Saturday, October 31, 2009

Going all out

Some thoughts on the upcoming Lowell election.

As many folks know, all four members of Lowell's State House delegation endorsed embattled City Councilor Alan Kazanjian. This despite the fact that Kazanjian is facing investigations by the Middlesex County District Attorney, employed a city employee who worked on city time and falsified city documents, and whose company's building illegally hooked into Lowell's sewer system despite being based in Chemlsford and having the application denied by the city!

This seems fishy to me but many of the local politicos are backing him up. State Sen. Steve Panaiotakos called him a "friend in need", Rep. Tom Golden called him a "family man", Rep. Kevin Murphy (who also works for the Dracut schools as a attorney) said he wasn't "going to turn [his] back on him", and Rep. Dave Nangle "questioned" the timing of the stories covering Kazanjian's problems.

Today on "Saturday Morning Live" Warren Shaw asked people to call in indicate one city councilor and one school committee person they will be voting for on Tuesday. I was in and out of the car but everyone I heard call in said they were voting for Kazanjian and embattled School Committee member Regina Faticanti. She, like Kazanjian, is part of the Panagiotakos machine and they obviously jammed the phone lines to try and show support for the two.

Last night the city sold the Tsongas Arena to UMass Lowell. On hand were the State House delegation, Marty Meehan, Bernie Lynch, here to see who else (click on picture number 2).

Let's see how voters react to this proping up of Kazanjian and attacking the messenger (i.e. the Lowell Sun) on Tuesday. Stay tuned.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Final take on Louisburg Square

In this week's Valley Dispatch, Warren Shaw offers some final words on the now defunct Louisburg Square project. Good stuff...see it all here but below is a taste:

Things were beginning to happen.

The Housing Authority got to ask their "questions."

The lawyers were getting together to resolve the lease, and I'm told it was done.

The appraisal that the opponents thought would certainly put an end to this project came back over the price the town has agreed to pay, overcoming another obstacle.

But just when you thought there was a chance, reality sets in.

The Housing Authority majority of Ken Martin, Ken Cunha and Jerry Supernant are just not interested.

The truth is there never were any questions. This group of three members just didn't want the project -- period.

From the time Ken Cunha defeated Bob Audet by a handful of votes, this thing was history.

And we really don't know why.

Celebrating our farms

I took my son to the library Halloween Party last week and noticed a number of pictures on the wall of the meeting room of Dracut's farms. Turns out the pictures were taken by artists Lisa Anderson-Bisson and Matt Himmel of something called the New Entry Sustainable Farming Project.

The two will be at the library on November 14 from 2pm-3:30pm and the photos will be up until November 30. Be sure to check these out - they're beautiful shots and a good reminder of what makes our town so unique.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Dracut Food Pantry Newsletter

The next opening of the Dracut Food Pantry is November 21, the Saturday before Thanksgiving. In that spirit, they're looking for the following donations which can be brought to the Library, Central Fire Station, or the Council on Aging:

Home for the Harvest

Chowders & Chili

Instant Potatoes/Potato Sides

Rice Sides -- Pasta Sides

Gravy – Stuffing

All Tomato Products

(All set on diced tomatoes)

Canned Pastas

Sunny Side Up

Coffee, Tea, Hot Chocolate

Cold Cereals

Instant Oatmeal – Rolled Oats

Sweets & Snacks

Cookie, Cake, Quick Bread & Brownie Mixes – Pie Fillings/Crust

Cookies, Crackers, Misc. Snacks

School/After School Snacks

Paper & Toiletries Packs

Paper Towels – Toilet Tissue

Shampoo – Conditioner

Toothpaste – Soap

Others Welcome

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

To do what?

The Lowell Sun had an article today on the resignation of Wilmington's Housing Authority Director. The director, Theresa Georgopoulos, is from Dracut and was up for Dracut's head job in 2007. Interestingly, the article said Georgopoulos would be taking a job in Dracut but the Sun didn't know what that job was.

With the Dracut Housing Authority just voting down housing for elderly, is it a smart move to bring in a new employee??? (that is, if her job is with the housing authority, the article doesn't actually make that clear).

Me thinks not.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Town Meeting Next week

The November Town Meeting is next Monday, November 2, at 7:30pm over at Dracut High School. There isn't a lot on the warrant and one wonders is a quorum (250) will even be met.

The biggest warrant article is the Finance Committee's recommendation that Town Meeting rescind its support for the purchase of Louisburg Square. But, that is a moot point now.

See the warrant here.

Salem moving on

Now I admit that I didn't follow the Dracut Housing Authority that closely until the Louisburg Square matter came to a head this summer. But it was obvious as I began watching that Commissioner Tom Salem was disgusted with the Ken Martin/Ken Cunha partnership. Now, he's decided that he's is done and will not run for re-election in May. He told the Sun he'll "be glad to get out."

Can't say I blame him.

It will be very interesting to see if the McLaughlin folks run someone for that seat. Think there will be any $500 donations coming that person's way?

Dime dropping

In today's Column, the Lowell Sun points out that people on both sides of the Louisburg Square debate have been calling the paper dropping dimes on each other. Today they point out that the owner of 1476 Mammoth Road, Gerry Lussier, was accused of not paying all of his property taxes but it turns out that 2/3 of his property is in Pelham! Need to check those facts folks before running to the paper.

Now I wouldn't be able to pick out Lussier in a line up but I know he's a pretty influential guy in town. He donates money to candidates and he has personal relationships with many town officials. But as Warren Shaw points out on his show a lot, when politicos go after people who do business with the town, they risk harming future relationships with that person as well as other potential developers or partners. The state must think we're fools turning down close to $3 million and I wonder if Marc Slotnick is having a good laugh with his fellow Newtonites over some town officials in Dracut who dragged him through a long process for nothing.

Seems like it's time to do some house cleaning.

UPDATE: I swear I didn't read Dracut Forum before posting just seems that great minds think alike!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

What did he know and when did he know it?

Today's Lowell Sun reveals that the town was told on July 1, 2008 that the bathrooms in Louisburg Square would not be renovated right away. However, Dracut Housing Authority Chairman Ken Martin said he supported the project until 6 months ago when he found out that bathrooms were not included in the plans.

Of course, saying that sounds much better than saying he didn't oppose the project until his friend Ken Cunha was safely elected to the board and they had the numbers to kill the project.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Get well soon George

The Lowell Sun is reporting that Selectman George Malliaros is recovering from a mild heart attack at Lowell General. The article doesn't make it seem as if it's too serious and Malliaros should be up and running soon.

Get well, selectman.

It's all over

Last night the Dracut Housing Authority voted 3-2 to kill the Louisburg Square project. Chairman Ken Martin, Commissioner Ken Cunha and Commissioner Jerry Surprenant voted no where as Commissioners George Nangle and Tom Salem voted yes.

Shawn has a good run down of the meeting and today's Lowell Sun has an article too.

No matter where you stand on this issue, this will certainly be campaign fodder in 2010 (and beyond). On his radio show this Saturday, Warren Shaw predicted that anyone who voted against this will never win political office in Dracut again.

This may also mean political death for the Mike McLaughlin "machine" as it was his people (re: Cunha and Martin) who led the charge against this project. DJ Deeb was already defeated...who will be next?

Cunha is certainly finished as his personality has turned dark and he has alienated many of the "power brokers" in town. If he is mad over being the only sitting selectman to ever lose two races for re-election, how mad will he be if he loses his next DHA race? Martin has looked bad as well, especially after the joint meeting with the Selectmen and Finance Committee. He looked like he was looking for excuses to kill the deal instead of trying to make it work.

I think in the long run Selectmen James O'Loughlin and George Malliaros may benefit from this in May's election despite some gaffes over the past year. They can now run on a platform of trying to make the project work and being defeated by those who seemed more interested in politics.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Make a Difference Day

"Make a Difference Day" Food Drive for the Dracut Food Pantry

On Saturday, the Dracut Food Pantry is open for the increasing number of families who are struggling to put food on the table. Saturday is also USA Weekend's "National Make a Difference Day", which promotes volunteerism and helping others. While the food pantry board of directors and volunteers serve Dracut residents in need, townspeople are invited to "make a difference" by dropping off non-perishable food items at any of three locations in Dracut. All items donated will help refill the shelves for the holiday openings.

Drop-off locations are:

Dracut Fire Station, 488 Pleasant Street
Moses Greeley Parker Library, 28 Arlington Street
Dracut Barber Shop, 1974 Lakeview Avenue.

All non-perishable food items or toiletries are welcome. For more information, visit or call 978-957-8600. To become a Friend of the Dracut Food Pantry, receiving newsletter updates each month, email

Friday, October 16, 2009

Staying put

Rep. Colleen Garry has put to rest any rumors that she is not seeking re-election in 2010. Over at Dracut Forum, she put a comment saying she loves her job and is indeed running. Warren Shaw also discussed this in his Valley Dispatch column this week.

The rumors began after Garry hosted a fundraiser for Selectman John Zimini. People thought this was a way for Garry to hand off to Zimini but I saw it as Garry getting support lined up for her re-election bid.

Either way, I am glad she is running again as I have a lot of respect and admiration for her.

Keeping Dracut like Dracut

In his column in this week's Valley Dispatch, Warren Shaw has some good news about Dracut retaining its rural character. He praises the new Canney Farm field as well as the protection of farmland over in Kenwood:

The Massachusetts Department of Agriculture, along with your Community Preservation Committee, are considering an agricultural preservation easement over this former farmland and if successful, will protect the property forever.

The process is far from complete, but the initial stages of the state's approval have been cleared and negotiations are ongoing.

The agricultural-preservation program has protected approximately 200 acres here in town and thousands statewide.

Protecting the Burgess Farm would help balance the population density in that part of town and protect it from the potential of another 40B development.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

No Walgreens!

By a vote of 3-2 tonight, the Planning Board voted down the proposed Walgreens at the intersection of Mammoth Road and Lakeview Avenue. The proposal needed 4 votes to pass and it only had two supporters - Chairman Phil Thibault and member Philip Greene. Vice Chair Brian Bond spoke strongly against the Walgreens saying it would be detrimental to the neighborhood and that putting a large complex like a Walgreens in that area is not in harmony with the intent of the town's zoning by-laws.

Thibault made a fair point in that the abutters of the property would be impacted by the Walgreens, not necessarily the neighborhood which is about 25% residential. Greene said that if you're not going to build a commercial property in a commercial zone, what are you going to build?

Member George Nangle said he is not opposed to Walgreens, he is opposed, however, to the site. He said that he rather put it across the street where the school administration building is currently located. Member Robert Donnelly felt that the 16-18 hours a day in which the Walgreens would be opened (or have employees working) as well as the presence of the building would be harmful to the neighbors.

After the final vote, the crowd burst into applause. The crowd wasn't as big as I thought it would be but Selectmen George Malliaros and John Zimini were there while Bob Cox came and left long before the Walgreens vote.

I for one am very pleased by this vote as I felt it is not what Dracut needs right now. We should be supporting mom and pop/local businesses, not big box stores. I was afraid that if a Walgreens was put in, there would be a chain reaction of other box stores coming into town. The people of Dracut have made it very clear that they want the town to retain its rural characteristics and a Walgreens would have harmed that.

Thank you Planning Board and congrats to Brian Bond for having a good week - Canney Farm and now this!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

"No communication going on"

The much anticipated second appraisal of Louisburg Square has been completed. The fair market value of the property, according to Appraiser Dennis G. Connors, is $2.6 million. Selectman Bob Cox said he was "thrilled" by the news and Selectman James O'Loughlin asked that the information be passed on to the Dracut Housing Authority right away.

On that subject, O'Loughlin asked Town Manager Dennis Piendak if there had been any communications between the town and DHA about Louisburg Square and, not surprisingly, the answer is no. O'Loughlin (very politely) asked if things could be moved along since the December 31 sale date is fast approaching!

Park's New Name

The Board of Selectmen voted tonight to name the new playground/park at Canney Farm in honor of two Dracut firefighters who died 75 years ago this year in response to a call. Their truck hit a wetland area, flipped over, and they died. This idea was proposed by Selectmen DiRocco and O'Loughlin who wanted to honor the men for their sacrifice.

Their families, I wasn't able to write down their names in time, are still in Dracut and live in Collinsville, the location of the new playground!

Breaking ground

Tonight the town had the official groundbreaking of Canney Farm park. After Town Manager Dennis Piendak and Selectman Chair George Malliaros said a few words, the selectmen (sans James O'Loughlin) and Rep. Colleen Garry had a ceremonial throw of dirt.

You could tell that Piendak was very proud of the project and his enthusiasm was infectious. He commented on how now a person could now walk between this park and Veterans Park using sidewalks. In response to a question, he said the name of the park would be decided by the board in the future.

Malliaros called the town's adoption of the CPA one of the best things it had ever done as evidenced by the new park and other projects in town.

I took my son Kevin to the ceremony and he seemed excited to have a new playground to go to, although he spent most of the time throwing rocks and waving to the policeman. He did not want to leave and on the way home was crying "I want to go to the playground."

Soon enough.

Walgreens or not?

The Planning Board is planning (no pun intended) on voting on the proposal for a Walgreens at Mammoth Road/Lakeview Ave at its meeting tomorrow night. I admit that I haven't been following the meetings outside of the Lowell Sun articles but the word is that the Board has done a good job in its deliberations and it letting all sides be heard.

Today's Sun says that the testimony has been overwhelmingly against the proposal and I for one can't see the board allowing this to go through. Brian Bond, who told me last week that he doesn't know he'll vote, told the Sun:

According to town bylaws Walgreens can legally build a pharmacy under a special permit because the store is larger than 10,000 square feet, said Bond. The Planning Board has to approve the project unless the plan isn't "in harmony" with the neighborhood and intent of the town bylaws, detrimental to the neighborhood, not appropriate for the neighborhood or doesn't comply with all the town's zoning bylaws, which govern what can and cannot be built.

While it will be nice to have the tax revenue, this is not a good fit for Dracut, especially in that area. It's already congested and we want to make sure we don't turn into a strip mall town like Tewksbury.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Big Dracut Week in the Column

There were a number of Dracut items in today's Column. The Sun doesn't put The Column on their website anymore so I will have to summarize.

1. It seems that Dracut High Football coach, Jeff Moore, is a Lowell police officer and it is alleged that there have been times when he was at the school when he was supposed to be at work. This seems strange since the Column says Moore works the overnight shift. What would he be doing at DHS in the middle of the night? Does that mean Hank Golec is hanging out there at night too?

2. I am a little confused about this one but it seems that a Sun reporter called School Committee Chairman Matthew Sheehan a couple of times and Spencer Mullin's secretary called the reporter back to say Sheehan was unavailable. I don't see the big deal but the Column said:

Strange? We think so. Mullin's secretary said Sheehan had asked her to pass the message along. Couldn't he have done that himself?

3. Selectman John Zimini had a fundraiser at the Village Inn recently and over 150 people showed up, including Lt. Gov. Tim Murray and Rep. Colleen Garry (who co-sponsored the event). I've seen pictures of the event and some local politicos were in attendance, including Brian Bond, Ken Cunha, Phil Thibault, Mike Blatus, and Victor Olson.

Besides both being good Democrats, I wonder if there is more to Garry co-sponsoring this event for Zimini. I've heard rumors of Selectman James O'Loughlin running against Garry next year so is this Garry trying to shore up support in case of a race next year? That was my initial thought, could be crazy but one never knows.

Mullin's report card

This morning's Lowell Sun has an article on Superintendent of Schools Spencer Mullin's recent evaluation. Besides what we already know about his poor marks on communication, we read that the School Committee feels Mullin is perfect in "being well groomed" and "keeping active membership in professional organizations."

Member Mike Miles gave Mullin props for increasing student performance and Mullin said he does have a list of accomplishments: better technology, working on test scores, etc. But, Mullin has to stay focused on his communication skills as evidenced by the following quote by Member Ron Mercier: "Now that a year has passed, there will be no excuses."

As I've said in the past, I have been very tough on Mullin but I find that the schools are doing some great things. As a teacher, I am impressed with the programming, school pride, athletics, etc. Things seem to be happening and the schools are a real cornerstone of Dracut pride. Let's keep it up!

Friday, October 9, 2009

More on Canney

Today's Sun has a good rundown on Tuesday's Canney Farm ceremony and more details on the completion date. Unfortunately, it looks like it won't be fully operational until 2011 but it sounds like it will be worth the wait.

See here.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Harvest Festival

Saint Francis Parish will be having its 2nd annual Harvest Festival this Saturday from 10am-4pm. The church is located in East Dracut and is surrounded by beautiful scenery, with some great foliage this time of year.

The event is for all ages and I have been looking forward to this since last year's ended! Come on down, it should be a great day.

Globe has the story

The Boston Globe has picked up the Louisburg Square story in its regional North section. For those folks who have been following along, there is nothing really new in the story. But, it's a good refresher article and it sums everything up nicely.

Your humble blogger is quoted in the article, albeit one line:

Dracut resident Brian Flaherty, who follows the debate on his blog,, said the conflict has ramped up considerably.

“Town meetings on the issue have become contentious and uncomfortable,’’ he said. “One July meeting became a shouting match.’’

Dracut Housing Authority Chairman Ken Martin had an interesting quote:

“It’s been a long process, and there have been some bad feelings along the way,’’ Martin said. “But when the consultants leave, and the DHCD leaves, and all is said and done, the DHA will be managing the property. I want to make sure that the DHA and the town of Dracut are protected.’’

Less than 2 months to go...

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Can't wait

The town's website has more information on the Canney Farm groundbreaking, a list of what will be at the park, and a map of what the park will look like.

Looking good, see it here.

Dracut Food Pantry

I recentlty started volunteering at the Dracut Food Pantry. It is an amazing organization that was started by the former pastors of St. Francis (Father Bob Blaney), Ste. Marguerite (Father Paul Clifford), and Christ Church United (Rev. Larry Zimmerman). They then got the town involved and the result is a great facility in the Beaver Brook Mills thanks to Frank Gorman.

For October, the food pantry could really use the following for donations:

Cold Cereals
Baking Staples & Baking Mixes – All Types
Cookies, Crackers, Pop Corn
School Snacks – All Snacks
Paper Towels – Toilet Tissue
Shampoo – Conditioner
Toothpaste – Soap
Stuffing – Gravy – Cranberry Sauce – Instant Potatoes
Potato Mixes – Canned Potatoes
Chowders & Stews
Condiments – Sauces/Dressings

Donations can be dropped over at the Central Fire Station, the library, or the Council on Aging.

Canney Groundbreaking

Great news from Brian Bond:

Hello Everyone -

I wanted to extend an invitation to all of you to the Canney Farm Ground Breaking Ceremony October 13th at 5:30 PM at Canney Farm.

As you know, this is a great victory for our community. Though this victory didn’t come easy, we persevered and were able to gather enough support to turn the Farm into recreation space.

What an accomplishment!!

A quick recap: Our first task was to have Town Meeting voters approve the use of CPC money for recreational use. With that approval the undertaking to developing Canney Farm for recreational purposes had begun. Negotiations began and a concept plan was formed. The project received the support of town boards and was approved at Town Meeting. The project suffered a setback when word came that the Town cannot pay more than the appraised value for the purchase of the land. To meet the requirements of CPC law, we added a second parcel of land and once again we had the support at Town Meeting for the purchase. During committee meetings and at public meetings we advocated for lighting of the fields and walkways. Then once again Town Meeting overwhelmingly supported the funding for the development. To refresh your memory, the new space will include 3 basketball courts, 1 tennis court, 1 baseball field, 1 multi propose field for soccer, football and lacrosse, a great tot lot, a storage / utility building , walking paths and lighting everywhere!!

I would like to thank all of you for fighting the good fight, for all of your hard work and your support throughout the process.

I hope you can join us on October 13th at 5:30 pm at Canney Farm as we begin the next phase of this exciting community investment.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Louisburg making a come back?

In the spirit of the upcoming baseball playoffs, Warren Shaw looks at the potential rebound (sorry for the basketball reference) of Louisburg Square.

Shaw credits Selectman James O'Loughlin for his questioning of Dracut Housing Authority consultant Marc Slotnick at the recent joint meeting for putting this project back on track. I agree and I saw O'Loughlin recently and told him that he did a hell of a job questioning Slotnick.

Anyway, see Shaw's column here.