Incumbents Reign – High School Renovation Passes
By: D.J. Deeb – May, 2011
Dracut voters came out in record numbers for the May 2, 2011 Town Election to return incumbents to office and vote in favor of a Proposition 2 ½ Debt Exclusion for renovating Dracut High School. Nearly 31% of the registered voters in Dracut, a total of 5,958 people, voted. This was one of the highest turnouts in recent history.
Incumbents John Zimini and Bob Cox were re-elected to the Board of Selectmen. As predicted here, John Zimini topped the ticket once again. Zimini and Cox easily defeated challengers Tony Archinski, a retired Dracut Police official, and Ted Kosiavelon, a self-employed contractor. Zimini gathered 2,943 votes while Cox received 2,661. Archinski and Kosiavelon each received 2,470 and 1,842 respectively. There were 1,975 blank ballots, which means there were many bullet votes and non-votes. Although I like all four candidates personally, I only felt strong in my endorsement of John Zimini last month. I believe that Dracut voters made good decisions here in the Selectmen race.
On the School Committee side, incumbent Matt Sheehan narrowly defeated former School Committee member May Paquette by 158 votes (2,844 to 2,686 votes). I believe that Dracut voters made an unwise decision here because Sheehan has been part of the “Gang of Three” I have written so much about in the past. Although he ran a campaign of lies accusing his opponents of nepotism and political shenanigans, it is Sheehan that has been engaging in political cronyism for the past three years.
In the Moderator race, Leo Gaudette won out over political newcomer Chris Jenkins to replace Gary McCarthy, who vacated the seat. This was not a good move in my view because Gaudette is currently serving as Fire Chief for the Town of Dracut. I believe that it is a conflict of interest for a Town Employee to hold Town Office. This issue came up several times during the campaign and Gaudette stated that he plans to retire next year as Dracut’s Fire Chief.
In the non-contested races, Bill Morin was re-elected Dracut Water Commissioner, Kathy Graham was re-elected Clerk of the Dracut Water Supply District, and Victor Olson was re-elected to the Greater Lowell Regional Vocational-Technical School Committee, Finally, Linda Trouville and Cheryl Storm were elected Trustees of the Dracut Library.
Dracut voters approved the $60 Million Dracut High School Renovation Project that appeared as Ballot Question 1 (There were no other ballot questions). 3,894 residents voted for the project while 1,748 voted against it. The Proposition 2 ½ Debt Exclusion for the project will take effect in 2015 and homeowner tax bills will rise for 25 years after that to pay for the Renovation. $36.5 million of the renovations will be provided by the state while Dracut taxpayers are expected to fund the remaining $29.5 million of the cost. This was a smart decision by Dracut voters since the high school is in dire shape and the cost to make essential repairs would have been far greater in the years to come than the Renovation itself will cost.
As I wrote last month, if something is not done Dracut High School will likely lose its accreditation next year. The roof is leaking, the HVAC system is not working properly, the catwalk is not safe, and the outside canopy is in rough shape. There is also in adequate classroom, cafeteria, and gymnasium space for students. The proposed renovations call for a new auditorium, gym and locker rooms, additional classrooms, library expansion, and new classroom technology integration with wireless Internet access.
Dracut residents have spoken. Good luck to all the elected officials in their coming terms.
On a personal note, I resigned my position as a member of the Town of Dracut Committee on Government Rules and Regulations on April 26th effective May 16, 2011. The reason for my resignation is that I have purchased a home in Methuen and plan to change my primary residence on or around that date.
I have greatly enjoyed being a part of this Committee over the past two years and I thank Former Town Moderator Gary McCarthy for appointing me in 2009 and affording me the opportunity to serve the Town of Dracut these last two years. I will continue to be monitoring events in Dracut since I will continue to own property and pay taxes in Dracut. I look forward to joining my many friends as a resident of the great community of Methuen later this month.
D.J. Deeb served as a member of the Dracut School Committee from 2005-2008 and the Greater Lowell Regional Voc-Tech School Committee from 1997-2009. Deeb is an Adjunct Professor of History/Government at Bunker Hill Community College and an Adjunct Political Science Instructor at the University of Massachusetts Lowell. He teaches Social studies full-time at Reading Memorial High School.