Published in the April 30, 2018 edition.
By MARK SARDELLA
WAKEFIELD — Annual Town Meeting gets underway tonight in Veterans Memorial Auditorium at the Galvin Middle School. Voters will determine the fate of 25 articles on the warrant, including the $93 million FY 2019 town budget and $2 million in capital outlay.
One article that is expected to generate some interest is Article 8, which seeks $8 million to reconstruct the 15-year-old Public Safety Building.
Article 1 is the FY 2019 town budget. For Town Meeting purposes the budget is broken down by broad categories, with each section and dollar amount discussed and voted on individually. These categories include General Government ($2.4 million), Protection of Persons and Property ($11.5 million), Human Services ($0.8 million, Public Works ($6.5 million), Public Works Enterprise departments (Water and Sewer), Education ($40.1 million), Unclassified ($1.7 million), Benefits & Administration ($16.6 million) and Light Department.
Article 2 seeks approximately $2 million for capital outlay. The request includes $582,000 for fleet items (three new police cruisers, DPW vehicle and equipment replacements, etc.); $446,500 for repair and maintenance of facilities; $70,000 for roads; $70,000 for fields, parks and cemeteries and $60,000 for IT leases.
Article 3 would raise and appropriate $4.5 million for the Capital Projects/Debt Service account. This account is used to repay bonds taken out when money is borrowed for capital projects.
Article 4 relates to the Wakefield Municipal Gas & Light Department’s payment to the town of $891,145 in lieu of taxes and authorizes the Assessors to use this amount when determining the FY 2019 tax rate.
Under Article 5, Town Meeting voters will be asked to ratify a collective bargaining agreement between the town and the library employees’ union.
Article 6 would implement a collective bargaining agreement between the town and the Town Hall clerical workers’ union. As this contract is not yet settled, the recommendation will be for indefinite postponement.
Article 7 relates to collective bargaining agreements between the Town of Wakefield and the Wakefield Massachusetts Laborers District Council, Local 381. This contract is also not settled. Indefinite postponement will be the motion on Article 7.
Article 8 seeks approximately $8 million for “remodeling, reconstructing or making extraordinary repairs to, and for constructing additions to the Public Safety Building.” Police have cited sub-par original construction and argued that that space and configuration were never adequate for modern police needs. The plan would reconfigure space and construct an addition to the building. Police dispatch would also be relocated to the lobby, addressing another major concern. Critics have questioned why $8 million is needed to fix a 15-year-old building.
Article 9 is seeking $165,000 to supplement the FY 2018 Fire Department budget to cover a deficit due mainly to unanticipated overtime costs.
Article 10 would appropriate $175,000 from the Special Education Stabilization Fund to supplement the School Department budget for the period of July 1, 2017 to June 30, 2018 to provide for the payment of Special Education costs.
Article 11 would authorize the Board of Selectmen to establish a means-tested property tax exemption for senior citizens. Under the proposal, taxpayers who qualify for the senior citizens circuit breaker tax credit would be eligible for a matching property tax credit from the town.
Article 12 asks Town Meeting to approve the Wakefield Retirement Board’s vote to increase the maximum base amount on which the cost-of-living adjustment is calculated for Wakefield Retirement System retirees and survivors from $12,000 to $14,000 for FY 2019 and subsequent years in accordance with Massachusetts General Laws.
Article 13 is a routine annual article authorizing the Board of Selectmen to accept or take by eminent domain proceedings, conveyances or easements from time to time, giving the Town the right to construct and maintain drains, sewers, water lines, retaining walls and streets. A $1 appropriation is attached to this article.
DPW Director Richard Stinson will present Article 14, in which Town Meeting is asked to fund the FY 2019 budget for the collection and recycling of refuse. The request will for $1,699,705 from the tax levy for Refuse and Recycling with an additional $112,190 coming from free cash.
Stinson will also discuss Article 15, which seeks $200,000 to supplement Chapter 90 state funds for roadway improvements.
Article 16 is another Public Works-related request asking for $50,000 for new sidewalks.
Under Article 17, Stinson will ask Town Meeting to appropriate funds to replace the DPW’s mobile radio system.
In another Public Works-related article, Article 18, $165,000 will be requested for water main improvements.
Under Article 19, Town Meeting will be asked to authorize the Board of Selectmen to enter into a 99-year lease with the MBTA for a portion of the abandoned railroad bed that is anticipated to be part of a future “Rail Trail” project.
Article 20 increases many of the fees charged by the Zoning Board of Appeals for applications for variances, special permits and other functions.
Articles 21 to 25 relate to recommended changes to the town’s General Bylaws put forth by the Bylaw Review Committee.
Article 21 removes some chapters of the General Bylaws that have become redundant or obsolete. In some cases, they are now covered in the Town Charter or by state law. The recommended changes in Article 21 also codify certain current practices, such as allowing Town Counsel to hire outside counsel when needed and allowing Town Counsel to work with the School Department.
Article 22 makes minor changes to various bylaws. It will allow certain notices now sent out to residents on paper to be sent by email, as long as there is confirmation of receipt. It also makes changes to the chapter related to the Town Report, bringing it in line with current practices and adding references to Veterans Services and the Human Rights Commission.
Article 23 deals with bylaw matters related to governance. It updates the procedure for filling vacancies on the Finance Committee. It also changes the composition of the Permanent Building Committee to include six consistent members and three members appointed for each specific building project. The third article also makes language changes related to quorums, meeting minutes and attendance requirements for appointed boards. In the latter case, a member of an appointed board who misses five consecutive meetings would be removed from the committee. Also clarified are the purposes of each appointed board and the process to be followed at public hearings.
Article 24 calls for changes to Chapter 104, related to animals. It makes biting in public an explicit violation and permits off-leash areas in designated dog parks.
Article 25 relates to snow and ice removal. The current snow and ice bylaw (Chapter 175-8) was deemed to be ineffective. The proposed new snow and ice bylaw will require commercial properties and large multi-family dwellings (more than four units) throughout Wakefield to clear snow, ice and slush from the public sidewalks abutting their property. It changes the fines to $200 per offense and expands enforcement to include both the Police and Department of Public Works.