Friday, August 20, 2010

Saying goodbye

Warren Shaw has a nice column today in which he says goodbye to three fixtures of Dracut government - Gary Marsella, Gary McCarthy, and Linda Trouville. Marsella, the longtime chair of the Finance Committee, passed away recently of a heart attack. Marsella and Shaw had major disagreements on Louisburg Square and, most recently, on compensation for elected officials. I was a guest on "Saturday Morning Live" when Marsella called in after June's Town Meeting to explain some of his decisions and I could tell that despite their disagreements, Shaw and him liked each other a great deal as they were laughing and joking at the end. Shaw points out another example of Marsella's good nature:

The story that will always stay with me about this man was during the long ordeal that led up to the defeat of the Louisburg Square senior housing project.

Marsella had taken a strong position against the project, a position that I strongly disagreed with.

During one of my Saturday morning radio shows I suggested that perhaps Gary had stayed too long on the committee and should think about stepping down.


The very next day I received a call from him asking if I had an hour for "an old friend."

Our conversation lasted longer than an hour, and neither of us changed our position. But more importantly, the friendship we had for over 20 years remained.

Shaw also highlights Gary McCarthy who is retiring from the Dracut Water Supply after a long career in town government and Dr. Trouville who is leaving Dracut Public Schools to become the principal at St. Louis School in Lowell. It got me thinking that there has been some major turnover lately in Dracut's government with these three moving on, a new superintendent, the departure of the library director, Steve Stone leaving, the defeat of 18-year Selectman Jim O'Loughlin in May, and, presumably sometime soon, Town Manager Dennis Piendak.

Meeting agendas

Next Monday and Tuesday, the School Committee and Board of Selectmen return for their August meetings. The agenda for the School Committee can be found here while the Selectmen's agenda is here.

It's nice to have agendas available on-line now, thanks to the Open Meeting Law. The School Committee was always good about posting their agendas but the selectmen weren't as much. I've been to a few meetings and I once asked the secretary for a copy of the agenda to which she asked, "Who are you?" She didn't mean it in a bad way but she only made copies for people who needed them and wasn't sure if I was one of those persons. Either way, nice to have them well in advance now although, as Shawn pointed out, New Business sections of the meetings will be much more boring now that they really can't bring things up that aren't on the agenda.

Back in the area

Fr. Chris Casey, who served Saint Francis and Ste. Marguerite's for the past three years as parochial vicar, was transferred this May to St. Agnes in Arlington. I loved Fr. Chris and he baptized both of our children so we were sad to see him go. Well, he's now coming back to the area as Cardinal Sean O'Malley has named him pastor of Our Lady of Good Counsel in Methuen (ironically to replace Fr. Marc Bishop who is now pastor of Ste. Marguerite's).

Fr. Chris is an amazing priest and I am excited he will be back in the area. Welcome back to the Valley, Father!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Library hours

Hate to keep harping on the library (which I love) but they're saying they are resuming their "fall" hours on September 13 (open three nights a week until 8:30, at 4:30 Thursday-Saturday). But, when they changed to summer hours a few months ago I could have sworn they said these hours were until Labor Day (September 6). I may be right. On May 7 they wrote on their Facebook page:

Just a reminder the Library will begin closing on Saturdays starting May 29th. We will open again on Saturdays starting September 11, 2010. Keep in mind we are closed Memorial Day Weekend, May 29th-31st.

If September 11 was to be their first Saturday then that would mean they planned on returning to "fall" hours that week, not the following week. What gives?

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Still here

Sorry for the lack of posts this past week. I was away at the beach for a few days last week and truthfully, there's not a lot going on in town. More to come soon though, stay tuned.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Legal?

Last week Library Board of Trustees Chair Clee Ace told the Sun that they would most likely not reveal the names of the applicants for the library director position. That got me thinking - is that even legal?

According to the Open Meeting Law on executive session, bodies can enter into executive session:

To consider or interview applicants for employment or appointment by a preliminary screening committee if the chair declares that an open meeting will have a detrimental effect in obtaining qualified applicants; provided, however, that this clause shall not apply to any meeting, including meetings of a preliminary screening committee, to consider and interview applicants who have passed a prior preliminary screening.

It goes on to say:

This Purpose does not apply to any stage in the hiring process after the screening committee or subcommittee votes to recommend a candidate or candidates to its parent body.

Now the library trustees are their own screening committee but it seems to me that they cannot meet to discuss the applicants in secret after having narrowed the field.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Trouville's new job

The Lowell Sun has a nice article on Dr. Linda Trouville's new position as the principal of St. Louis School in Lowell. Fr. Marc Bishop, the new pastor of Ste. Marguerite's which oversees St. Louis, asked Dr. Trouville to take the job during her service on the Search Committee! My wife used to work with Fr. Marc when she was a Youth Minister at St. Mary's in Chelmsford and loved him - he will do amazing work at Ste. Marguerite's and St. Rita's in Lowell where he also serves as pastor (St. Rita's also oversees Ste. Jeanne D' Arc School so Fr. Marc is pastor of two parishes and is also responsible for two elementary schools! God love him for taking the job this summer).

The article points out that many families have returned to the school after leaving last year. The school suffered a major decline in enrollment after Sr. Irene, the school's beloved principal, retired a couple of years ago. I always thought Dr. Trouville should take the job at St. Louis after Sr. Irene retired. She is very active at our parish, Saint Francis, and thought she'd be a nice fit. I am glad she did it. I too work in Catholic education and find it incredibly rewarding, despite the lower pay and benefits.

See the article here.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Who is the independent?

I received two mailings today for the State Senate race - one from State Rep. Barry Finegold and another from Jack Wilson, both Democrats. They both tout themselves as an "Independent Voice" with Finegold promoting his vote to do away with Evacuation Day and Bunker Hill Day as Suffolk County holidays (he called them Hack Holidays), giving up his 2009 pay raise and per diems, and his vote for term limits for Speaker of the House.

I found it tnteresting that Finegold never, not once mentions that he is a Democrat in his piece. He uses the word "independent" four times as well as "transparency", "common sense", "accountability", etc. He fails to mention his vote to raise the state sales tax.

Wilson does mention he is a Democrat but an "independent" Democrat, the "voice of working people" and that he won't be afraid to "stand up to the party when they're wrong." Wilson has been pushing for a Finance Control Board for Lawrence and for weeks he has sent out press releases counting the number of days Finegold has remained silent on the matter (it's up to 18).

Wilson touts his being from "outside the current political system" but mentions that he worked as a Chief of Staff to former Sen. John O'Brien, was the Regional Director of the Massachusetts Office of Business Development, the Director of Economic Development for Methuen, and the Economic Development Office in Lawrence.

Interesting pieces, they're certainly appealing to independent voters (you know, those people who got Scott Brown elected). Finegold has the most to answer for, especially his vote to raise the states sales tax last year. Wilson has nothing to lose (well, except for the primary) but his target audience is working class independents, especially in Dracut and Tewksbury. Should be interesting.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Gary Marsella: RIP

Shocking news - Finance Committee Chair Gary Marsella passed away of a heart attack today. I met Gary a few times and always found him to be a good man. I didn't know him that well and was at times critical of his political stances but I always enjoyed talking to him.

My sincere condolences to his family and friends.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Library budget

I spoke with Paul in the Town Accountant's office this morning (very friendly and helpful, thank you Paul) who provided me with the numbers of the library's budget for the past few fiscal years. They were:

FY 2007: $659,300
FY 2008: $701,350
FY 2009: $739,650
FY 2010: $718,050
FY 2011: $734,150

Now math was never my strong suit but that looks like the budget has increased pretty much over time. Yes, it is down this year from FY 2009 (but not by much) but it's way up from FY 2010.

Tell me again why the library had to cut their hours this summer?

More on library

The Sun finally has an article today on the departure of Library Director Dana Mastroianni and the search for her replacement. Library Board of Trustee Chair Clee Ace said that Mastroianni left to work "at another company" but she could not recall where. Left unsaid was whether or not Mastroianni left on her own or was let go.

Anyway, Ace said that the trustees will most likely not be revealing who the applicants are for Mastroianni's replacement but, as they did with Mastroianni, "simply [choose] and [announce]" their choice. Hmmm. Considering Mastroianni lasted just three years, one has to wonder if it is wise to keep the same process.

The article also points out that the library drastically cut their hours for the summer. While they've always been closed on Saturdays over the summer, they are now only open one day a week until 8:30pm (they close at 4:30pm on other days). Town Manager Dennis Piendak told the Sun that the hours were cut due to a cut in state aid. I have a call into the Town Accountant's office to see how much the library's budget has been cut since FY 2007. I will let you know when I hear back.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Library changes

One of the quietest changes in town government lately was the recent departure of Library Director Dana Mastroianni. There has been no mention of her leaving in the Sun and there's been little chatter about it.

Anyway, the Library Board of Trustees are moving on finding a new director and are meeting in executive session tomorrow and Tuesday to conduct preliminary interviews. The job description is on the town's website and you can see it here.

I found this part of the job description interesting:

The new director should be a community leader capable of developing a compelling vision that will make the library relevant in the 21st century. This person should see challenges as opportunities.