Encore Opening Procedures, Training Running Smoothly Ahead of Opening

Three weeks makes a difference.

That’s the message from Encore Boston Harbor President Bob DeSalvio when it comes to the preparations for the opening of the resort casino on June 23. DeSalvio said that hiring a majority of the workers to train for three weeks, as compared to the one-week average in the industry, will be worth every penny.

“In general we are in a very good position right now,” he said on Tuesday. “I feel like the construction, the hiring and the trainings are all coming together extremely well. Right now the number one item is about working on training and role playing on our own people in preparation for the arrival of our first guests. It was good to get the team in early and have the mass orientation on June 3. The access to the building was critical to making sure we had the necessary time to prepare.”

DeSalvio said many in the industry will bring on most employees about a week ahead of opening. Some might stretch that to two weeks. However, a three week, 20-day solid training period is unique.

“We have a full 20 days to completely fine-tine and have five-star service levels and standards,” he said. “That’s a big part of what we do. It’s an expanded preparation time, but that’s important to us…Literally having three weeks is pretty unique, but it’s worth every penny because we’ll get to thoroughly train our team members to that we can expect to deliver a flawless opening.”

Right now, workers are busy role playing, helping one another, and collaborating with helpers from the Las Vegas resorts – who are initiating the new workers from the Boston area into the company service standards.

“The next couple days we start very intensive role playing preparations with our team – we’ll eat at the restaurants and walk all of the corridors,” he said. “We plan to occupy every single guest room before guests arrive…We want to make sure we’ve got everything covered. By occupying the rooms, it gives us a chance to see everything to make sure it’s working – the air conditioners, the lighting and the TV. It’s a great way to get it done instead of waiting for guests to come in and have to bring something like that to our attention.”

That also goes for the kitchens – cooking meals for practice to make sure everything is working correctly and all of the materials are in place for when the first guests arrive.

DeSalvio said a good deal of what is happening now on the construction front is interior work and bringing in food and retail supplies.

The construction phase, he said, is done for the most part – meaning that the largest single-phase construction project in the state’s history came in on time.

“Construction is winding down,” he said. “They’re doing minor landscaping and doing some interior finish work. But for the most part, the construction has been completed.”

One of the more stunning aspects of the building, DeSalvio said, was the sunset views of the Mystic River Valley facing west. While the Boston skyline views are tremendous, DeSalvio said the views of the Mystic are special because they have never been seen before.

“One of the unique aspects of the building is the views from various angles, especially the higher up to you go – are unlike anything we’ve ever seen because there has never been a building that big in Everett,” he said. “Looking west from the tower up the Mystic River, there’s a sense of the real beauty of that area.”

Overall, DeSalvio said the team has done outstanding work on all aspects of the resort, and he said they are very much ready for their opening in less than two weeks.

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Speaker Deleo Prepares for the Future

Massachusetts House Speaker Robert DeLeo this week unveiled the details of the plan he announced last February that will provide $1.3 billion to combat the ever-increasing effects of climate change. Among the major aspects of the plan will be the awarding of grants to cities and towns across the state to encourage green energy initiatives and climate change resiliency efforts, which are particularly needed for our vulnerable coastal communities.

The grant program, called GreenWorks, would be funded by $1 billion in bonds and paid out over a decade. The program, to be run by the state Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, will allow local governments to seek grants for a variety of projects that will focus on climate change preparedness and clean energy production in order to reduce carbon emissions.

The bill also would set aside an additional $295 million in state spending for energy infrastructure, including $100 million for municipal microgrid systems to increase the resiliency of the electricity grid and $125 million for electric vehicles in municipal fleets and regional transit authorities.

There no longer is any dispute that climate change is occurring and that our coastal communities, including the City of Boston, are ill-prepared at the present time to address the twin threats of rising sea levels and more powerful storms.

Speaker DeLeo’s GreenWorks initiative represents a major step forward in protecting our vulnerable coastline, while at the same time creating jobs in the green energy and clean tech industries.

Given the urgency and pressing need to address the issue of climate change, which is occurring at an ever-accelerating pace, we urge our state senators to join with Speaker DeLeo and the Mass. House in presenting a bill for Gov. Charlie Baker’s signature by the end of this year.

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Celebrate Our Rivers in June

By: Julia Blatt, Executive Director, Massachusetts Rivers Alliance

At long last, a recent weekend presented one of those pristine days that remind us here in Massachusetts why we endure those winters. With warm spring weather finally here, many of us hit the water for the first time this year, visiting local rivers. With more than 10,000 miles of rivers traversing the state, we had many choices. Sail boats blossomed on the Charles. Rowers huffed and puffed on the Mystic. Fishing rods sprouted along the Swift. Bikers and kayakers explored the Sudbury. For many people, the beautiful day meant a chance to spend on, in and around the rivers of Massachusetts.

Fittingly, June is National Rivers Month, a 30-day gala celebrating our waterways. Whether you kayak past important Revolutionary War sites on the Concord River, hike over the Bridge of Flowers on the Deerfield, draw water for local crops from the Connecticut, or depend on drinking water from the Merrimack, National Rivers Month is a time to celebrate the gains we have made in protecting these important public recreational, economic and historic assets.

National Rivers Month, however, is also a time to reflect on what remains to be accomplished. The Massachusetts Rivers Alliance, the voice for Massachusetts rivers, is a statewide environmental advocacy non-profit that helps those whose lives are touched by these Massachusetts waterways (and we would argue, that’s all of us). Consider, for example, pending legislation regarding sewage overflows around the state. Very old stormwater and wastewater systems serving municipalities in the state have what are called “combined sewage overflow” (CSO) systems. Through these CSOs, stormwater and wastewater systems are physically interconnected. At times of high precipitation, stormwater run-off goes into the wastewater system and overwhelms the water treatment plants. To prevent these backups, wastewater – the sewage from your homes and businesses – is dumped directly into Massachusetts rivers. Approximately 200 of these CSO connections exist throughout the state. In Massachusetts, an estimated three billion gallons of raw sewage gets dumped into the state’s rivers each year. Swimmers, canoeists, and pets exposed to CSO contaminants are vulnerable to gastroenteritis, respiratory infections, eye or ear infections, skin rashes, hepatitis and other diseases. Children, the elderly, and people with suppressed immune systems are especially vulnerable. Wildlife are also adversely affected by CSO pollutants which lead to higher water temperatures, increased turbidity, toxins and reduced oxygen levels in the water.

Everyone recognizes the problem. But it takes money to fix it, more money than is now available. Over the past two decades, Massachusetts communities have spent more than $1 billion to eliminate CSOs. The federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates, however, that an additional $4.2 billion is needed to finish the job.

In addition to supporting efforts to increase state and federal funding to eliminate CSOs, Mass Rivers is championing a simple sewage notification bill now pending before the Massachusetts legislature. Disturbingly, there is currently no state requirement to notify the public about the presence of sewage in the water when these discharges occur.

The legislation supported by Mass Rivers would require the operator of a CSO to notify local boards of health, in addition to the state Department of Public Health, within two hours after a sewage spill begins. In addition, the public could sign up to receive these notifications, by text, e-mail, phone call or tweet. The state Department of Environmental Protection would be required to centralize all sewage spill data and make it available on the internet. Signage would be required at all public access points (for boating, fishing, beaches) near CSO outfalls as well.

National Rivers Month is a time to shake off those indoor blues and enjoy Massachusetts’

bounty of rivers. Whether you go to look for great blue herons, to fish for trout, to take your family and the dog on an afternoon paddling adventure, or simply to seek calm and quiet, our state’s rivers are there for you. To preserve these friends, and to ensure the safety of those who use our rivers, National Rivers Month should also be a time for towns and cities to insist that our legislators enact a requirement that when the waters are despoiled with sewage spills, we know about it.

Julia Blatt is Executive Director of the Massachusetts Rivers Alliance, the voice of Massachusetts rivers. The Alliance is a statewide organization of 77 environmental organizations in Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

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Thousands Report to Work at Encore Boston Harbor

Monday marked the biggest day to date for Encore Boston Harbor and its crew of 4,800 employees as they reported to work at the resort site for the first time, and existing employees and the executive team moved into offices at the Encore tower.

After many job fairs, interviews, discussions and trainings, approximately 4,800 active employees were brought on board at the new Encore Boston Harbor resort casino site on Monday, June 3 – the first day that work began in earnest at the $2.2 billion resort, which opens June 23.

It also marked the first day for existing workers and the executive to move out of their long-time offices at Station Landing and into offices at the resort tower.

From shuttle drivers to blackjack dealers to employee cafeteria chefs to Encore President Bob DeSalvio, most everyone with a job to do at Encore was on site Monday.

“On Monday, we were able to move into the resort,” said President Bob DeSalvio. “We now have 4,800 incredibly excited and enthusiastic employees preparing to receive our guests. This is truly a magical time in the building, as employees embark on new careers that positively impact not only their lives but also their families. I’m seeing a lot of smiling faces this week.”

Employees have been busy getting acclimated to their jobs for the past few weeks, training in massive conferences off-site in local venues and in Boston function halls. Monday marked the first day they could begin training onsite, getting their uniforms from the state-of-the-art clothing check system.

To date, Encore representatives said they have brought on 4,800 employees, but they are not yet finished.

They still have offers out to another 700 employees, and are looking to employee another 300 employees. That number includes dealers and others throughout the organization.

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New Chelsea Stadium Pegged to Be Completed by End of May

The new Chelsea Stadium is only a few weeks from being completed and put into use, school officials said this week.

The new track will be named after late teacher/track coach Bernard Berenson, who is in the state Coaches Hall of Fame.

Facilities Director Joe Cooney said the rainy weather has slowed down the surfacing of the track, but that most everything else in the long-awaited Stadium project is completed.

“We’re getting very close,” he said. “When it’s done, it’s going to look dynamite.”

The football field is completely done, he said, but the track has been tricky.

An overview of the new football field looks spectacular but getting the track down has been tricky in the recent rainy weather. The project began last summer and will be completed at the end of May.

Already there has been a base coat of asphalt put down, but the rubberized surface on the track cannot be placed down in the rain – which pretty much means it has been delayed for quite some due to the deluge that has been seen lately.

He said there are two layers of rubberized surface, and that when it is done, it will be a very fast track for the runners.

The only other things outstanding are the conduits for the lights, permanent bathrooms, and bleacher improvements.

He said they have to complete the project by early May because graduation is taking place on the new field on June 9.

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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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Alumnus Elliot Katzman moderates Salem State University’s Agganis Forum

Former Chelsea High scholar-athlete Elliot Katzman served as moderator for Salem State University’s Agganis Forum Monday night at the university’s Recital Hall.

Katzman appeared at the forum with entrepreneur and philanthropist Bill Cummings. Katzman interviewed Cummings about his successful career as the founder of Cummings Properties, Inc., that is responsible for buying, building, and managing over 10 million square feet of commercial real estate in eastern Massachusetts.

Cummings and his wife, Joy, are the founders of New Horizons not-for-profit assisted and independent living communities and the Cummings Foundation that has distributed more than $200 million in charities since 1986.

Asked about his splendid performance as moderator that drew applause from the audience, Katzman said humbly, “It was an honor to moderate the discussion with Bill Cummings. He is not only an incredibly successful entrepreneur, but an amazing individual who is making a big impact in the world.”

Katzman himself is also an incredible success story. He is a Salem State alumnus, a Salem State trustee, and general partner at Commonwealth Capital Ventures, a private venture capital firm based in Woburn that invests in early and growth stage technology companies. Prior to joining Commonwealth in 2007, Katzman was a general partner at Kodiak Venture Partners from 2002 to 2006.

Elliot and his wife, Donna (Frangiamone) Katzman, were classmates at Chelsea High. They reside in Marblehead.

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School Committee Passes Budget Without Majority

School Committee Passes Budget Without Majority

The School Committee passed a $95.4 million School Budget last week, but it was passed with less than a majority of the total number of nine committee seats.

The budget, which passed with a $1.9 million funding gap that led to the elimination of 10 teaching positions, was approved by a 4-2 vote.

School Committee members Rosemarie Carlisle and Frank DePatto voted against the budget, while board member Jeanette Velez and Chair Richard Maronski recused themselves from the vote, citing relatives who work for the School Department. Last week, Julio Hernandez resigned from the Committee and his seat has yet to be filled.

School Committee members and administrators said it has been a long struggle to present a budget that attempts to meet the needs of the Chelsea schools.

Supt. Mary Bourque and City Manager Thomas Ambrosino were among those who noted that falling enrollments in the Chelsea schools, as well as an antiquated state funding formula that underfunds urban communities such as Chelsea, were the main culprits in the budget cuts.

“I’ve spent a lot of the time with the superintendent trying to provide city support for the budget,” said Ambrosino. “The City is really trying to do its fair share.”

That included the City providing an additional $1.5 million to the schools to address budget shortfalls.

“Every new tax dollar I can raise in Fiscal Year 2020 is going to the School Department,” said the city manager.

Regardless of how the School Committee ended up voting on the budget, Ambrosino said the $95.5 million figure is the figure he would present to the City Council as the school share of the overall City Budget.

“The budget (Bourque) presented is fair and reasonable,” said Ambrosino.

Once the budget is approved, Ambrosino said attention should be turned towards advocating for change to the Chapter 70 state education funding formula on Beacon Hill.

Bourque said she agreed that the time is now to fix the state funding formula, noting that Chelsea schools will be underfunded $17 million by the state.

The other factor leading to cuts in the budget is falling enrollment, Bourque said. Between January of 2018 and January of this year, she said Chelsea schools have lost 217 students. That is part of a larger trend of falling enrollment over nearly a decade, according to the superintendent.

Carlisle voted against the proposed budget, but said the problem with the $95.4 million figure laid not with the City, but with the state.

“The problem is with the state,” said Carlisle. “They are not doing the right thing, and we have to send them a message.”

School Committee member Ana Hernandez backed the budget, but said it wasn’t a decision made lightly.

“The votes we make are very hard,” she said. “This budget is what we dread every year. We have to make a decision for the best of the entire school system.”

But for DePatto, further cuts to teaching positions was a bridge too far to support the FY ‘20 budget. He said the schools laid off seven teachers in 2017, 20 in 2018, 10 in 2019, and have projected another 10 for 2020.

“Forty seven teachers and 25 paraprofessionals,” he said. “When is it going to stop? I can’t vote for this budget (when) I don’t support these cuts.”

School Committee member Yessenia Alfaro-Alvarez voted in support of the budget, stating that it was in the best interest of the City’s students to pass the budget, and also noting that Chelsea is hamstrung by declining enrollments and inequities in the state funding formula.

•In other business, the Committee voted to forgo School Choice for the 2019-20 school year.

•The School Committee also approved a field trip to New York City for high school and middle school REACH students to participate in the Andover Bread Loaf Writing Conference in May.

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Exhibit by Chelsea Hunger Network Features Work of Community Groups City-wide

Exhibit by Chelsea Hunger Network Features Work of Community Groups City-wide

An exhibit by the Chelsea Hunger Network is now installed at Gallery 456 and will remain until the day of its community fundraising event on April 18, the 8th Annual Chelsea Empty Bowls.

Since September of 2018, 19 groups have convened over 300 “community artists” in Chelsea to paint a variety of ceramic bowls and mugs. A selection of these colorful pieces of practical art, all fired in the kilns of Salem State’s Art + Design department, are now on display in the gallery. Next to the exhibit of the decorated ceramics, a collage depicts various artists showing off their work as well as groups and individuals at work. Many photographed are widely recognized community figures including Chelsea’s City Manager, Tom Ambrosino.

Another section of the gallery displays large color posters revealing the identity of the 19 participating groups and gives additional background on the Chelsea Hunger Network. An infographic outlines the contributing factors leading to an increase in food insecurity and hunger in our community.

The 8th Annual Chelsea Empty Bowls event will take place on April 18, from 5-7 p.m. at the Williams School at 180 Walnut St. Choose one of the hundreds of bowls and mugs and serve yourself from an all-you-can-eat menu of delicious clam chowder, chili, soups, and Toscanini’s ice cream. Tickets are $20 ($25 at the door) and can be purchased online at www.eventbrite.com under “Chelsea Empty Bowls”. Children under 8 years old are free.

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