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Propane Tank Explosion in Cheshire Destroys Property

By Jeff Snoonian
iBerkshires Correspondent
CHESHIRE, Mass. — A propane tank explosion rocked Lake Shore Drive on Friday night at about 8. Miraculously, there were no injuries but the recreational vehicle and adjacent structure are a total loss. 
 
Occupant David Willett said he was fortunate to get out unharmed.
 
"I was up watching TV and smelled a weird odor," he said on Saturday at the scene. "I got out of there and called 911."
 
Two minutes later the propane tank exploded. 
 
Lake Shore Drive is a dead-end road off Lanesborough Road, not far from the Route 8 intersection. The lane runs down the center of a small, curving peninsula into Cheshire Reservoir. 
 
The conflagration could be seen from the north end of the lake where residents gathered in the lake access parking lot to watch. 
 
According to the Cheshire Fire Department, firefighters were dispatched at 8:06 p.m. for a report of a fully involved house fire with propane tank explosions. The first engine company on arrival reported heavy fire showing from an RV that was parked directly next to a residence. The residence was also on fire.
 
Several propane tanks exploded while firefighters were battling the blaze, according to the statement by Cheshire Fire. The investigation by Chief Thomas Francesconi and a trooper with the State Police Fire Investigative Unit has determined the fire is not suspicious "and appears to be the result of a mechanical malfunction."
 
Members were on scene until 3 a.m. Saturday. Chief Francesconi thanked the Adams, Lanesborough, Savoy and Dalton fire departments for their assistance at the scene and covering the station, as well as Adams Ambulance Service,  Cheshire Police and utility crews.
 
Willett has been in contact with his sister and brother, who are on their way with clothes and supplies as everything he owned was lost — including the bike he uses to get to work. He wanted everyone to know that he is OK and very lucky.
 
He said Cheshire Fire will continue monitoring the situation Saturday as a precaution.
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The Independent Investor: Brokerage Business Not What It Used to Be

By Bill Schmick
iBerkshires columnist
Last week, Charles Schwab, the mega-discount broker, disrupted the brokerage industry yet again by dropping its per-trade commission rates for U.S. and Canadian stocks, exchange traded funds (ETFs), and options for both mobile and internet trades. It was inevitable and simply recognizes what the future holds for that segment of the financial industry.
 
Since Schwab's announcement on October 1, three additional big brokers — TD Ameritrade, E-Trade and Fidelity Investments — have thrown in the towel leaving only Vanguard (among the big houses) left out of the zero-commission trend.
 
The stock market reacted in shock. Traders hit the sell button on their computers sending the brokerage stocks down in double-digit losses. E-Trade, for example, fell 17 percent on the announcement. Many pundits predicted the end of the brokerage business, but those forecasts, in my opinion, were based on an antiquated notion of where the brokerage business is actually heading.
 
The internet and the introduction of smart intelligence has changed financial services forever. Personally, I cannot remember the last time I actually called a broker to place a trade. It is all done through the internet now, so why should I be paying Schwab (or anyone else) $4.95 per trade?
 
I'm not the only one who must have felt this way. The recent success of upstart retail brokerage businesses such as Robinhood, which promises commission-free trading, social media, cryptocurrencies, etc., was not lost on Charles Schwab. Neither were the offers by more serious competitors like Bank of America's Merrill Lynch and JPMorgan Chase that are offering free trading on a limited basis.
 
So how can Schwab, or any of the other discount brokers, make money when they aren't charging commissions? The answer is simple. Commissions mean less and less when it comes to the bottom lines of most brokers. Most of us still have an image of a three-piece business suit, tasseled loafers and cufflinks when the word "broker" is mentioned, and I am sure there may still be some of those dinosaurs left out there in some corner office or another.
 
However, nowadays, it is more likely than not that the markets move too fast to dilly dally on the phone with a broker, or worse still, to waiting on the phone listening to Muzak while the stock skyrockets past you (or is dropping like a rock). Since just about all trading is done electronically, (by people in hoodies and sandals) the costs of executing those trades have dropped too.
 
Sure, cutting most commissions will hurt the bottom line, but not nearly as much as you think. The way brokers make money today, for the most part, is using the cash in your account until you need it. They invest the money in whatever high-yielding instruments they can find for as long as they can. It is called net interest income and last year Charles Schwab, for example, made 2.6 percent on average from doing so. That may not sound like much, but it amounted to $5.8 billion or 57 percent of the company's total revenue. Investment management and administrative fees accounted for only 32 percent of revenues. Commissions, trading and such accounted for the rest. 
 
Throughout the financial services sector, commissions, fees, and other charges are shrinking as more and more retail and institutional clients demand a better deal. As electronics and automation increasingly become the lion's share of the services provided by the financial industry in the future, investors can expect to see this trend continue.
 
Bill Schmick is registered as an investment adviser representative and portfolio manager with Berkshire Money Management (BMM), managing over $400 million for investors in the Berkshires.  Bill's forecasts and opinions are purely his own. None of the information presented here should be construed as an endorsement of BMM or a solicitation to become a client of BMM. Direct inquiries to Bill at 1-888-232-6072 (toll free) or email him at Bill@afewdollarsmore.com.

 

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Pittsfield Man Struck, Killed by Tractor-Trailer

Staff Reports
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — A local man was killed Monday evening after being struck by a tractor-trailer on Route 8.
 
Ernest Millette, 73, of Pittsfield was pronounced dead on the scene in the area of 550 Cheshire Road.
 
At about 7:12 p.m., a 2019 semi-truck operated by Matthew Osak, 34, of Lee, was northbound and turning left into Unistress. Upon making the turn, the vehicle struck Millette, who was walking in the driveway.
 
Pittsfield Police and Fire, state police, Berkshire County sheriff deputies, and County Ambulance responded to the scene.
 
The crash remains under investigation by Officer Michael Silver of the Pittsfield Police Department Traffic Unit.
 
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Adams Police Arrest Suspect in Val's, Racing Mart Break-ins

ADAMS, Mass. — Police say they have arrested a suspect in the burglaries committed at Val's Package Store and Racing Mart Gas Station early Sunday morning. 
 
According to a statement from the Adams Police Department, officers responded to both Columbia Street businesses for what employees of the businesses reported as a breaking and entering that had occurred during the nighttime. Property was destroyed and money was stolen from both locations. 
 
Night- and day-shift officers on Sunday, working with a detective, investigated the break-ins and arrested the suspect within hours.
 
The State Police Crime Scene Unit was called to assist in processing the scene, and officers also obtained video surveillance footage. Police said this footage showed a man who was known to the investigating officers conduct the breaking and entering and larceny within the business.
 
Officers quickly located him on Columbia Street, walking down the street carrying a television set that was stolen from a residence moments prior. He was arrested on multiple charges related to the break-ins and the active warrants already out for his arrest.
 
The defendant will be transported to Northern Berkshire District Court in North Adams on Monday morning for arraignment.

 

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Adams Man Charged With Murder In Columbus Avenue Shooting

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — An Adams man has been charged in the murder of 32-year-old Stephanie Olivieri of Yonkers, N.Y.
 
Tyler Sumner, 25, was arraigned in Central Berkshire District Court on a single count of murder on Monday.
 
He is being held at the Berkshire County House of Correction without bail.
 
Sumner was arrested in Adams on Saturday by Pittsfield Police, with assistance from Adams Police and North Adams Police. The charge is in connection with the Aug. 25 shooting on Columbus Avenue in Pittsfield that killed Olivieri.
 
Olivieri, a native of Pittsfield, suffered a single gunshot wound while sitting in a silver sedan near the intersection of Columbus and South John Street in the early morning hours that Sunday. Investigators do not believe that Olivieri was the intended target of the shooting.
 
This investigation has been led by the Pittsfield Police Department with assistance from the state police detectives assigned to the Berkshire District attorney's office and the Berkshire County Crime Task Force.
 
"I send my heartfelt condolences to the Olivieri family for their tragic loss," District Attorney Andrea Harrington said.
 
"I am exceedingly proud of this investigation. It has been highly collaborative with excellent leadership from PPD. The tireless efforts of the investigative team in the pursuit of justice for Ms. Olivieri cannot be overstated."
 
Olivieri attended the former St. Joseph's High and Pittsfield High and left her parents, a brother and two young children. Her family has started a GoFundMe. 
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