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The Westfield News Serving Westfield, Southwick, and the surrounding Hilltowns


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VOL. 84 NO. 047

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Robocalls target seniors By PETER FRANCIS Staff Writer GRANVILLE – Elizabeth Lawrence is an 85-year old Granville resident who has been pestered by obnoxious robocalls on the hour every day for some time now. Accoridng to the Federal Communications Commission, robocalls are “unsolicited prerecorded telemarketing calls to landline home telephones, and all autodialed or prerecorded calls or text messages to wireless numbers, emergency numbers, and patient rooms at health care facilities.” In a letter to The Westfield News, Lawrence stated that she has been informed to call her telephone provider, but said that getting through to them has been a waste of time. She added that she has called every Do Not Call number available, yet the calls haven’t stopped. “These calls are from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., and ask to press one or press three to acknowledge that you’ve received the call,” said Lawrence, adding that these calls will tell her that her grandson needs bail money, even though she has never had a grandson, and that they will also ask to speak with her husband. Lawrence said she has called state Sen. Don Humason, Jr., R-Westfield, and state Rep. Nicholas Boldyga, R-Southwick, asking for legislation to be filed to end robocalls. “They are very sympathetic, but nothing is done,” said Lawrence. “They also say in saccharine voice to get caller ID. How simplistic. I do not know anyone who doesn’t have caller ID or hasn’t registered for Do Not Call.” Lawrence said that when she receives these annoying calls, her own phone number shows up as the caller ID. Under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), FCC rules limit many types of robocalls, though some calls are permissible if prior consent is given. These rules also differentiate between landline and wireless phones, and while Humason said he has received complaints, filing legislation to stop these calls isn’t an easy job. “Nobody seems to like robocalls. There are some, like political robocalls, that are First Amendment protected,” said Humason yesterday, and added that Do See Robocalls, Page 3

‘Talking Books’ program benefits city’s seniors By PETER FRANCIS Staff Writer WESTFIELD – Senior centers have long carried a stigma of being places for a community’s elderly to go out to the pasture of bingo and card games. In Westfield, however, the city’s Senior Center plays host to a 10:30 a.m. program run on the fourth Tuesday of each month that enables patrons to enjoy literature in a group setting. Thanks to the efforts of Kathy Benedict, a retired fifth grade teacher from South Hadley, the Talking Books program has taken off over the past three years, growing into an experience enjoyed by Benedict and her seniors alike. “I was in a book club with Tina Gorman and when I retired, she thought this might be a good thing for me,” said Benedict on her conversations with Gorman, Westfield’s Council on Aging Director. While the reading sessions are small – typically four or five seniors plus three or four more who come sporadically – Benedict feels that the small size helps for discussion and makes the sessions all the more enjoyable. “We read short stories, usually just one per session, and oftentimes it is interesting how they relate the characters to someone they know or situations to something See Talking Books, Page 3


Local rockers emerge from van crash ‘ruins’ By PETER FRANCIS Staff Writer WESTFIELD – Members of a local band are lucky to be alive after the van they were traveling in was involved in an accident in Pennsylvania Sunday. Within The Ruins, a heavy metal band signed to Entertainment One Music from Westfield, had just returned from a 27-day European tour and were traveling to California to begin another U.S. tour when the accident occurred. In a statement released by the band, Guitarist Joe Cocchi said he and his bandmates are just happy to be alive. “We rolled about three times from what I can remember and landed on the median. Our van and trailer are totaled,” he stated. I know (expletive) happens but man, this is a tough one to grasp.”

Cocchi said he and his bandmates had only been able to spend one day with their families before departing for the West Coast. “All I can say is that we’re happy to be alive. I don’t know how, but none of us were injured,” he stated. Their equipment was not so lucky, as Cocchi added that the band’s instruments and sound equipment didn’t survive the crash. A donation page on the website GoFundMe (http://www. was established Monday to help alleviate some of the costs of new van/trailer, rental van, gear repair and other expenses. To date, almost 350 people fans from Westfield and beyond have donated almost $8,400 to help the group in their time of need.

Westfield officers learn new safe response skills BOSTON – Officers from the Westfield Police Department are attending a new mental health training course as now required by the Commonwealth’s Executive Office of Public Safety and Security. The curriculum for this training was developed by the Massachusetts National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI Mass), the Department of Mental Health (DMH) and the Municipal Police Training Committee (MPTC). All municipal police officers in the state will receive updated mental health training by the end of 2015. “This is a major step forward in providing all law enforcement officers better tools for the safe and responsive management of incidents involving people experiencing mental health crises,” said June S.

Binney, director of the NAMI Mass Criminal Justice Project. “The intent of this vitally important training is creating better outcomes during encounters with those who suffer mental illness and other populations. We are grateful to NAMI Mass and the Department of Mental Health for collaborating with the Municipal Police Training Committee to develop this crucial, best-practices training for new and existing police officers,” said Dan Zivkovich, MPTC executive director. The intensive, interactive curriculum is taught by specially trained police officers from across the state and includes: – An overview of the symptoms of mental illness – Learning verbal and non-verbal com-

Council to change ‘unlawful’ ordinance By DAN MORIARTY Staff Writer WESTFIELD – The Legislative & Ordinance Committee of the City Council will consider changes to the city ordinance pertaining to composition of the Conservation Commission tonight after receiving an opinion from the Law Department stating that the current ordinance language is unlawful. The City Council approved a motion at its Jan. 5, 2015 meeting to seek an opinion from the Law Department pertaining to requirements of an ordinance pertaining to appointments to the Conservation Commission. The motion to refer the issue to the Law Department was made by members of the council’s Personnel Action

“We’re on the road touring because this is all we know and love, and we want to continue,” stated Cocchi. “Help us get back on our feet by picking up a shirt or making a donation if you can spare it.” The show must go on, and Within The Ruins is still scheduled to belatedly begin their 36-stop tour with metal rockers Suicide Silence Friday evening at El Corazon in Seattle, Washington. Within The Ruins will be returning to New England on March 8, when they swing by Higher Ground in Burlington, Vermont, followed by a March 10 show at The Webster Theatre in Hartford, Connecticut. The tour will conclude on March 30 at Aftershock in Merriam, Kansas.

Committee which interviews candidates for municipal appointments and makes recommendations on those nominations to the full City Council. The PAC members requested the Law Department to review the ordinance and to determine if it is in conflict with state and federal Equal Opportunity laws. The ordinance states: Sec. 13-153. – Composition; appointment. The conservation commission shall consist of seven members appointed by the mayor, subject to confirmation by the city council. The commission shall include at least one woman, and should also include in its membership, if possible, an engineer, a lawyer and a banker. At-large Councilor Cindy Harris, a

PAC member, said the city’s ordinance “appears to be illegal” because of the ordinance requirement that a female be appointed to the board. Cindy Harris, the current chairwoman of the PAC, stated in a letter to the Westfield News that the Law Department did review the existing language requiring that at least one member of the commission be female “and made a decision that it is illegal. “In addition the (legal opinion) states that the City Council should take steps to remedy this situation by changing the ordinance,” Harris stated. The L&O is slated to discuss amending that language tonight. Ironically See Ordinance, Page 3

munication skills to safely de-escalate potentially dangerous situations – Recognizing trauma and PTSD Nearly 60 million Americans experience a mental health disorder every year. One in 17 lives with a serious mental illness, such as schizophrenia, major depression or bipolar disorder. And one in 10 children and adolescents suffers from serious emotional and mental disorders that cause significant functional impairment in their day-to-day lives. According to Binney, improved police training increases safety for all involved and ideally may allow for a person with mental illness to find appropriate treatment without having to experience the stress of arrest and incarceration.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015  
Wednesday, February 18, 2015