DRACUT -- Selectmen's controversy-laden discussion of the Housing Authority's letter about "disgraced" Commissioner Brian Bond took place about two-thirds of the way through an action-packed meeting agenda that produced a nearly three-hour session, beginning with Police Chief Kevin Richardson bearing some bad news.

In providing the Police Department's monthly update, Richardson told selectmen two of Dracut's most senior officers will retire at the end of June, and will not be replaced for five months.

"We have four student officers training now at the police academy in Lowell, but they won't graduate until November," Richardson said.

Compounding the problem of being short-staffed through the summer, the department's 8,564 calls for service in 2014 are running 300 ahead of last year's pace, according to Richardson.

Among those calls, police handled "905 assault-related crimes, 459 calls about suspicious persons or activity, 413 public-disorder offenses, 274 motor vehicle crashes, 831 medical aid calls, and investigated nine sudden deaths," the chief said.

Despite an outcry from neighbors who voiced child-safety and traffic concerns in a public hearing held in the board's previous meeting, Asst. Town Manager Glen Edwards said the town had no legal reason to deny the business permit requested by Route 110 Auto Inc.'s owner, Michael Ide, to open an auto-repair shop at 310 Merrimack Ave.

Selectmen said they each made a site visit to the proposed business location prior to Tuesday's unanimous vote, 5-0, to permit Ide to work in the 3,500-square-foot garage, Monday through Saturday.

Ide promised to put up minimum signage, with no customers coming in or out, and no two-truck traffic. He also accepted the selectmen's list of two dozen stipulations to receive the permit, including agreeing to have no more than 10 vehicles on the property at one time, and to do no outside repairs.

"We're going to be Boy Scouts," Ide told the board. "We want to be part of the neighborhood."

In delivering his first selectmen's meeting report since coming to Dracut, Town Manager Jim Duggan said he'd held a series of productive meetings in the past with all town department heads, and executives of Brox Industries, Albanese Brothers Inc.

Together with a representative of the local Chamber of Commerce, Duggan said he planned to schedule and meet with as many small-business owners in Dracut as possible, each Monday between 10 a.m. and noon.

Duggan also told the board he is eyeing the dates of Sept. 11 and 12 as the likely dates for town employees to close their old Town Hall offices temporarily to make the big move into their designated offices in the new Dracut Town Hall complex.

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