PHOTO: Two Methuen Firefighters Graduate State Academy

Two new firefighters are set to clock in at the Methuen Fire Department after graduating from the 50-day career recruit firefighting training program of the Massachusetts State Firefighting Academy, State Fire Marshal Peter J. Ostrosky’s office tells WHAV. Brian Wolfendale and Wayne Borden were two members of the class of 37 that represent 23 fire departments across the state. The program concluded this past Friday, Aug. 9 with a ceremony at the Department of Fire Services in Stow.

Methuen Man Dies After SUV Hits Cement Truck

An elderly Methuen man died from injuries sustained in a head-on collision with a cement truck Thursday in Bedford, police said. The 71-year-old, whose name has not been released, was behind the wheel of a 2010 Honda CRV going southbound on North Road when it crossed the double yellow line and hit a cement truck head-on. The SUV’s driver was initially taken to a local hospital with life-threatening injuries and later pronounced dead. Two juveniles in the car at the time of the accident were also transported to the hospital for treatment of non life-threatening injuries. The cement truck’s driver—who struck a utility pole as a result of the crash—declined medical treatment.

DiZoglio, Vargas Among Legislators Taking 4-Day Kayak Trip to Raise Merrimack River Awareness

A new panel—whose funding has already been secured through a budget earmark—would be created to study the health of the Merrimack River and given guidelines to govern its work under a bill the Senate passed Monday. The bill, based on legislation originally filed by Sen. Diana DiZoglio of Methuen, establishes a Merrimack River District Commission made up of state officials and members of regional and environmental groups, and an advisory panel of local officials to work with it. There are several state agencies, environmental advocacy groups, and local entities working to keep the 117-mile river clean and addressing issues related to contamination and pollutants, DiZoglio said, but there has “never really been a formalized group of experts coming together consistently for the purpose of agreeing to basic facts surrounding the health and wellness of the Merrimack River.”

“We really need everybody to come to the same table, and we really need our legislators to be at that table as well, and our local officials,” DiZoglio said. The Merrimack River flows from Franklin, N.H., into Massachusetts, through the cities of Lowell, Lawrence and Haverhill and nearby towns before emptying into the Atlantic Ocean in Newburyport. It provides drinking water to about 500,000 people in Lowell, Methuen, Andover, Tewksbury and Lawrence, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, and its watershed covers 5,010 square miles across 200 communities, with almost 2.6 million people.

Tuition Rising for Fifth Straight Year at UMass

University of Massachusetts trustees on Friday approved a 2.5 percent tuition increase for in-state undergraduate students, as members of the board cautioned of “clouds on the horizon” in enrollment and revenue trends. The vote, held about a month before the start of fall classes, was postponed this year as UMass officials waited to see how the late state budget would handle their $558 million appropriation and the tuition rates paid by nearly 50,000 undergraduates. Senate-backed language calling for a tuition freeze this fall, which the school said would lead to cuts affecting students, was dropped in favor of a new requirement that university officials meet with lawmakers to discuss financial and enrollment information. The State House News Service reports that with room, board, and mandatory fees factored in, the average increase for an in-state undergraduate student across the Amherst, Boston, Dartmouth and Lowell campuses works out to $887, for a total cost of $29,058. UMass President Marty Meehan said tuition increases at UMass have averaged three percent over the past 10 years, while state universities and community colleges have hiked their rates by an average of six percent.

$1M Lottery Ticket Sold in Methuen

A Nashua, N.H. man is $1 million richer after snagging a winning Massachusetts Lottery ticket during a trip to Methuen’s Oscar Liquors on Prospect Street, the State Lottery Commission confirms.

Jorge E. Campos Robles purchased one of the Lottery’s new $10 “100X” instant win ticket, opting to receive a one-time payment of $650,000 before taxes. The store gets a $10,000 bonus for selling the winning ticket. Three $4 million prizes and 10 additional $1 million prizes are still up for grabs in the “100X” Lottery game.

Methuen Police’s National Night Out Is Tues., Aug. 6: Here’s How to Take Part

Listen to the interview below. Merrimack Valley police departments are preparing to take part in the community policing effort known as National Night Out and Methuen’s Chief Joseph E. Solomon tells WHAV spots are still available for residents to host National Night Out block parties. On Tuesday, Aug. 6 from 6-8 p.m., members of the police department will fan out across the city. Solomon and Capt. Kevin Mahoney joined WHAV’s Win Damon Thursday to discuss the event, which has a format that differs from other communities.

Driver That Killed 7, Including Former Haverhill Man, on Drugs at Time of Crash: Report

The 23-year-old West Springfield truck driver police say killed seven motorcyclists, including a former Haverhill man, was high on drugs at the time of the fatal New Hampshire crash in June, according to a new federal report obtained by “The Boston Globe.”

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration document alleges Volodymyr Zhukovskyy tested positive for an unspecified drug in the wake of the fiery June 21 crash that left Albert “Woody” Mazza Jr. and six other bikers dead and three other people injured. The drug—said to be a narcotic or amphetamine—left him “incapable of driving safely,” the Globe said. Zhukovskyy, who has pleaded not guilty to negligent homicide, is said to also have admitted he was reaching for a drink at the time of the accident. The motorcyclists killed were part of Jarheads Motorcycle Club and were riding to a charity event at the American Legion in Gorham, N.H. at the time of their death. The club consists of active duty or honorably discharged marines and FMF Corpsmen.

Methuen Officer Allegedly Stole From Patrolman’s Union: ‘Staggering Abuse of Trust,” Says Solomon

A Methuen Police patrolman has been indicted on larceny and embezzlement charges after he allegedly embezzled and stole money from the Methuen Patrolman’s Union from 2015 to April 2019, Methuen Police Chief Joseph E. Solomon said Wednesday. Indicted by an Essex County Grand Jury Wednesday on two counts each of larceny over $1,200 by a single scheme and embezzlement from a voluntary association, 54-year-old Mark Whitaker served as the treasurer of the police patrolman’s union at the time of the alleged thefts. He was placed on paid administrative leave in April after an unrelated matter, Solomon said. According to a press release from Solomon, Mayor James P. Jajuga and Essex County District Attorney Jonathan W. Blodgett, Whittaker’s actions were discovered when other officers took over financial duties for the Patrolman’s Association. Solomon calls Whittaker’s actions an abuse of trust.