Published in the October 31, 2019 edition.

WAKEFIELD — The Town Council Monday decided to do more work before sending proposed increases in annual license fees to Town Meeting.

Some councilors chafed at the thought of a couple of types of license fees going up as much as 50 and 100 percent.

Councilor Jonathan Chines and Town Administrator Stephen Maio pitched the proposed license fee increases. In a memo to the board, Maio wrote, “Certainly no one likes fees but I do believe that licenses granted in Wakefield are valuable because of the community and the work we all do to support our business and (residents) alike.” He mentioned that the license fees haven’t been adjusted in many years, adding that Wakefield could be a “trail blazer” where the increases are concerned, to be followed by neighboring communities who also haven’t increases their fees in years.

Chines and Maio discussed between themselves licensees who file late renewal applications with no real consequences. They proposed assessing a late fee of $100.

The real discussion among the Town Council, however, revolved around the proposed license fee adjustments.

All applications for any type of license would bring a $100 charge. The very valuable All-Alcohol License held by most of the town’s restaurants would have jumped from $3,000 to $4,500 a year. The Beer and Wine License would have risen from $2,400 to $3,000. Package Store licenses would have jumped from $2,000 to $2,500. Social club licenses would have climbed from $500 to $1,000.

Here are the rest:

• One Day Liquor License, $50 to $100

• Class II Licenses, $100 to $200

• Common Victualler, $25 to $100

• Fortune Teller, $50 to $100

• Auctioneer, $10 to $200

• Lodging House, $50 to $200

• Peddler, $50 to a flat $200

• Second Hand Dealer, $125 to $200

• Livery to $200 per vehicle

• Entertainment and Auto Amusement, from $50 per device to $100 per device

• Master Fire Alarms (commercial), from $225 to $300.

“If enacted,” Maio wrote, “these increase in fees would result in close to $40,000 and (would be) consistent with our neighbors, although many haven’t varied their fees in years. Again, I expect many will if we adopt changes.”

The proposed increases would have been sent to the November Town Meeting and, if passed, would not take effect until calendar year 2021.

Chines told his colleagues that the license fees hadn’t been reviewed in over 20 years. He said he and Maio shared the proposed license increases with Chamber of Commerce members and the general reaction was supportive. The proposal, he said, is “an opportunity to bring our fee structure and late fee to a place where (they) should be.

Councilor Ann Santos, looking at a list comparing fees, pointed out Andover’s All-Alcohol License charge of $4,500 and said Wakefield should be more in line with what is charged in Reading ($3,700) or Lexington ($3,500). It was again emphasized that many of these communities haven’t reviewed their license fee structure for many years, and some leaders have said they are waiting to see what Wakefield does.

Councilor Paul DiNocco said he worried about the impact of the annual license fee hikes on the small social clubs in town. “Going from $500 to $1,000 is a big jump,” he said, adding that the smaller clubs “will feel this.”

Colleague Peter May felt the All-Alcohol License fee hike was “too high. Fifty percent? Do 20 percent or something. I don’t care what they’re doing in Andover. This is going to hurt our businesses.

Chines stuck to his guns, saying he felt the proposed $4,500 annual charge was adequate and that it reflected the “level of work and cost involved.”

May said a $1,500 fee hike “is way too much.”

Council Chairman Edward Dombroski wanted to know more of the reasoning behind proposed license fee increases, saying some seemed “rather arbitrary. The passage of time doesn’t seem to justify some of these” increases.

Saying the proposal felt “a little premature,” Dombroski suggested tabling a vote, having Chines and Maio do more work and bringing any agreed upon changes to the spring Town Meeting.

Chines agreed. “There’s no reason we can’t wait.”