By SCOTT JACKSON
Construction magnate Jay Cashman has finalized the purchase of property at the Fore River Shipyard from the MBTA.
Cashman paid the transit agency $1.1 million for the property this week, according to MBTA spokesman Joe Pesaturo. The site, which encompasses nearly 12 acres combined of land and water rights, includes the pier previously used for commuter ferry service and the USS Salem.
Last fall, the MBTA terminated ferry service and closed down the Salem, citing the need to perform to the pier. The transit agency previously said it would cost $15 million to ensure the pier would remain open for up to five years and $50 million to ensure it could remain open for up to 50 years.
Earlier this year, it was reported the Salem would move to an East Boston marina. Pesaturo previously said the MBTA had no immediate plans to bring back commuter ferry service to Fore River or elsewhere in the city. The agency, he noted, would be willing to consider other opportunities in the future.
Cashman previously purchased 26 acres of property inside the shipyard in 2003. His three companies – Jay Cashman, Inc., Sterling Equipment, and Patriot Renewables – are all headquartered on site. He also leases space in the shipyard to Bluefin Robotics and the New England Aquarium.
In October of last year, Cashman launched the 1,500-ton Dale Pyatt from the shipyard. The dredging barge was the first vessel manufactured in the Fore River Shipyard since General Dynamics shut down its Quincy operations in the mid-1980s.
The Quincy Sun has reached out to Cashman and Michael Condon, the director of the non-profit group that owns the Salem, for comment.
By SCOTT JACKSON
Former Massachusetts probation commissioner John O’Brien was convicted Thursday in federal court for handing out jobs at the department to politically connected applicants for his own benefit.
O’Brien, a Quincy resident, was found guilty on counts of mail fraud and racketeering following seven days of jury deliberations and a lengthy trial that began May 8. One of O’Brien’s top aides, Elizabeth Tavares, was also convicted for mail fraud and racketeering while another deputy, William Burke, was convicted of racketeering conspiracy but acquitted of mail fraud.
Federal prosecutors argued O’Brien and his deputies gave out jobs to politically connected candidates, including friends of several state legislators. In exchange, politicians on Beacon Hill increased the Probation Department’s budget and purportedly passed laws to protect O’Brien’s hiring power.
“After weeks of testimony, it became clear there was serious corruption in the practices of the Probation Department,” U.S. Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz said following the verdict.
“Bottom line: the evidence showed, and clearly the jury agreed, that this case was about fraud perpetrated by Mr. O’Brien and his deputies on the citizens of the Commonwealth.”
Attorneys for the defendants had argued during the trial that no laws were broken. They also contented hiring politically connected applicants was a practice that extended beyond the Probation Department. Attorneys for all three defendants have said they plan to appeal the verdict.
Sentencing will take place on Nov. 18 for O’Brien and his two aides. Each charge carries the possibility of 20 years behind bars and a $25,000 fine.
O’Brien was previously tried in state court on charges he directed employees to attend a fundraiser for former Treasurer Timothy Cahill in exchange for O’Brien’s wife receiving a job on the Lottery Commission. O’Brien was acquitted in that case last August.
In prepared statements, the candidates running for governor all praised the jury’s decision. Republican Charlie Baker said the trial shows the need for a new direction in state government.
“Today is a victory for taxpayers who deserve better than the one-party rule on Beacon Hill where politicians trade favors and turn a blind eye to abuses of power,” Baker said. “Regardless of the verdict today, the ugly trial made clear that state government is in desperate need of a new direction, with balance and real leadership where this type of disrespect for taxpayers’ money is replaced by transparency and accountability. Today is proof positive that the last eight years of one-party rule has bred corruption and waste in state government as my opponents stood by.”
The three Democrats vying for governor cited the need to promote transparency and hire qualified candidates for state jobs.
“The jury appears to have reached the correct decision in the probation trial,” said Don Berwick. “Political patronage must not be considered ‘business as usual’ on Beacon Hill. Patronage poisons public trust. Jobs in government – especially jobs that affect the wellbeing and safety of the public – should be filled based on who is most qualified to do the work, not on who knows whom or who owes someone a favor. The public has a right to expect much better from our leaders.”
“I want to commend the jury for their thoughtful deliberations in this difficult and complicated case,” Attorney General Martha Coakley said. “Today’s verdict sends a clear message that the corrupt hiring practices at issue were wrong and illegal. The rigged hiring system at the Probation Department never should have been accepted as ‘business as usual.’ Now we must remain vigilant that public accountability and transparency in government is enforced.”
“John O’Brien and his colleagues engaged in reprehensible behavior, abused the power of their office, and violated the public’s trust,” Treasurer Steve Grossman stated. “The Probation Department hiring scheme unveiled during this trial demonstrates the urgent need to reform Beacon Hill and to restore confidence in our government and its leaders.”
Kirsten Hughes, chairwoman of the MassGOP, slammed Coakley for not taking action against any of the legislators who sought positions for friends in the Probation Department.
“What kind of rotten atmosphere exists on Beacon Hill that forced public employees to break federal law and commit conspiracy and [mail] fraud in order to appease a legislature dominated by Democrats in exchange for budget increases?” Hughes, who is Quincy’s Ward 5 councillor, said in a statement.
“Today’s guilty verdict proves that it’s time to end politics as usual here in the Commonwealth. Since Attorney General Martha Coakley refuses to take action against the unindicted co-conspirators, then it is up to the voters to end the corruption on Beacon Hill by electing new leaders.”
Under a new license agreement signed July 24 by MBTA General Manager Beverly Scott, a state-of-the-art WiFi system will be installed throughout the MBTA’s network of 14 Commuter Rail lines.
In a prepared statement released, the MBTA stated inMOTION Wireless, Inc. will build a $5.6 million system that will expand and improve both the availability and quality of the existing WiFi service, at no cost to the MBTA or its customers. The new WiFi service will also be provided on MBTA Commuter Boats and South, North, and Back Bay Stations.
Under a 22-year license agreement, inMOTION will install, operate, and maintain a neutral, private, and dedicated WiFi network on all MBTA passenger coaches and ferries. MBTA customers will have free access to the internet, as well as a live television feed. Premium WiFi service, which allows customers to stream data and video, will be available for a fee of $15 per month. The MBTA will receive 7.5% of net revenue received from the WiFi program.
Nearly 140,000 passenger trips are made each weekday on the MBTA?s Commuter Rail network. Installation work will begin this fall, and the full system will be in place within eighteen months.
The Dana-Farber Cancer Institute’s Blum Van will offer free skin cancer education and screenings Tuesday, July 29th at Wollaston Beach from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
A dermatologist will provide free full-body examinations and address any skin-cancer related concerns.
Adults will also have the opportunity to take a photo that will show areas with sun damage and learn how to protect themselves from further damage.
Educational activities will also be available for children.
Participants will receive educational materials, sunscreen, key chains with energy beads that change color in response to UV rays, and Red Sox baseball caps while supplies last.
Screenings may be cancelled if there is rain. Call 617-632-2614 for more information.
By SCOTT JACKSON
School Committee member Anne Mahoney says she supports the state’s decision to move forward with a 5-8 configuration at the proposed new Sterling Middle School.
The School Department had previously submitted paperwork to the Massachusetts School Building Authority that allowed the possibility of two configurations at the school: grades 4-8, which would have shifted fourth graders from the nearby Lincoln-Hancock Community School, or 5-8. Sterling, along with Point Webster, currently house grades 5-8; the city’s other three middle schools house grades 6-8.
The MSBA announced its decision to move forward with a new Sterling with a 5-8 configuration, in a letter dated July 14.
Mahoney had been critical of the idea of bringing fourth graders to the new school, saying fourth graders would not be ready for middle school during a committee meeting in April. In a recent phone interview, Mahoney said she was happy with the building authority’s decision, noting the community didn’t have a chance to provide input before the School Department submitted paperwork that included a 4-8 option at Sterling.
“I’m happy they said no. I really feel like we didn’t get the input from the constituents and parents who would be affected by this plan,” Mahoney told The Sun.
“It was a rushed plan without the right people at the table. I thought it was mistaken to submit it without community input.”
A community meeting was held in May on the new Sterling, after the School Department had submitted the paperwork. A half dozen residents spoke in opposition to the 4-8 configuration, with one resident noting she circulated a petition against the plan that had gathered 500 signatures. One resident spoke in favor of putting fourth graders at the school.
The plan to move fourth graders into the new school, which serves students in South and West Quincy, was submitted to the state because of concerns regarding overcrowding at Lincoln-Hancock. During the phone interview, Mahoney said the School Committee needs to address the issue of overcrowding in the city’s schools as a whole, as opposed to addressing the issue one school at a time.
“I think we have a bigger issue we have to address when it comes to overcrowding,” she said. “We have to start looking at the schools as a whole.”
Addressing the issue, Mahoney explained, could include either adding new schools or changing how students are assigned to the schools. But a comprehensive review of the enrollment in Quincy Public Schools going forward would be needed before a plan is adopted.
“There is no easy solution. You have to do a full, comprehensive of every school’s enrollment,” Mahoney said. “Everything comes into play.”
The School Committee will meet on July 30 to vote on the MSBA’s enrollment agreement, which calls for accommodating up to 430 students in grades 5-8 at the new Sterling – approximately 50 more students than currently attend the school.