Friday, July 30, 2010

Partial list?

State Rep. Barry Feingold, who is running for the state Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Sue Tucker, sent out a fundraiser invite with a list of Dracut politicos who have endorsed him. Some of the notables: Selectmen Cox and Malliaros, Brian Bond, Bob Corey, Ken Cunha, George Nangle, Tony Archinski, John Dyer, Mike McNamara, Howie Savard, Jerry Surprenant, and Joe Tully.

It's interesting - Tully's is the last name after which it says "Partial List" implying that there are other Dracut notables who have endorsed Feingold but aren't on this list. I'm wondering - does anyone have another partial list that goes up to Z?

Probably not.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Even if they stay...

Finally after some delays, the two Dracut police officers who allegedly were "intentional deceptive" during the investigation in the 2003 theft of drugs from the police's evidence trailer, will appear before Town Manager Dennis Piendak for a disciplinary hearing. The two officer, William Dubois and Leonard Wagner, cannot be charged as the statue of limitations have expired but they do face potential punishment, including termination.

The Sun points out today something I've been thinking about. If Wagner and Dubois keep their jobs, they will be tarnished forever. Can you imagine being pulled over by them? Where is their moral authority? Furthermore, the article points out that a 1963 Supreme Court ruling requires that officers who have a history of lying must have that fact pointed out during criminal trials that involve the officers.

Either way, I think these guys have tarnished the force's reputation. I saw a cop put his lights on yesterday and blow through traffic on 113 and it looked to me that he was trying to avoid all the heavy traffic rather than respond to a call. I could be very wrong of course but it shows that we now automatically question some police behavior. It's sad.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

DHS Details

Today's Sun has more details on the proposed renovations to Dracut High School. Namely:

Enlarging the auditorium to a capacity of 750.

Converting the old gymnasium into a new library.

Converting the old library into administrative and classroom spaces.

An entirely new gymnasium expanded onto the old structure.

A new two-story classroom wing expansion.

A new sprinkler system to protect the town's investment, where none has existed in the old school since it opened more than 50 years ago.

The article points out that the renovations could cost the town $23m, after a 60% reimbursement from the state. If all approvals go through, including Town Meeting approval and a ballot question (Prop 2 1/2 override?), the work could be finished by 2014.

O'Loughlin on immigration

Former Selectman Jim O'Loughlin has been somewhat out of the public eye since his stunning loss in May's town election. But he's back today with a special column in the Sun on immigration. It's an interesting read, you can see it here.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Tim Murray and Dracut

Over at Red Mass Group (the Republican version of Blue Mass Group) they highlight a bill signed by Lt. Gov. Tim Murray (he was acting governor last week with Gov. Deval Patrick in the Middle East) that benefited a campaign contributor.

It got me thinking of the amount of money that goes into Murray's coffers from politicos in Dracut, especially Selectman John Zimini. It's no secret that Zimini was out of work until last year (or was it earlier this year, I can't remember) when he landed a state job. Since July 1, 2009, Zimini has donated $500 to Murray, Zimini's wife has donated $650, and Zimini's daughter has donated $500. That's $1,650 in over a year from one family (and most of it was at one fundraiser in June). Since 2007, the Zimini family (and the committee to elect John Zimini) has donated a total of $2,775 to Murray.

All told, since Murray began running for lieutenant governor, he has raised a grand total of $14,425 from folks in Dracut. See it all here.

DHS moving forward

At tonight's School Committee meeting, they endorsed the Permanent Building Committee's recommendation for renovating Dracut High School (option 1C). They didn't go into details but Dr. McNamara pointed out that renovating the school was a much cheaper option than building a new one. The process, of course, is far from over. The plan now goes to the Massachusetts School Building Authority next week.

Stay tuned.

Mea culpa

My wife has been complaining that my hearing is going...now I wonder if my eyes are too. The agenda for the School Committee was on the website, I completely missed it. Thanks to Chairman Matt Sheehan for the heads-up.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Agenda?

There is one public meeting this week and that is tomorrow's School Committee meeting (the first, I believe, since Dr. Scott became superintendent).

Anyway, unless I am missing it, I went on the school's website to find the agenda and it's not there (nor is it on the town's website). Gerry Nutter had the same problem last week with the Lowell School Committee. As he pointed out, state law now requires posting of agendas when a meeting notice is posted. As Gerry posted last week:

For the first time. the posted notice of a meeting must include an agenda. It has always been the case that the posted notice should set forth the date. time and place of the meeting. but now the notice must also include “a listing of topics that the chair reasonably anticipates will be discussed at the meeting.”! ‘ This means that each subcommittee notice must list all substantive topics that the chair expects to come up. Advance notice may still be posted, but it will have to be updated as the date of the meeting nears if as is likely, the Clerk, Mayor, or Members of the Council learn of items that are probably going to be discussed. This also will have a limiting effect on the ability of members of the governmental body to bring up and address non-agenda items during the course of a meeting under suspension of the rules.

Again if I am missing it I apologize. But, I can navigate the town's sites pretty easily and if I can't find it then it's too hard to find.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

All quiet on the Dracut front

I don't know when the dog days of summer begin but it seems like we're in it vis a vis politics in town. It seems NOTHING is going on. The Board of Selectmen and School Committee are meeting once a month which makes for quiet weeks.

The only thing really in the paper this week that concerns Dracut was an article on flagmen. As you may know, flagmen are being used in some cases across the state in lieu of police officers. Flagmen can be cheaper as police require four hours of pay even if they work 4 minutes. However, what I found interesting was that in Dracut the town is not contractually required to use police for detail work:

Dracut's police-union contract specifies the compensation for police details, but there's no language insisting that construction contractors have to use officers over civilian flaggers, according to Chartrand.

Now, flagmen have to be paid prevailing wages so the cost savings is not that much but with all the work being done this summer (especially on Rt. 113) it may behove the town to consider using flagmen to save the taxpayers some money. The state, according to the article, has already saved $12 million since they made the change.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Free money

How would you like to make $8,400 for doing nothing? How about $8,700? All you have to do is be accused of being "intentionally deceptive" about the theft of items from police custody and have your lawyers delay and delay your hearing with your superior.

Sound good? That's the amount of money that Officers Dubois and Wagner have received since being placed on paid administrative leave by Town Manager Dennis Piendak two months ago. Good work if you can get it.

See today's Column for more.

Shocked, shocked I tells ya...Part II

Another Sunday another expose of the hackery that is Greater Lowell Technical High School thanks to the Sun (the article isn't on-line yet). This week we learn that a teacher, Doris DiFonzo, was fired from the school last year for "a lack of commitment to professional development." This despite that DiFonzo had done everything the school had asked her to do vis a vis professional development and was attending Rivier College to receive her masters degree.

By a complete coincidence, her replacement was the niece of the Guidance Director! Of course, Superintendent Mary Jo Santoro denies that DiFonzo was replaced, rather her job was eliminated due to "restructuring" (this is the same Santoro who brags about Greater Lowell's commitment to hiring family and friends).

The Sun contacted Santoro for a follow-up and she said she would call back but never did. The school's "spokesperson" (again, what school has a spokesperson?) was on vacation so he could not be reached nor could DiFonzo's former supervisor. I guess they're taking their lead from School Committee chair David Laferriere who refuses to speak to the media.

Keep the articles coming Sun. It's time to shine some more light on this place.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Change at library

Shawn recently alluded to it but now it's official. From Facebook:

Today is the last day for our library director, Dana Mastroianni. we wish her well in her future endeavors and thank her for the contributions she has made to our library and community.

Mastroianni was only in the position for a brief time - couple of years I believe so curious what happened here.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

More open government

It wasn't intentional I am sure but I have never found our town's government to be as open and transparent as it could be. Certainly anyone can go into Town Hall and request information and receive it, as I have on occasion. However when it comes to meeting notices, agendas, minutes, etc. there has been a lot to be desired.

Now all cities and towns in the state have to comply with new changes in the Open Meeting Law. Gerry Nutter posted a summary of the major changes in the law from Lowell's website (see it here). The biggest change we will benefit from, I think, is the mandated posting of agendas and better taking of minutes. In addition, the sub-committees of the Board of Selectmen and School Committee have to have their schedules, agendas, and minutes available. You watch their bmeetings and they talk about sub-committee meetings but I have never seen one public meeting notice with the exception of the school's Finance Sub-Committee.

Anyway, this is all good news for Dracut as we can get information more easily.

Get it done

When it comes to the case of the missing drugs from the Dracut Police Department, the town government has lost a lot of credibility. Fair or not, the perception from the public seems to be that feet were dragged in investigating the theft and it wasn't until the statute of limitations expired that two officers were named as being "intentionally deceptive" in the investigation.

Officers Dubois and Wagner have had their hearing with Town Manager Dennis Piendak delayed twice now for "procedural reasons." The Lowell Sun says today that enough is enough. I have to agree:

Let's hope there isn't some statute of limitations that may expire while attorneys secure postponement after postponement. It would be similar to what happened seven years ago when the investigation into the marijuana theft repeatedly stalled. Now no one can be charged because the statute of limitations expired last year.

For far too long, the town of Dracut, including its residents and Police Department, have been the butt of jokes regarding this embarrassing incident. They deserve to have the issue resolved -- as much as it now can be -- and to move on with their lives.


See it all here.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Thanks but no thanks

Back in May, the Boston Globe did a pretty damning expose of the state's hack-filled Probation Department. The article pointed out that Treasurer, and governor candidate, Tim Cahill, hired many of the family members of the Probation Department's commissioner to work in his fiefdom. His response to the article?

“Does that not happen in government all the time?”

“Obviously, it is part of the political process,” he said. “It’s an unfortunate part when it’s been brought to this level.”


Like that was supposed to make it OK.

I thought of this Cahill gaff when re-reading the Lowell Sun's great article on nepotism at Greater Lowell Tech. School Superintendent Mary Jo Santoro told the Sun, "It's always been the culture here. It's been a school where relatives have been hired. I can assure the parents and the taxpayers that those people are qualified to do those jobs."

Are you kidding me? Is that suppose to assuage us? No wonder this lady got the superintendent job, she's "one of them" and will protect all the hacks and nepotism that thrives there. If an "outsider" was hired who knows what would have happened to folks like Allison Chase, the superintendent's niece, who has a nice job as "Curriculum Secretary" at the tune of $38,102 a year.

Shocked, shocked I tells ya

You could have knocked me over with a feather when I read this morning that 18 employees at Greater Lowell Tech are relatives of school administrators and school committee members.

I kid of course. This just confirms what we've known all along - that Greater Lowell Tech, while a fine school, is full of hacks, bloated contracts, and nepotism. Former Dracut politicians, Brian and Mary Gail Martin, are part of the hiring frenzy. Mary Gail is the cheerleading coach at the school and her father is the safety coordinator. Of course they say that they had nothing to do with their hiring although Brian did say that Mary Gail was asked to be the coach.

In fact all of the people interviewed swear they had nothing to do with their family member being hired. It's all just a big happy coincidence.

Yep.

See the story here. Great work by the Sun.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Mercier pleads not guilty

He wasn't there but School Committee Member Ron Mercier plead not guilty today in Lowell District Court to larceny charges. Mercier is alleged to have stolen gas from the City of Lowell as well as stealing a camera that was placed on the premise from which the gas was being stolen. Mercier and his co-defendant, Keith Murphy, said they stole the camera and erased the footage because they felt their privacy was being violated.

Hmmm, weak argument if you ask me. Bernie Lynch ain't no Kyle Keady!

The Sun reports:

After a hidden video camera was installed at the Lowell Regional Water Utility to capture workers Keith Murphy and Ronald Mercier allegedly in the act of stealing gas and oil, Murphy admitted to police he stole the camera because he believed it was an invasion of his privacy.

In an interview with Lowell police, Murphy, 32, of Amesbury, allegedly admitted that he and Mercier stole the camera because he felt "his privacy was being violated" by the installation of the camera on city property, according to court documents.

The two men viewed the footage on the camera and then erased the stored images from the camera, Murphy allegedly told police.

Murphy told police the "trumped up" charges are retaliation for an incident a few years ago that resulted in a suspension for his supervisor.

But men made allegations of wrongdoing by other LRWU employees. Those allegations were turned over to city officials for further investigation.


As always, stay tuned.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Water ban

The Dracut Water Supply District and Kenwood Water District have declared a water conservation effort. Effective immediately all outside water use is banned on Mondays and the Odd/Even rules are in effect:

Even numbered homes may water outside on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.
Odd numbered homes may water outside on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Happy 4th

Happy 4th of July, Dracut!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Good job all...again

My family went to the fireworks tonight and had a wonderful time. We have gone every year since moving to town in 2005 (although I missed it last year) and we always look forward to it. There seemed to be a bigger than usual crowd this year and they were not disappointed.

Thanks to Brox Industries for making the event possible.