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In the news: Deval Patrick

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Clerks report strong demand for absentee ballots

ASSOCIATED PRESS
Clerks report strong demand for absentee ballots

SPRINGFIELD — City and town clerks in Massachusetts are reporting a surge in applications for absentee ballots for the November election.

They say it reflects intense interest in the presidential election and foreshadows a high turnout on Election Day.

Agawam clerk Richard Theroux is predicting a 20 percent increase over the approximately 1,000 absentee ballots that were cast by residents of the city in 2004.

Theroux told the Republican newspaper of Springfield that many of the requests are coming from college students who seem to be excited about voting in a national election for the first time.

Secretary of State William Galvin said tens of thousands of people statewide have applied for absentee ballots. Galvin said the ballots are being printed and will be sent to clerks’ offices soon.

Mass., CSX strike rail deal

Massachusetts will pay $100 million to buy train tracks from a private company in order to expand commuter rail service west and south of Boston.

The deal announced last Thursday between the state and CSX Transportation could take four years to fully complete and still faces hurdles.

The most immediate change will be extending five weekday commuter trains from Boston to Worcester as of Oct. 27.

The plan calls for the state to purchase the New Bedford-Fall River line from CSXT to make it easier to extend commuter rail service there.

Bridges also would be raised and tracks lowered to fit double-stack freight trains.

Lt. Gov. Timothy Murray says the deal is “significant” because it will strengthen links between Boston and Worcester and benefit the economy.

Mass. hospital to analyze Virgin Mary window image

SPRINGFIELD — Officials at a Roman Catholic hospital in Springfield have ordered an independent analysis of a window that some believe shows an image of the Virgin Mary.

Hundreds of people, some weeping, have come to the Mercy Medical Center to view and photograph the window since the image was first noticed in a vacant, second-story office Tuesday.

In a statement, Mercy said an engineer with expertise in the structure and properties of glass will visit the hospital tomorrow to analyze the physical status of the glass. A restoration professional who has worked with churches has also been called in.

The hospital, which is run by the Sisters of Providence Health System, says the crush of visitors has caused traffic and parking problems for patients and employees. People only wishing to see the window have been asked to park at a nearby church.

Mass.-based Bentley now a university

WALTHAM — Bentley College is becoming Bentley University.

The state Board of Higher Education approved the new designation for the Waltham-based independent college at its meeting last Thursday. The board said Bentley has been approved to offer doctoral degrees in accounting and business since 2005, and has “systematically increased its program offerings and faculty expertise and research capability.”

Bentley’s president, Gloria Cordes Larson, said it “has become the model of a 21st century business university” whose mission is to develop the next generation of global business leaders.

She said recent events in the financial markets “have provided a compelling lesson in how important such leadership is now and in the future.”

Boston news fixture to step down

Liz Walker, a fixture on Boston’s airwaves for nearly three decades, is leaving station WBZ.

Walker’s departure at the end of the year was confirmed last Wednesday by a spokeswoman for Channel 4. No reason was given for the departure and Walker was unavailable for comment.

Walker, an ordained minister, joined WBZ in 1980 as weeknight news anchor.

She took over the noon news in 2000, and in 2005 she started producing and hosting a weekly program called “Sunday with Liz Walker.”

National Grid to build 4 solar facilities in Mass.

National Grid is planning to install solar power facilities at four sites near Boston.

The utility announced last Thursday that it’s presenting its proposal to state regulators under the state’s Green Communities Act. The act allows utilities to develop and own up to 50 megawatts of solar generating facilities by 2010.

The solar panels will be installed at National Grid sites in Revere, Everett, Haverhill and the Dorchester section of Boston at a total cost of $38 million. The facilities combined are expected to generate four megawatts.

The company said it would also be working to find Massachusetts customers who will allow them to install solar power equipment on their buildings or property.

New England Aquarium breaks ground on expansion

The New England Aquarium will undergo a $10 million renovation that includes an overhaul of the waterfront side of the facility with a marine mammal center as its centerpiece.

The project is expected to take 10 months to complete with a grand opening planned for next summer, the aquarium’s 40th anniversary.

The exhibit will feature a 64,000-gallon tank as well as shallow pools and decks where visitors will be able to meet animals face to face.

The project also includes reconstruction of the entire harbor-side plaza, including an elevated and resurfaced Harborwalk.

Aquarium President Bud Ris calls the project an “exciting” step for one of the region’s most popular tourist attractions.

Patrick appoints 4 to higher education board

Gov. Deval Patrick has appointed four new members to the state Board of Higher Education.

Patrick said the four bring a variety and depth of experience to the board and understand that higher education is key to preparing students to succeed in a global economy.

The four include Ware Public Superintendent Mary Elizabeth Beach and Mario Borunda, dean of the School of Education at Lesley University.

Also named was Charles Desmond, executive vice president of the Trefler Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to improving educational opportunity for Boston’s youth.

The fourth new member is Wilbraham resident Kathryn Quigley, a senior at Westfield State College who will serve as the Board’s student member.

(Associated Press)