(This is the second of three articles recapping 2014. Tomorrow will be dedicated to the construction and opening of the new $75 million Galvin Middle School.)

SUPERINTENDENT of Schools Dr. Stephen K. Zrike agreed to let high school seniors shave his head if a reading challenge was met — 10,000 books read over the summer months. The challenge was met and in mid-September he was sporting a new “do.” (File Photo)

SUPERINTENDENT of Schools Dr. Stephen K. Zrike agreed to let high school seniors shave his head if a reading challenge was met — 10,000 books read over the summer months. The challenge was met and in mid-September he was sporting a new “do.” (File Photo)


WAKEFIELD — Not long after Town Administrator Stephen P. Maio made the announcement earlier in November that the town was solvent, the Daily Item ran a story on Wednesday, Nov. 26 that homeowners would see a $447 property tax increase. This figure is based on a new residential tax rate of $13.48 per $1,000 on an average assessed home of $416,000.

Added to this woe was Gov. Deval Patrick’s announcement a full four months after the new fiscal year budget was signed that local aid to cities and towns may have to be cut to close a deficit.

In July, it was learned that the Tarrant Lane property at the top of Hopkins Street and at the Reading line would go to public auction, and in November it was further announced that the auction would be held this coming spring. The property consists of 12 1,200 square foot homes on four acres of land owned by the federal government.

The General Services Administration is currently performing a Phase 1 “environmental characterization” report for Tarrant Lane and is expected to be completed by February 2015. Environmental characterization encompasses the study of a land’s geology, soil and possible contaminants.

“We hope to begin marketing the property in the spring of 2015,” said GSA spokesman Patrick Sclafani.

Originally built as housing for families of the United State military and most recently for Coast Guard families, the property will go up for auction as a single parcel via public sale. The sale will be handled by General Services Administration (GSA) Project Manager John Dugan. (The land is currently owned by the federal government through the U.S. Coast Guard.)

Investors interested in developing the land can attend the auction on the appointed day and purchase it at an attractive price.

Around the time the Daily Item investigated what was happening on Tarrant Lane, the Conservation Commission and Friends of Lake Quannapowitt continued to mull over ways to improve the health of Wakefield’s “crown jewel,” including the installation of the SolarBee, a water circulation device used to improve the health of bodies of water. A severe blue-green algae bloom has occurred over recent summers and the ConCom was hoping to end the problem once and for all.

Then, in November, FOLQ members continued to look for viable solutions and discussed other ways to reduce or stop the inflow of phosphorus into the Lake, which is believed to be the major cause of the algae bloom. Capturing storm water and filtering out the phosphorus was one possibility discussed. Talks will continue this coming spring.

The summer months brought out crews from the Department of Public Works who went to work repairing pot holes throughout town. The worst roadway conditions were reported in Greenwood in the area of Spring Street as major construction work took place.

Repaving of roadways was also a primary concern of DPW Director Richard Stinson. Two miles of roadway every year are paved in town, he said.

The summer months normally are slow in the news industry but a reading challenge issued by Superintendent of Schools Dr. Stephen K. Zrike with a promise to “jump in the Lake” along with Town Administrator Stephen P. Maio if the community reached a goal of 10,000 books read made for interesting reading.

People in town, including school children and staff at the Beebe Library, hopped aboard and on Saturday, Sept. 13, Dr. Zrike and Maio took the leap. The town’s School Superintendent had also promised to have his head shaved by high school students if the challenge was met and in mid-September he was seen sporting a new “do.”

Also in the school news limelight was the opening of the new Early Childhood Center on Paul Avenue, site of the old Doyle School. Dr. Zrike spearheaded this effort, too. In the coming year, the town could see the implementation of free full-day kindergarten, another of Dr. Zrike’s goals.

In late August, Wakefield’s downtown swelled to 10,000 people who came to participate in the annual Festival Italia. This was the fifth year Festival Italia has taken place and the event has shown remarkable growth thanks largely to the dedicated people who hold membership in the Event Planning Committee, headed by Selectman Paul DiNocco and colleagues Susan Majeski and Susan Wetmore, plus a committee of about eight. New this year was a meatball contest — no sauce allowed!

As soon as Festival Italia came to its conclusion, members started meeting again to plan the annual Holiday Stroll. This year’s Stroll was held on Saturday, Dec. 6, and was nearly rained out but still a large number of people took to the streets to enjoy the Hat Parade, music, song and dance and fun activities for the kids, including balloon art and face painting.

In September, a new trash collection program went into effect. Before the program was rolled out, every homeowner was provided a sturdy blue barrel on wheels that a Russell trash collection truck could pick up by a crew operating an automated arm. So far, the system has worked well with very few complaints, according to DPW Director Richard Stinson. Now, on every trash day, the barrels stand like sentinels along the town’s roadways.

From June through October, Wendy Dennis did an outstanding job as manager of Farmers Market, held every Saturday on North Avenue adjacent to Veterans’ Field. Vendors selling fruits and vegetables, fish, crafts and specialities like honey and homemade soap filled the space and people came from miles around to make their purchases. Dennis saw to it that the market featured musical entertainment and fun activities for kids, including jump ropes, sidewalk chalk and balloon art. The Market is continuing in Melrose the third Sunday of every month through the winter and early spring before it opens again in Wakefield this coming June.

Wakefield had a visit from celebrity Jay Leno this year when he visited Dave and Wendy Castine to view one of the couple’s vintage cars at the old NAPA Auto Parts store on Main Street and the Daily Item ran a feature about Leno’s visit.

The Beebe Library held a smashing Blooms at the Beebe fundraiser last May — the theme “Kentucky Derby.” Throughout the summer months residents gathered on Thursday nights to enjoy jazz musicians perform everything from Duke Ellington to Count Basie standards. Wakefield’s beautiful library continues to offer programming for every age group, from toddlers who enjoy story hour to arm chair travel.

In the Police Department, Police Chief Rick Smith held A.L.I.C.E. training for his force in response to the fatal shootings in Marysville, Wash. as well as last December’s tragedy in Newtown, Conn. where 26 people were killed by gunfire.

A.L.I.C.E., an acronym for Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter and Evacuate, is an approach to protect children (and adults) from an active shooter. Smith said that his department, along with the School Department, have been working to implement A.L.I.C.E. in a way that school staff, faculty and students can make informed decisions in a crisis, remove as many people as possible from a dangerous situation and provide training so that those involved in a crisis have a better chance of surviving.

The Wakefield Police Department also was a finalist to receive the 2014 International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) and Cisco Systems Community Policing Award, Police Chief Rick Smith announced in November.

The award, now in its 17th year, recognizes outstanding community policing initiatives by law enforcement agencies worldwide. Five agencies were selected as winners, four agencies were selected as finalists and one agency was given special recognition for efforts involving homeland security.

An unfortunate focus for the Police Department this year was on the rise of heroin and other drug-related overdoses. Several overdoses resulted in death, but Action Ambulance now carries Narcan, a medication that counters the effects of heroin and Fentanyl, a drug that is commonly mixed in with heroin to provide a more potent high.

As part of the movement to improve the Square, the Main Street program was implemented in 2014, and Bob Sardella was appointed to oversee signage. Sardella had the experience needed for the spot, since he has owned and operated Sardella Signs on Broadway for many years.