michael Sullivan v. Dr. Matthew Charles and New Beginnings Chiropractic, P.C.
Allegation: Medical malpractice: $271,867
Filed: 6/7/19

Mercedes Balcewicz as representative of the estate of Angel A. DeCastro v. the Collins Cos., et al
Allegation: Wrongful death: $6,000,000+
Filed: 6/10/19

Maria D. Mendoza v. Riverside Park Enterprises Inc. and Six Flags Entertainment Corp.
Allegation: Negligence causing personal injury: $25,152.34+
Filed: 6/11/19

Erick Santana-Colon and Anette Rivera-Colon v. National Retail Systems Inc. and Schneider National Inc.
Allegation: Negligence causing personal injury: $23,993.90
Filed: 6/17/19

Nancy Paquette v. Home Depot U.S.A. Inc.
Allegation: Negligence causing personal injury: $15,000
Filed: 6/18/19

Tina Lynch v. Wal-Mart Stores East, LP and UE Chicopee Holding, LLC
Allegation: Negligence; slip and fall causing personal injury: $25,529.63
Filed: 6/19/19

Mabel Lemieux v. American Blue Ribbon Holdings, LLC; Ninety Nine Restaurant Inc.; and Kantany, LLC
Allegation: Negligence; slip and fall causing personal injury: $35,294.01+
Filed: 6/20/19

HAMPSHIRE SUPERIOR COURT

Five Star Building Corp. v. Hadley Concrete Services, LLC and Christopher J. Baj
Allegation: Breach of contract, negligence, breach of implied warranty of good faith and fair dealing: $288,534.20
Filed: 6/18/19

FRANKLIN SUPERIOR COURT

Hilda Worden v. the Thomas Memorial Golf & Country Club Inc.
Allegation: Negligence causing personal injury: $37,332.07+
Filed: 5/8/19

Financial Pacific Leasing, LLC v. Leroy Page Sr. d/b/a Page Construction
Allegation: Breach of equipment finance agreement: $69,803.88
Filed: 5/16/19

Laura Liebenow individually and d/b/a Laura Liebenow Handling v. Stephen Blanco individually and d/b/a Empyrean Australian Shepherds
Allegation: Breach of contract, breach of duty of good faith and fair dealing: $31,269.47+
Filed: 5/21/19

Joanne Kuzmeskus, personal representative for the estate of Louise Kujdzio v. Jane Doe, RN; Jennifer Jordan, RN; Sarah Marchefka, NP; Lisa Levheim, M.D.; and Joshua Mintz, M.D.
Allegation: Medical malpractice, wrongful death: $25,000+
Filed: 6/5/19

Court Dockets

The following is a compilation of recent lawsuits involving area businesses and organizations. These are strictly allegations that have yet to be proven in a court of law. Readers are advised to contact the parties listed, or the court, for more information concerning the individual claims.

CHICOPEE DISTRICT COURT
Amanda Banks v. William Lonny Koons, J.B. Hunt Transport Inc., and Family Dollar Inc.
Allegation: Motor-vehicle negligence causing injury: $3,922
Filed: 4/10/19

HAMPDEN DISTRICT COURT
Michael Morales v. Stephen Smith and Fletcher Sewer & Drain Inc.
Allegation: Motor-vehicle negligence causing personal injury: $6,938.84
Filed: 4/2/19

Geraldine Lauriente v. Liberty Medical Building Assoc., LLP and Samuel D. Plotkin & Associates Inc.
Allegation: Negligence; slip and fall causing personal injury: $7,034.22
Filed: 4/17/19

Mary Lou Madigan v. State Street Retail, LLC d/b/a Family Dollar
Allegation: Negligence; slip and fall causing personal injury: 7,680.57
Filed: 4/24/19

HAMPDEN SUPERIOR COURT
D. Bradley Sullivan, Ph.D. v. Western New England University
Allegation: Breach of contract, family medical leave retailiation: $568,546
Filed: 4/19/19

Deborah Alves v. Stop & Shop
Allegation: Negligence; slip and fall causing personal injury: $83,598.28+
Filed: 4/20/19

Gerald M. Daniele v. Our Lady of Mount Carmel Society Inc.
Allegation: Negligence causing personal injury: $35,560.30
Filed: 4/22/19

North Mill Capital, LLC v. Green Publishing Co. Inc.
Allegation: Money owed for goods sold and delivered: $45,908.64
Filed: 4/24/19

Springfield Florist Supply Inc. v. Pat Parker and Sons Florist
Allegation: Money owed for goods sold and delivered: $32,888.03
Filed: 4/25/19

Mariahelena Andre as personal representative of the estate of Barbara Leitao v. Wingate Healthcare Inc.
Allegation: Personal injury and wrongful death: $65,000
Filed: 4/25/19

Yolanda Rosario v. Northeast Health Group Inc. d/b/a Willimansett Center West
Allegation: Discrimination, retailiation, wrongful termination: $25,000+
Filed: 4/29/19

Fred C. Gloeckner & Co. Inc. v. Liberty Family Farms Inc.
Allegation: Money owed for goods sold and delivered: $92,560.70
Filed: 4/30/19

Mohamed A. Ali v. Bernardino’s Bakery
Allegation: Employment discrimination: $36,060
Filed: 5/2/19

Maria Cruz v. Willimansett Center West RE, LLC; Willimansett Center West; and the Northeast Health Group Inc.
Allegation: Negligence causing personal injury: $35,000
Filed: 5/2/19

HAMPSHIRE DISTRICT COURT
Julie Foley v. ServiceNet Inc.
Allegation: Negligence; slip and fall causing personal injury: $26,426.25
Filed: 5/1/19

HAMPSHIRE SUPERIOR COURT
Nancy L. Abdalla, personal representative of the estate of Isam Abdalla v. Vijaya K. Vudathaneni, M.D.; Ghanshyambhai T. Savani, M.D.; and Syed S. Ali, M.D.
Allegation: Medical malpractice, wrongful death: $1,517,302
Filed: 4/29/19

Court Dockets

The following is a compilation of recent lawsuits involving area businesses and organizations. These are strictly allegations that have yet to be proven in a court of law. Readers are advised to contact the parties listed, or the court, for more information concerning the individual claims.

FRANKLIN SUPERIOR COURT

Jonathan Bones v. Stokes and Lipski Construction Inc.

Allegation: Failure to pay prevailing rate of wages

Filed: 3/5/19

HAMPDEN DISTRICT COURT

Perkins Paper, LLC v. One Importers and Distributors, LLC d/b/a Terra Nossa Center Bakery and Joao Cardoso Araujo a/k/a Joao C. Dearaujo a/k/a Joao Araujo a/k/a John Damota

Allegation: Money owed for goods sold and delivered: $24,199.93+

Filed: 4/10/19

Perkins Paper, LLC v. Diesel Inc. and Robert Passaretta

Allegation: Breach of contract, money owed for goods sold and delivered: $7,408.81

Filed: 4/5/19

HAMPDEN SUPERIOR COURT

Frances Mohsin v. Gandara Mental Health Center Inc., Jerry Mercardo, and Madeline Martinez

Allegation: Employment discrimination: $25,000+

Filed: 4/1/19

Tammy L. Newsome v. Baystate Medical Center Inc.

Allegation: Employment discrimination: $25,000+

Filed: 4/3/19

Janis Creeger v. Friendly’s Ice Cream, LLC

Allegation: Negligence; slip and fall causing injury: $84,352.68

Filed: 4/4/19

Ingram Micro Inc. v. Daniel Mugure d/b/a Ivory Onyx Inc.

Allegation: Money owed for goods sold and delivered: $108,712.49

Filed: 4/5/19

Autumn Padilla v. Mont Marie Operator, LLC

Allegation: Employment discrimination: $25,000+

Filed: 4/8/19

Joan Marie G. Turgeon as personal representative of the estate of Raymond P. Turgeon v. Berkshire Health Care Systems Inc. d/b/a East Longmeadow Skilled Nursing, et al

Allegation: Medical malpractice, wrongful death: $925,000

Filed: 4/8/19

Seth Luciano v. Aldi Inc. and Aldi Inc. (New York)

Allegation: Negligence: slip and fall causing personal injury: $100,000

Filed: 4/10/19

Glenn Mackintosh v. Ludlow Housing Authority and Robin Carvide

Allegation: Whistleblowing violation, breach of contract, tortious interference with contractual relation, negligent infliction of emotional distress, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and breach of covenant of good faith and fair dealing: $34,174.40

Filed: 4/11/19

Northern Tree Service Inc. v. Newport Construction Corp.

Allegation: Breach of contract: $67,075

Filed: 4/11/19

Ruddy Santana v. Positronic Farms Inc., Morriss Partee, Matthew Moriarty, and David Caputo

Allegation: Violation of overtime law, violation of minimum-wage law, breach of contract, unjust enrichment, and breach of covenant of good faith and fair dealing: $25,000+

Filed: 4/12/19

HAMPSHIRE DISTRICT COURT

Loretta Stober and Gregory Fournier v. Vivint Solar Developer, LLC and DC Generals, LLC

Allegation: Breach of express warranties, breach of covenant of good faith and fair dealing, negligence: $20,203.25+

Filed: 4/11/19

HAMPSHIRE SUPERIOR COURT

Novum Structures, LLC v. Barr & Barr Inc., Liberty Mutual Insurance Co., and trustees of Amherst College

Allegation: Breach of contract, money owed for labor and materials: $526,019

Filed: 4/4/19

Catherine Darcy v. Friendly’s Ice Cream, LLC

Allegation: Negligence; slip and fall causing injury: $25,000

Filed: 4/23/19

WESTFIELD DISTRICT COURT

Bobby Pinkney v. Rocky’s Hardware Inc. and Liberty Mutual Insurance Co.

Allegation: Negligence causing personal injury: $7,215

Filed: 4/4/19

Court Dockets

The following is a compilation of recent lawsuits involving area businesses and organizations. These are strictly allegations that have yet to be proven in a court of law. Readers are advised to contact the parties listed, or the court, for more information concerning the individual claims.

HAMPDEN DISTRICT COURT

Beacon Sales Acquisitions Inc./Allied Building Products v. Rhode Island Solar Solutions Inc., Anestis Taskos, and Michael Staab a/k/a Michael D. Staab

Allegation: Money owed for goods sold and delivered, breach of personal guaranty: $20,638.93

Filed: 4/10/19

HAMPDEN SUPERIOR COURT

Bruce Langevin v. Parts Tool and Die Inc.; Cheryl Holtham Havel, CPA; Ronald D. Coleman Jr.; Red Deer Investments Inc.; Deborah L. Elias; and Aziz L. Elias, Azdeb, M.F.G. Inc.

Allegation: Employment discrimination: $25,000+

Filed: 3/18/19

Raymond E. Kemple v. Costco Wholesale Corp.

Allegation: Negligence; slip and fall causing personal injury: $23,902.72

Filed: 3/18/19

Darrian Plasse v. Merchants Metals, LLC

Allegation: Negligence causing personal injury: $20,592.72

Filed: 3/19/19

Cari Kasulinous v. Garra, LLC

Allegation: Negligence; slip and fall causing personal injury: $17,097.52

Filed: 3/15/19

Commerce Insurance Co. as subrogee of Mausela Rivie and Aisha Correa v. Pioneer Valley Transit Authority

Allegation: Negligence causing personal injury and property damage: $3,737.52

Filed: 3/18/19

Landon Lima, a minor, by and through his mother and next best friend, Liat Lima, and Liat Lima individually v. FIC Restaurants Inc. and Friendly’s Restaurants, LLC

Allegation: Negligence causing personal injury: $21,517.54

Filed: 3/21/19

Candy Fagone v. WJFP 4 Inc. d/b/a McDonald’s Restaurant and McDonald’s USA, LLC

Allegation: Negligence; slip and fall causing personal injury: $101,610.54

Filed: 3/21/19

Janet Cossette v. Costco Wholesale Membership Inc. and Costco Wholesale Corp.

Allegation: Negligence causing personal injury: $143,447.13

Filed: 3/21/19

Shonnelle Norman v. Pioneer Valley Transit Authority

Allegation: Motor-vehicle negligence causing personal injury: $26,143+

Filed: 3/26/19

Kimberly Reynolds as personal representative for the estate of Robert J. Siddell Jr. v. Amat Victoria Curam, LLC and RR and Co. Realty, LLC

Allegation: Negligence; slip and fall causing personal injury

Filed: 3/28/19

Craig E. Tirrell v. Mr. Home Inc.

Allegation: Improper deduction of wages, breach of contract, and unjust enrichment: $55,350

Filed: 4/2/19

Court Dockets

The following is a compilation of recent lawsuits involving area businesses and organizations. These are strictly allegations that have yet to be proven in a court of law. Readers are advised to contact the parties listed, or the court, for more information concerning the individual claims.

CHICOPEE DISTRICT COURT
Nilda Nunes v. James Smith and EAN Holdings, LLC d/b/a Enterprise
Allegation: Motor-vehicle negligence: $8,970.53
Filed: 3/26/19

HAMPDEN DISTRICT COURT
Harold Levinson Associates Inc. v. Mehran Enterprises Inc. d/b/a Pick N Pay Food Mart and Jessica Newman a/k/a Jessica L. Newman a/k/a Jessica Lyn Newman
Allegation: Money owed for goods sold and delivered: $24,171.76
Filed: 3/1/19

Beacon Sales Acquisition Inc. d/b/a Beacon Sales Co. v. James J. Shiels Jr. d/b/a Jimmy Shiels General Contracting
Allegation: Money owed for goods sold and delivered: $12,078.29
Filed: 3/4/19

HAMPDEN SUPERIOR COURT
Now Plastics v. Longmeadow Park, LLC
Allegation: Breach of lease contract: $500,000
Filed: 2/27/19

Matthew Levy, on behalf of himself and all others similarly situated v. Pride Stores, LLC
Allegation: Failure to pay wages: $40,000
Filed: 3/1/19

Miranda Arthur-Smith v. Mass. Westfield Limited Partnership and Aspen Square Management Inc.
Allegation: Negligence causing personal injury: $88,500
Filed: 3/4/19

Elizabeth Jimenez v. Pyramid Management Group, LLC
Allegation: Negligence; slip and fall at Holyoke Mall causing personal injury: $29,735.39
Filed: 3/4/19

Theresa Grant McElwain and Andrew McElwain v. Bacarella Trucking Services Inc. and William Kampfman
Allegation: Motor-vehicle negligence causing personal injury and property damage: $10,599.88
Filed: 3/7/19

Annette Jung v. Trustees of Financial Plaza Trust
Allegation: Negligence; slip and fall causing personal injury: $111,586.46
Filed: 3/11/19

Gianmy Castillo v. Zamiah Restaurant Corp. d/b/a Malecon Bar & Restaurant
Allegation: Negligence; slip and fall causing personal injury: 95,638.20
Filed: 3/11/19

HAMPSHIRE DISTRICT COURT
Mitchell A. Lopes and Brittany O. Shawanda v. World War II Veterans’ Assoc. of Hampshire County Inc. d/b/a World War II Club – The Deuce, Steven J. Connor, and Mathieu Tebo
Allegation: Unpaid wages: $23,000
Filed: 4/3/19

HAMPSHIRE SUPERIOR COURT
Stephen Allard Trudel v. Clement Grassi, M.D.
Allegation: Medical malpractice: $500,000+
Filed: 3/6/19

Fernanda Ferrando v. Amherst Shopping Center Associates, LLC; Wilson Construction General Contractor; Peter Wilson d/b/a Wilson Construction General Contractor; and Daniel Wilson d/b/a Wilson Construction General Contractor
Allegation: Negligence; slip and fall causing personal injury: $74,999.99
Filed: 3/29/19

Kelly Loncrini v. Lowe’s Home Centers, LLC and Sean Eagan
Allegation: Employment discrimination: $25,000+
Filed: 4/3/19

Features

Hopes Are High

After recreational marijuana use became legal in Massachusetts in 2016, the expectation was that retail stores would pop up quickly within a couple of years. That hasn’t happened, as the state — and host communities — have taken a deliberately measured approach to permitting. But with early returns strong from a few shops, and towns reporting solid tax benefits and no real community disruption, the pace of openings should begin to increase — and so will the economic benefits of this new industry.

If Western Mass. was full of people who thought the sky was falling when recreational marijuana was legalized, well, Mark Zatyrka thinks fewer of them are saying the same thing now.

“I knew it would change. But I feel like it’s changed at a more rapid pace than I would have expected,” he said of public perceptions about the new access to cannabis products in the Bay State. “When we held our public meetings, we had a few folks who thought we were going to destroy the world and everything would come crashing down once we opened. But the opposite has been true.”

Take the location of INSA, the cannabis dispensary he owns in Easthampton, which has sold marijuana for medical purposes since February 2018, but began selling for recreational, or adult, use in December. Tucked beside Eastworks at the rear of the Keystone Mills building on Pleasant Street, he said some may have worried about INSA’s proximity to a nearby park where people hike.

“But, really, we bring more people to the area, we have cameras all over the place, it’s well-lit, so it’s actually a safer place to be,” Zatyrka said. “If the perception was that customers are hoodlums who come in, go out back, and get high and do crime, well, look around — we serve almost every demographic you can imagine, from seniors to millennials, rich and poor, and they’re not violent criminals. They’re not here to cause trouble. Yeah, the perception has changed pretty rapidly.”

Perceptions — pro and con — of this new industry have undoubtedly shaped a permitting process, on both the state and local levels, that has moved more slowly than first expected when recreational use became legal in 2016. The state’s first adult-use retail shops were expected to be open last July, but instead, the first two opened in November, and the pace of new shops since then has been leisurely at best.

But they’re coming. And the ones that are open are changing those worst-case perceptions.

Mark  Zatyrka says INSA has attracted a diverse array of customers

Mark Zatyrka says INSA has attracted a diverse array of customers since starting recreational sales in December.

Take New England Treatment Access (NETA) in Northampton, the Bay State’s first retailer of cannabis products for recreational use.

“For us, it’s been a positive experience,” Northampton Mayor David Narcewicz told BusinessWest. “We’re starting to see some of the economic benefits in terms of taxes, and I know our local businesses have been creative in embracing the new industry. Businesses back in November were offering specials to people who came into town and showed a receipt for shopping at NETA. If anything, I think the business community has been receptive.”

He noted that Northampton’s voters were among the most enthusiastic in their support of legal cannabis, both during the 2012 statewide vote to legalize medicinal marijuana, then for adult use in 2016. As mayor, he said, his approach has been to respect the community’s voice.

“So we’ve been very open and proactive; we created zoning regulations that essentially treat this new industry like any other business, and we did not impose caps on the number of retailers like many communities did.

“We also had the experience of having one of the first medical dispensaries in the state,” he added, speaking of NETA’s original business plan. “We had a track record of seeing how they had operated and had the chance to see what the potential impacts were. They’ve been a good member of our business community; they worked with us to make sure their opening went smoothly, and have been working with surrounding businesses to make sure there’s no disruption.”

Stories like this are why, despite the slow rollout of pot shops so far — and state tax revenue well under early projections — proponents are confident that the trends toward greater public acceptance of this industry, and tax revenues to match, will soon accelerate.

“As an industry, we’ve done a good job to ensure that things are done correctly, and the state’s done a good job putting measures in place to help ensure it is a safe industry and people are getting a safe product and it’s dispensed in a safe way,” Zatyrka said. “The state did a lot of things right, which is why we’re seeing a successful rollout. I know some people wish it moved quicker, but I understand why it didn’t. There are thousands of applications, a lot of inspections, a lot to oversee. It takes time. It’s a new industry for everybody.”

Green Growth

As part of its new marijuana laws, Massachusetts imposes a 17% tax — a 6.25% sales tax plus a 10.75% excise tax — on cannabis businesses, while cites and towns take another 3%, plus whatever else they may choose to impose as part of their host-community agreements.

In Northampton’s case, that’s an additional 3%, called a ‘community-impact fee.’ The city received two checks recently: $449,825 from the Department of Revenue representing the 3% tax rate for recreational marijuana sales in November, December, and January, and $287,506 from NETA itself, reflecting the 3% community-impact fee on recreational sales for December and January.

“When we held our public meetings, we had a few folks who thought we were going to destroy the world and everything would come crashing down once we opened. But the opposite has been true.”

Other towns are seeing their coffers benefit as well. Theory Wellness opened in Great Barrington in December, paying $90,000 in taxes to the town in its first month.

“They opened to long lines, which should level off as they get more competition,” Ed Abrahams, vice chair of the town’s Select Board, told BusinessWest last month. “This is new for all of us, but so far, there have been logistically few problems.”

Southern Berkshire County communities that embrace the cannabis trade are sure to benefit from the continued illegality of the drug in both Connecticut and New York, though leaders in both states have been talking about whether that should remain the case. Brandon Pollock, CEO of Theory Wellness, told the New York Post last week that about 15,000 New Yorkers have made purchases there since its Jan. 11 opening.

“I’d say we get dozens, if not hundreds, a day from the greater New York City area,” he noted. “We get people coming up in Zipcars, people carpooling, people who say they hardly ever drive at all — but will drive to purchase cannabis.”

That sort of consumer response is intriguing to towns that see this industry as a new economic driver.

“Some cities have been great to work with, some a little more difficult to work with,” Zatyrka said. “Easthampton is very progressive city, and early on it was very obvious they wanted us here.”

That’s important from a competition perspective, he said, because the application process is already time-consuming, and communities that want to make it even more difficult to move through permitting and craft a host-community agreement can tie up a project for years, while other shops in more amenable towns are opening and picking up crucial market share and customer loyalty.

“Easthampton was great,” he went on. “Everyone wants to find a solution instead of putting up roadblocks. They want us to be successful, to get their name on the map, and they saw the benefits early on.”

He’s seeing a gradual shift, too, in where proposed projects will be located, noting that, when INSA started cultivating marijuana for medical use, most such outfits were setting up in old mill buildings or industrial parks. “Now it’s not so restrictive — people can open up on Main Street, and wind up in locations that are made for retail use, for people to come visit.”

That’s certainly the goal in Northampton, which is looking at myriad applications from cannabis manufacturers, cultivators, testing labs, and retail establishments, Narcewicz noted. It welcomes them because it sees value in how NETA, which isn’t even located downtown, has impacted business.

“NETA has created good-paying jobs in the community, and it’s an important way to expand our tax base and grow our local economy,” he said. “We have a local economy focused on retail, dining, entertainment, and a very vibrant cultural economy. And I think this complements it.”

There have been traffic and parking challenges, he added, “but if you talk to most retailers, downtowns having too many visitors is never a bad thing. We’re kind of equipped to handle a lot of visitors. And NETA has been very responsive in terms of renting additional parking from neighboring businesses, which helps them as well by providing an income stream. So far, it’s been a very positive experience, and there’s no reason to believe that’s going to change.”

Making a Name

BRIGADE has certainly benefited from this new industry. The Hadley-based brand-services company has worked with INSA extensively, including the creation of the designs for all its products and marketing.

“Everyone calls cannabis the wild west, and it is from a branding and design perspective, too,” said Kirsten Modestow, BRIGADE’s owner and executive creative director. “The rules for a whole category are being written overnight. That’s challenging, but it’s also some of the most exciting stuff we’ve ever worked on.”

With some cannabis businesses coming out with 100 or more products, it presents a unique branding challenge, she added, because the goal is not only to create a memorable look, but to help customers, many of whom have little experience with marijuana, navigate the products.

“One of the upsides of this industry is the impact it’s having on our communities, and it’s providing a lot of new opportunities and jobs,” she said. “It’s providing a lot of work for people, even tapping into farmers and other people who have services to offer and know what they’re doing.”

The education aspect Modestow touched on is one that continues in the store, Zatyrka said. The sales associates — he prefers that title to the flip industry term ‘budtenders’ — are the same ones who have worked with medical patients for a long time, and they have the training to dig deep into the science behind the products, so they can effectively explain them.

“We understand it’s a product that needs to be consumed safely, and we take that seriously,” he said. “We don’t want to be liable for someone who doesn’t know what they’re doing and eats an entire chocolate bar and has to go to the ER. We do all in our power to prevent that from happening.”

The coming months and years will see more education (and more tax revenues) as pot-shop openings pick up the pace — including Evergreen Strategies, LLC, which recently inked a host-community agreement with Belchertown to bring a facility to that town as early as this fall.

The Boston Globe recently cited industry analysts who say Massachusetts has a much slower local approval process and a more complex system to navigate than other states, and the state Cannabis Control Commission has placed a premium on an adult-use regulatory structure that supports public health and public safety. The measured pace ensures that stores pass inspections, sell lab-tested products, hire vetted workers, and track their products.

“It’s a growing industry, and will continue to grow,” said Zatyrka, who plans to open an adult-use dispensary in Springfield and has a cultivating and manufacturing license in Pennsylvania as well. Meanwhile, INSA is doubling its cultivation — located directly above the Easthampton store — and is looking to triple it in the future. “We’re still a few years out before we can meet the demands of the state. So it’s going to be hard work until then to keep up our supply with demand.”

The work is rewarding, though, especially for someone who treated his chronic pain for more than 15 years with oxycontin, oxycodone, morphine, and methadone, and suffered side effects that drastically outweighed the benefits.

“Thanks to cannabis, I was able to stop taking them,” Zatyrka said. “Cannabis helped with the withdrawals, and now I only use cannabis to treat my chronic pain, and it works 100 times better than all the opioids. I know firsthand the power of cannabis versus painkillers.”

He tells that story not because it’s unique, but because it’s representative of many people he comes across, with stories about how cannabis has helped them with seizures, Crohn’s disease, arthritis, and multiple sclerosis. And if legal adult use is helping to tear down the last bits of stigma around cannabis, he’s all for it.

“It’s incredibly gratifying to hear the stories and how grateful people are,” he said. “They’re able to get benefits from cannabis, and don’t have to hide it like they once did.”

Joseph Bednar can be reached at [email protected]m

Incorporations

The following business incorporations were recorded in Hampden, Hampshire, and Franklin counties and are the latest available. They are listed by community.

ADAMS

Quick & Easy Waste Disposal Inc., 69 Melrose St., Adams, MA 01220. Donna M. Macdonald, same. Waste disposal.

BELCHERTOWN

STS Homes Inc., 210 Bardwell St., Belchertown, MA 01007. Heather A. Twining, same. Contractor.

EAST LONGMEADOW

S L Beauty Inc., 30 Shaker Road, East Longmeadow, MA 01028. Nga Thihang Nguyen, 123 Enfield St., Indian Orchard, MA 01151. Personal care service.

GRANBY

RZ Granby Convenience Inc., 30 West State St., Granby, MA 01033. Radwan Zaitoun, 3 Silver St., Springfield, MA 01107. Convenience store/gas station.

LONGMEADOW

Rockefeller Systems Incorporated, 266 Pinewood Dr., Longmeadow, MA 01106. Paul W Gorman, same. Electronics, software, control systems.

MONSON

Streamliners Inc., 8 Waid Road, Monson, MA 01057. Joseph R. Hamm, same. Manufacture, distribution and sales of products.

NORTHAMPTON

Team Finch Inc., 22 Ford Crossing, Northampton, MA 01060. Jennifer S. Bryan, same. Educational consulting.

PITTSFIELD

Saba Petroleum Reality Inc., 1030 South St., Pittsfield, MA 01201. Sallam Mokbil, 535 Elm St., Monroe, CT 06468. Real estate.

SPRINGFIELD

Star Wireless Inc., 895 Carew St., Springfield, MA 01104. Abdul Ghani, 198 Stafford St., Worcester, MA 01603. Cell phone services.

WENDELL

Roxdot Property Management Inc., 82 Wendell Ave., Ste 100, Pittsfield, MA 01201. Colin Kelly-Rand, 1189 Boylston St., Newton , MA 02464. Real estate management.

WESTFIELD

R & R Tours Inc., 38 M St., Westfield, MA01085. Randolph McBride, same. Passenger transportation.

Shafiq Mizan Rahman & Augustine Inc., 69 Franklin St., Westfield, MA 01085. Akm Mizanur Rahman Bangladesh, 616 Broadway Unit 6, Revere, MA 02151. Accounting, payroll, tax, and consulting services.

Court Dockets

The following is a compilation of recent lawsuits involving area businesses and organizations. These are strictly allegations that have yet to be proven in a court of law. Readers are advised to contact the parties listed, or the court, for more information concerning the individual claims.

HAMPDEN DISTRICT COURT
William J. Murray v. Tree Corp.
Allegation: Trespass and negligence causing property damage (destruction of healthy, mature tree): $3,000
Filed: 9/4/18

HAMPDEN SUPERIOR COURT
Norma I. De La Cruz v. The Stop & Shop Supermarket Co., LLC d/b/a Super Stop and Shop
Allegation: Negligence; slip and fall causing personal injury: $250,000
Filed: 9/6/18

Adrienne Levine v. Baystate Health Inc.
Allegation: Negligence; slip and fall causing personal injury: $125,745
Filed: 9/6/18

Jean Lord v. Eastern States Exposition Inc.; H.C. Sims Farms Kentucky, LLC; Jeffrey Kaufman; and Kaye Kaufman
Allegation: Negligence causing personal injury: $52,312.73
Filed: 9/7/18

Louis R. Redfern v. Owen Zaret, PA-C; Khaled Instrum, MD; and Julian Hernandez, DO
Allegation: Medical malpractice: $1,500,000
Filed: 9/7/18

Aileen Velazquez v. Pioneer Valley Transit Authority, Springfield Area Transit Co., First Transit Inc., Joewarren Marrero, and Marilyn Santos
Allegation: Negligence; auto accident causing personal injury: $7,149.02
Filed: 9/7/18

Mary Smith v. James Buratti d/b/a Heritage Motor Home Park
Allegation: Negligence; slip and fall causing personal injury: $17,170.29
Filed: 9/10/18

Springfield College v. Amerex Brokers, LLC
Allegation: Breach of contract, breach of warranty, negligence, intentional and negligent misrepresentation: $225,000+
Filed: 9/11/18

Local 455, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, AFL-CIO v. Western Massachusetts Electric Co. d/b/a Eversource Energy
Allegation: Violation of Massachusetts labor laws
Filed: 9/12/18

Michael Salvatore v. Century Drywall Inc. and Aecom Tishman
Allegation: Negligence causing personal injury and property damage: $89,000
Filed: 9/17/18

Incorporations

The following business incorporations were recorded in Hampden, Hampshire and Franklin counties and are the latest available. They are listed by community.

AGAWAM

Odessa Transportation Inc., 458 Main St., Agawam, MA 01001. Pavlo Dukach, same. Transportation.

Quality Auto Trans Inc., 61 Center St. Agawam, MA 01001. Nelya Hrytskevich, same. Transportation.

PALMER

Nike Sushi Inc., 1180 Thorndike St., Palmer, MA 01069. Hong Fei Huang, 34-25 Linden Place, Flushing, N.Y. 11354. Sushi bar inside the supermarket.

PITTSFIELD

Holyoke Retirement Community Inc., 75 North St., Suite 210, Pittsfield, MA 01201. William C. Jones, 16 Charisma St., Pittsfield, MA 01201. To operate and maintain housing complex providing independent and assisted living units for elderly.

Nerd Cavalry Inc., 23 Adams St., Ludlow, MA 01056. Michael R. Grogan, same. Information technology consulting.

SHEFFIELD

Peter Jackson Hospitality Inc., 375 Hewins St., Sheffield, MA 01257. Adrian D’ambrosi, 20 Salem Road, Pound Ridge, MA 10576. Bed & breakfast.

SPRINGFIELD

Mr. Dunn Enterprises Inc., 1655 Boston Road, Springfield, MA 01129. Aaron Dunn, 1210 Main St., Warren, MA 01083. Management of business entities.

Nolan Wells Inc., 26 Ryan Circle, Springfield, MA 01118. Nolan Wells, same. Retail clothing.

Ofcounsels Corporation, 35 Riverview Terrace, Springfield, MA 01108. Anthony Ivan Wilson, same. Ofcounsels is a social network for attorneys.

PIWC — Springfield Assembly, 187 Stuart St., Springfield, MA 01119. Karl O. Badu, 19 Stephanie Circle, Springfield, MA 01129. Christian church.

WESTFIELD

Murphy Real Estate & Construction Inc., 45 North Westfield St., Feeding Hills, MA 01030. Michael Murphy, same. Residential real estate.

WILBRAHAM

Paramount Construction ABC Inc., 35 Springfield St., Wilbraham, MA 01095. John Pappanikou, same. Remodel existing residential properties.

Court Dockets

The following is a compilation of recent lawsuits involving area businesses and organizations. These are strictly allegations that have yet to be proven in a court of law. Readers are advised to contact the parties listed, or the court, for more information concerning the individual claims.

HAMPDEN DISTRICT COURT
Astro Automotive Inc. v. Luzi’s Auto Body Inc.
Allegation: Money owed for goods sold and delivered: $4,139.14
Filed: 7/17/18

Beacon Sales Acquisition Inc. d/b/a Beacon Sales Co. v. Matthew R. Will and Tina Bowles d/b/a 5-Star Discount Roofing
Allegation: Money owed for goods sold and delivered: $18,682.12
Filed: 7/23/18

Justin Koch v. Taylor Kibbe and Thomas Wilson Enterprises Inc.
Allegation: Negligence causing personal injury: $15,248.97
Filed: 7/27/18

New England Industrial Uniform Rental Service Inc. v. Bertera Motors of West Springfield Inc., Bertera Nissan Inc., Bertera Chevrolet Inc., Bertera Automotive Corp., and Bertera Subaru Inc.
Allegation: Breach of uniform rental contracts: $14,055.24
Filed: 7/31/18

Norman Spencer v. Jose A. Baez and Fedex Freight Inc.
Allegation: Motor-vehicle neglience causing personal injury: $17,298.92
Filed: 8/1/18

Glenda Morales v. Walmart Stores East, LP
Allegation: Negligence; slip and fall causing personal injury: $4,007.28
Filed: 8/2/18

HAMPDEN SUPERIOR COURT
Deli Williams v. Springfield Water and Sewer Commission
Allegation: Motor-vehicle negligence: $4,553
Filed: 7/10/18

William J. Cerri Sr. v. TigerPress and Shafii’s Inc.
Allegation: Negligence; slip and fall causing personal injury: $366,446.87
Filed: 7/13/18

Andrew Bergeron v. R.M. Blerman, LLC; Michael Werman; and Richard Blaser
Allegation: Negligence causing personal injury: $804,493.30
Filed: 7/16/18

Karen Feliciano v. Matthew Brackman, M.D., and Pioneer Valley Surgical Associates, P.C.
Allegation: Medical malpractice: $531,641.59
Filed: 7/19/18

Nitza Ramos v. Picknelly Family, LP
Allegation: Negligence; slip and fall outside Monarch Place causing personal injury: $9,879.69
Filed: 7/19/18

Angela Powell v. Marino Realty Inc., Marino Realty Corp., and Montagna Enterprises Inc. d/b/a JJ’s Soft Serve and More
Allegation: Negligence; slip and fall causing personal injury: $400,000
Filed: 7/20/18

Joseph Lepianka v. Brinker International Payroll Co., LP d/b/a Chili’s Grill & Bar and Kelli Valade
Allegation: Non-payment of minimum fair wages, non-payment of wages: $25,000
Filed: 7/25/18

Maureen Lyon v. Dollar Tree Inc.
Allegation: Negligence; shelving bracket fell over, causing personal injury: $151,380.90
Filed: 7/30/18

Kori M. Johanson v. Stanley J. Swierzewski d/b/a La Dermique
Allegation: Breach of contract, fraud, and unjust enrichment: $112,640
Filed: 8/1/18

Beryl Ohlson v. City of Holyoke
Allegation: Negligence; Holyoke Gas & Electric shut off power without notice in plaintiff’s residence to conduct maintenance, and plaintiff fell down stairs in the dark, causing personal injury: $250,000
Filed: 8/1/18

Brandon Vreeland as personal representative of the estate of Sherry L. Vreeland v. Tashanna K. Myers, M.D. and Ziad Kutayli, M.D.
Allegation: Medical malpractice, wrongful death: $2,000,000
Filed: 8/3/18

Shanard L. Green Sr. v. Coca-Cola Refreshments
Allegation: Employment discrimination: $31,000
Filed: 8/6/18

Incorporations

The following business incorporations were recorded in Hampden, Hampshire, and Franklin counties and are the latest available. They are listed by community.

BRIMFIELD

BT & Sons Towing & Recovery Inc., 8 Oakwood Road, Brimfield, MA 01010. Robert A. Wemyss, same. Towing.

DALTON

Andarah Inc. 165 High St., Dalton, MA 01226. Andrew G. Perenick, same. Rental and sale of boats, watercraft and equipment.

EAST LONGMEADOW

Coltey Enterprise Inc., 41 Millbrook Dr., East Longmeadow, MA 01028. Leo P. Coltey, same. Restaurant.

EASTHAMPTON

Cristina P. Carrier, Pc, 95 Holyoke St., Easthampton, MA 01027. Cristina P. Carrier, same. Professional legal services.

HOLYOKE

Betty Minimart & Restaurant Inc., 345 High St., Holyoke MA, 01040. Eritania Diaz, 1850 Northampton St., Apt. 231, Holyoke, MA 01040. Grocery store and restaurant.

LUDLOW

BP Home Improvement Inc., 89 Cislek Dr., Ludlow, Ma 01056. Norbert A. Pereira, same. Residential and commercial construction services.

NORTHAMPTON

Arkham Logistics Co., 123 Moser St., Northampton, MA 01060. Gino Davis, same. Package pickup and delivery.

WESTFIELD

API Construction Inc., 100 Meadow St., Westfield, MA 01085. Aleksandr Popov, same. Dwelling construction.

WESTHAMPTON

Audiwerks Division Inc., 9 Edward Road, Westhampton, MA 01027. Roland Madzunovic, same. Auto repair.

SHEFFIELD

Black Prince Hospitality Inc., 375 Hewins St., Sheffield, MA 01257. Adrian D’Ambrosi, 20 Salem Road, Pound Ridge, NY 10576. Bed and breakfast.

SOUTHWICK

Chiu Chu Inc., 20 Laurel Ridge Road, Southwick, MA 01077. Cheuk Chiu Chu, same. Restaurant.

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