Methuen Taxpayers Deserve More Accountability From City Officials

By: DJ Deeb – February, 2017

Methuen Public Schools are continuing to move forward and we have much to be proud of, but I am also disappointed to report that I do not believe that all of our tax dollars are being spent wisely and I believe that some Methuen city officials are being negligent in their oversight of these tax dollars.

At its November 14th business meeting, members of the Methuen school committee voted to approve the posting of two new part-time positions for the Methuen Public Schools based on the recommendation of the Mayor, a Medicaid Billing Assistant and an MHS Auditorium Manager.

These positions are renewable each year and the purpose is to bring in revenue and Medicaid reimbursements to the city. Although these goals are well-intentioned, I voted against the creation of these additional positions because I feel that given the city’s budget situation there should be a hiring freeze on all new positions. There are people in place that clearly and should be performing these tasks efficiently already. It is unfair to ask the taxpayers to front additional costs for these positions even though they are supposed to bring in more revenue to the city than the cost of their salaries.

At the January 9th school committee meeting I voted against awarding a bid on snow-plowing and snow removal services. The reason for this is that a majority of school board members voted against my substitute motion to go out to bid. Kudos to School Committee member Jana DiNatale for having the courage of her convictions and doing the right thing by voting to support my motion to send this contract out to bid. Unfortunately, our Motion failed 5-2. At the meeting, Mayor Steven Zanni admitted that the snow plowing and removal contract for the city and the schools has not gone out to bid for 5 years. The reason: snow plowing and removal is exempt from state bid law requirements under MGL Chapter 30B. This does not mean however that we cannot go out to bid. The current contractor is Frank Delucia & Son, Inc. from Plaistow, New Hampshire. Mayor Zanni maintains that this contractor was the lowest 5 years ago. Although rates did not increase this year, Methuen taxpayers are paying between $57.00-$117.00 per hour based on equipment for snow removal. I think this contractor does a decent job and he may still be the lowest, but we owe it to the taxpayers to make sure.

The majority of the Methuen school committee should not just rubber stamp what the mayor and city hall recommends. The Methuen city council should also demand that the city send this out to bid. Methuen taxpayers deserve better and they deserve to know if they are getting the best deal they can for the city. I will certainly remember this irresponsible behavior come budget time this spring.

On a more positive note, congratulations to the 116 students at Methuen High School who now qualify for tuition assistance at a state college or university for their exceptional performance on the MCAS test. This constitutes nearly 25% of the graduating class at MHS and we are all proud of these students!
With the winter season upon us, it should be noted that the decision to close school and/or institute delayed openings rests with Superintendent Judy Scannell. All delayed opening and cancellation messages are sent out through ConnectEd phone calls to parents and staff as well as carried on major television and radio stations, including WCCM, the Methuen School Channel (Channel 99 for Comcast and Channel 31 for Verizon), and on the Methuen Public Schools website.

Remember your influence counts. Use it.

D.J. Deeb is a Methuen resident and member of the Methuen School Committee. 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. Deeb also serves as Social Studies Department Chair at Notre Dame High School in Lawrence, Massachusetts. He is the author of Israel, Palestine, and the Quest for Middle East Peace (University Press, 2013) and The Collapse of Middle East Peace (IUniverse, 2003).