Published in the July 11, 2018 edition


WAKEFIELD – The group that spearheaded the effort to overturn the Town Meeting decision to fund an $8 million expansion/rehab of the Public Safety Building spent a total of $334.27 to accomplish their goal, according to a Campaign Finance Report filed with the Town Clerk’s Office.

The Statement of Organization filed with the Town Clerk along with the Finance Report lists Robert W. Mitchell of 6 Spaulding St. as both chairman and treasurer of the “Wakefield Vote No on $8 million Committee.” The purpose of the committee is stated on the form as, “Oppose passage of June 26, 2018 Town vote to appropriate $8 million for repair and construction of the Public Safety Building on 1 Union St. in Wakefield, MA.”

The Campaign Finance Report lists total expenditures as $334.27 between May 4 and June 15, 2018 and an ending balance of $0.

The form does not list any contributions under “Receipts.” The entire $334.27 is listed on the form as “in kind” donations.

Mitchell himself paid $200 to Gravis Marketing of Winter Springs, Florida for robocalls urging a “No” vote in the days before the election. He also spent $34.27 at Staples in Reading for “paper goods.”

One other “in kind” contribution is listed on the form — $100 from Patrick Bruno of MacKenzie Lane was paid to attorney Philip Posner for a “legal review.”

Police Chief Rick Smith has long maintained that the police side of the Public Safety Building is inadequate in terms of space and has other structural and functional issues.

A $100,000 Feasibility Study conducted between September 2016 and June 2017 by HKT Architects confirmed that the police side of the Public Safety Building afforded inadequate space for a modern police force the size of Wakefield PD. HKT also found structural and mechanical issues with the existing building. They recommended moving police dispatch from its current location on the second floor to the lobby area to ensure that an officer is available 24/7 for anyone entering the building. HKT and the Permanent Building Committee estimated the cost of addressing the space and other issues at the Public safety Building at $8 million. The town said that the project would be financed through bonding and would not impact local property tax bills.

But opponents argued against spending $8 million on a building that had undergone a rehab as recently as 2003. They maintained that the outstanding issues with the building could be addressed over a period of years through capital improvements. Others said that a whole new police building on another location would be a better investment.

After the May 6 Annual Town Meeting voted 168-41 to approve funding for the project, a group of citizens collected the required 200 signatures to force a town-wide election on the matter. A Tuesday, June 26 Special Election then reversed the Town Meeting approval by a vote of 1118-1042. The cost of the Special Election was estimated at between $12,000 and $15,000.