COUNT GEORGE Malliaros, attorney and former Dracut selectman, among the many people from inside and outside town who expressed great surprise upon selectmen have the power to change the Proposition 2 1/2 override amount approved by Town Meeting.

"I'd never heard of that (law) before, and it's obviously a very unpopular thing to do," Malliaros said. "But at the end of the day, I believe a majority of the Board of Selectmen is not going to vote to take away what a majority vote of Town Meeting wanted to see on the ballot. I don't see that happening... If you have enough people who feel passionate about something, as the parents do, it is going to be on the ballot."

Malliaros blamed his failure to win re-election this year, in large part, to his outspoken opposition to the override, which drew the ire of School Committee members Joe Wilkie and Dan O'Connell, co-authors of the Town Meeting warrant article. Malliaros said Wilkie and O'Connell actively campaigned against him.

"If I wanted to be a real politician and play it cute, I would've kept my cards close to my vest and not given my opinion, as I did, that a $2.9 million override is not in the best interest of a majority of the people of Dracut," said Malliaros.

Malliaros added that he is irked that Selectmen Bob Cox and Tony Archinski have been notably coy.

"I haven't heard either one of them say, 'I support a $2.


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9 million override.'" Malliaros said.

GREATER LOWELL Technical High School Committee member George O'Hare took Erik Gitschier to task Thursday night questioning the accuracy of public statements he has made in recent weeks.

O'Hare, who often disagrees with Gitschier and has engaged in spirited arguments with his fellow representative from Lowell across the table, did not mention Gitschier's name during Thursday's public meeting, but it was clear to those who listened to the men on WCAP recently whom O'Hare was talking about.

On the radio program, Gitschier spoke about the number of SkillsUSA gold medals Shawsheen Valley Technical High School had earned, while Greater Lowell did not receive any medals. SkillsUSA was brought up in the context of Gitschier discussing superintendent candidate David Norkiewicz, who is the technical director at Shawsheen, and the success Shawsheen has had in the competition. Gitschier supports Norkiewicz for the tech superintendent's job.

O'Hare said he wasn't challenging what Gitschier said, but that he wanted to tell the full story.

He said Greater Lowell had won 15 gold medals at the district SkillsUSA competition, plus several silver and bronze medals. Greater Lowell also won medals at the state competition, he said. He mentioned other competitions and activities the school competes in.

Superintendent-Director Mary Jo Santoro thanked O'Hare for acknowledging the students' achievements.

Gitschier stayed silent.

Gitschier told The Column he got his information from an April 28 edition of The Sun that did not list any medals for Greater Lowell in the state SkillsUSA competition.

Gitschier contends he said on the radio show Greater Lowell wasn't doing badly, but could be doing better at SkillsUSA.

THE PROPOSAL to have a City Council subcommittee consider a chicken co-op as an alternative to allowing backyard chicken coops led to some squawking between two city councilors.

Councilor Ed Kennedy asked the Neighborhoods Subcommittee to take up his co-op proposal because that is the panel that is holding meetings on a proposed farm-animals ordinance.

But Councilor Marty Lorrey, who is on the Neighborhoods Subcommittee, suggested instead Kennedy's idea be sent to the Facilities Subcommittee, which Kennedy chairs.

Lorrey said that is the proper subcommittee, because the co-op would be city property.

Kennedy was not impressed. He said a privately-run cooperative would not involve city money.

"To send it to a subcommittee that has nothing to do with the subject matter is silly and petty," Kennedy responded.

Lorrey persisted. His motion to send the item to the Facilities Subcommittee was not seconded, and died. 

"He did not get a second so everyone else agreed his suggestion made no sense," Kennedy told The Column.

Lorrey took exception to Kennedy's public critique.

"At the very best it was unprofessional, and at the very worst it was cheap," Lorrey told The Column. "I was not happy with his comments at all."

Lorrey also slammed Kennedy's co-op proposal, highlighting how both a major supporter of backyard chickens and a major opponent spoke against the idea.

"It was billed as a big compromise, but at the end of the day no party wanted it," Lorrey said. "Now it will come to the Neighborhoods Subcommittee and die there."

Kennedy says Lorrey is upset because he thought the cooperative idea was his and he even called Kennedy after the co-op motion came out on the agenda to tell him that.

The co-op motion passed 7-2. The two no votes were Mayor Patrick Murphy and Rodney Elliott, who usually disagree on the time of day.

COUNCILORS VOTED 5-4 Tuesday to table the proposed $315.6 million budget until Tuesday at 6 p.m.

Kennedy and Councilors Elliott, John Leahy, Joseph Mendonca and Rita Mercier voted for Kennedy's proposed delay.

Murphy and Councilors Lorrey, Bill Martin and Vesna Nuon voted in opposition. However, Lorrey approached Kennedy after the vote to tell him he had no problem with the delay.

Kennedy told The Column he did not understand why councilors wanted to rush through the budget. It's the most important document the council reviews, he said.

Mercier agreed, also saying the budget should be discussed during a separate meeting, not the regular council meeting.

"Some people just wanted to rubber-stamp it, which I did not understand," Mercier said. "There is no rush with me."

Some councilors said they did not think the council should cut the proposed budget, which besides new growth keeps the property-tax levy stable.

"The things we asked the manager for, like funding for public safety and recreation, they are all in there," Nuon said.

Martin told The Column the Council advertised a public hearing, and should have pushed through as much of the budget as possible. He called the budget the best he has seen because it maintained services and did not increase taxes.

Martin also said he expects the council will want to review each budget section, which he would support.

ONE DEPARTMENT head hoping the council does not take a thorough look at the budget is Water Utility Executive Director Dan Lahiff.

He told Utility employees on Wednesday morning that he was upset at the budget vote because it would give councilors more time to go through the budget and potentially ask questions, sources said.

Lahiff, who normally leans on officials from consulting engineer Woodard and Curran for budget advice, did not respond to a request for comment. The budgeted salary for his position could rise from $97,611 to a proposed $101,793, a 4.3 percent increase.

Observers will also be watching what councilors do about the proposed bump in the budgeted salary for the mayor's aide position from $42,808 to $46,980, a 9.75 percent increase. The proposed pay bump is much larger than unionized employees will receive; last year councilors cut a proposed increase for the position, now held by former Sun reporter Jennifer Myers.

EVER SINCE Lowell Interim Police Superintendent Deborah Friedl announced in early May her selection of Capt. William Taylor for deputy superintendent, folks have wondered which officer Friedl will select to take Taylor's place.

That officer is Timothy Crowley, a well-known veteran and familiar face who started with the Tyngsboro Police Department in the early 1980s.

Crowley is now a captain, and will supervise the overnight shift. He replaces Capt. Thomas Meehan, who will now oversee the early night shift, replacing Randy Humphrey, who will now oversee the Detail Office, replacing James McPadden. McPadden is Taylor's replacement as West Sector (Acre, Highlands, Lower Highlands) commander.

"I'm looking forward to the new assignment," said the 54-year-old Crowley, who worked his first shift Monday. "I haven't been directly involved in the patrol function for sometime," said Crowley. "So I'm really looking forward to going back to where it all begins."

Most recently, Crowley oversaw the department's Traffic Enforcement Division. He's also had terms as a school- resource officer and on the Warrant Apprehension Squad.

Besides Crowley, the department also announced the following promotions:

* Sgt. Matt Penrose goes to lieutenant. A member of the force since 1998, Penrose will work the overnight shift, either as a patrol supervisor or officer in charge.

* Chris Panagiotakos from patrolman to sergeant. A member of the department since 1998 most recently assigned to the Evidence Response Unit, Panagiotakos becomes a patrol supervisor on the midnight shift. He is the brother of Steven Panagiotakos, Lowell's former state senator.

* Chris Lumenello from patrolman to sergeant, replacing Mickey O'Keefe, who recently retired. A member of the department since 1993, Lumenello moves from a school-resource officer to a patrol supervisor on the midnight shift.

* Rich Leavitt, patrolman to sergeant. In his new position, Leavitt will work as a patrol supervisor on the early-night shift.

YET ANOTHER example of why you shouldn't believe everything you read on the Internet.

When Gregory White, president of Whyte's Automotive in Lowell, was asked by a Sun reporter what his relationship was to Dante White, he couldn't help but laugh.

That's despite the fact that a business-information website lists "Dante White" as owner of Whyte's Automotive.

"That was my dog," Greg White said after his laughter subsided. "Where did you get that?"

The reporter explained preliminary research for a story on Whyte's Automotive's move from Dracut to Lowell included an online listing that indicated that Dante was the business owner, with Greg serving as president.

It's half-right. Greg is both owner and president of the small business, which has one other employee.

He thinks he knows how his late beloved pooch's name materialized as "owner" on a website.

"You run a small business, you get pestered by telemarketers all the time," White said. "So sometimes when somebody would ask if they could speak to the owner, I would say that it's Dante White and that he was asleep."

And more often than not, Dante was asleep.

So again, half-right.

Apparently when you're an entrepreneur, you learn to take any shortcut you can.

HAVING GROWN up on military bases, U.S. Rep. Niki Tsongas has listed supporting the armed forces and strengthening military facilities among her priorities. The Fifth District Democrat was honored last week for her work in that regard, taking home one of five Congressional Leadership Awards presented by the Association of Defense Communities.

It's the first year the association, a membership organization serving military base communities, has given out the award. It recognizes representatives and senators its officials believe demonstrate "leadership and excellence in support of America's defense communities."

Tsongas, who serves on the House Armed Services Committee, was recognized for accomplishments including her role in securing an Air Force commitment to protect core operations at Hanscom Air Force Base during material command reorganization, and for leading the charge to get federal approval on a $450 million investment from MIT Lincoln Labs. If approved, the money would fund facility improvements at Hanscom.

THE MUCH-ANTICIPATED trial of reputed mobster James "Whitey" Bulger, who had ties from Boston to Lowell, has attracted local, national and international media. In courtroom 6 -- the overflow media room -- tables are set up to accommodate reporters who didn't make the list to sit in the trial courtroom. Among the journalists is an Irish newspaper reporter covering the trial of Irish-American (Bulger) and his link to people who allegedly supplied weapons to the IRA.

And during otherwise serious opening statements on Wednesday, defense attorney J.W. Carney, who refers to Bulger as "Jim," drew chuckles from the press gallery. Carney said Bulger wasn't in hiding in California for 16 years, but that Bulger and long-time girlfriend Catherine Greig were "living openly" for 16 years while the FBI "pretended" to search for him.

Contributing to this week's Column: Enterprise Editor Christopher Scott, Business Editor Dan O'Brien, Lyle Moran and Katie Lannan in Lowell, John Collins in Dracut, Sarah Favot in Tyngsboro, and Lisa Redmond in the courts.