(This is the first of a series.)
By GAIL LOWE
WAKEFIELD — As we look back on 2014, we see a year of change, a year of growth and, according to Town Administrator Stephen P. Maio, a year of financial solvency.
Today, the Daily Item gives its readers a glance back at what has happened, beginning today with a report about the weather the region experienced during the 2014 winter.
The new year started off with a major nor’easter barreling through the area on Thursday, Jan. 2, dumping 13 inches of snow.
By the following day, the thermometer had dipped to a frigid two degrees and the storm resulted in multiple collisions. School was called off, much to the delight of school children but to the anxiety of parents who had to get to work. Kids and their families were later spotted sledding at Bear Hill and the hilly area behind Wakefield Memorial High School.
The winter of 2014 was the beginning of what was to become one of the coldest on record. The frigid weather even brought a new phrase to the English language: Polar Vortex. The cold was so severe that it drove up home heating costs in the region and caused a significant drainage pipe to burst under North Avenue near the Prospect Street intersection, snarling commuter traffic and frustrating people during the early morning commute.
Just as Wakefield’s roadways cleared of snow, Fire Chief Michael Sullivan had good news to share with residents. He announced that his department would be getting a new $950,000 aerial ladder truck sometime in April or May.
Sullivan said he was considering bringing all apparatus to the shore of Lake Quannapowitt for a public display, and true to his word when the new fire truck finally arrived, he arranged for a demonstration at the Lake. People in town said water pouring from the truck created what looked like a waterfall over Lake Quannapowitt.
In late February, the Boys and Girls Club of Stoneham opened a new site at the Americal Civic Center, providing a place for youth to enjoy computer games, puzzles and the forging of friendships with their peers. Spearheading the effort to bring the club to town were Executive Director Gerry DeViller and West Side resident William Chetwynd.
Meanwhile, storms continued to rage as town departments were looking forward to the purchase of new equipment and the launch of new programs, the prospect of a new assisted living facility dominated the news and the Zoning Board of Appeals was considering whether to allow SBA Towers IV, LLC to place a 104-foot cell tower on Vernon Street on the grounds of the Wakefield Lynnfield Methodist Church.
On Thursday, Jan. 9, the measure was denied, much to the dismay of supporters, including Atty. Carlos Sousa and Engineer Keith Vellante, both representing SBA Towers. The two explained that a study of the area showed a significant wireless connection problem in the North Ward. Controversy about the matter continued to swirl, and then, in July, a third try proved to the the charm when the Zoning Board of Appeals approved a Special Permit application of Bell Atlantic Mobile/Verizon Wireless to construct a steeple on the church that would house wireless communication antennas. That measure was approved in early November at another ZBA meeting.
In the Police Department, officers were kept busy all year, beginning in January following the theft of $20,000 of construction equipment at a site on Audubon Road, the apprehension and arrest of an intruder at the Galvin Middle School on Main Street and theft of a $7,000 diamond ring from a home on Morningside Road.
As quintessential New England as Wakefield is, the town is not without crime. Notorious child predator and sex offender John Burbine never made it to trial for more than 100 offenses he committed against children as young as eight days old. Following a bid to have himself castrated to avoid life imprisonment, Burbine took his own life inside his cell. His wife, Marian, pleaded guilty to child endangerment and in June was sent to prison to serve a five-year term.
More mundane matters continued throughout town, including the Board of Health granting a variance for a chicken coop on West Park Drive and the Event Planning Committee decision to include a roast at the Sunday, March 23 Shamrock Festival to rival the one held in South Boston during the St. Patrick’s Day celebration.
In early April, it was announced that Richard Metropolis would return to Wakefield and become high school principal, replacing Dr. Kim Smith who took on the role of Assistant Superintendent of Schools, reporting to Dr. Stephen K. Zrike.
As Town Meeting in May drew closer, Brightview Senior Living proposed to construct an assisted living facility on the present site of the Fraen properties at 338 Main St. and a portion of Crescent Street. But just minutes after votes were tallied during a Special Election, opponents of the garage portion of the project marched into Town Hall and filed a Town Meeting article designed to kill the Brightview project entirely by removing the Fraen properties from the town’s designated “assisted living overlay district,” which was created by a 2012 Town Meeting vote. The project, however, was not scrapped entirely and an assisted living facility could be constructed in the Square. The garage vote, however, came up short at Town Meeting.
Also in April, Mike Nasella, a “man about town” for 32 years in the town’s parking clerk role, decided to retire with “grace and good health.”
Nasella, after announcing his retirement, said he got calls, visits and letters from people all over town. Post-retirement, Nasella said he decided to pursue his hobbies, including gardening, woodworking and collecting antique and rare tools.
Although Market Basket is a Reading business, all eyes were on the grocery store where many Wakefieldians shop due to a highly publicized family drama when the two owners — Arthur T. Demoulas and Arthur S. Demoulas — fought for control of the multi-million dollar chain. The Daily Item covered the news as it unfolded in Reading and published photos showing shelves empty of food and employees picketing in front of the store. The drama finally came to an end when the ever-popular Arthur T. DeMoulas struck a deal with Arthur S. By the end of the summer, everything was back to normal. The shelves were restocked and people were back shopping again. This past Saturday, the 4 percent discount the chain offered shoppers came to an end. Customers will now see higher food bills unless the policy is reinstated.
Perhaps the biggest news to dominate the Daily Item’s headlines was the construction of the new Galvin Middle School. We will continue with a glance back at this and other news that happened in 2014 tomorrow and Wednesday.