Saturday, February 28, 2009

Shaw on police "drama"

On this morning's Saturday Morning Live on WCAP, Warren Shaw and Shawn Ashe discussed the recent problems plaguing the Dracut Police Department. Shaw said that problems between the Police union and management has been going on for years and its certainly nothing new. He said he dealt with similar problems when he was on the Board of Selectmen, going as far back as 1978.

He thinks that a police force in a town like Dracut should not have all this "drama" when the issues the force faces pale in comparison to Lowell and Boston.

He says the Board of Selectmen are pretty upset that this has been leaked into the public and wants to get to the bottom of this now and end it.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Warren on Gas Tax

In his weekly column for the Valley Dispatch, Warren Shaw takes a look at what a 19 cents increase in the state's gas tax may mean for the Merrimack Valley:

It's Gov. Deval Patrick's 2009 stimulus package ... for southern New Hampshire.

Here's how it works.

Massachusetts residents would be taxed an additional 19 cents per gallon for gasoline. The proposed 19 cents per gallon brings our state's total tax on gas to 42.5 cents per gallon, which is the highest in the nation. Ad that number to the 18.4-cent federal tax and we will be giving the government almost 61 cents per gallon.

Still think it's the oil companies that are doing the gouging?

The math looks pretty simple in this one. Let's say the average Dracut family uses 25 gallons a week. Gov. Patrick's tax will cost you just about $5 a week, much more if you travel any distance to work.

This is just the niche tax-free New Hampshire advocates have been waiting for. Cigarettes, beer, liquor for less, no sales tax on big-ticket items and now, get two gallons free with every fill-up in tax-free New Hampshire.

So let's follow the impact of this tax on both sides of the border.

New Hampshire gasoline stations are likely to experience a huge increase in volume and, more than likely, new stations will pop up along the state line providing property tax growth.
Owners of these stations will make more money and likely increase the pay of employees.

New full- and part-time employment opportunities will follow. Facilities will be well-maintained. Their success will show in how they maintain their facilities.

Now back here in Massachusetts, the gas station owners see a much different impact from Gov. Patrick's gas tax.

Volume drops off dramatically, especially within five miles of the New Hampshire border and the entire Merrimack Valley. One in three stations close, causing a loss in local tax revenue; the others have a hard time making it and spend little on maintenance and upkeep. Their employees get no increase or benefits. They try to make it like everyone else by selling lottery tickets.

Out of frustration, Massachusetts creates a border patrol to prevent its residents from returning home with gasoline purchased in New Hampshire. Border patrol unionizes and demands higher wages and more benefits.

Now, I've always been a fan of Gov. Patrick. Smart guy. So maybe this thing isn't for real. Maybe he's just floating this gas-tax nonsense to force the issue of Transportation Department costs on the Legislature, or maybe he really does want the toll booths on Interstate 93.

Whatever the motivation, Patrick has to know that New Hampshire is watching. These folks have brilliantly used our tax policies against us in an economic border war for years.

They win every time -- because we make it easy for them.

Hot Race

Looks like there is going to be a hot race...for Library Trustee. Cheryl Storm of Gunther Court took out papers for the position today meaning so far we have a three person race.

That is the only update.

Mike Miles event

Shawn has a reminder up about tonight's fundraiser for the Memorial Fund, sponsored by School Committee member Mike Miles. See the details here.

What is the over/under on Nancy Gagnon showing up???

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Selectmen want answers

The Board of Selectmen want to know what the heck is going on at Dracut Police Headquarters. Is morale as bad as the troops are saying? Is management bullying/intimidating the rank and file? Is this a few people, a lot, all 36 cops???

Selectman James O'Loughlin told the Lowell Sun:

"How many people are we talking about here? If it's only a handful, I think we can work with those people, get some kind of mediation to settle the differences. If it's more than 15 or 20 people, I think it calls for some sort of independent investigation. It comes down to sheer numbers."

Stay tuned.

Election 2009 Update

Here are the names of people who have taken out papers for the May election (* means they have returned the papers):

Euegnia Balkas
Gary McCarthy

Brian Bond *
Joe DiRocco
Ted Kosiavelon

School Committee:
Bonita Elie
Paul Elmstrom
Nancy Gagnon
Ron Mercier *
Paul Nutt (has dropped out)

School Committee (completing Mary Gail Martin's term)
Paul Elmstrom
Ken Martin
Michael McNamara *
Paul Nutt

Library Trustee
John Dyer
Mary Lee Matthews

Housing Authority
Robert Audet *
Ken Cunha

Regional Vocational School Committee
DJ Deeb
David Norkiewicz
Robert Reinhart

Regional Vocational School Committee (completing Brian Martin's term)
Joseph Dunn
Kieran Lennon
Paul Morin
David Norkiewicz
Victor Olson

Dracut Water Commissioner
William Zielinski *

Dracut Water Moderator
Donna Yackel

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Quiet Selectmen Meeting

I attended the Board of Selectmen meeting tonight but I could have just stayed home! There was very little discussed with the bulk of the meeting devoted to whether or not Meadow Creek Golf Club could serve alcohol on the course. The request for the license was tabled until the selectmen can be assured that this may not cause any major problems with the neighbors and lead to an increase in "drinking and driving." The representative from the golf course did have a humorous answer to the latter concern. He said that golf does require some coordination and said the golfers would not get drunk, they know they need to be sober.

Selectman Bob Cox seemed to really want the license to be granted but the other three (Jim O'Loughlin was absent) were not convinced without additional information. The request will be taken up again at the next meeting.

Not inside politics, but...

When Dr. Michael McNamara was named to the Dracut School Committee a few weeks ago, the Board of Selectmen and the School Committee praised his credentials and his educational experience. McNamara was a principal in Dracut and Salem and has his doctorate in Education so he certainly knows his stuff.

Now, I don't know a whole lot about Victor Olson, the man who replaced Brian Martin on the Greater Lowell Tech School Board, but I do know that he serves on the Conservation Commission and he ran for Water Commissioner last year. Thus, he is presumably well known by the political establishment and I assume he asked for votes like most candidates do.

I don't fault Olson for applying and for asking for votes (if he did, I am just assuming). But, from the outside looking in, one has to be concerned that a political insider was chosen over two teachers: Paul Morin and David Norkiewicz. Norkiewicz actually works for a technical school, Shawsheen in Billerica! As a teacher myself, I feel that it helps to have teachers on school boards. We can bring a different perspective to things.

Now, I didn't see the resumes and I don't know a whole lot about any of the candidates. And I am NOT accusing anyone of backroom deals or insider politics. What I am saying is that once again, a political insider got a job over "regular folks." Maybe Olson was the best man for the job, I could be wrong but I've followed politics and government long enough to know politics and government.

Greater Lowell Tech Fireworks

Last night was an interesting night for politics in Dracut. Shawn Ashe has a comprehensive rundown (with audio) of the meeting to replace Brian Martin.

Dracut's Greater Lowell Technical School Board member DJ Deeb said that he did not have enough time to consider the five applicants and felt that the boards were rushing to make an appointment that would last 2 1/2 months. Thus, he voted present on every vote.

Selctman James O'Loughlin shot back and while doing so, took aim at Selectman John Zimini for implying the town's boards were engaged in backroom politics. He said:

We’re probably going to discuss this longer than the person will serve in the position.

What concerns me mostly Mr Chairman is the disingenuousness nature of some of the comments tonite and some of the comments and letters in the paper unfortunately by my own colleague.

I don’t buy into any of it quite frankly, and to use the words that were used by another speaker tonite that this is a tainted process ..

I don’t like the words, I don’t like the insinuation that I’m taking part in a “tainted process,” You can use these little buzzwords if you want, but quite frankly between my colleague who wanted to refer to “back room politics” and “power politics” and now tonite I have to listen to a speaker talk about a “tainted process” and not having time to read four sheets of paper.. I don’t know how much effort was put into going to town hall to pick this up earlier.. if someone needed more time to do it, it might have been available, I don’t know those answers.

But I don’t like the insinuations and I don’t like people coming to meetings and throwing the words “tainted” around and casting aspersions that our Town Clerk was incorrect in some of her readings of the law.

Its all nonsense quite frankly.

Its absolute nonsense.

We’re being asked to fill an appointment for a board following the dictates of the Town Clerk who runs the elections in this town.. following the dictates of the Secretary of State’s office..

These are the people who are either elected or in the Secretary of States office or are appointed in the Town Clerks position to give me opinions, not someone from the sidelines without a juris doctorate telling me what the difference between “shall” and “will” is.

I’m sorry, I’m going to listen to people in the position of authority to tell me about that.

So, without any more comment, because if I keep going I’m probably going to get a little more upset, because I think there’s a charade going on.

In one case, with my colleague, its fine that people sometimes don’t get their own way pick up their ball and go home. That’s ok.. thats ok.

But I think in Mr Zimini’s position he not only picked up the ball and went home but he took the ball and threw it through someone’s plate glass window.I think he brought that to a whole new level.

So it aggravates me a little that I’m sitting here again tonite, and we’re going through the same sort of charade, same sort of mascarade.. in using little words like that.

I’m certainly prepared, I have a list in front of me .. any one of these people.. Mr Olsen, who’s education certainly prepares him to fill that position, Bill Morin who has experience with governmental bodies, Paul Morin whos education and experience in that school rises him to that level, Jeanne Balkas whose experience on this board and whos educational experience .. and Dave Norkiewicz who’s employed by a regional school..

Any one of these people, and I don’t need a lot of time to look at their resumes, it just took me 30 seconds to see that any one of these people is very capable of going to that school and representing the town of Dracut

Without further adieu, I’m ready to vote for any one of them.

In the end, Victor Olsen got the job.

Monday, February 23, 2009

No Executive Session Minutes

At tonight's School Committee meeting, Chair Ron Mercier asked if Executive Session minutes could be released. Attorney Ed Morris said he needs to review them still and should have them ready by the next meeting. He agreed that any sessions having to do with settled contract negotiations should be released.

I will keep you posted.

Budget fireworks

I attended tonight's School Committee meeting which focused on the projected FY 2010 budget. Dr. Spencer Mullin gave a pretty detailed run down of the highlights of the budget as well and the challenges.

Mullin stressed that the budget is a "working document" and is a best case scenario given the financial constraints of the country. The total budget is roughly $29 million which is a 1.5% increase over FY 2009 ($435,000 increase). Of that amount, about $23 million will go to salaries and $6 million will go to the operating budget.

Although he didn't mention him by name, Mullin took exception to Town Manager Dennis Piendak saying that the schools have hired 53 people during the fiscal year. This number was reported at the budget working meeting with the Board of Selectmen a few weeks ago and was published on this blog, the Sun, and Dracut Forum. Mullin said that people were only hired if they were needed (i.e. retirements, maternity leaves, etc). Mullin did say that the schools have created 4.8 new positions but they all generate or save revenue in some way (grant writer for example).

Mullin also said that Dracut's teachers are very underpaid when compared to other Merrimack Valley schools and so the recent salary increase was more to keep the district competitive. At that point, School Committee member Mike Miles said, "Thank you for pointing that out Dr. Mullin." This seemed to be a shot at Nancy Gagnon who voted against the new teacher's contract because of the raise.

The end result - no layoffs (for now) and no reduction in services (for now). Everything is fairly level from last year with nothing new really added - except for raises. The budget still needs to be rehashed and will be voted on at the April 23 meeting.

Breaking News: Nutt is out

Shawn Ashe is reporting that Paul Nutt has decided not to run for School Committee. See his story here.

Meetings this week

Monday, February 23
Joint Meeting of School Committee/Selectmen/DJ Deeb to fill Brian Martin's seat: 5:30pm, Dracut High School Library
Affordable Housing Partnership: 5:30pm, Historical Society
Capital Planning Committee: 6:00pm, Harmony Hall
Housing Authority: 7:00pm, 65 Phineas Street
School Committee: 7:00pm, Dracut High School Library

Tuesday, February 24
Board of Selectman: 7:00pm, Dracut Library

Wednesday, February 25
Planning Board: 7:00pm, Harmony Hall

O'Loughlin on CPA

The Lowell Sun has a story today on the role and the impact of the Community Preservation Act (CPA). The CPA allows cities and towns to add a surcharge of up to 3% to tax bills to help preserve open space, affordable housing, and recreation spots.

In Dracut, we pay 2% for the CPA tax and according to the article, there is currently $6 million in the fund. The CPA has helped pay for a number of projects but Selectman James O'Loughlin wonders if it is time to eliminate the tax. He told the Sun:

Any time you're taxing people over and above what they usually pay, it might be a good idea to at least take a look at it and ask if it's accomplishing what it was intended to accomplish. If it's a good program, keep it. If not, get rid of it.

He went on to say that the CPA is now being used for recreation and not other types of projects.

Selectman Bob Cox disagrees saying the CPA has helped preserve the town's "rural character."

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Martin wastes no time

Brian Martin is a man on a mission:

From The Column:

BRIAN MARTIN is wasting no time making his presence felt in his new hometown of Tyngsboro.

Martin, who on Feb. 12 stepped down from his position as Dracut's representative on the Greater Lowell Technical High School Committee, immediately pulled nomination papers as Tyngsboro's representative on that same board.

But what about current Tyngsboro committee member Herb Desrosiers?

"Brian told me he was planning on running for my seat, and I said it was OK because I wasn't planning on running for re-election," said Desrosiers, who is planning a run for Tyngsboro School Committee. "Brian was very courteous. He didn't strong-arm me at all. Nothing like that."

Martin is the husband of former Dracut School Committee member Mary Gail Martin and the brother of Lowell City Councilor and former mayor Bill Martin. The Dracut Board of Selectmen will meet with the Dracut School Committee and Dennis "D.J." Deeb, Dracut's other representative on the GLTHS board, tomorrow night to appoint a replacement for Martin.

War at the DPD

Things are getting ugly at the Dracut Police Department as the police union released a scathing report on management. The Lowell Sun has the story here (top story, above the fold in the paper) but the main bones of contention are:

* Management tried to buy back compensatory time at a rate lower than the negotiated collective bargaining agreement.
* Management refused to recognize John Cotnoir as union president.
* Cotnoir was denied time off after the birth of his daughter in 2008.
* Sgt. Jonathan Seamans was denied the use of his accumulated sick time.
* Several times, Chartrand allegedly became confrontational with Cotnoir.
* Cotnoir said that on Dec. 11, 2006, Richardson called him, "sounded intoxicated," became "increasingly hostile" and threatened to physically assault a member of the force.

What's worse: Police Union vs. Management or Mikes Miles vs. Nancy Gagnon?

Things are heating up in Dracut and it's still February!

Donna Yackel

Shawn Ashe and I had our second Sunday Night chat with candidates for office in this May's election. Tonight Donna Yackel, the Moderator of the Dracut Water Supply District was with us.

As of now Donna is running unopposed but she said she enjoys her role with the Water Supply and feels the district is "running in the right direction." She has held her position since 2001 but Donna is or has been involved in a ton of things around town: Old Home Day, Dracut Scholarship Foundation, PTO's, etc.

Being plugged into the town's politics, she had some insights on the other races going on in town and on the Zimini/Gagnon/Miles saga. You can read the replay below.

Be sure to join us next Sunday at 6pm!

Sunday Night Live with Donna Yackel

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Grimard makes his choice

The Lowell Sun is reporting that Dracut High quarterback Matt Grimard, the 2008 Massachusetts football player of the year, will be going to Saint Anselm College to play college ball. There he will be reunited with former Dracut High coach Pat Murphy.

Now your humble blogger is a 1998 graduate of the hilltop college so on one hand I am happy he is going to my alma mater. The football team is one of the worst in college football with 2 straight winless seasons prior to last year's 2-8 performance. So, they could use some help.

But, one has to wonder why Grimard is not going to a better, more established program (the football program at Saint Anselm began in 1999 after a 58 year hiatus). Granted, Grimard came out of no where the past year or two so he is somewhat unknown but why Saint Anselm??

Nonetheless, best of luck Matt...bring some sweet success to those Hawks!


Brian Bond and Joe DiRocco have fundraisers planned for the coming weeks in their campaign for the Board of Selectmen.

DiRocco's will be tomorrow, February 22 from 2-5 at Coyle's (which is owned by Selectman Bob Cox) whereas Bond's is Saturday, March 14 from 7-9 at Lenzi's (which is owned by Lowell City Councilor Mike Lenzi).

I will be starting a campaign 2009 calendar of events off to the right which will include fundraisers, campaign events, debates, etc. Again, anyone is free to e-mail me information at

Now Zimini...

Big day for Dracut on Warren's show as Selectman John Zimini called in to defend himself. He didn't really say anything new other than that he has respect for Mike McNamara, he just had a problem with the process. "We should have let the people elect [sic] not the establishment." He characterized his absence from the now infamous meeting as a form of protest.

He did say that Mike Miles appears to have an anger management problem and needs to deal with his problems. He was shocked that he "threw Nancy Gagnon under the bus" as Zimini feels she is the "most knowledgeable person on the board."

I have a feeling that Miles would give his left arm if he could take back his statement that Gagnon "does a very poor job." That statement will come back to haunt him.

Miles: "Gagnon does a very poor job"

School Committee member Mike Miles called into Warren's show after Bob Cox to add his two cents and made some big news.

He said he stood by his comment in the Lowell Sun that John Zimini did not show up at the meeting to appoint a new School Committee member because of "sour grapes." He went further and said it was "childish" of Zimini and School Committee member Nancy Gagnon not to show up for the meeting. Miles said they get paid by the town and need to do what is right by the town.

Miles got even more heated when he said he said twice that Gagnon made a "very poor decision" by not showing up and he said she "does a very poor job" on the committee.

WOW! That is pretty heavy stuff for a sitting committee member to say about a colleague. Those two must not like each other.

Cox on Zimini

Selectmen Bob Cox called into Warren Shaw's show this morning to talk about the process that led to the appointment of Michael McNamara to the School Committee. The issue is still whether or not there was any "backroom politics" involved in his appointment as implied by Selectman John Zimini in a recent letter to the editor in the Lowell Sun.

Cox said that he was upset at Zimini and assures everyone that McNamara got the job fairly. McNamara did call Cox for his vote but so do Ken Martin - Cox said that is how you win elections or appointments, by asking people to vote for you.

Cox hopes that this issue will soon be behind the town and he holds no grudge against Zimini for potentially tarnishing the image of the board. He likes Zimini and said he was a "stand-up guy" but his letter was off the mark.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Globe picks up on pot story

Yesterday's Boston Globe picked up on the investigation of the missing marijuana from the Dracut Police Department. There is nothing really new here other than some interesting quotes from selectmen.

You can see the article here.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Greater Lowell Tech Opening

The resignation of Brian Martin from the Greater Lowell Technical School Board was effective last Friday at 5pm. The Board of Selectmen, the Dracut School Committee, and DJ Deeb (the lone remaining Dracut representative on the Greater Lowell board) will meet this Monday at 5:30pm to pick a replacement. The meeting will be held at the Dracut High School library.

Those interested in the seat have until Monday at 4:30pm to submit resumes to Town Clerk Kathleen Graham. Whoever gets the appointment will serve until May.

Contracts received

Yesterday I received copies of the contracts between the town and the Dracut Teacher's Association and the Dracut Administrator's Association. I thank Dr. Spencer Mullin for sending these to me.

The administrator's contract only runs from July 1, 2008-June 30, 2009 and is pretty boilerplate. It only involves the following:

  • Two Vice-Principals of the High School ($82,889)
  • Two Vice-Principals at the Junior High ($82,889 and $72,516)
  • One Vice-Principal at the Englesby ($74,537)
  • The Dean of Students at the Junior High ($59,516)
  • The Technology Technician ($49,762)

Website links

I have added a new section on this blog titled Campaign 2009 Websites. If you are a candidate for town office and have a website, I will be happy to link it here. You can e-mail them to me at

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Meetings this week

Tuesday, February 17
School Committee Finance Sub-committee: 4:30pm, School Administration Building

Wednesday, February 18
Conservation Commission: 7:15pm, Harmony Hall

Thursday, February 19
Sewer Commission: 6:00pm, Dracut High School
Board of Appeals: 7:00pm, Harmony Hall

Sunday, February 15, 2009

More on the numbers

Today's Lowell Sun has their rundown of Thursday's budget meeting between the Board of Selectmen and Town Manager Dennis Piendak. It contains a lot of the information I mentioned in a posting last week but there are more details about the total budget. See it here.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Executive Sessions

On this morning's Saturday Morning Live on 980 WCAP, Warren Shaw and Shawn Ashe discussed the recent executive session meetings held by the School Committee for negotiation of contracts for the teachers, nurses, and administrators.

Warren and Shawn said that many of the minutes of the executive sessions have not been released yet because some of the information is being redacted.

If Warren and Shawn are correct, than the School Committee may be in violation of Massachusetts General Law Chapter 39, section 23B which reads:

The records of each meeting shall become a public record and be available to the public; provided, however, that the records of any executive session may remain secret as long as publication may defeat the lawful purposes of the executive session, but no longer. All votes taken in executive sessions shall be recorded roll call votes and shall become a part of the record of said executive sessions. No votes taken in open session shall be by secret ballot.

Since the negotiations between the teachers, nurses, and administrators are complete and the contracts signed, then the information no longer needs to "remain secret." Furthermore, if information is being redacted, then there is a bigger issue at play.

Many School Committee members have been asking for the release of executive session minutes, especially Matthew Sheehan, so this is a big issue right now. Your humble blogger is staying on top of this story so stay tuned.

Administrator's Contract

I have received the total cost of the administrator's contract that was recently signed between the School Committee and the school administrators. The contract will cost the town $435,000.

I will be receiving a copy of this contract as well as the administrator's contract in the days ahead. There should not be any surprises but I will let you know if there are.

From Brian Bond...

Friends & Neighbors:

In May, you will see my name on the ballot as a candidate for the Board of Selectmen. As a life-long resident of Dracut , I want to continue to improve the quality of life in our community, and I believe I can have a more positive impact by serving as a member of the Board.

In these challenging economic times, our community must work hard to minimize the impact of unemployment, health care costs and potential increases in taxes. I will work with you to help us get through this financially challenging time so that we remain a strong community. I would be honored to have your support.

Here are some things you should know about me:

1. I have been blessed with a wonderful family – my wife Mary, and our children Samantha and Brian

2. I have been a self employed electrician for 20 years. I purposely focus my business outside of Dracut to avoid any conflicts of interest between my work and my community service.

3. I have coached youth baseball, basketball and football for many years and currently coach football at the Greater Lowell Technical High School.

4. I was a former Member of Dracut Pop Warner Board and a Dracut Baseball Association (DBA) Board Member

5. As a DBA Board Member, I served as the Project Manager for the construction of the Hovey Field Bathrooms and redevelopment of the park. Funds for this project came from a successful comedy/ auction night fundraiser. Many of you may have contributed and attended. This would not have been possible without community support.

6. I also served as the Project Manager of the Veteran’s Park Concession Stand

7. I currently serve as the Vice Chair of the Planning Board; Vice Chair of the Community Preservation Committee; and Vice Chair of the Veteran’s Park Concession Stand Committee.

8. I have been actively involved in the development of the Canney Farm Project which will serve as another recreational resource to our community.

9. I see the needs of the community and I work tirelessly to get it done

I am “a man of action,” meaning I don’t just sit back and let others do the work – we all have to work hard to better our community

Brian Bond

All are welcome

One of the reasons I started this blog was to get people involved in the politics and government of Dracut, especially with elections. So, I am always happy to post notices from candidates for office. I will be posting one from Brian Bond, a candidate for selectmen. I am fair and balanced and have no horses in this race so anyone who wants to post something is free to do so. My e-mail address is

Friday, February 13, 2009

"Lively campaign season"

That's how Warren Shaw sees this year's town election. In this week's Valley Dispatch, Shaw has a run down on the people and the issues for the May 4 election:

With more than a month left to take out nomination papers for the spring election, it's beginning to look like we'll be treated to our most entertaining election in years.

Incumbent Selectman Joe DiRocco will be challenged by local building contractor Ted Kosiavelon.

Kosiavelon ran a spirited campaign last year against selectmen John Zimini and Bob Cox, but finished a distant third in an election that also saw school board member DJ Deeb defeated.

The big ticket this spring is clearly all things education.

Incumbents Nancy Gagnon and Ron Mercier already have challengers in Paul Nutt, a self-employed businessman, and Kenwood resident Paul Elmstrom. The voters will also fill the unexpired terms of former school board member Mary Gail Martin and her husband Brian, who was one of Dracut's representatives on the Greater Lowell Technical School Committee.

The filling of Mary Gail's vacancy has had the Dracut political grapevine hot for months. Ken Martin, no relation, of the Dracut Housing Authority and the director of housing in the city of Methuen, plus a former member of the Dracut superintendent search committee, has been talking to political associates about the school-board seat for months.

He, along with Michael McNamara, a retired Dracut public school principal, have taken out papers for that seat.

Former water commissioner candidate Victor Olson, along with newcomer Kiernan Lennon, have taken papers for the regional board seat formerly held by Brian Martin.

It will be very interesting to see how the debate shapes up for these town offices. With local aid projected to be cut significantly in fiscal year 2010, the discussion should be about budget solutions. Without a miraculous turnaround in the economy, it is likely the winners in this spring's election will be cutting budgets for most of their terms.

Race is heating up

Former Selectman Ken Cuhna has taken out papers to run for a seat on the Dracut Housing Authority board. He is taking on Robert Audet who has also pulled papers.

Nomination papers are starting to be turned in with Ron Mercier turning his in on Wednesday and newest School Committee member Michael McNamara passing his in today (for the one-year unexpired term). Over at the Dracut Water Supply, William Zielinski turned in his papers for commissioner yesterday.

So far with less than a month to go, no one has taken out papers for Town Moderator.

Thanks again to Town Clerk Kathy Graham for passing along this information. I had the pleasure of meeting her the other night and she is as pleasant in person as she is on the phone.

I don't bite

At last night's Selectmen/School Committee meeting, one of our elected officials walked past me and said hello. This person asked if I was with the Sun and when I said I had a blog in town, this person walked away without saying a word.

I think the word "blog" stirs up some loathing among some of our public officials. But, I am very fair and even handed on this blog and I think I do a good job with that. Some blogs can be very caustic and out of control but I think this blog, and Dracut Forum, do a nice job helping to keep government transparent and our officials accountable without being mean and nasty.

So, I don't bite, I have discretion, and I think I am a pretty nice guy. So, you can talk to me and not be afraid!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Mea cupla, mea cupla

A few weeks ago, I was convinced that Rep. Colleen Garry would be banished to the hinterland for her support of Rep. John Rogers over Speaker of the House Bob DeLeo. Well, I was wrong.

I e-mailed Rep. Garry and she told me that she was reappointed to the powerful House Ways and Means Committee and also named to the House Committee on Judiciary and the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing. Not only that, she is retaining her second floor corner office with windows!

Mea culpla, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.

Congratulations Rep. Garry! Keep on serving us well.

"Pleasantly surprised"

Following tonight's meeting to appoint a new School Committee member, the Board of Selectmen met with Town Manager Dennis Piendak to go over the preliminary numbers for next year's budget. The numbers are still fluid but considering the doom and gloom that has been predicted for cities and towns, Dracut is in decent shape. There is currently a variance of about -$300,000 but the numbers will improve and as the process goes on.

Town employees will not be getting a raise and every dime is being counted (even the water bubblers were cancelled in Town Hall). There was a lot of anger at the school department for the recent raises they gave to teachers and administrators with Selectman Bob Cox calling them "irresponsible" and a "bad move." Selectman Joe DiRocco made a motion that the Board send a letter to the schools asking them to consider freezing salaries and not taking any raises so layoffs can be avoided. "We're not looking at layoffs" DiRocco said "But if we're giving raises, we couldn't guarantee [that layoffs would not happen]."

Piendak said that this wasn't "sour grapes" but pointed out that the school department is responsible for a 14% increase in health care enrollment since July 1 because they have hired 53 employees since that date. That statement caused a collective gasp from the Board and they were extremely upset to hear that the schools are hiring. The town, on the other hand, has not filled a number of positions, including police and fire fighters.

In the end, the selectmen praised Piendak and the town employees for "working together" and for being one of the best communities in the Merrimack Valley in terms of financial health. "It feels good to see people looking up to Dracut and asking 'How are you doing it?'" O'Loughlin said.

New School Committee Member

I have been commenting on Dracut politics for a few months now but tonight was the first time I have attended a public meeting. I was almost not able to attend as our babysitter got sick but we found someone at the last minute.

The first meeting I attended was at 5:30 to appoint a replacement for Mary-Gail Martin. As promised, School Committee member Nancy Gagnon and Selectman John Zimini did not attend the meeting. The only person to actually submit a resume was former Greenmont Ave. principal Michael McNamara. Dracut Housing Authority Commissioner Ken Martin was said to be in the running but never submitted his resume. Thus, McNamara was quickly elected in a 7-0 vote.

The person to officially nominate McNamara was School Committee Mike Miles who ironically will run against McNamara next year, something he acknowledged in remarks after McNamara was seated. Miles joked, "I am scared because I am running against him next year." But, he went on to praise McNamara and his credentials.

After McNamara was seated, everyone said a few words and everyone had nothing but praise for the newest member of the School Committee. Selectman James O'Loughlin said, "I hope the warm and fuzzy feelings last and that we will be able to work with [McNamara]." School Committee chairman Ron Mercier welcomed McNamara to the board and hoped the whole process could be "put into the past" and the committee can do what it can to make Dracut "a better place."

McNamara said a few words of thanks at the end, thanking "the people that [were there]" for their support - an obvious shot at Zimini and Gagnon. He did say he will run for the seat in May to complete Martin's unexpired term.

The meeting lasted less than 10 minutes but it was interesting to see all the players in town and to finally meet Shawn Ashe. Shawn graciously introduced me to people and we had a nice conversation.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

It took the law

As I mentioned yesterday, I mailed a Freedom of Information request to Dr. Spencer Mullin for copies of the new teachers and administrators contracts. Dr. Mullin e-mailed me today to let me know that he got my letter and is mailing the contracts to me. It is incredibly frustrating that it took such a step to receive even an acknowledgment of my communications. But, I guess Shawn Ashe was right - it does take a Freedom of Information request to get information from the schools.

I still have not been told how much the administrators contract will cost the town. Perhaps this information will be in the contract but we shall see.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Zimini: "I have the right to attend or not attend any meeting I want"

At the end of tonight's Board of Selectmen meeting, Selectman John Zimini read a statement clarifying his views on the appointment of a replacement for Mary-Gail Martin. Recall that Zimini told the Sunday Lowell Sun that he will not attend Thursday's meeting. He said he feels that the voters should be able to select the replacement, which would avoid all the "pitfalls" of a political appointment. He reiterated that the replacement would only be in place for a few meetings and would not be "effective."

Zimini feels that the state law that deals with such vacancies can be open to interpretation. He said the law calls for a timeline for the notification of a vacancy but no timeline to appoint a new member. I really don't see what Zimini is referring to as the law states the following (bolded words are my emphasis):

If there is a vacancy in a board consisting of two or more members...the remaining members shall give written notice thereof, within one month of said vacancy, to the selectmen, who, with the remaining member or members of such board, shall, after one week’s notice, fill such vacancy by roll call vote. The selectmen shall fill such vacancy if such board fails to give said notice within the time herein specified.

It seems to me that the law is very clear. Notification must be made within one month and after one week, the appointment must be made. It even says the Board of Selectmen can go ahead and make an appointment if the School Committee does not notify them "within the time herein specified."

Zimini took School Committee Member Mike Miles to task for saying Zimini has sour grapes because his pick, Ken Martin, does not have the votes to get the job. But, Zimini said Miles' brand of politics "doesn't help" and it is not sour grapes. Rather, he wants the voters to fill the seat.

He concluded by saying, "I have the right to attend or not attend any meeting I want."

This is the second straight meeting at which Zimini was all fired up about some issue. You may recall that at the last meeting, he felt that Town Manager Dennis Piendak wasn't doing enough to prepare for the cut in local aid and went on a tirade.

New Names

The School Department should hire Town Clerk Kathleen Graham! Once again, she e-mailed me (among others) with an update of people who have taken out nomination papers. She is great.

Some new names are now running:

Brian Bond took out papers to run for Selectmen. He joins incumbent Joe DiRocco and challenger Ted Kosiavelon. Bond currently serves on two town boards and was a major proponent for lights to be installed at the new Canney Farms Park.

David Norkiewicz and Robert Richard Reinhart are taking on DJ Deeb for a seat on the Lowell Tech. School Board. Norkiewicz also took out papers for the seat being vacated by Brian Martin who will resign on Friday.

No one has yet to take out papers for town moderator.

Public Records

Shawn picked up on my frustration with the School Department's foot dragging on my recent request for information. I am not saying that they are intentionally taking their time or ignoring my request but it is frustrating that they haven't even acknowledged my e-mails.

So, I decided to file a Freedom of Information Act. Under Massachusetts state law, public officials have ten days to respond. I will be mailing my request today for a copy of the most recent teacher's contract and the most recent administrator's contract. I still would like to know the total cost of the administrator's contract and when I do get that information, I will let you know.

If you ever want to file a request for a public record, here is a link to the process along with a mock letter.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Meetings this week

Monday, February 9
School Committee (Executive Session): 6:00pm, Dracut High School
School Committee: 7:00pm, Dracut High School

Tuesday, February 10
School Committee (Finance Sub-committee): 4:30pm, Administration Building
Board of Selectman: 7:00pm, Dracut Library

Wednesday, February 11
Library Board of Trustees: 4:30pm, Dracut Library
Greenmont Ave. School Council: 5:00pm, Greenmont Ave. School
Planning Board: 7:00pm, Harmony Hall
Agricultural Commission: 7:00pm, Harmony Hall

Thursday, February 12
Board of Selectmen/School Committee to select new SC Member: 5:30pm, Dracut Library
Board of Selectmen (Budget Work Session): 6:00pm, Town Hall
Veterans Park Concession Stand Committee: 6:30pm, Central Fire Station

School budget announced tomorrow

Thomas Rose is speaking at the School Committee meeting now saying he has been working on the budget as of late (perhaps that is why I haven't heard from him). Anyway, the proposed budget for next year will be released to the Finance Sub-Committee tomorrow at 4:30pm. Rose said 75% of the budget goes to salaries!

No response from Tom Rose

As I mentioned last week, I e-mailed School Business Officer Thomas Rose twice last week to see how much the new school administrator's contract would cost. The folks will be receiving a 2.5% raise but I was curious what this meant in terms of dollars and cents. Mr. Rose has not replied to my e-mails. Thus, I have e-mailed Dr. Mullin, the superintendent, to see if he has the information. My next step, if I do not hear from Dr. Mullin, will be to ask the Town Treasurer.

I will keep you posted.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Paul Nutt

So Shawn Ashe and I had our first live chat tonight with School Committee candidate Paul Nutt. Paul is a life long resident of Dracut and member of the Dracut High School class of 1989. He is the owner of Edge 24 Hour Private Fitness (across from the Post Office) and Extreme Tanning on Mammoth Road just over the border in Lowell.

Paul said that his grandmother (who was actually born in Dracut) worked for many years at Town Hall and so public service is part of his family's heritage. He said, "My family does believe in giving back to people and the community." He feels that his financial experience as a small business owner will be the biggest asset he will bring to the School Committee and says he is running to "make a difference" in town. In addition, he was a teacher for a year and a half in Chelmsford so he will bring that experience to the School Committee as well.

Paul didn't have any specific things to say about what he would like to accomplish on the School Committee saying he was simply interested in hearing what people have to say and listening to their concerns.

I am glad we able to try out this new experiment. It is a work in progress and we appreciate folks checking it out. You can read the whole transcript on my blog as well as Shawn's at Dracut Forum.

Sunday Night Live: February 8

How to apply

There was a very small and brief article in yesterday's Sun about the application process to fill Mary Gail Martin's School Committee seat. It instructed anyone who was interested to send a letter of intent to Town Clerk Kathy Graham at Town Hall by this Wednesday. Today's Column also mentioned the process.

This raises the question about the fairness of the process. Certainly those paying attention knew that Martin was going to resign eventually and political insiders Ken Martin (who already holds an elected position at the Dracut Housing Authority) and former Greenmont Ave. School principal began jockeying for the seat and collecting votes.

Selectmen and School Committee members have already committed to one of the two so what happens if someone submits a resume this week and has amazing credentials? Will they be ignored because a town politico with connections to the powers that be wants the seat?

The deck has been stacked against regular people joining the process and it doesn't sit well with your humble blogger. I have a problem with people holding two elected positions or working for the town and serving on a board or commission. I think the elected of Matthew Sheehan last year to the School Committee was a shot across the bow to political insiders but it seems no one listened. Will the voters respond again this May?

Gagnon not campaigning

School Committee Member Nancy Gagnon is running for re-election this year but you won't know it until you go to vote on May 4. Gagnon told the Sun today that she will not be holding any fundraisers or doing any visuals (holding signs). She said:

"How can I ask people for money in this economy? I'd rather see people who wanted to give me anything, donate it to the Dracut Food Pantry. People know me. They know where I stand and they know how I've voted. I'll run on my record."

Zimini and Gagnon sit out

The Column has some good political news this week about Thursday's meeting to select a new School Committee member. Despite the fact that Massachusetts state law says that the Board of Selectmen and School Committee shall meet to fill any vacancy on the School Committee, Selectman John Zimini and School Committee Member Nancy Gagnon are refusing to attend the meeting.

Zimini told the Sun "Whoever we appoint will be there for, what, three or four meetings (at) the most? I think it gives that person an unfair advantage if they choose to run (for the unexpired term)." When told by the Sun that state law requires the boards to appoint a replacement, Zimini said, "That's a metter of interpretation. I'm just not going to be there."

There is no word on why Gagnon will not be attending.

School Committee member Mike Miles thinks Zimini won't attend because of "sour grapes." The Sun speculates that Michael McNamara has enough votes to get the job (School Committee Members Miles and Matthew Shehan as well as Selectmen Bob Cox, Joe DiRocco and James O'Loughlin) and Zimini is upset that his pick, Ken Martin, doesn't have the votes.

The meeting is this Thursday at 5:30pm at the library. I will be there blogging about it as it happens to stay tuned.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Meet Paul Nutt

As I mentioned last week, Shawn Ashe of Dracut Forum and I will be interviewing the candidates for local office every Sunday night at 6:00 on our respective blogs. We will be having "live chats" in which you can ask the candidates questions about their positions and views. If you can't join us, the chat transcript will always be available.

First up tomorrow night is Paul Nutt, a candidate for School Committee. I have a ton of questions and look forward to seeing what Mr. Nutt has to say. Check out this blog or Dracut Forum, it should be great.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Martins redux

In this week's Valley Dispatch, Warren Shaw discusses the departure of Mary Gail and Brian Martin from Dracut politics and recaps the discussion he had last week with Ron Mercier on Saturday Morning Live. Here is what he had to say:

It could have been so much easier.

After months of political rumor-mill activity and media inquiries, we learned officially that Mary Gail Martin and Brian Martin would be leaving their elected positions -- Dracut School Committee and Dracut representative on the Greater Lowell Technical High School Committee, respectively -- and moving to Tyngsboro.

There: What was so hard about that?

Hey, I'm not complaining. The whole political intrigue thing worked for me. We got to chew on it for months on the radio, and heck, we even sent someone out to get a picture of the for-sale sign during the denial stage, just to make sure we weren't talking about something that wasn't true. We got criticized for that by Chairman Ron Mercier Jr. of the Dracut School Committee.

Apparently Mercier felt we were out of line for taking the picture. He even suggested we tried to "bring her down" by questioning a meeting that took place among Mrs. Martin, the superintendent and a job applicant.

Sorry, Ron, we didn't make it up. It happened and although the Ethics Commission found no wrongdoing, School Committee members don't belong in those meetings. But hey, you brought it up.

Then, of course, as always is the case in these situations, everybody -- and I do mean everybody -- was talking about who would get the votes to replace them in their respective elected positions. The big ticket was the speculation of just who would replace Mary Gail Martin on the Dracut School Committee.

The process for replacing an elected School Committee member is a combined vote between the Board of Selectmen and the remaining four School Committee members until the voters fill the unexpired term in the next election.

For months speculation had it that at least two prominent residents were interested in the positions and had support.

In all likelihood, the Dracut School Committee and the Greater Lowell Technical High School Committee will fill the vacancies until the May election when voters will have their say.

It seems to me the Martins would have been better off to make their intentions known early and thus avoided the spotlight that has been on them for months. They both got involved in Dracut for the right reasons and have made positive contributions in many areas.

We wish them the best in their new home.

Why us?

Today's Lowell Sun has a ton of articles on how cities and towns in Greater Lowell are making big cuts to services and salaries. In Chelmsford, the Highway Department employees passed on a 2% pay raise, the Groton-Dunstable school district is looking to cut 13 positions, raise fees, and freeze salaries, while Tewksbury is dividing the $337,555 cut in local aid among all town and school departments.

Here in Dracut teachers recently received an 8% pay raise while administrators just signed a new contract which calls for a 2.5% pay raise. At last month's Board of Selectmen meeting, Selectman John Zimini was irate that the town had not done anything to prepare for a cut in local aid. After his rant, the School Committee added to the school's budget!

I e-mailed Tom Rose, the school's Business Administrator twice this week to see how much the administrator's raise would cost the town and he has not responded to my requests. Perhaps he is out of town or looking into it but his lack of response pales in comparison to people like Town Clerk Kathleen Graham who answers her phone after one ring and offers to e-mail me documents. Today she actually e-mailed me an update of the people who have taken out papers for May's election without me even asking. She is a saint.

If I do not receive a response from Mr. Rose on Monday, I will contact Dr. Mullin, the Superintendent of Schools to see if he has the information. I will keep you posted.

Nomination Papers Update

Our town's wonderful clerk Katherine Graham sent me an update with the names of people who have pulled papers for the May 4 election. The people now are:

Moderator: NONE

Joseph DiRocco Jr.
Ted Kosiavelon

School Committee:
Nancy L Gagnon
Paul M Elmstrom
Paul W Nutt
Ronald P Mercier, III

School Committee/Remainder of Term:
Kenneth R Martin
Paul M Elmstrom
Paul W Nutt
Michael F McNamara

Trustee of the Public Library
John Earle Dyer

Housing Authority:
Robert J. Audet

Regional Vocational School Comm:
Dennis DJ Deeb, II

Regional Vocational/Remainder of Term:
Kieran Lennon
Victor A Olson


William “Zee” Zielinski

Donna M Yackel

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

School Committee Replacement

The Lowell Sun is reporting today that the Board of Selectmen and the School Committee will meet on Thursday, February 12 at 5:30pm at the Dracut Library to pick a replacement for Mary Gail Martin. The article does not mention how the boards will make their selection, that is, do people apply or will the boards simply pick someone.

The person who is selected will only serve until May 4. If they want to serve the remainder of the term (until 2010), they must run in this year's election. So far three people have pulled papers for the one-year term: Paul Nutt, Kenneth Martin, and Paul Elmstrom.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Nomination Papers: Week 1

Today was the first day people could take out papers for the May 4 election. As of 3:00pm, the following people have done so:

Selectmen: NONE

Moderator: NONE

School Committee: Nancy Gagnon (incumbent) and Paul Elmstrom
School Committee to fill Mary Gail Martin's term: Kenneth Martin and Paul Elmstrom

Library Trustee: John Dyer

Housing Authority: NONE

Regional Vocational School: NONE
Regional Vocation School to fill Brian Martin's term: Kieran Lennon and Victor Olson

Dracut Water Supply Commissioner: William Zielinksi (incumbent)

Next update will be February 9

Nicest person in Dracut

Let me just say that Town Clerk Kathy Graham is the nicest person in the world! Everytime I contact her office for something, she is always pleasant, accommodating, and has all the information you could ever need. Thank you Mrs. Graham.

Election Season has Begun!

Today is the first day that people can take out papers to run for office in Dracut. The final day to take out papers is March 12 so the window of opportunity is short. The May 4 election is for:

Board of Selectmen (1)
School Committee (3)
Moderator (1)
Housing Authority (1)
Library Board of Trustees (2)
Greater Lowell Voc. Tech. School Committee (1)
Moderator of Dracut Water Commission (1)
Dracut Water Commission (1)

I will be calling the Town Clerk's office every Monday to see who has taken out papers so you know who is running. First call will be today at 3pm.

Last minute attempt

With the statute of limitations running out on the case of stolen drugs from the Dracut Police Department, 40 people who worked on the force during the 2003 theft have taken polygraph tests. Some feel that this is just an attempt to save face and others feel that it is harming and dividing the force.

The Sun has the full story here.

Keep Dracut Rural

At the last Board of Selectmen meeting, a representative from the Northern Middlesex Council of Governments reported on a survey of Dracut residents about their likes and dislikes about the town. The overwhelming majority liked the rural feel of Dracut and wanted the town to preserve that. Conversely, many were concerned about traffic and development taking away from the town's charm. Residents were also concerned about the lack of sidewalks.

I have to agree with the findings. I am originally from Melrose and my wife from West Roxbury. We moved to Dracut because of its affordability but we came to love its rural character and the fact that it had farms! The first time I went to Shaw Farm, I realized how much I loved living in Dracut. We both agree that we could never move back to the Boston area as it is too congested and crowded for our tastes. Granted, Dracut and the surrounding towns do have their share of traffic but the quality of life here is fantastic.

The Lowell Sun has an article about this story here. You can also read the full report here.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

2009 Democratic Convention

Odd-year political conventions aren't all that exciting. They're called Issues Conventions as there are no candidates to select for the primary. I went to one in 1999 and saw some big names but nothing else really happened. But, for the party faithful it is a good time to connect with people and to have fun.

I was hoping to cover the Democratic Convention this year in Springfield as they welcome bloggers but I need to work the same day. Perhaps I will go to the GOP Convention but there is no information on their website about the day and location. I can't find any information about the caucus either. If anyone from the Dracut Republicans has any details, could you e-mail me at

Anyway, Dracut Democrats met yesterday to select their delegates for the convention. It sounds like it was a light turn out with the chair, vice chair, and secretary all absent. The following, in addition to Rep. Colleen Garry, will be heading to Springfield on June 6:

Pete Wilde
Phil Greene
Howie Savard
John Kelly
Joe Gangi Sr.
Joe Gangi Jr.
William Zielinski
Donna Wilde
Janet Gangi
Sandi Cunha
Mary Gail Martin
Lou Ann Jendro

Ken Cunha
John Zimini
John Dyer

Meetings this week

Monday, February 2
Capital Planning Committee: 6:00pm, Harmony Hall
Recreation Commission: 7:00pm, Historical Society

Wednesday, February 4
Conservation Commission: 7:15pm, Harmony Hall

Thursday, February 5
Open Space Committee: 6:30pm, Central Fire Station

The Column's Take on Garry

As I mentioned last week, Rep. Colleen Garry took a big risk in her support of Rep. John Rodgers for Speaker of the House. Of course, Rep. Bob DeLeo won and according to the State House News Service, the "recriminations started quietly." No word yet on Garry but it is safe to assume that she will continue to be on the outside looking in. As one of the more conservative members of the House, she rarely fits in with the liberals who dominate the Legislature. She does serve on the powerful Ways and Means Committee which, ironically, was chaired by DeLeo. But, she has been in the House since 1995 and does not serve as a committee chair or in any leadership position.

The Column weighed in today:

NO ONE stuck their neck out more for Rogers than Rep. Colleen Garry, D-Dracut.

From the moment DiMasi made his intentions to resign clear, Garry began pushing for Rogers, calling for a delay in the vote that appeared locked for DeLeo, and questioning the new speaker's own ethical entanglements.

Rep. William Greene of Billerica wasn't far behind, not shy about going public with his concerns about rushing to elect DeLeo. Garry and Greene ultimately sided with DeLeo.
Already on the outside of the House's inner circle, Garry and Greene are sure to be left out in the cold again.

So whose stock is rising? Freshman Rep. Jim Arciero, D-Westford, for starters. He committed to DeLeo last weekend, helping push the new speaker into the comfort zone of more than 81 votes. Reps. Barry Finegold, D-Andover, and Charlie Murphy, D-Burlington, worked tirelessly behind the scenes to wrangle votes for DeLeo, and could be holding key chairmanships before the week is out.

The Column's Take on the Martins

This morning's Column has a full run-down of the Martin resignations. There is nothing really new but here is the full story:

FROM THE first turn of the rumor mill, Brian and Mary Gail Martin -- he of the Greater Lowell Technical High School Committee and she of the Dracut School Committee -- denied they were moving from Dracut to Tyngsboro.

Mary Gail Martin scoffed at the time: "Where did you hear that? We're not going anywhere."
Brian Martin's answer remained constant: "It's nobody's business."

The Martins acknowledged nothing until October, when a real-estate sign sprang up in front of their A Street home.

And even then, Brian Martin insisted, "It's nobody's business" (only not in words as polite).
The move leaves two open seats at Greater Lowell Tech and three seats up for play on the Dracut School Committee in the May 4 town election. Dennis "D.J." Deeb, who was ousted from the Dracut School Committee after one term last year, is running for his fifth term at Greater Lowell. In Dracut, Ron Mercier Jr. and Nancy Gagnon are up for re-election. Mary Gail Martin has one year remaining on her term. Brian Martin has two years left on his.

Selectman and the remaining School Committee members will hold a joint meeting to replace the Martins.

Here's where it gets interesting. The name of Housing Commissioner Kenneth Martin (no relation) was bandied about as early as August, with the story going that Martin already had the appointment. Ken Martin said he had no knowledge of the opening and had never been approached. Former Greenmont Avenue School Principal Mike McNamara has been mentioned as a possibility, and he would surely come close to garnering enough votes.

Audio of Shaw vs. Mercier

If you missed yesterday's interview of School Committee member Ron Mercier by Warren Shaw, Shawn Ashe has the audio over at Dracut Forum. Check it out here, you don't want to miss it.