Published in the March 2, 2017 edition.


WAKEFIELD — The fiscal year 2018 Police Department and Fire Department budgets cleared their first hurdle this week, as the Board of Selectmen approved next year’s funding requests for the two public safety departments.

Town Accountant Kevin Gill presented the numbers for each budget with Police Chief Rick Smith and Fire Chief Michael Sullivan on hand to fill in details and answer questions.

Gill said that the $5,290,562 Police budget request reflected a $176,745 increase over last year. Of that amount, $159,545 is in personal services, he noted, and includes one new position in the Police Department at a salary of $68,370. Gill explained that a number of retirements are expected in the next few years and the added position will reduce the impact on police staffing during the 18 months that it takes to recruit and train new hires.

Gill also noted a new fitness incentive line item in the budget for $30,500. The remaining increase in personal services ($60,675) is for contractually negotiated raises.

Gill also listed smaller increases in contractual services, auto maintenance, radio maintenance, computer maintenance and materials and supplies.

Chief Smith thanked the selectmen for the support they have shown the Police Department over the years and said that a result of that support has been a substantial reduction in crime and an increase in the quality of life in the town.

Smith presented FBI statistics to show that Wakefield has a much lower rate of violent crime and property crime than the national average. He said that is one of the reasons that Wakefield was shown in a recent study to be the 58th safest community in the country.

Smith did highlight one area where Wakefield is no different than the rest of the state and region. He said that there were 52 drug overdoses in Wakefield last year, eight of which were fatal. The majority of those fatal overdoses involved fentanyl, the Chief said.

But Smith noted that through community policing and education efforts as well as work with the School Department, progress is being made.

In terms of funding per capita for the Police Department, Smith said that Wakefield was “right in the middle” compared to surrounding communities.

Selectman Phyllis Hull questioned the fitness incentive line item. But Smith maintained that the long-term savings on overtime replacements would be greater than the cost of the incentive due to fewer injuries and illnesses as a result of a more physically fit department.

After some further discussion, the selectmen approved the FY 2018 Police Department budget request.

Gill next presented the $4,827,043 Fire Department budget with Fire Chief Michael Sullivan alongside to answer any questions.

The Fire Department budget request included a $147,627 increase over last year, Gill said. The increase included $118,327 in personal services. The overtime line item was increased by $50,000.

Gill pointed to a $23,000 increase in the uniform/clothing allowance line item to purchase 10 additional sets of protective gear for firefighters.

Gill also listed smaller increases for radio maintenance and telephone service.

Selectman Tony Longo asked Sullivan to explain the increase in the overtime budget. Sullivan said that, similar to the Police Department it takes about a year to recruit and train a new firefighter. He said that there were a number of long-term injuries last year as well as two firefighters out battling cancer. He also noted that about half of Wakefield’s firefighters are veterans and when they get called for active duty they have to go. Replacing firefighters who are out requires paying overtime to other firefighters who fill in.

Members of the board praised Sullivan for a well-run Fire Department and thanked the firefighters for the job they do.

The selectmen approved the Fire Department budget request.


The board also approved the General Insurance and Workers’ Compensation budgets for FY 2018.

Gill said that the $388,950 General Insurance budget reflected a 3 percent increase over FY 2017. The board approved the budget with no discussion.

The Workers’ Compensation budget request was for $500,454, a decrease of $74,496 from last year. Gill said that the decrease was due to a decrease in experience modification (less loss and fewer accidents) as well as a small drop in rates.

In response to a question from Longo, Maio said that the town has instituted a safety program for employees. Last year’s mild winter also meant fewer accidents, Maio said.

The board approved the Workers’ Compensation budget.


In other business this week the Board of Selectmen:

• Approved a request from Mike Hartin for a one-day liquor license on April 1, 2017 for an event at the Crystal Community Club.

• Authorized Maio to advertise for members of a new committee consisting of local merchants to study parking in the downtown and the Greenwood business district.

• Authorized Maio to advertise for applicants to serve on various other committees that the selectmen appoint.