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Massachusetts State Police, prison officers brace for vaccine mandate showdown

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Massachusetts State Police, prison officers brace for vaccine mandate showdown

The law enforcement crisis over the state’s Oct. 17 vaccine mandate is escalating with the National Guard on standby to help the DOC and State Police brass playing hardball over the jabs, multiple memos obtained by the Herald state.

 

Included in those memos is one from the Massachusetts Correction Officers Federated Union warning of “modified lockdowns,” suspending time off, and using Guard members to staff the prison system’s headquarters if too many jail officers are fired for not getting vaxxed.

Corrections officials at the Milford HQ would then “go back behind the walls,” the memo adds.

“Unless we win a long shot case in court, the State is resigned itself to fire you,” that letter states. “We will continue to inform our members but this is where we are now.”

State Police, in an agency bulletin, tell “sworn members of the department” to fill out a self-attestation form as they enter the “PayStation” to record their hours. The form asks if the employee received the two-shot Moderna or Pfizer mRNA vaccines or the one-dose J&J jab.

But that request, the memo notes, adds they “may” also be asked to get a booster shot if the CDC advises Americans to do so in the future.

Some in the State Police and Department of Correction are objecting to Gov. Charlie Baker’s mandate forcing all Executive Branch workers to be vaccinated or face being fired. Baker instituted the vaccine mandate for all Executive Branch employees Aug. 19. The order only granted exemptions for those who have medical or religious grounds to reject the vaccine.

The exemption, the Herald has been told, is also being tightened as the MSP and DOC confront the looming deadline.

“We were all heroes in 2020 for working during the pandemic, now we could all get fired,” a DOC officer told the Herald, adding he is not going to get the vaccination. He also said the DOC is advertising on social media for retired correction officers to come back for a few shifts.

“This is tyranny,” he added.

Terry MacCormack, Baker’s press secretary, said it’s all systems go.

“The Baker-Polito Administration is encouraged by the response to date by Executive Department employees completing the vaccination verification process ahead of the October 17 deadline and will continue to work with employees to address questions and requests for exemptions,” he said in a statement sent to the Herald Thursday night.

MacCormack added: “The Administration is still in the process of gathering information from employees, but agencies are seeing significant progress toward the vaccination goal.”

Another memo says the state has received “over 33,000” self-attestation forms have been recorded since the administration started asking for them Sept. 17.

That memo adds HR has “scheduled a series of mobile vaccine clinics across the commonwealth which will offer the J&J vaccine.”

As for troopers, a source told the Herald more than 300 troopers, sergeants, lieutenants, detective lieutenants, captains and staff are pushing back at the mandate and have formed a working group. And, as the Herald first reported, they have hired a Boston law firm.

All signs point to some type of showdown next week or right up to the vax mandate deadline.

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Stillwater residents upset with towing company’s plan to remove 97 trees

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Stillwater residents upset with towing company’s plan to remove 97 trees

When a Stillwater towing company announced earlier this year that it planned to cut down 181 trees at a proposed new location, residents of the Forest Hills neighborhood cried foul.

But Stillwater Towing officials announced Friday that they were changing their plans at 1749 Greeley St. in light of the neighbors’ concerns. Under the new proposal, 97 trees would be removed from the 5 acres of land, which is zoned business park/industrial, to build a new impound lot.

The tree removal is necessary to create a relatively flat surface for vehicle storage, according to the company’s variance application.

Under city code, Stillwater Towing can remove up to 35 percent of the 265 significant trees on the site — 93 trees in all — without replacing them, city planner Abbi Wittman said.

Stillwater Towing hopes to avoid removing the other four trees, but is prepared to replace them if necessary, Cameron Kelly, the company’s attorney, said. If they can keep those trees, they won’t have to obtain a variance to the city’s tree-replacement requirements.

“The goal is to take as few trees as possible,” Kelly said.

Gloria Hatchel was shocked when she heard that 181 of the trees on the other side of her backyard might be cut down. Hatchel, who lives on Rainbow Court, said the wooded area and nearby wetlands are a habitat for wildlife and birds, including foxes, coyotes, deer, turkeys and cardinals.

Although the company’s proposal has changed, she said Friday that she still objects.

“I don’t want them to even touch the property,” she said. “It’s a sanctuary back there with all these trees and the pond. It’s beautiful, and they want to build a parking lot in the middle of it.”

Stillwater Towing, she said, should look elsewhere.

But Stillwater Towing officials say the company, founded in 1975, must be in a central location in the city to handle its calls. The company employs 25 full-time and five part-time employees.

Owner Rick Ritzer, who took over the family business from his father in 1980, began looking to expand 15 years ago, Kelly said. “They were starting to outgrow their lot, but they wanted to stay in the area,” he said. “It’s centrally located, which is key for their business.”

The new location is the former site of Croix Oil and Olson Transport, Kelly said. “This lot has handled commercial trucks since 1940,” he said. “It’s a much safer location from a traffic perspective, proximity to stoplights, etc.”

Washington County owns a strip of land between Stillwater Towing’s property and the neighbors, Kelly said, and there is about 300 feet of land between the back of the proposed impound lot and the nearest house. The land “is pretty heavily wooded, and it’s down a large slope,” he said. “The impound lot is higher. It’s a long way away, and the houses are a lot lower.”

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Gophers flip Wisconsin offensive lineman from North Dakota State commitment

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Gophers flip Wisconsin offensive lineman from North Dakota State commitment

The Gophers football program picked up a commitment Sunday from Ashton Beers, an offensive lineman from Slinger, Wis.

Beers, who is listed at 6-foot-6 and 296 pounds, flipped his pledge from North Dakota State. The three-star recruit had offers from Central Michigan, Buffalo, Toledo and others.

“I would like to thank (coaches and staff) for giving me the opportunity to play at NDSU,” Beers tweeted. “However, after being offered a scholarship, I have decided to commit to The University of Minnesota.”

Beers is the 16th commitment in the U’s class for 2022 and the first from the state of Wisconsin. Beers was named second-team all-state by the Associated Press and was on the Wisconsin Football Coaches Association’s large-school all-state team.

The NCAA early-signing period opens Dec. 15.

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After nearly two months, still no sign of missing Hillsdale man

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After nearly two months, still no sign of missing Hillsdale man

HILLSDALE, Mo. – The last time Shemika McGee saw her son, Jarius McGee, was in early September in Hillsdale.

After nearly two months, Jarius is still missing, and Shemika hasn’t heard anything from him.

“I think that he got a phone call, and with the phone call, it just led to something else which led to him missing and I just want him back at home,” she said.

McGee said her son would come and go like many young adults and wasn’t in any trouble that she knew of.

When he left, she said he didn’t have the usual things he would carry like his wallet or headphones.

“We really don’t have anything to go off other than the fact that he’s missing,” McGee said.

Hillsdale Chief of Police John Bernsen said an investigation is ongoing and the department is waiting on Jarius’ phone records.

“Every time we try to chase down a lead it’s always a dead end so that’s why we’re trying to put out the word out so much. We know somebody has seen him. Somebody knows something,” Chief Bernsen said.

Looking for an Angel President Theda Person heard about Jarius missing through social media. Now her non-profit organization has joined the search.

“I’ve created a flyer I’ve contacted Missouri State Highway Patrol to make sure that a flyer was created because law enforcement didn’t really do that,” Person said.

Person believes more can be done in the search is prepared to help McGee as needed.

“1f we say that we care about those that we are serving then we should be more intentional,” she said.

She said with McGee missing this long, he could be anywhere. When asked if he were another race would there be a more thorough investigation, Person thinks so.

“Definitely we can see with the Gabby Petito case and other cases,” Person said.

McGee just wants to know where her son is.

“I mean anything that you can think of goes through my mind,” she said. “Where’s he at, who could he be with? There’s a lot of things going through my mind.”

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