Published in the November 7, 2016 edition.
By MARK SARDELLA
WAKEFIELD — With just nine fairly routine articles on the warrant, it is expected that tonight’s Regular Town Meeting business will be completed in one night. Town Moderator William Carroll will gavel Town Meeting open at 7 p.m. in Veterans Memorial Auditorium at the Galvin Middle School.
Any registered voter can attend, speak and vote at Town Meeting.
Under Article 1, Town Meeting voters will have the opportunity to hear and accept a report on the Fiscal Year 2016 budget. This is Town Administrator Stephen P. Maio’s annual wrap up of the previous fiscal year’s budget (for the year that ended on June 30, 2016).
Maio presented the same report to the Board of Selectmen at their Oct. 12 meeting. Maio will describe the town’s fiscal position as strong, with healthy reserves.
Article 2 will ask Town Meeting to authorize the Board of Assessors to use such free cash as may be in the treasury or any part thereof in computing the tax rate for fiscal period ending June 30, 2017. This is an annual article that allows the town to use a portion of its reserves to balance the budget. When the annual budget is put together and approved at the spring Annual Town Meeting, there are usually some unknowns, such as the exact amount of state aid that the town will be receiving.
In addition, this year the selectmen decided that with the healthy state of the town’s reserves, it would not increase the tax levy by the full 2.5 percent allowed by state law. Instead, the selectmen voted to increase the FY 2017 tax levy by just 1.5 percent, saving the average single-family homeowner about $60 and the average commercial property owner about $300. The town will use about $600,000 from its Free Cash reserves to make up the difference needed to balance the budget.
Article 3 seeks to supplement the Legal Damages budget for the period of July 1, 2016 to June 30, 2017 by approximately $100,000. This sum will allow the town to “make whole” homeowners whose properties were damaged as a result of a major water main break that occurred on Green Street in 2015 over Columbus Day weekend. The amount requested will allow the town to pay homeowners on Green Street and Main Street for property damage not covered by the homeowners’ or the town’s insurance.
Under Article 4, Town Meeting voters will be asked to accept G.L. c. 59, § 59A, a state statute which would permit the Town to enter into agreements with property owners to abate part or all of outstanding interest, penalties and payment of real estate tax obligations concerning sites at which there has been a release of oil or hazardous material, provided that such sites are zoned for commercial or industrial uses.
Article 4 is aimed at commercial sites that have hazardous waste issues. While the measure would apply to any such sites in town, the impetus for Article 4 came from a specific property at 13-15 Albion St. The site once housed Savage Cleaners and it is believed that cleaning chemicals were released on the site. A potential buyer would like to clean up the languishing site and put it back into commercial use but back taxes owed to the town as well as money owed to a bank are making the project cost-prohibitive for the new owner.
Town meeting acceptance of the state statute under Article 4 along with the acceptance of a new town bylaw would allow the town to waive part or all of the back taxes owed and help the new owner get the commercial property cleaned up and back on the active tax rolls.
Under Articles 5 and 6, Town Meeting will be asked to accept two new streets as public ways. The streets, Nazareth Road and Winship Drive, are part of the new “Wincrest” subdivision of single-family homes on 20 acres formerly owned by Our Lady of Nazareth Academy straddling Wakefield and Stoneham. Articles 5 and 6 would have the town accept the portions of those streets in Wakefield as public ways. The Winship Drive acceptance pertains to an extension of the existing Winship Drive.
Article 7 will ask Town Meeting to raise and appropriate or transfer from available funds a sufficient sum of money for the replacement and installation of water meters. This article relates to an ongoing project whereby the Public Works Department has been replacing and upgrading water meters a section of the town at a time. It will be funded out of the Water Surplus Account.
Article 8 is expected to be indefinitely postponed until the 2017 Annual Town Meeting. Last spring, Town Meeting authorized funds for a feasibility study of space needs at the Walton School. Article 8 would have asked town meeting for funds to implement the feasibility study recommendations, but the study is not yet complete.
Article 9 asks Town Meeting to establish a revolving account to pay expenses related to the maintenance, repair and replacement of electronic devices loaned to students by the School Department. Donations will fund this revolving account and no taxpayer money is involved.