New England in brief

2 killed in separate crashes on Mass. Pike

January 1, 2010

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Separate accidents claimed two lives on the Massachusetts Turnpike yesterday, according to State Police. Geoffrey Kennedy, 49, of Nashua, was killed after the driver of the vehicle he was traveling in lost control of the car and struck a guardrail just after 3 a.m. in Westborough. The driver, Julie Hellinger, 45, of Nashua, was taken to UMass Memorial Medical Center in Worcester, where she was treated for minor injuries. In West Stockbridge, Elizabeth McKee, 53, of Rock Stream, N.Y., died after her car struck a tree in the median at about 10:40 a.m. She was pronounced dead at the scene. Both crashes are being investigated.

Firefighters battle New Year’s Eve blaze
Firefighters from seven departments spent New Year’s Eve on the job after responding to a house fire on Main Street in Foxborough, authorities said. The blaze broke out around 7 p.m., and took several hours to contain. Firefighters were still at the site as midnight approached, according to a town dispatcher. No injuries were reported.

Ill seal rescued near Wollaston Beach
A New England Aquarium team rescued a sick harp seal from a salt marsh near Wollaston Beach on Wednesday, spokesman Tony LaCasse said. A six-person team retrieved the young female seal, which was underweight and appeared to be suffering from severe dehydration, LaCasse said. The aquarium’s treatment facilities were full, so the seal was taken to Mystic Aquarium in Connecticut. Harp seals migrate south to New England waters each winter. The public is asked to report any seal that looks injured or ill to the aquarium hotline at 617-973-5247, or local animal control authorities.

Tobin Bridge governance shifts today
Drivers won’t notice any difference, but ownership of the Tobin Bridge officially transfers today from the Massachusetts Port Authority to the new Massachusetts Department of Transportation. Massport has operated the 60-year-old bridge, which spans the Mystic River and is a main artery for North Shore commuters to Boston, for half a century. The transfer +of the 2 1/4-mile span is part of an overhaul of the state’s transportation bureaucracy. Massport will not receive compensation for the bridge and all bridge liabilities will transfer to the Department of Transportation. Service won’t be interrupted for drivers paying cash tolls or using Fast Lane or E-ZPass transponders. (AP)

Fiscal package for Lawrence proposed
Governor Deval Patrick has filed a bill that would help Lawrence balance its books and avoid what officials have said could be bankruptcy by early next year. The bill filed yesterday would allow the city to borrow up to $35 million to balance its 2010 and 2011 budgets. But the bill also would require a state-appointed fiscal overseer to monitor the city’s finances and recommend whether the state should appoint a finance control board with extensive powers over the budget. A state loan and a control board helped lead Springfield out of a recent fiscal crisis. Patrick met with Lawrence’s mayor-elect, William Lantigua, last month over the city’s dire finances. The city of 71,000 faces a deficit of about $17 million. (AP)

SJC overrules Wayland panel on e-mails
The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court has ruled that e-mails exchanged by members of the Wayland School Committee must be made public under the state’s open meeting law. Yesterday’s ruling stemmed from a 2005 complaint lodged by a reporter for the Wayland Town Crier. The district attorney argued the committee violated the law by holding two closed-door meetings on the fate of the superintendent and circulating e-mails before the meetings. The committee argued that the e-mails were exempt because they were preliminary communications and the meetings were exempt because they dealt with personnel issues. The SJC disagreed, ruling the meetings dealt with professional competence, not salary or contract issues. The court also ruled the e-mails are public because the substance of the exchanges would have been stated orally at the meeting. (AP)