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Gov. Baker Visits Berkshire Veterans And Business Leaders

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Jim Levulis
/
WAMC

Governor Charlie Baker and members of his administration made their first trip to the Berkshires as office holders Saturday.Governor Baker and the state’s new Secretary of Veterans Services Francisco Urena toured Soldier On’s community housing units and spoke with area veterans. Urena, a 34-year-old Purple Heart recipient who spent eight years in the Marine Corps, says the organizations’ model needs to be replicated to end veterans’ homelessness.

“We’re standing in the emergency shelter room where we’re surrounded by cots, blankets and pillows,” Urena described. “To go from these 20 beds that are in this room to a home ownership model, I think that is the exact transition that we need.”  

Soldier On reaches 3,500 homeless and at-risk veterans and their families in New York, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Mississippi.

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Speaking with business leaders at the Berkshire Museum, the Republican addressed rising energy costs.

Baker says Massachusetts businesses are struggling with rising energy and electricity costs which according to the Republican will increase 30 percent this month. He added the state should have expanded its existing pipeline capacity four years ago, but isn’t backing Kinder Morgan’s current Northeast pipeline proposal.

“At this point in time I don’t support it,” Baker said. “But I think we do need to do something to expand our capacity, but I think we should do that along the existing routes.”

Kinder Morgan’s proposed pipeline would run through Pennsylvania, New York, Massachusetts and New Hampshire and requires federal approval.

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Governor Baker also visited North Adams Saturday. It’s an area that suffered the sudden closure of North Adams Regional Hospital in March.

Some 500 people lost their jobs after North Adams Regional Hospital closed in March with just three days notice. Berkshire Medical Center has since purchased the site where it operates a 24-hour satellite emergency facility. Governor Baker says he expects his public health commissioner to spend time making sure BMC has the support it needs to keep that facility open.

“My main concern about that whole issue from the beginning was the fact that state government seemed to be so surprised about the closure of North Adams [Regional] Hospital in the first place and the fact that nobody had really figured out what the ‘Plan B’ was,” said Baker.

Community members and the Massachusetts Nurses Association have called for the restoration of a full-service hospital.

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During his "Spotlight on Excellence" tour, Governor Baker said Massachusetts needs to identify, celebrate and replicate successes. Having worked on establishing MASS MoCA during the 1990s as the state’s secretary of administration and finance, Baker says the North Adams museum is one of those successes.

“It was well worth the investment that the commonwealth made in it,” Baker said. “I think the big issue going forward is we need to be able to demonstrate to people, and this is something people will only be able to tell over time, that when we say we’re interested in good ideas, good projects and what works from one end of Massachusetts to the other we mean it.”

Jim is WAMC’s Associate News Director and hosts WAMC's flagship news programs: Midday Magazine, Northeast Report and Northeast Report Late Edition. Email: jlevulis@wamc.org
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