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WMECo Costumers Could See Electric Bills Rise

Press release from Western Massachusetts Electric Co.

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — Customers of Western Massachusetts Electric Co. are expected to see electric delivery rates decline early in 2012, partially offsetting proposed increases in supply rates for customers who choose to purchase energy supply through WMECo.

There are two main portions of electric bills; delivery and supply. If approved by the Department of Public Utilities, the delivery portion of electric bills should decrease about 3 percent because of proposed declines in transition and transmission charges and the new revenue decoupling mechanism. Overall, bills are expected to increase about 5 percent because of increases in the energy supply rates.

Under Massachusetts law, WMECo is required to procure energy supply, known as basic service, for customers who do not purchase service through a competitive supplier. Basic service is bid twice a year for residential and small commercial and industrial (C&I) customers and four times a year for medium and large commercial customers.

"The most recent competitive bidding process for electric supply is showing at least a temporary increase in the price of electricity after a prolonged period of decline in prices," said Peter Clarke, president and chief operating officer of WMECo. "The increase in price is likely a reflection of seasonality and we encourage customers to shop for a competitive supply price."

From Jan. 1 to June 30, residential customers on basic service will see a supply rate of 7.741 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh), compared to 6.998 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh) for the previous six-month period.

Small C&I customers will see a supply rate of 8.264 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh), compared to 7.498 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh) for the previous six-month period. Both residential and small C&I customers' basic service supply rates change twice a year (in January and July) and remain in effect for six months.

WMECo, a Northeast Utilities company (NYSE:NU), serves approximately 210,000 customers in 59 communities throughout Western Massachusetts. For more information, visit www.wmeco.com.
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Williams Chamber Meeting Raising Funds for Irene Victims

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The Williamstown Chamber of Commerce's annual meeting will be a fundraising event for the Community Fund for the Spruces and for Higher Ground.

The meeting is Tuesday, Nov. 29, from 5 to 7 at the Orchards. It is open to the public and the cost is $30 per person for members and nonmembers with 100 percent of the proceeds being donated.  

Because of the devastation that happened during Hurricane Irene, and the holiday season upon us, chamber members did not want to forget about the residents of Spruces Mobile Home Park, many of whom will never be able to go back to their homes. Representatives from the Community Fund and Higher Ground will be on board to give an update on what we as a community have been doing along with what we see happening in the coming future.

Higher Ground was established as a nonprofit group on Oct. 21 and is dedicated to providing immediate relief for those affected by Irene, preparing for future disasters, and creating more affordable housing in the area. Higher Ground is providing services and raising money to meet long-term physical, emotional and spiritual needs associated with the disaster, which is perhaps the greatest in Williamstown's history.

The Orchards has graciously donated use of its ballroom and Gala Restaurant chef Chris Bonnivier, with his many contacts, is getting donations from various Berkshire County restaurants for a wide array of food for the evening. There will also be chefs from Mezze, Wild Oats, the Williams Inn, McCann Technical School and Williams College

Contact the chamber at 413-458-9077 or info@williamstownchamber.com to sign up.
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North Adams Staples Closing By Year's End

Staff Reports
iBerkshires

Staples is expected to close by year's end.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Staples in the downtown will close at the end of the year.

The closing, rumored since last week, has been confirmed by Staples, according to several media outlets. Calls to Staples corporate headquarters on Friday were not returned to iBerkshires.

The store opened in the newly refurbished Kmart building in 2006, along with Peebles department stores and North Adams [Garden] Cinemas. Since then, Oylmpia Sports, Planet Fitness and, most recently, a Sears Homestore were added.

Mayor Richard Alcombright said Thursday night that he had spoken with several Staples executives on how the office supply store could stay open but was told the bottom line was the reason. "It was losing money," he said, adding he did not believe the chain had announced anything yet.

Staples also has stores in Pittsfield and Bennington, Vt.

The closure will leave a hole in the Steeple City Plaza but Alcombright said owner Neil Ellis of First Hartford Corp. was "fairly confident he can get something in there pretty quick."

Ellis, contacted on Friday, declined to comment on Staples' plans. "I can tell you we have a waiting list for space," he said.

Other vacancies in the plaza, which includes the L-Shaped Mall, have filled fairly quickly. The former Movie Gallery and smaller adjacent space that had hosted several different businesses, including a kids' clothing store, is now occupied by the Dollar Store. The Fashion Bug, a mainstay for a quarter-century, was replaced by Label Shopper.

Only the old Kmart garden center seems difficult to fill.

Alcombright said signage to better highlight the plaza has been a discussion point but would likely not go forward until next year when the Hadley Overpass is completed. He said he had been assured the other tenants in the former Kmart were doing OK, including the movie theaters.

Staples, based in Framingham, reported a profit gain in the third quarter.
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October Unemployment Rate Steady at 7.3%

Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development
BOSTON – The Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development reported Thursday that preliminary October estimates show an increase of 10,800 jobs in Massachusetts, for a total of 3,239,300 jobs. The total unemployment rate remained at 7.3 percent, well below the national rate of 9.0 percent, and the state's lowest monthly rate since January 2009.
 
Eight of the 10 private sectors added jobs in October with the largest gains in Education and Health Services (4,700); Financial Activities (1,900); Construction (1,700); Professional, Scientific, and Business Services (1,700); and Government (2,600). There were losses over the month in Leisure and Hospitality (2,700) and Information (1,300) although both sectors are still up over last year.

The October job gain follows a revised 5,500 job loss in September.

The October estimates show 3,237,700 Massachusetts residents were employed and 253,500 were unemployed, for a total labor force of 3,491,200. The labor force increased by 12,400 from 3,478,800 in September, as 13,900 more residents were employed and 1,500 fewer residents were unemployed over-the-month. Since October 2009, there are 69,300 more residents employed and 50,900 fewer residents unemployed as the labor force increased by 18,400. Totals for October may not add exactly because of rounding.

Read the full release here.

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Tighe & Bond Commemorative Book Covers Century

WESTFIELD, Mass. — Tighe & Bond recently published "Engineering a Century of Progress, The Evolution of Tighe & Bond" to mark its 100th anniversary. These commemorative books will be distributed to key clients, employees and local historical associations.

Headquartered in Westfield, the civil engineering firm is a household name for many municipalities, as well as numerous other public and private organizations throughout New England.

It began with James Tighe, an Irish immigrant who began his career in 1892 as an engineer for the Holyoke Water Department and later as the city engineer. In 1911, Tighe established a private engineering practice and, in 1926, formed a partnership with Philip Bond, who added expertise in municipal engineering. 

After weathering the Great Depression, Tighe & Bond began expanding its work force. Today, it has more than 200 employees in six offices in Massachusetts, Connecticut and New Hampshire.


James Tighe established his engineering firm in 1911.
"This auspicious year also has afforded Tighe & Bond numerous successes in our expansion, growth in new markets, awards, and recognition as a great place to work," said David Pinsky, the firm's president. "At its annual Best Firms to Work for Summit in San Diego in September, ZweigWhite recognized Tighe & Bond as one of the best civil engineering firms to work for in the nation. We ranked second among mid-size firms and eighth overall."

This past May, the Engineering News-Record once again ranked Tighe & Bond among the top 500 design firms in the nation. And in January, Tighe & Bond acquired Appledore Engineering, a highly regarded, 23-year-old civil engineering firm located in Portsmouth, N.H.

As part of Tighe & Bond's 100th anniversary celebration, the firm has established The Centennial Project to identify two worthy projects for nonprofit agencies in need of services. This past October, the company awarded $100,000 of pro bono engineering and environmental services to two nonprofit organizations. The dollar amount of the services – which will be split between the Boys & Girls' Club of Greater Holyoke Inc. and the Big Pond Preservation Association/Horizons Inc. of Connecticut – is earmarked to support a specific noteworthy project for each group.  

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