CFD Completes Special Training

CFD Completes Special Training

Pictured are Firefighters Rob Better and Paul Villani rescuing a victim during the Confined Space Rescue Training.

Pictured are Firefighters Rob Better and Paul Villani rescuing
a victim during the Confined Space Rescue Training.

The Fire Department recently completed Confined Space Rescue Training, completing another recommendation made by last year’s somewhat controversial Matrix Report to the City Council.

A “confined space” is a term used by the federal Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) to define an area, which is enclosed with limited access such as a storage tank or pipe.

“Until now, the department had minimal capability to rescue a person trapped in a confined space,” stated Acting Chief Robert Houghton. “This training will help our firefighters perform rescue work without becoming victims themselves, which is common in this type of incident.”

National standards require that fire department’s confined space response capability includes personnel, equipment, and resources to deploy at the confined space operational level as required by OSHA, 29 CFR 1910.146.

The department hired a company that specializes in Confined Space Rescue to train the entire department.

The three days of training were held at the MWRA Facility on Griffin Way in Chelsea.

“The MWRA has the training props in place for their personnel and they were great about letting us use it,” stated Houghton.

This training marks the completion of another recommendation made by the Matrix Consulting Group in their report to the City regarding Chelsea Fire Department operations.

The department has now completed over 70% of the recommendations in that report.


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Chelsea Man Indicted in Alleged Arson on Washington Ave.

A 20-year-old Chelsea man has been charged with setting a fire last year that injured two firefighters and left 18 without a home – all over an alleged conflict with a resident of the building.

The indictment announcement came on Friday from Chelsea Fire Chief Robert Better Jr., State Fire Marshal Stephen D. Coan, Chelsea Police Chief Bryan Kyes, and Suffolk County District Attorney Dan Conley.

Nestor Perez, 20, of Chelsea, was arraigned Friday in Suffolk Superior Court on a charge of arson of a dwelling and two counts each of wanton destruction of property over $250 and causing injury to a firefighter. Assistant District Attorney Nicholas Brandt requested that bail be set in the amount of $5,000. Clerk Magistrate Connie Wong imposed $1,000 bail and ordered Perez to have no contact with any witnesses in the case.

According to prosecutors, Perez and two others were present at a three-family residence at 196 Washington Ave. on the evening of Oct. 22, 2013. Perez climbed the stairs to the second-floor porch, banged on the door, and demanded to see a resident with whom he had a conflict. He soon ran down the stairs and instructed the other individuals to leave the area. The group proceeded to a nearby convenience store.

A fire erupted on the second-floor porch within minutes of Perez being there, prosecutors said.

Two Chelsea firefighters were injured battling the three-alarm fire, which damaged the building beyond repair and caused thousands of dollars in heat and water damage to neighboring buildings, and displaced 18 people.

An investigation into the cause and origin of the fire revealed that after the fire was started on the second-floor porch, it spread into the second-floor apartment’s kitchen and then to the third-floor attic bedrooms and roof. Several combustible items had been stored on the porch, the investigation found.

The cause and origin investigation was led by the Chelsea Fire Department and State Troopers assigned to the State Fire Marshal’s office. Chelsea Police detectives obtained footage from City of Chelsea public safety cameras and other surveillance cameras showing Perez in the area of the fire immediately after the fire started.

Suffolk prosecutors led the grand jury investigation.

Perez is represented by attorney Eduardo Masferrer, and he will return to court May 29.


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Another Accomplice Charged in Murder of Elder Morales Last Year

An alleged accessory to the 2013 murder of Elder Morales in Chelsea was held on high bail following his indictment last Thursday in Boston’s Suffolk Superior Court.

Armando Lopez, 29, was arraigned yesterday in Suffolk Superior Court as an accessory after the fact to Morales’ March 5, 2013, homicide. Lopez is also charged with two counts of unlawful possession of a firearm and one count of unlawful possession of ammunition, also in connection with Morales’ shooting death.

Lopez had been held on $25,000 bail since his February arraignment on the firearm charges in Chelsea District Court. On Thursday, Suffolk Superior Court Clerk Magistrate Connie Wong raised Lopez’s bail to $40,000.

Prosecutors told the court that Lopez knew his fellow gang associate, Jonathan Castro, 23, of Chelsea, was accused of shooting Morales to death, yet agreed to help conceal Castro’s gun and clothing after the homicide. Castro was able to dispose of the items prior to his arrest and, while held without bail on a murder charge, coordinated with Lopez to have the items retrieved and brought to Lopez’s home, prosecutors said.

A search warrant executed at Lopez’s home by Chelsea and State Police detectives did not recover the murder weapon. It did, however, yield a different revolver loaded with five rounds of ammunition, prosecutors said.

Lopez is the fourth man charged in connection with Morales’ murder.

Erick Romero, 15, of Chelsea, is charged in Chelsea Juvenile Court with manslaughter and two counts of assault with a dangerous weapon. Though he is a juvenile, prosecutors indicted Romero as a youthful offender, making the case public and exposing him to the same penalties as an adult, if convicted.

Elder Portillo, 19, is charged with second-degree murder and two counts of assault with a dangerous weapon.

All four arrests were made by Chelsea Police and the Suffolk County State Police Detective Unit.

Prosecutors allege Morales was on the porch of a Blossom Street address shortly before 9 p.m. when a group of men, including Castro, approached him. One member of the group, whose face was obscured by a mask, walked up with a knife and exchanged words with Morales.

The other members of the group then rushed toward Morales. At this point, Castro pulled a revolver and began to fire multiple shots. Morales attempted to flee but was struck twice, suffering mortal injuries. He was transported to Whidden Memorial Hospital, where he was pronounced deceased.

Based on witness interviews, video surveillance, and the efforts of Chelsea Police and State Troopers through the night of the murder, Castro and two other men were tracked to the defendant’s Everett home. Castro agreed to speak with investigators at Chelsea Police headquarters and admitted in a recorded, post-Miranda statement to firing at Morales.


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Let’s Support Chelsea Community Connections

We hope that the Chelsea community will come and support the Chelsea Community Connection Coailiton’s 3rd Annual Empty Bowls Fundraiser today at 5 p.m. at the Williams School.

This event has become one of the city’s most popular fundraisers as volunteers have spent their time hand painting soup bowls that will be on display at the event. Attendees can also enjoy a hearty bowl of soup.

The Coalition does outstanding work providing support to families with children under the age of 18. It needs funds to assist these families and today’s event is the Coalition’s major fundraiser of the year.

For those of us who have lived in this city for many years, we’re pleased that a distinguished community leader such as Carolyn Boumila-Vega is the co-director of the Coalition and the leader of this enjoyable fundraising effort. We have observed Carolyn’s philanthropic efforts through the years and recognize how her energy and drive have helped make our city a better place. Just as her husband, Juan Vega, has worked so hard to make Centro Latino one of the most visible and helpful agencies for residents of our city, Carolyn has also contributed so much of her time to various causes with the goal of helping resident citywide.

We encourage you to get over to the Williams School and join our City Manager Jay Ash and others in helping Carolyn and the Coalition accomplish the organization’s goals.


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Guest Op-ed: Rising Rates and Sea Levels

Bay State ocean waters and insurance rates are rising. Just ask those holding 25,000 federally subsidized coastal flood insurance policies in Massachusetts. These contracts insulate people from the full risks of living on the shore—risks that private insurance companies have long refused to take, making taxpayers assume the burden. Today, due to bigger and more frequent ocean storms, property loss has drowned the national program under $24 billion of debt. Much of this debt mounted post Hurricanes Alex, Katrina, and Superstorm Sandy.

To ensure that future flood insurance rates more accurately reflect the risks associated with living in hazardous coastal floodplains, in 2012, Congress experienced a rare moment of clarity and passed comprehensive flood insurance reform.

When the new rate increases took effect, it sparked widespread panic and Congress quickly backpedaled and then hit the snooze button on any serious rate reform. It seems that Congress is more than willing to step into the limelight to rebuild homes and businesses, but not to promote solutions that prevent or minimize property destruction in the first place. One thing is for certain, all this new attention to the risks of coastal living is a wake-up call and we would be wise to pay attention.

For those facing King Neptune’s inevitable onslaught of coastal destruction and havoc, there are options that include moving buildings back from the shore, elevating structures on pilings, renourishing beaches with sediment to strengthen their natural storm buffering capacity, and purchasing properties in harm’s way.

Evidence of completed federal coastal property buyout programs from across the country shows that these types of investments pay for themselves within 10 years by permanently avoiding response, rescue, recovery, and repair costs from future floods. Most importantly, the lives of first responders and residents are spared.

Flooding causes almost half of all disaster-related property destruction in America—and it’s getting worse. A recent Federal Emergency Management Agency study found that sea-level rise will expand the nation’s flood-hazard areas by more than half by 2100, with the number of associated flood-insurance policies increasing by an astounding 130 percent. A growing coastal population exacerbates the problem. The US Census Bureau reports that almost 40 percent of Americans now live in coastal counties. Here at home, according to the Massachusetts Coastal Zone Management Office, 85 percent of Massachusetts’ 6.7 million residents live within 50 miles of the coast.

A 2005 congressionally mandated study found that for every $1 invested in “hazard- mitigation activities,” the national economy saves $4 in losses from future disasters, and saved an additional $3.65 in costs to the US Treasury from avoided disaster-recovery expenditures and lost tax revenues. A bill championed by Senator Mark Pacheco of Taunton, Chair of the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture includes coastal buyback simply because it is among the most cost-effective and pragmatic mitigation measures for addressing high-hazard coastal areas. Specifically, a voluntary coastal buy-back program would:

• Invest in high-risk properties in advance of flood disasters;

• Clean up and restore properties to their natural conditions while conserving them for public benefits such as parklands, wildlife refuges, and public beaches ( only one-third of Massachusetts’ 1,500-mile shoreline is open to the public);• Provide storm buffers as repaired coastal resources absorb floodwaters and save uplands from flooding; and

• Capture and store heat-trapping carbon pollution within restored coastal ecosystems, mitigating some of the worst effects of climate change.

A coastal buy-back program would convert vulnerable and dangerous flood-prone properties from liabilities to valuable community assets.

The alternative is to continue pouring money into an undertow of debt on behalf of homeowners who just want out, and taxpayers and an environment just needing relief.

Jack Clarke is director of public policy and government relations for Mass Audubon and a recent gubernatorial appointee to the Massachusetts Coastal Erosion Commission.


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Looking at the News: A Silver Opportunity for Chelsea’s History

Walk into the basement of the Chelsea Public Library, and if you have an appointment or know who to ask for, you can meet George Ostler – the City’s unofficial historian who spends many of his days digging through old records in a room set up for his research.

While your down there, you might also see Ron and Leo Robinson – who with Ostler – have uncovered amazing pieces of history about African Americans in Chelsea, including the details of inventor Lewis Latimer and his noteworthy ancestors.

There are many cities and towns – especially in Massachusetts – that claim great historical roots. Listen to these three men for more than 10 minutes, and you’ll realize Chelsea’s claim is the real deal.

There are a lot of people who have heard of or listened to the marvelous stories about groundbreaking Chelsea residents of the past from the mouths of Ostler and the Robinsons.

A lot of people know about some of these things.

But not everybody knows.

Now is perhaps a particularly unique time to let everyone know about the extraordinary people and events in Chelsea from year’s past.

The Silver Line is getting ready to lay down roots in the City, and it will certainly be a new chapter in the City’s history as it connects to a part of Boston that for so many years was “can’t get there from here” territory. Within that new Silver Line project is several new bus stations, a new commuter rail station and a lengthy pedestrian pathway.

Why couldn’t these stations and this pathway also become Chelsea’s Freedom Trail? Ostler has written and spoken about tremendous – but forgotten – treasures – of national history that happened in Chelsea or to Chelsea residents. He has certainly gotten the word out, but nothing could be more powerful than a permanent public exhibit along what will be one of the most heavily travelled routes in Chelsea for years to come.

Hundreds of people every day would be able to learn and access the wonderful stories of Chelsea people who lived through or lived out key events in American history.

Most recently, I was over at the library and Ostler handed me a book written by a former mayor of Chelsea, Frank Fay (the namesake of Fay Square). Fay was known as the ‘War Mayor,’ Ostler told me, and served in the Sanitation Corps during the entirety of the Civil War. The book, and Fay’s personal story, was nothing short of amazing. Within the pages of the memoir was a firsthand witness account of nearly every conflict in the Civil War – from Bull Run to the Wilderness to Antietam. He was at all of them, and he provided a rare, detailed look into that piece of American history through the eyes of a man from Chelsea.

Ostler smiled as he took the book back, saying, “Can you believe that?”

It is unbelievable, but exciting because it is true.

Of course, Chelsea also has a rich history for African Americans as well – including the groundbreaking Latimer Family and the large role played by the city’s residents in the Underground Railroad. There, of course, are still many more untold stories in that vein that could be pushed out to the masses.

It’s time to get Ostler’s and the Robinson’s research into the public domain – and let it be a legacy to Ostler and all of the hours of research he has devoted to this City’s detailed history.

Now is the time to advocate for such a thing.

The Silver Line project is a $60 million endeavor, and it is currently under design and those spending the money and drawing up the plans are looking for input and ideas from the public. Such an opportunity doesn’t come around often, and including historical exhibits at MBTA stations isn’t unheard of.

Several Red Line and Green Line Stations on the MBTA system have detailed exhibits provided by local historical societies. Perhaps a little more money could be found somewhere by members of the state delegation to include a “freedom trail” in the project that is above and beyond anything else in the Boston area.

Each station could be dedicated to some subject matter, and numerous placards could line the walkway so people could exercise, travel and learn about where they live. We’ll let the subject matter be decided by the experts. No doubt, there is no shortage of captivating events to relay and set in stone.

If ever there was a time and a place for the past to come alive, this is it.


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Misleading Students: Chelsea For-profit School Sued by Ag for Deceiving Students and Facilitating Unfair Loans

The attorney general for the state has entered a lawsuit against the company that operates the for-profit training school, Everest Institute, in Chelsea.

Everest has operated in Chelsea for several years and is located in the office park on Everett Avenue. Hundreds of students from Chelsea and the surrounding areas attend the school, which also has a location in Brighton. It is believed that many students from the Chelsea campus – though not named in the suit – did participate in the AG’s investigation and are quoted in the complaint against Everest.

AG Martha Coakley alleges that the school misrepresented its training programs and job placement rates in order to increase profits, and pushed students into high-interest subprime loans, leaving many students without employment and unable to repay their debt.

The complaint, filed two weeks ago in Suffolk Superior Court, alleges that since 2009, Corinthian Colleges, Inc. and Corinthian Schools, Inc., which operate Everest Institute, have misled Massachusetts students in order to increase profits for shareholders at the expense of students and taxpayers.

“We allege that this for-profit school aggressively recruited and misled students by falsely promising high quality, successful training programs, and instead left them with exorbitant student loan debt and without proper training or a well-paying career,” AG Coakley said. “Our office will continue to investigate the for-profit school industry as we continue to see students and taxpayers suffer the consequences of high default rates, inadequate training, and mounting debt.”

The complaint alleges that Corinthian, which Coakley said subsists largely on taxpayer-backed loans to students, focused intently on recruiting new students regardless of their qualifications or whether the students were likely to complete or benefit from Corinthian’s programs. She said that included using deceptive marketing and high pressure enrollment tactics, steering some students to additional private subprime loans, as well as providing poor instruction.

According to the complaint, in some classes students received little instruction of any kind. As one student noted, “My instructor did not teach us. This was basically a hangout place for people.” Another student stated, “A typical day consisted of discussing a lecture assignment: we would answer among ourselves… the instructor just sitting there in her chair doing nothing.” Although Corinthian advertised its programs as providing “high quality private education” with “professional level standards for conduct and behavior,” students reported that classes were reportedly subject to constant disruptions and teachers and administrators made no effort or failed to maintain control of the environment.

Corinthian allegedly told prospective students that a very high percentage of its Massachusetts students obtain well-paying employment in their fields of study, but the complaint alleges few students in fact obtain jobs in their fields of study.

The school allegedly told prospective students that its programs had placement rates ranging from 70 to 99 percent, when actual placement rates in certain programs were between 20 and 30 percent. Additionally, Corinthian allegedly hid that it had failed its accreditor’s standards for placement from 2008 to 2011, and allegedly counted temporary jobs lasting longer than one day as a placement, including students who assisted at a two-day health fair. One student even reported that in order to receive her diploma, she was forced to falsely fill out a form stating that she had obtained a job.

According to the complaint, Corinthian deceived students by falsely promising prospective students they were “guaranteed” jobs after graduating. Corinthian, on its Everest website, has long represented “we help our graduates find jobs after graduation.” In fact, the complaint alleges that Everest provides little or no help to students looking for jobs. One student noted “my problem was with the job placement department. Every time I called I would leave a message never to have it returned.”

Corinthian also allegedly misled students about the salaries they could expect after attending the school. One student in the medical assistant program was reportedly told the salaries of graduates start at $17 or $18 per hour, while a second “was told [that the] pay rate was $21-$22.” The actual average wage for entry-level medical assistants in Massachusetts is significantly less (approximately $14 per hour).

There were also allegations by Coakley that Corinthian engaged in harassing and deceptive enrollment tactics, which included having recruiting agents make hundreds of calls per week to prospective students, often numerous times per day. Corinthian’s recruiters allegedly made a litany of promises in order to get consumers through the door. As one student noted “[the recruiter] called me every day at any time during the day or night to tell me that car[eer] will change my life. Guess what? It didn’t! I’m working at my city grocery store.”

Another issue in the complaint was about debt incurred by students and the structure of certain subprime loans to help finance the cost of a Corinthian diploma.

Although most of the debt that students incurred attending Corinthian’s schools comprised federal loans, Corinthian also created, guaranteed, and steered students into a private subprime loan program with interest rates as high as 18 percent. According to the complaint, by January 2013, 70 percent of students who obtained these private loans in 2008 and 2009 had defaulted. The complaint alleges that Corinthian knew or should have known generally that Massachusetts students were unable to repay these loans in accordance with their terms, and that such loans were structurally unfair. The complaint alleges that Corinthian created this subprime loan program in order to satisfy the federal requirements that 10 percent of student funding come from private sources.

The complaint addresses diploma programs in dental assistant, medical administrative assistant, medical assistant, medical insurance billing and coding, and massage therapy, offered at Corinthian’s Everest Institute locations in Brighton and Chelsea. As of March 2013, Corinthian operated 97 campuses in the United States and 16 in Canada, with a total enrollment of 87,776 students.

The complaint against Corinthian seeks restitution to affected students, civil penalties and fees, along with injunctive relief to prohibit future deceptive practices.

Coakley has filed similar suits against other for-profit training centers, such as American Career Institute (ACI) and Sullivan & Cogliano Training Centers, Inc. of Brockton.


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