ANDOVER — Gov. Deval Patrick this week said he couldn't spare the time to attend a groundbreaking at the Riverwalk in Lawrence yesterday, but he managed instead to fit in a two-hour visit to Raytheon in the next town over.
"This morning, the governor met with employees and executives of Raytheon, a critical employer in the Merrimack Valley and the commonwealth," Deputy Press Secretary Kimberly Haberlin said yesterday. "He immediately returned to Boston in keeping with the limited schedule he has maintained this week in order to be at the Statehouse advocating for legislative priorities focused on job creation as the 2009-2010 session comes to a close."
Patrick's staff told Lawrence business leaders and city officials Monday he could not attend yesterday's 1:30 p.m. groundbreaking ceremony for the $50 million second phase of the Riverwalk complex.
They denied he canceled the Riverwalk invitation because of a threatened protest by firefighters angered over layoffs in the city.
But yesterday's visit to the sprawling Raytheon complex lasted from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., during which time he met with employees and executives. The high-tech weapons center employs nearly 5,000 people.
One Raytheon official said Patrick's visit was planned for some time, although he didn't know specifically when it had been arranged.
Patrick's absence at the Riverwalk was notable, in part, because firefighters from around the state were scheduled to conduct an informational picket to protest cuts to the Lawrence budget that have led to layoffs of about 50 public safety employees, including 23 firefighters.
Local firefighters were going to be joined by firefighters from all over the state after a notice was placed on the website of the Professional Firefighters of Massachusetts calling for people to show up in red shirts for the picket.
An area laborers union also had planned a protest at the groundbreaking.