Published in the March 25, 2021 edition.
By MARK SARDELLA
WAKEFIELD — Representatives of Northeast Metro Tech were at this week’s Town Council meeting to present their FY 2022 budget. They also talked about their plans to construct a new vocational school with assistance from the Massachusetts School Building Authority and addressed some early concerns from abutters related to construction and other aspects of the project.
During the public participation portion of the meeting, June Circle resident Bob Brooks expressed concerns that he and his neighbors have with the potential disruption of constructing a new Northeast Metro Tech school and a new access road near June Circle. He also noted that future construction of a new Wakefield Memorial High School would also impact the neighborhood.
According to Brooks, the abutters concerns include possible blasting, construction noise, water runoff near wetlands, traffic issues, public safety and communication/transparency surrounding the project and decision making.
“On behalf of my June Circle neighbors and other concerned residents I am here to ask that a separate forum be held with the appropriate parties for our questions to be addressed and our concerns and suggestions to be heard,” Brooks said.
He wondered if the Town Council had taken into account the non-reimbursable (by the MSBA) costs of a new Northeast Metro Tech and a new Wakefield Memorial High School. He also wanted to know the impact of the projects on the tax levy and whether a debt exclusion would be needed.
Northeast Metro Tech Superintendent David DiBarri said that everything would be addressed as the MSBA process moves forward. He noted that the first press release about the new school project went out four years ago. He said that the process has been “extremely transparent,” although recently COVID has hindered that. He noted that the school maintains a web site where all the plans are laid out and a Facebook page for the project is in the works.
He also addressed concerns about the planned new access road off Farm Street to the east of June Circle. He said that the sole purpose of the road would be to alleviate traffic in Wakefield. He said that the entrance to the road will likely be in Saugus.
DiBarri said that Northeast has always opened its doors to Wakefield and enjoys a great relationship with town leaders and departments.
“We hear what the neighbors are saying and what the town is saying,” he said, promising to address all concerns as the process moves forward. He said that the goal was to minimize disruption to neighbors.
Town Accountant Kevin Gill presented the Vocational School budget, which includes several other regional schools that students from Wakefield attend, in addition to Northeast Metro Tech. He said that the total vocational school budget request for FY 2022 was $1,909,388 – up $335,115 from the current year.
The total proposed budget for the regional school is $29,861,016. This represents an increase of $1,099,949 over the current year’s budget.
Northeast Metro Tech Director Jay Picone presented the Wakefield-specific budget numbers for Northeast Metro Tech. He said that Wakefield’s total FY 2022 assessment is $1,732,232. The $301,074 increase was primarily due to an increase of 18 students from Wakefield, Picone said.
He noted that the school will use funds from its Excess and Deficiency Account to help keep the increases to the assessments of member communities to a minimum.