Congratulations, Brian Sullivan

We have been remiss for not having offered our congratulations to Chelsea native Brian Sullivan upon his recent appointment by Gov. Charlie Baker, and subsequent confirmation by the Governor’s Council, to the position of Clerk-Magistrate of the Lynn District Court.

Brian’s ascension to the clerk-magistrate’s position culminates a long career in the court system that began as a Probation Officer in the Chelsea District Court in 1986. He became an assistant clerk-magistrate in that court and then the Salem District Court before being named the Acting Clerk Magistrate of the Cambridge District Court prior to his appointment to the Lynn District Court.

Brian is a Chelsea guy through-and-through. His dad, the late Vincent Sullivan, who was the long-time Assistant Commandant of the Chelsea Soldiers Home, and his mom, Eleanor, raised their four children in the Mill Hill section of the city, where they were one of the most-respected families in Chelsea.

Brian attended St. Rose grammar school before going on to Malden Catholic and Northeastern University. He was a member of the Chelsea Knights of Columbus and was well-known as a member of the K of C’s softball team in the heyday of the Chelsea Modified Fast Pitch Softball League when that league drew huge crowds to Highland Park in the early 1980s.

Brian married the former Paula Hansbury, who also is a Chelsea native and well-known Chelsea High grad, and they have raised their family in Swampscott.

If we were writing this column in another era, it might have been titled, “Local boy makes good.” We know we speak for all of those who have been friends and acquaintances of Brian Sullivan and his family through the years in offering our congratulations to Brian upon his appointment and in wishing him continued success in his outstanding career in the Massachusetts judicial system.

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East Boston Neighborhood Health Center and South End Community Health Center Announce Intent to Merge

This week, in one of the first mergers of its kind in Massachusetts, East Boston Neighborhood Health Center (EBNHC) and South End Community Health Center (SECHC) announced their intent to merge after signing a definitive merger agreement.

Pending federal and state regulatory approvals, SECHC will become a part of EBNHC with Manny Lopes remaining as president and CEO. The merger will add SECHC’s 180-plus employees and 19,000 patients to the largest community health center in Massachusetts and one of the largest in the country. SECHC will continue to provide comprehensive health care services in the South End.

“As SECHC celebrates 50 years of service to the South End, we also look to the future. Our number one goal is to strengthen high-quality care for this community in an increasingly complex and volatile health care system that favors economies of scale,” said Bill Walczak, CEO and president of SECHC. “We have strategically considered many pathways to achieving this goal over the past several years and are delighted to have reached an agreement with EBNHC that positions community-based care to thrive.”

Manny Lopes, president and CEO of EBNHC, added, “Our organizations have shared a common mission for decades and there is a lot we can learn from one another. As health centers, it is our duty to innovate and grow in financially sustainable ways to ensure we are preserving and advancing affordable, accessible, high-quality care in communities that need it most. We believe that welcoming SECHC into our organization will benefit patients, staff, and our communities.”

Post-merger, EBNHC will support approximately 1,200 employees and more than 100,000 patients per year with an operating budget of $165 million, providing high-quality services and programs in neighborhoods on both sides of Boston Harbor.

The East Boston Neighborhood Health Center (EBNHC) has been a vital part of its community for more than 40 years, providing easily accessible, high-quality health care to all who live and work in East Boston and the surrounding communities of Chelsea, Revere, Everett, and Winthrop. EBNHC supports more than 1,000 employees and handles 300,000 visits per year – more than any other ambulatory care center in New England.

South End Community Health Center (SECHC) is a comprehensive health care organization for all residents of the South End and surrounding communities. Founded in 1969, SECHC is committed to providing the highest quality, coordinated health care that is both culturally and linguistically sensitive to every patient, regardless of race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, physical ability, and/or income. SECHC’s multi-cultural and highly trained staff of 180-plus serves more than 19,000 patients with an operating budget of $16.5 million.

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Construction Look-Ahead: May 19 – June 1, 2019

Traffic Impacts

Route 1 Northbound: Approaching the Tobin Bridge from Boston, the workzone begins in the righthand lane. 2 of 3 travel lanes will be open during daytime hours (5 a.m. –10 p.m.) and at least 1 travel lane will be open during overnight hours (10 p.m.–5 a.m.).

Route 1 Southbound: Approaching the Chelsea Curves from the North Shore, the workzone begins in the lefthand lane. 2 of 3 travel lanes will be open during daytime hours (5 a.m. –10 p.m.) and at least 1 travel lane will be open during overnight hours (10 p.m.–5 a.m.).

Ramps: All on- and off-ramps will remain open at this time.

Local Streets: The Spruce Street temporary reconfiguration will remain in place for approximately 2-3 months.

Work Hours

Most work will occur in during daytime working hours (6 a.m – 2 p.m.) on weekdays. Some work will take place during the afternoon (2pm – 7pm) and nighttime working hours (9 p.m. – 5 a.m.) and on Saturdays (6 a.m. – 2 p.m.)

There will be no work on Monday, May 27 in observance of Memorial Day.

Summary of Work Completed

In the two weeks prior to May 19, crews implemented additional lane closures to establish the median work zone, installed new drainage in Carter Street parking lot, and prepared, painted, and repaired portions of the bridge deck and joints.

Description of Work

Route 1 Northbound: Demolish and excavate grid deck concrete fill, power wash grid deck, repair bridge deck and joints, clean and weld new deflector plates.

Route 1 Southbound: Install negative pressure containment system, powerwash and excavate around support column footings, install micropiles, conduct surveys, upgrade utilities, and deconstruct the median barrier.

Local Streets: Prepare and pave new Carter Street parking lot.

Travel Tips

The North Washington Street Bridge Replacement is also underway which requires local traffic impacts. For information or to sign up for project-specific construction look-aheads like this one, visit the project website.

Drivers should take care to pay attention to all signage and police details and move carefully through the work zone. Police details, changes in lane markings, temporary controls such as barriers and traffic cones, signage, and other tools will be used throughout the project to control traffic and create safe work zones.

The contractors are coordinating with local event organizers and police to provide awareness and manage traffic impacts during events. For your awareness, during this look-ahead period, the following events are scheduled:

Stanley Cup Playoffs (TD Garden): To be scheduled

Red Sox (Fenway Park): May 19 at 1:05 p.m., May 27 at 4:05 p.m., May 28 at 7:10 p.m., May 29 at 7:10 p.m.

Boston Calling Music Festival (Harvard Athletic Complex): May 24 – May 26

BHCC Honors Class of 2019 at 45th Commencement Ceremony

On Thursday, May 23, Bunker Hill Community College (BHCC) awarded 1,754 degrees and certificates to the Class of 2019 at the 45th Commencement Exercises.

BHCC President Pam Eddinger opened the ceremony with the annual “ritual of gratitude,” where graduates thank family and friends in attendance for their support throughout their educational journey. Eddinger also reflected on the cultural wealth of the graduates and how it left a positive impact on her as College President.

“I am braver today because I have learned from your struggles and have seen your courage,” said Eddinger. “I am more hopeful, because you have shown me, in your multiple languages, your ancestral songs, and your lived experiences that while life can be harsh, it is also limitless and ever-renewing.”

Massachusetts Commissioner of Higher Education Carlos E. Santiago delivered the keynote address. In his remarks to the graduates, he encouraged the graduates to use their education to give back to their communities. “Your communities benefit from your time and talents,” he said. “As students at our community colleges, you are uniquely connected to your cities and towns. I urge you to stay connected – to hold tight to your civic compass. Let it point you to where you can make a difference.”

Santiago also received the President’s Distinguished Services Award in recognition of his extraordinary service to the community and BHCC. Santiago has served as Commissioner of Higher Education since July of 2015. Santiago has made a great impact on important issues affecting the BHCC’s students; in particular his commitment to equity in higher education is something that resonates with us at the College.

The BHCC Nurse Education Department was awarded with the Trustees Distinguished Service Award, presented by William J. Walczak, Chair of the BHCC Board of Trustees. The department was recognized for the success of its collaborative leadership, steadfast resolve and decisive actions toward a secure and thriving program, and in recognition of the increased success of their graduates on the NCLEX Examination.

For the past two years, new leadership and the full and ongoing engagement of the Nursing Education program’s faculty and staff were all critical during an intensive reaccreditation process. The program’s faculty and staff have implemented high impact student success, pedagogical and post-graduate student interventions that have achieved immediate results: most notably an NCLEX Examination pass rate of 94% for its fall 2018 graduating class. Dean of Health Sciences Maryanne Atkinson, Assistant Dean Donna Savino, Director Elizabeth Tobin and Associate Professor and Chairperson Kristen Wenger accepted the award.

Also honored at Thursday’s ceremony were faculty speaker Bryan D. Craven, Student Government Association President Joan Acosta Garcia, and President’s Leadership Award recipients Cam Do and Eva Montrond.

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Overnight Lane Closures on Woods Memorial Bridge

The Massachusetts Department of Transportation has announced overnight upcoming double lane closures on Route 16 east and westbound between Santilli Circle in Everett and Wellington Circle in Medford.

These impacts were put in place starting each evening between the hours of 9 p.m., and 5 a.m., from Sunday May 19, through Thursday, May 23, as well as from Tuesday, May 28, through Thursday, May 30.

A minimum of one lane of traffic will remain open in each direction at all times during these operations. These impacts are necessary to allow crews and contractors to safely and effectively install the bridge joint system on the Woods Memorial Bridge.

Appropriate signage and messaging will be in place to guide drivers through the work area. Those traveling through the area should expect delays, reduce speed and use caution. The schedule for this work is weather dependent and subject to change without notice.

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Ambrosino, Walsh Wary of 4 A.M. Encore Liquor License

Everett might be all-in on the 4 a.m. extending liquor license for Encore Boston Harbor, but surrounding cities like Chelsea aren’t so excited.

In comments this week, Boston Mayor Martin Walsh and Chelsea City Manager Tom Ambrosino said they weren’t in favor of Encore’s request for a limited 4 a.m. liquor license from the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC). The request is currently under review and in a public comment period. It would only apply to those actively engaged in gaming, and the last call would be 3:30 a.m. Most other liquor licenses have a 2 a.m. cutoff.

Chelsea City Manager Tom Ambrosino said he doesn’t support the idea, seeing no advantage to Chelsea in having a luxury casino open late just a few hundred yards from the Chelsea city line.

“That would have no positive benefit to the City of Chelsea, so it would not be something I would favor,” he said.

Mayor Martin Walsh agreed with those sentiments as well.

“When the Legislature wrote the bill to have casino gaming, it was a 2 a.m. liquor license, which I voted on,” said Mayor Walsh. “I think that at this point in time, we should get the casino open, and see how the 2 a.m. license works. If there is a need, if there is a desire, or if there is a concern that it hampers the business, then I think we should explore the opportunity of maybe going until 3 a.m. or 4 a.m. But right now, at opening, closing at 2 a.m. – let’s see what it looks like. You can’t say there are concerns there until it’s open. I would request we wait and then have a full vetting. Right now it needs to be opened and see how it all works with a 2 a.m. closing.”

Meanwhile, Everett Mayor Carlo DeMaria said the later closing hour is critical to the casino being an international destination, as no such 2 a.m. rules apply in other locales where Wynn Resorts operates.

“The City of Everett is committed to supporting the success of the Encore Boston Harbor Resort,” he said. “In order for it to be a destination for an international clientele, the resort needs to be able to offer these clients a cocktail during the time they play. At 2 a.m., all the bars and restaurants will be closed, and drinks will only be served to those on the casino floor by a trained and certified server. Over-serving and irresponsible behavior will not be tolerated.”

He added that State Police, Everett Police and Encore security would be on site during the late hours and transportation services would be available for guests.

Walsh said he realizes that the Springfield casino already has a 4 a.m. license, but he also added that the circumstances are different in Everett. He said there are a lot of other cities and towns in the immediate area without such licenses. He said there has to be a dialog with everyone after the first six months.

“I’m not going to assume they’ll do 4 a.m.,” he said. “I’ll ask the Gaming Commission to be respectful of the surrounding cities and towns and see how the process works and see how the casino does in its first six months. Then we’ll revisit it and have a conversation and dialog at this point.

“We filed legislation (in Boston) a few years ago to open some of the bars and clubs later,” he continued. “So, that’s why I think you need a six-month vetting. Let’s assume for a moment the Gaming Commission grants the 4 a.m. license, that puts a lot of businesses in surrounding cities and town, including Boston, at a serious disadvantage. I think let’s wait and see what the 2 a.m. does…It’s not simply opening the casino until 4 a.m. It’s about having a conversation about other cities and towns and their licenses and what would happen in their establishments.”

The MGC is expected to talk more about the 4 a.m. license application at its next meeting on May 22.

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Chelsea Ward 4 to Elect Delegates to Democratic Convention May 25

Registered Democrats in Chelsea Ward 4 will hold a Caucus on Saturday, May 25, 2019 at 9:30am at the Chelsea Public Library, 569 Broadway, Chelsea, MA to elect Delegates and Alternates to the 2019 Massachusetts State Convention.

This year’s State Convention will be held of September 14, 2019 at the MassMutual Center in Springfield, MA, where thousands of Democrats from across the State will come together to discuss Party business and celebrate our successes as we prepare for upcoming elections.

The Caucus is open to all registered and pre-registered Democrats in Ward 4. Pre-registered Democrats who will be 16 by May 11, 2019 will be allowed to participate and run as a delegate or alternate.

Youth, minorities, people with disabilities and LGBTQ individuals who are NOT elected as a delegate or alternate may apply to be add-on delegates at the Caucus or at www.massdems.org.

Those interested in getting involved with the Ward 4 Democratic Committee should contact the Ward 4 Chair, Attorney Olivia Anne Walsh or Ward Secretary Thomas J. Miller at 617-306-5501.

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In Contentious Vote, Council Votes to Allow Change to Insurance

Current and former municipal employees crowded into Monday night’s City Council meeting as the council took up a vote to allow City Manager Thomas Ambrosino to negotiate changes to the city’s group health insurance policies.

Most of those employees did not leave happily or quietly as the council voted 8-2 to grant Ambrosino that authority to negotiate the changes. Councillors Roy Avellaneda and Yamir Rodriguez voted against the order, while Councillor Calvin T. Brown was not present at the meeting.

The city’s current group health plan is governed by a three-year agreement with the Public Employee Committee (PEC) that expires on June 30 of this year.

“During the months of November through March, I did attempt to negotiate with the PEC a new multi-year agreement that would provide some cost savings to the group health plan,” Ambrosino stated in a letter to the council. “Unfortunately, I have not been able to reach agreement with the unions.”

Under Massachusetts General Laws, Ambrosino stated, in the absence of a new agreement, the old PEC agreement will remain in effect indefinitely. Without City Council action, Ambrosino said he cannot put any health care cost savings in place.

The action approved by the City Council allows the city to take advantage of recent state legislation that allows municipalities to implement cost saving plan design changes on its own if no agreement can be reached with the PEC as long as the city agrees to share a percentage of its first year cost savings with the unions.

With the newly granted authority by the council, the City Manager said he will negotiate reasonable design changes to the city’s group health policies, likely by imposing deductibles in line with deductibles paid for health insurance by state employees.

Ambrosino said even with any changes, Chelsea will always have health insurance at least as good as that provided to Massachusetts public employees.

However, a letter to the City Council submitted by the Chelsea Public Employees Committee outlined over two dozen reasons why members believe the adoption of the changes to the group health insurance should not be adopted.

“The PEC strongly believes that the adoption of Sections 21-23 is inappropriate and premature for multiple reasons: the Self-Insurance Trust Fund is running about a $2 million surplus; the PEC has agreed to apply any surplus to reduce future health insurance costs; City Manager Thomas Ambrosino wants the sickest families among City employees and retirees to pay $1 million more on an annual basis currently paid by the City; the PEC and City Manager Thomas Ambrosino agree that no changes to employee/retiree health insurance are needed until FY2022; Ambrosino has failed to bargain in good faith for a successor PEC agreement; a grievance, including an alleged unfair labor practice, are pending at this time; and Sections 21-23 will effectively disable bargaining on health insurance,” the letter summarizes.

City Council President Damali Vidot noted that her husband works for the Department of Public Works and that any changes in health insurance would directly affect her. However, she said the changes are necessary to allow Ambrosino to negotiate with city unions.

“We hire the Town Manager to negotiate with the unions, and I’m not comfortable when he does not have all the tools needed for the negotiations,” said Vidot.

Vidot she said she hopes Ambrosino can go back to the unions with the new negotiating tools and find common ground with the unions. In addition to wanting the best for city employees, Vidot said the council has a fiscal responsibility for the entire community.

The council president also said that there has been some miscommunication on the issue, especially when it comes to retirees. Vidot said changes to group health insurance plans would only affect a very few retirees who do not qualify for Medicare.

District 1 Councillor Robert Bishop said he agreed that the City Manager should have all the tools available as he negotiates with the city’s union.

As the vote took place, many in the audience shouted and voiced their displeasure, with several people stating the council should be ashamed of their vote. The meeting came to a brief halt as the crowd noisily filed out of the council meeting, with several audience members individually appealing to councillors.

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FBISpecial Agent in Charge Bonavolonta Wows the Audience at JGBC Breakfast

He had his audience totally engaged on every word, his knowledge so overwhelming, his delivery so confident and precise.

Breakfast Chair Mark Robinson, FBI Assistant Special Agent in Charge Kevin White, FBI Special Agent In Charge Joseph Bonavolonta, and Jordan Girls and Boys Club Executive Director Gina Centrella.

Joseph R. Bonavolonta, FBI special agent in charge of the Boston Field Office, was the guest speaker at the Jordan Boys and Girls Club Breakfast Series Tuesday and his remarks were so captivating that he received two other guest speaking invitations before he left the hall.

“It’s been an incredibly interestingly and enlightening morning – that was great,” said Breakfast Chair Mark Robinson at the conclusion of Bonavolonta’s remarks.

Bonavolonta took the guests on an up-close look at the vital work that the United States’ principal law enforcement agency does around the clock and how it affects people not only in this nation but around the world.

He began by illuminating “about the types of threats we’re facing in our AOR (Area of Responsibility),” which is the four-state region of Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island.

He divided the subject matter between the categories of national security threats and criminal threats.

“I’ll start with pure national security, that’s really where we’re focusing on our counter-terrorism and counter-intelligence threats, two of the absolute top threats, not only here in our area, but also nationally,” said Bonavolonta.

He said the FBI is focusing on two types of counter-terrorism, international terrorism and domestic terrorism.

“International terrorism is where you have your historical terrorism threats, really pre-and-post 911: Al Qaeda and ISIS, They still are persistent. They still are significant threats for us, but the threat landscape in terrorism has really changed every year since September 11, 2001,” he said.

Bonavolonta noted that the primary threat here is Homegrown Violent Extremists (HVE). “What I mean by that, simply, are individuals who have been self-radicalized primarily over the Internet – it could be by other means as well. They go out and commit significant acts of violence against what we would call or they call to be soft targets: schools, shopping malls, any areas where there are public gatherings where you can potentially inflict mass casualties with the lowest amount of risk or immediate interaction with law enforcement.

“It’s something that concerns us every day,” said Bonavolonta.

He said the agency has to take each threat seriously and be very quick to react. “We’ve had cases right in our own area where we’ve had individuals that have one day woken up and they’re in that radicalization process and they’ve decided that today’s the day they’re going to go out and they’re going to attack or kill members of law enforcement or other individuals.

“These are threats that have to be acted on immediately and we have to ready to mobilize and cut them off before they commit these acts of violence,” he said.

Bonavolonta defined domestic terrorism “as individuals who are associated with or inspired by US-based movements that are promoting ‘violent extremist ideologies.”

He said what makes domestic terrorism a complex issue is “the fact that a lot of what we see in that realm potentials butts right up against First Amendment freedom of speech issues.

“That’s something that we really have to be incredibly careful when we’re looking at it. It’s a very, very high threshold for us to predicate a case where we’re charging acts related to domestic terrorism.

“In a lot of cases, these issues start with individuals that are spewing certain types of speech that are protected under First Amendment activities,” Bonovalonta clarified.

During the question-and-answer session that followed, Bonavolonta was asked about FBI resources, hiring and personnel.

He said the FBI is always looking for “cyber-talented people with a true background in cyber skills.”

“And nationally we are making a significant push for much more aggressive recruitment – we are aggressively recruiting people with skills in the STEM field,” said Bonavalonta. “We are placing a specific emphasis on recruiting females into the agent cadre as well. We need to make sure that from a diversity perspective that our agent cadre, as much as it can, mirrors overall society. And just within the last three or four years, there has been a very definitive effort to proactively put on female law enforcement symposiums.”

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Engineering Success On the Court Robinson-Griggs Builds a Legacy as MIT Coach

Lucia Robinson-Griggs, who graduated from Pope John XXIII High School as one of its greatest athletes of all time, is enjoying much success in the coaching ranks.

Lucia Robinson-Griggs, MIT women’s basketball associate head coach, proudly holds the team’s NEWMAC championship trophy at the conference tournament in Springfield in the company of her proud family, from left, cousin Maureen Lee, cousin, Nickolette
Mauch, father, Leo Robinson, uncle, D. Bruce Mauch, aunt, Gail Mauch, and aunt, Arlene Robinson.

Robinson-Griggs just completed a tremendous season as the associate head coach of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) women’s basketball team. The Lady Engineers captured the NEWMAC Conference Championship for the second year in row.

MIT played St. Joseph’s of Maine in the first round of the NCAA Division 3 Tournament and lost 68-61.

Lucia’s father, Councillor-at-Large Leo Robinson, mother, REACH Executive Director Linda Alioto-Robinson, uncle, Chelsea Clock Company Vice President D. Bruce Mauch, and aunts Gail Mauch and Arlene Robinson traveled to Ithaca College to root on Lucia’s MIT contingent in the NCAA first round game.

Robinson-Griggs, who began her basketball career in the Chelsea Youth Basketball League before starring for the Pope John Tigers, was promoted to associate head coach at MIT this season. She recorded her 100th career win at MIT in November.

A rewarding experience at MIT

What is the experience like coaching at MIT, one of the most prestigious academic institutions in the world?

“Coaching at MIT is incredibly rewarding and inspiring,” said Robinson-Griggs. “The women on the team are able to balance their heavy course work, research and internships and are still able to be “all in” for basketball. They spend time being dedicated to watching film, working out in the weight room and doing their best on the court.”

Robinson-Griggs said because of the student-athletes’ rigorous academic requirements, the coaching staff has to be well prepared for the daily practices and strategy sessions.

“As a coach, our players’ schedules really force you to be prepared in order to maximize your time with the team,” said Robinson-Griggs. “We only have a two-hour window for practices, so our plans for skill development and planning for opponents needs to be all encompassing and ready to go. Knowing after graduation, the players will go on to have their pick of careers makes you feel a sense of pride and awe that they also chose to play basketball as part of their collegiate experience.”

Robinson-Griggs was previously the head coach of the Lesley University women’s basketball team, leading the Lady Lynx to two conference championships.

From college player

to college coach

Robinson-Griggs played college basketball at Bentley University, a perennial Division 2 powerhouse coached by Barbara Stevens. She received her undergraduate degree from Bentley and holds a Master’s degree in Mathematics from Lesley. She is a mathematics teacher at Revere High School where she has also coached in the football program. She is a former women’s professional football player for the Mass Militia.

Robinson-Griggs has worked at several summer basketball camps, including one directed by Brown University head coach Sarah Behn, the former BC and Foxboro High School standout.

Leo Robinson, who played basketball for Chelsea High School and Burdett College, said he was proud of his daughter’s many accomplishments in the sport of basketball. He credits her dedication and mastery of the fundamentals of the game as key factors in her success as a coach.

“Lucia is a sound coach who understands the fundamentals,” said Leo. “She is a good strategist who watches a lot of game film.”

Robinson-Griggs was the keynote speaker at the city’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration in January. The 31-year-old scholar-athlete, role model and coach delivered an inspiring address that earned her a standing ovation from the audience.

Lucia and her husband, Michael, live in Chelsea and have two children, Kaia, 4, and Kellan, 2.

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MGC still Deliberating in Encore Boston Harbor Decision

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) is still deliberating amongst its members more than two weeks after closing hearings into the Wynn Resorts/Encore Boston Harbor suitability determination.

The hearings attracted hundreds of eyes and a great deal of media as well, but since that time, not much has happened outside of closed doors.

A spokesman told the paper that deliberations continue and a very public unveiling of the decision would take place after that.

There is no timeline right now as to when that decision would be made public. That decision includes whether or not Encore keeps its casino license, who in the Wynn organization will remain a qualifier, and what new members will be deemed qualified by the MGC.

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