Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Good job all

I took my children to the newly dedicated Dillon-McAnespie Park today. Thank you to all those who worked so hard on this new gem in town, the place is wonderful.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Santoro contract

The same day the Dracut School Committee signed a contract with Dr. Stacy Scott to oversee 7 schools for $152,500, the Greater Lowell Technical High School Committee signed a $160,000 contract with Mary Jo Santoro to oversee 1 school.

In addition, according to the Sun Santoro:

Receives $3,500 annually, which represents the cost of a disability insurance policy that Santoro may buy on her own.

Is entitled to all paid holidays and half-days before holidays other administrators receive, and receives 30 vacation days at the beginning of each fiscal year.


Receives 15 sick days per year, with an extra 15 days given to her as of July 1. She can accumulate sick days without limit. Her contract allows her to sell back up to 10 sick days per year at her per-diem rate starting next year, but only if she has at least 30 sick days.

Receives all accumulated personal days currently available to her, and three personal days and three bereavement days per year.


Is reimbursed up to $2,000 per year for professional development courses and reimbursements for gas mileage, travel, registration fees, food and lodging for conventions.

Has to give the committee six months' notice if she wants to break the contract.


Can work paid jobs as a consultant or teacher as long as it doesn't interfere with her GLTHS job or give the appearance of a conflict of interest. She also has to inform the committee chairman before beginning.

Monday, June 28, 2010

It's official

Tonight the School Committee signed a contract with incoming superintendent Dr. Stacy Scott (they also signed a contract with current interim superintendent Elaine Espindle to stay on as a consultant for a period of time. She will be paid $4,200).


I didn't catch most of the meeting but I did see Shawn in the audience so he can fill in the gaps and the details. There were some fireworks as Ron Mercier questioned a provision in the contract that would allow Dr. Scott to engage in out of school activities (i.e. speeches) as long as he notified the School Committee chair. Mercier felt that the entire committee should be notified and made a motion to amend the contract. It came up that this provision was debated during contract negotiations' meetings but Mercier said he was not at that meeting because he was working (the meeting was at 9:30am). This began a discussion by Mercier that the School Committee should not be meeting in the morning hours but rather in the evening (I have to agree with him there). Bonnie Elie replied that even though she too wasn't at that meeting, she did get a copy of the contract in the mail and reviewed it before hand, not "five minutes beforehand like you do."


Yikes.


In the end, and after some confusion by Elie on how to vote on this issue, Mercier's motion was defeated and the contract was signed. Mike Miles then gave Dr. Scott some Dracut school apparel (Mrs. Espindle also got a beautiful bouquet of flowers). Miles did mention during the meeting that contract talks were tough but they got a good deal. Hopefully Shawn will have a copy up on Dracut Forum tonight.


Welcome to Dracut, Dr. Scott.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Library wants you to visit

The Dracut Library, my favorite place in town, posted the following on Twitter and Facebook today:

The library is waiting for you. Come and see what we have to offer!

That's wonderful but as we all know they drastically cut their hours this summer so only stay-at-home parents, teachers, retirees, and children can go there. They're closed on Saturdays and they close at 4:30 every day except for Tuesdays. I still think they need to consider staying open one more day until 8:30 during the summer, it's unfair the majority of people in town can't go there at all.

Wilde and son reuinted

If you are friends with former selectmen candidate Pete Wilde on Facebook, you know that he was recently reunited with his son Matt thanks to Facebook. They met again for the first time in 20 plus years on Sunday and Fox 25 picked up on the story. You can see the video here.

McCarthy retiring

Gerry Nutter first had the story on Sunday but today the Sun is reporting that Dracut Water Supply Superintendent Gary McCarthy is retiring in August. McCarthy, who is also Town Moderator, has worked for the town, in one form or another, for decades.

The article points out that Assistant Superintendent Mark Riopelle has the upper hand in replacing McCarthy, perhaps as soon as tomorrow:

Water Commissioner William Morin, chairman of the board, said he would be bringing up the subject tomorrow. Morin said the job is still posted until tomorrow, but he said he favors hiring Riopelle. A salary for the job has not been set yet, according to Morin.

"That's one of the reasons Mark Riopelle was hired. When we hired Gary we knew he wasn't going to stay on forever," said Morin. "If we hadn't hired Gary, it would have been Mark.

Riopelle was also a finalist for the job in 2001, but McCarthy ultimately ended up being hired for the top job, according to Morin.

McCarthy and Riopelle were brought on to clean up a number of problems at the water supply district. In 1999, the state had threatened to take over the agency because the condition of the water system was in such poor condition, according to Morin.

The water supply district has spent millions of dollars upgrading the infrastructure in recent years, said Morin.

"Gary will be missed. The district is run more professionally now," said Morin. "I believe that will continue with the people we have now."


See the whole article here.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Water up $100

Today's Sun is reporting that the Dracut Water Supply District is raising fees this year. The increase roughly works out to $100 per family of four.

DWSD Superintendent said:

McCarthy said the increase is due to the rise in cost of doing business at the district, including hikes in the price of electricity, gas and fuel and health insurance costs.

Health insurance costs? Of course.

Not worth it

Kudos to State Sen. Susan Tucker for her opposition to casinos in Massachusetts. Today's Sun points out a bill put forth by State Sen. Steve Panagiotakos with great quotes from Tucker.

People are foolish if they think casinos are this great panacea. Yesterday's Las Vegas Review-Journal reported that Nevada has the highest unemployment in the country, 14%! Las Vegas itself has an unemployment rate of 14.1%.

I find it hard to believe that our legislators still think casinos are a good idea and a cure all for our state's economic woes. State Rep. Colleen Garry supports them which is very disappointing. Casinos are all over the East Coast now, the market is saturated and adding four more is a huge mistake with major social costs.

Stand firm, Sen. Tucker.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Kelly is out

Dracut resident and state Senate candidate John Kelly has dropped out of the race. The Sun broke the news:

"After discussions with family, friends and supporters, I have made the very difficult decision to withdraw my candidacy for state Senate," Kelly said in a statement. "The decision came down to putting my family before everything else in my life."

Not ready yet

If you've driven by the new Canney Farm park lately, you may have noticed people playing basketball. Well the town is asking folks to hold off until the official opening on June 29 to use the park.

Lori Cahill told the Sun:

"Today, as we speak, the park is not done, and we are asking people to let these guys finish it," Recreation Director Lori Cahill said. "It's so tempting. It may look like a great place to go right now, but it's a still a construction site, with equipment and heavy debris over there, and I just don't want to see anyone get hurt."

She also said that the courts have been littered with empty water bottles. I hope people don't treat this place like they do Veterans Park. If you go there late on a weekend afternoon you'll see trash and bottles everywhere, it's very disheartening.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

From George Boag

George Boag, Republican candidate for state representatives, sends this along:

GEORGE BOAG STATE REP CAMPAIGN KICKOFF

I am having a campaign kickoff event on June 27th at the Dracut House of Pizza
from 2-4. More details can be found on my website www.voteboag.com. The theme
for the event is Bunker Hill Day. June 17th is the 135 anniversary of the Battle
of Bunker Hill.

With Evacuation Day this is the most notorious of the state “hack holidays.”
The event doesn’t have to fall on Bunker Hill day because state employees are
allowed to use them as “floating Holidays” when they want them.

There is currently an attempt in the legislature to abolish these holidays
but such efforts have failed in the past. Last year the House of Representatives
voted to preserve them. My opponent voted with the leadership to defend the
status quo. I would urge her to reconsider and vote to abolish them the next
time she gets the chance.

When local aid cuts lead to teacher furloughs and local merchants lose
business to New Hampshire because of the sales tax increase can the state afford
to continue paying its employees for excessive holidays? Remember the events of
1775 are already celebrated on Patriots Day. Remember also that the colonists
lost the Battle of Bunker Hill so what exactly are we celebrating?

The legislature is currently finishing the state budget for next year. They are
hoping that with one-time gimmicks to do so without raising taxes again this
year. But projections for the budget beginning July 2011 are that it will be
$2-3 billion short. If the leadership on Beacon Hill cannot make small cuts this
year what are the chances they will make major cuts next year?

If elected I will oppose any tax, toll or excessive fee increase. The budget is
out of balance not because the taxpayers don’t pay enough but because the
government spends too much. In November we need to elect a new governor and new
legislators to bring a new approach to the statehouse.

Please drop in to my event on the 27th and introduce yourself. At
www.voteboag.com you can learn more about me and my stance on issues. I hope
that by November I will have earned your vote.

Sheehan Fundraiser

School Committee Chair Matthew Sheehan, an Independent candidate for state representative, is having a fundraiser on Thursday, July 1 from 7pm-9pm at O'Hara's on Lakeview Avenue. The suggested donation is $10 a person.

Wilde is in

Pete Wilde announced on Facebook today that he will be running for the Board of Selectmen again next May.

His announcement:

I am making it OFFICIAL, I will be a Candidate for Selectman next year here in Dracut. Please join my team to help with some planning, fund raising and experience a campaign that treats everyone as family.

4th of July

Selectman George Malliaros announced at this week's meeting that the annual concert and fireworks will be on July 2. Brox Industries once again graciously donated money for the event.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Needs time

From Facebook:

Positively Dracut Positively Dracut is on Vacation until September. Have a great summer!

Vacation? Ahhh, ok. Takes time to find a new co-host I guess :)

Surprised I saw this since they "defriended" me from this group. They seem to like to do that.

On my dime

Yesterday, I received yet another taxpayer funded campaign piece from Rep. Niki Tsongas, this time about veterans. While I appreciate her work on this issue, I am pretty annoyed at the number of fliers she is sending at taxpayers expense (this is the 3rd or 4th in the past few months).

We're not dumb, Rep. Tsongas. You have a fight on your hands this year and your using your franking privilege to help your re-election campaign. I resent paying for you campaign efforts.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Canney Farm Dedication

Brian Bond has some good news:

Less than one year since the Ground Breaking ceremony at the old Canney Farm we are about to celebrate the Grand Opening of the Dillon-McAnespie Park. This is an exciting time and we are hoping to get as many residents as possible to the Grand Opening on Tuesday June 29th at 6pm and a rain date of June 30th at 6pm.

This park would not have been possible if not for the investment and commitment of thousands of people in this community. By using Community Preservation funds, as well as the hard work of many volunteers, the Dillon-McAnespie Park will be a community resource for generations to come. The Park is equipped with a great tot lot, rest rooms, storage / utility building, walking paths and lighting everywhere!! There are 3 basketball courts, 1 tennis court, 1 baseball field and a multipurpose practice field for football, soccer and lacrosse.

Please join in celebrating this tremendous community accomplishment on Tuesday June 29th at 6pm at the Dillon-McAnespie Park on Lakeview Avenue. I look forward to seeing you there.

Brian

Library cut

As you may know, the Dracut Library, one of my favorite places in town, recently cut their hours for the summer pretty dramatically. They explained why on their Facebook page:

The Library Trustees, after considering low staffing levels, a tight budget and a relaxed library hour requirement by the state, have decided that it is necessary for the cut in hours. They did not make this decision lightly. In order to provide reasonable library services and maintain the safety of library staff and patrons the Trustees voted to take this departure in our normal summer hours. We are VERY SORRY for the cut in hours, especially at a time when we are trying to encourage people to use their library.

The library now closes every day at 4:30pm except for Tuesday when they close at 8:30pm (they're closed on weekends). As someone pointed out on Facebook, why don't they open late (say noon) on some days and stay open until 8:30? It doesn't seem fair to working people that they will hardly ever be able to use the library this summer.

Monday, June 14, 2010

New blogger...

Just noticed tonight that Republican candidate for State Representative, George Boag, has a blog up about his campaign. You can check it out here.

Meeting schedule

I got a little behind on updating the weekly meeting schedule but it's back up and running in the right hand column of the old blog.

The last believer?

I was on Saturday Morning Live this weekend with Warren Shaw et al and Brian Bond and Gary Marsella called in talk about last week's Town Meeting. They both admitted that the issue of stipends for elected officials, in their minds, was over as the people had spoken. But later Selectman Cathy Richardson called in and said that Selectman John Zimini would introduce something to the Board of Selectmen to eliminate the health insurance coverage for elected officials as that is the only way it can be changed legally.

Zimini, it seems, is fighting a losing battle and is losing allies in the process. Marsella and Bond seemed to be positioning themselves to move on and rumors are that Ken Cunha is no longer on speaking terms with Zimini (there hasn't been a new episode of the duo's show "Positively Dracut" in weeks and the show's Facebook page was last updated on May 15).

I said on the radio that this reminds me of Lyndon Johnson and the Vietnam War. By 1968, everyone had abandoned him and the war but he stayed firm. In the end, he was the last believer...and we know how that turned out for him.

If Zimini wants to get re-elected in May (which is pretty slim anyway) he needs to become more positive, more collegial with the Board of Selectmen, and move away from stipends and health insurance. If he doesn't, he won't have to question whether or not it's all worth it, the voters will decide for him.

On the path

On my way to work this morning (my last one this year!) I noticed a fence around the property on Nashua Rd. that is scheduled to become affordable housing for those over 62. Well, on cue there was an article in today's paper about the status of the project. It looks as if it's on track and the project is going before the Board of Appeals this Thursday.

I liked this part of the article:

"We think it will be an asset for the elderly and we're also hoping to put Dracut people back to work," said Coravos, who has been in local real estate for more than three decades. "All Dracut subcontractors will have first preference on this project."

Nice work.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Shaw on Scott

Warren Shaw's column in this week's Valley Dispatch deals with incoming Superintendent of Schools Stacy Scott. He is hopeful that Scott's hiring is an opportunity to "change the culture and image of the schools."

He also reminds us that Town Manager Dennis Piendak too came from Maryland where he was free from the various political groups in town. Like the way the Board of Selectmen works with Piendak, Shaw feels that the School Committee should "stand back" and let Scott "apply his skills."

Sound good to me.

Shaw also credits the School Committee for the process by which Scott was hired, calling it "open and transparent."

Perhaps it is a sign of the times but I am surprised that no one has mentioned the fact that Scott is African-American, a very significant development in town. I don't know the whole history of Dracut but I wonder if Scott is the first minority leader in the town's history. Maybe with a black president, black governor, etc. it's not that big of a deal anymore. Hopefully Martin Luther King's credo has finally come true.

Anyway, you can see Shaw's column here, it's a good read.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Following the money

I went to Town Hall yesterday to take a look at the 2010 campaign finance reports for last month's elections. There were no shockers like last year's $500 donation from Mike McLaughlin to Ken Cunha. But, it's always interesting to see who gives to who. Note that candidates only have to report the names of people who give more than $50 so this is not a complete list.

Some notable names (at least ones I recognized):

George Malliaros

Brox - $100
David Chartrand - $100
Jim Hall - $100
Kevin Richardson - $100

Brian Bond

Ken Cunha - $100
Mike McLaughlin - $100

Jim O'Loughlin

Tony Archinski - $100
Mike Lenzi - $100

Mike Miles

Kevin Richardson - $100

Mae Paquette

DJ Deeb - $100
Nancy Gagnon - $200
Mike McLaughlin - $100

Phil Thibault

Brian Bond - $100
Ken Martin - $100

Russ Taylor

Merrimack Valley Central Labor Council - $500
IBEW Local 2321 - $500
IUPA Local 9000 - $250
Tony Archinski - $100

The people have spoken

The craziness that is the end of a school year has finally ended. Commencement was last night which was the last big event of the year. I have two more final exams to take care of and I am done on Thursday. We just have one meeting and faculty BBQ on Monday and it's summer vacation! I will then have much more time to blog and focus on Dracut politics. Luckily Shawn and Gerry have been going strong.

I do have something I am working on and will hopefully get it up on the old blog later today so stay tuned.

So, it looks like the people have spoken about selectmen and stipends. In this economy, I would have been in favor of eliminating it but I can deal with the results. I was a little perplexed, however, by Selectman George Malliaros saying that the $2,000 stipend was "an incentive to return voters' calls..." Huh? I liked former Selectman Shelia Richardson's comment: "It's not a question of whether anyone's worth it. We know they are -- but can we afford it?"

I was pleased that they eliminated the reimbursement for gas for selectmen, that seemed a little fishy to me. And, they did cut their pay by 1/3 according to Shawn which is nice.

I kind of wish I was there for the drama, especially between Pete Wilde and Selectman John Zimini! Speaking of Zimini, as Shawn points out, this is another defeat for him. I have been on record that his political career is most likely over come next May. To be honest, it would not even shock me if he didn't run again. But I know Wilde is running again and Zimini would not want to back away from that election.

Lots of fun!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Democracy in Action

Tonight of course is the June Town Meeting. The fun begins at 7:30pm at the high school. Unfortunately I cannot be there as my school is having its Baccalaureate Mass tonight. The big article of course is the one that would exclude elected officials from the town's health insurance plan. Submitted by Selectman John Zimini, one wonders how this will go over. I am certain it will not pass although I am sympathetic to the idea.

You can see all the articles here.