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Transparency, town road acceptance and more at Town Meeting Monday, Nov. 4

Nov 02, 2019 11:50PM ● By Lisa Redmond

DRACUT – When the Fall Town Meeting convenes on Monday, Nov. 4, Town Meeting members will face 28 articles on the warrant and the absence of long-time Town Manager Jim Duggan, who resigned under pressure last month.

One of the final issues that drove Duggan out the door was the controversy over potential bidding violations. Projects worth thousands of dollars were put out for bid to a limited pool of contractors rather than being posted, as required by state law, on the state’s Central Register.

The Central Register is a weekly publication by the Secretary of State’s office that contains notices of requests for bids for contracting services for projects of $10,000 or more. The publication is available to the public to provide transparency in public bids.

More than a year after Selectman Joe DiRocco raised his concerns to Duggan about the town’s potential violation of the public procurement laws, the town began posting requests for bids on upcoming projects on the town website.

Article 12, which is being spearheaded by resident Rich Cowen, seeks to ensure future transparency of bid awards. The article asks that the town bylaws be amended adding Section 3 which requires the Board of Selectmen to instruct the town manage to maintain a web page on the town’s website that lists:

· Information on where the town posts its requests for bids

· A list of all bids awarded containing the names of the bidders, bid amounts and the name of the bidder chosen, the date of the bid opening, the nature of the goods or services procured, and the second under the Mass. General Laws under which bidding was conducted.

Other highlights of articles:

Article 36 asks Town meeting to dedicate, under the provisions of Municipal Modernization Act and Mass. General Laws, to designate 50 percent of the collections of excise tax on sales of marijuana in Dracut to the School Building and Roof Repair Stabilization Fund (Article 33).

Article 3 asks that the town provide funds to be spent, under the direction of the School Building Committee, for the replacement of the decades-old roofs at the Englesby and Brookside elementary schools. Town Meeting originally approved $2 million for school roof replacement with the Massachusetts School Building Authority reimbursing up to 57.4 percent of the costs. But the town needs to invest $300,000 to fund the bidding process and design schematics.

At recent meeting of the Board of Selectmen, School Superintendent Steven Stone explained, “It is urgent to repair the roofs.’’ Each year that the roofs are not replaced the cost increases 10 percent and its “another year of leaky roofs.’’

Article 4 is also a school funding article in which voters will be asked to spend $38,295 for vaping detectors and $19,813 to replace the AC unit in a library.

Article 13 asks that Town Meeting create the Dracut Affordable Housing Partnership Committee, which will be responsible for the promotion and creation of affordable housing for Dracut residents.

There are also several street-acceptance articles where developers are asking the town to take ownership and responsibility for streets within a completed housing complex. This is the last stage in the process, which if approves, allows the return of thousands of dollars in bonds given to the town as a promise to complete the project as required. But some of the requests have rankled the Board of Selectmen and could face an uphill battle at Town Meeting because some developers have outstanding issues and those who addressed their issues did so at the last minute when some developments have been ongoing for years.

Article 16 asks the town to rezone a 1500 Broadway St., an 81,806-square-foot parcel owned by Bettencourt V11 Corp., from business to industrial so the property owner can open a boutique marijuana shop. Marijuana retailers are only allowed in industrial zones.

Selectman Tony Archinski said the concern is that by rezoning a parcel “you have to consider everything that can go in there.’’ DiRocco added that residents voted to allow pot shops in industrial zones “for a reason.’’

Town Meeting begins at 7:30 p.m. at Dracut High School at 1540 Lakeview Ave.

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