Maio to ‘set the tone for better communication’

Published in the January 26, 2016 edition.


WAKEFIELD — Town Administrator Stephen P. Maio last night addressed allegations that downtown businesses have suffered due to disruption caused by utility work in the area. He told the Board of Selectmen that while the town’s involvement in such projects is generally limited to the issuance of street opening permits, he would try to “set the tone for better communication” during the remainder of the utility work and the subsequent construction of the Brightview Senior Living facility between Main and Crescent streets.

In the case of the current work, Maio said, the town was actually more restrictive than usual — specifically stating days and times when no work could be done.

He explained that the current project consists of the upgrading and the placing underground of electrical, cable, phone and alarm wiring for many buildings on Main Street.

“These Main Street properties are currently serviced by outdated and under-capacity systems which have not been upgraded in decades,” Maio told the board. “Also,most of these Main Street properties and businesses receive their power from the rear via overhead wires, which often are attached to and/or run through trees and cross private properties without the benefit of any easements.”

The current project will upgrade all of the Main Street properties from Jeffrey’s Liquors to Sabatino’s with underground services, including the necessary connections inside the building.

With these utility upgrades, Maio maintained, the properties are more functional for the existing businesses, more attractive to new businesses and more conducive to the creation of residential units above the first floor, thereby taking advantage of the new zoning bylaw recently passed at Town Meeting.

“This is all being completed at no cost to the Main Street property owners, businesses, the town or the taxpayers,” Maio said. “The cost of this project is approximately $1 million and is being paid for by Brightview. It is important to note that Brightview will not receive any power or communication services from this new infrastructure despite the fact that Brightview is paying for the public and private connections.”

Maio said that he was sorry that any businesses experienced any negative impact from the work so far but stressed that he is always available and can often help to resolve issues if he is made aware of them.

“I do believe that although the project is great for the town’s infrastructure, communication to some of the businesses and the public at large should have been better,” he said.

“I recently met with the owner of ZuZus and I spoke with an owner’s representative of Wakefield UnCommon to address their concerns,” he added. “We have held two meetings with the project manager and our team here (at Town Hall) consisting of DPW Director Richard Stinson, Building Inspector Jack Roberto as well as members of the WMGLD. Great attention was paid to pedestrian safety and the contractor will be responsible for snow removal in the work zone.”

Maio said that the group agreed to the following:

• A meeting has been scheduled with the business owners in the area for Thursday, Jan. 28, at 7 p.m. at the Wakefield Co-operative Bank to address their concerns as well as provide a schedule for future phases.

• The construction schedule will be given to the town weekly and will be posted on the town website.

• Direct contact information will be provided to the businesses for clarifications and questions.

• “Businesses Open During Construction” signs will be placed in the area as Main Street is worked upon.

• No workers will park in public spaces — except in the fenced in work areas.

Maio noted that some of the other issues that came up during his meetings with some of the business owners will result in the following steps being taken:

• The town will increase parking enforcement as the indication is that it is employees of other Main Street businesses that remain all day on Main Street.

• Signage will encourage the public that parallel parking is available on Main Street from Crescent Street to Park Street.

• During the actual Brightview construction project, provisions will be made for the businesses in the area, particularly the lunch businesses, to provide access to the construction trailer — perhaps the businesses can coordinate special menus with early notification so they can prepare lunch in advance.