Rail Trail funds approved

Published in the November 19, 2019 edition.


WAKEFIELD — The 121 voters in attendance made quick work of the 11 articles on last night’s Regular Town Meeting warrant, finishing up business by about 8:30 p.m.

Under Article 1, Town Administrator Stephen P. Maio and School Superintendent Douglas Lyons provided a final report on funds appropriated and expended in Fiscal Year 2019 (July 1, 2018 to June 30, 2019). Town Meeting voted to accept the report with no discussion from the floor.

Maio presented the motion under Article 2 asking Town Meeting to authorize $3,940,000 in Free Cash to be applied to the current (FY 2020) year’s budget. Maio indicated that the Town’s ability to do this and still maintain a substantial balance in the Free Cash account is indicative of the town’s fiscal health. He said that roughly $4.5 million would still remain in the account and he expected it to be back up to about $7 million by the end of the fiscal year. He noted that since 2013 the town has been able to forgo increasing the tax levy to the allowable 2.5 percent, saving the taxpayers money.

After a brief discussion Town Meeting approved Article 2.

Under Article 3, Town Meeting approved a three-year contract between the town and the DPW laborers’ union that will run through June 30, 2022. The contract calls for a 3 percent salary increase each year, consistent with other town employee unions. Town Meeting approved funding the increase by transferring $102,000 from Free Cash, $17,250 from the Water Surplus Account and $6,073 from the Sewer Surplus Account.

With the passage of Article 4, the Wakefield-Lynnfield Rail Trail took another step forward, as voters approved $348,000 to complete the town’s share of the design and engineering of the Rail Trail project. Maio explained that funding the final design plan will result in $11 million in state and federal funds to build the 4.4 mile bike/walking trail from the area of the Galvin Middle School along the abandoned rail line through Lynnfield to the Peabody line. Article 4 passed after several residents spoke in favor.

Under Article 5, Town Meeting approved $102,800 for a feasibility study on the replacement of the Greenwood School roof. Permanent Building Committee Chairman Joseph Bertrand made the motion on Article 4 and explained that the Massachusetts School Building Authority has agreed to help fund the project and is expected to pay approximately 50 percent of the roof replacement cost, which has yet to be determined but has been estimated at between $700,000 and $800,000.

Bertrand said that the hope is to fast-track the feasibility study and have the schematic design approved by MSBA early next year so the full project can go before the 2020 Annual Town Meeting next spring.

Town Meeting approved Article 5 with no discussion from the floor.

Retirement Board member Daniel Sherman presented Article 6, which sought approval of the decision of the Retirement Board to accept the supplemental annual allowance of $12,000 for surviving spouses of disabled employees authorized by state law. Sherman explained that a small number of surviving spouses would be eligible for various amounts and the total cost to the town would be $25,000.

Town Meeting passed Article 6 with no discussion.

Sherman also presented Article 7, which sought to accept provisions of state law that would allow members of the Retirement Board to be paid an annual stipend of $3,000.

Sherman explained the Retirement Board meets at least monthly and manages the Retirement Fund’s assets and investments and rules on disability applications. He said that the board’s five members are now required by recent legislation to pursue continuing education and disclose their personal investments.

He said that in part due to those requirements it has been difficult to fill vacancies on the board. He said that it was hoped that a stipend of $3,000 would help to attract candidates.

Town Council Chairman Edward Dombroski argued against allowing the stipend, noting that there are 38 other boards, committees and commissions that do not receive any compensation. He said that paying a stipend to Retirement Board members would set a bad precedent.

Town Councilor Jonathan Chines also spoke against the stipend. Several residents spoke from the floor for and against the stipend.

In the end, Town Meeting voted down Article 7.

DPW Director Joseph Conway presented the motion under Article 8 to transfer $425,000 from the Sewer Surplus Account to fund the Sewer Enterprise Fund for FY 2020. Article 8 passed with no discussion.

Maio made the motion for indefinite postponement of Article 9, which involved a betterment project for Walton Lane, a private way. Maio said that the project will instead be presented at the spring Annual Town Meeting. Town Meeting approved indefinite postponement pf Article 9.

Eric Reid made a lengthy motion for indefinite postponement of Article 10, which related to some minor language changes to the Town Charter. Town Meeting approved the motion.

Maio made the motion for indefinite postponement under Article 11. The article related to a claim of environmental contamination allegedly caused by the town on property abutting Butler Avenue. Town Meeting approved indefinite postponement.

Town Council Chairman Edward Dombroski moved to dissolve the 2019 Regular Town Meeting at 8:31 p.m.

According to Town Clerk Betsy Sheeran, there were 98 voters in the Galvin Middle School Auditorium when Moderator William Carroll gaveled the meeting open at 7 p.m. By 8 p.m., attendance had swelled to 121.