Published August 7, 2019


WAKEFIELD — The Wakefield Main Streets organization must be wondering what they need to do to get a little recognition.

The local nonprofit spearheaded the effort that resulted in the four informational kiosks now located around town: one at Main and Water streets, another at Main and Albion streets, a third at Veterans Field and a four-sided kiosk with a digital component at Common Street and Lake Avenue, on a corner of the Lower Common.

On this week’s Town Council meeting agenda was review and a vote on the design of four plaques recognizing the local businesses that donated the funds for the kiosks. Those businesses are The Savings Bank, Rebirth Body Transformation Center, Keith’s Tree Service and The Wakefield Daily Item. A sponsor plaque would be mounted on each kiosk.

According to Wakefield Main Streets President Bob Mailhoit, the group received notice last week that the plaque design was on the Town Council agenda and a representative of the organization should be at Monday’s meeting.

Getting approval for those plaques proved to be an arduous task.

The plaques are 15 inches wide by 4 inches high. Because The Savings Bank donated the largest amount for the kiosks and is a major supporter of the Main Streets program, their logo appears on the left side of every plaque. The Main Streets logo appears in the center, and each plaque displays one of the other three sponsors’ logo on the right hand side.

Mailhoit said that he was not expecting the pushback that he received at Monday’s meeting.

It began with two local residents during public participation. Julie Scott argued that consideration of the plaques should be guided by a policy that was approved by the Town Council last May governing structures placed adjacent to Lake Quannapowitt and the Common. Daniel Lieber maintained that the recognition appearing on the plaques should be limited to the Main Streets organization. Putting the names of other businesses on the plaques, he maintained, “introduces a series of issues around content.”

Mailhoit said that the sponsor recognition plaques have been part of the kiosk plan since the beginning. They were designed by Ann Hadley of JC Marketing, he said, adding that Wakefield Main Streets hoped to have the plaques mounted on the kiosks in time for Festival Italia, later this month.

Town Councilor Ann Santos defended the plaques and maintained that the board’s policy on lakeside and park structures would not prohibit the plaques as proposed. “As an attorney,” she said, “I would have no problem defending these.”

Councilor Paul DiNocco observed that “transparency” is an important consideration in any approval process that comes before the board.

“Main Streets has been very transparent in everything they do,” he said, going back to 2017. He argued that all components of the kiosk proposal were brought to the Town Council and discussed. He said that he did not believe that a policy that was created after the kiosks were approved should now apply to them.

Town Council Chairman Edward Dombroski asked if it was true that the plaques were part of the original kiosk proposal that was approved. Town Administrator Stephen P. Maio said that he did not specifically recall seeing the plaques in the initial proposal.

But Mailhoit argued that sponsor recognition was always intended and the plaques were part of the overall package.

“It would be an absolute shame if we were not able to honor that commitment to those businesses,” Mailhoit said. “We are arguing over a 15-inch by 4-inch plaque recognizing some of the most giving businesses in town. I don’t understand the issue.”

Santos agreed with Mailhoit that the sponsor plaques were understood by the board to be part of the package when the kiosks were approved.

“Our membership didn’t micromanage every detail back then,” she said. “I know this was discussed. It didn’t just come up in the last couple of months.”

Councilor Peter May agreed that the plaques were part of the kiosk package that was approved. He called it “an abomination” to start “nickel and diming donors. These are all people who support the town.” Even if each and every detail was not itemized in the initial approval, May argued, the overall kiosk proposal was approved. “We agreed to this,” he said.

Dombroski said that he wasn’t opposed to recognition. He said that he favored smaller plaques that listed just one sponsor on each of the kiosks. He noted that the maps mounted on the kiosks already display the donor logos prominently as well as the Main Streets logo.

Councilor Julie Smith-Galvin wondered if the Town Council was wading into an area where they would be picking and choosing which sponsors to promote on public property.

But DiNocco brought up the example of The Savings Bank Theatre sign and Mailhoit noted that sponsor signs are also displayed on fences at athletic fields around town.

“This is no different,” Mailhoit said.

Dombroski again asked why the plaques couldn’t be smaller with just one sponsor per kiosk.

But Mailhoit was equally adamant that each of the plaques should have the Main Streets logo, The Savings Bank logo and one of the other three sponsors

“I’m a little offended that there’s even talk of taking the Main Streets logo off,” he said. He stressed that Main Streets’ mission is to help to grow the downtown and to do that, they need visibility. “We need our name out there in order to fundraise,” he said, adding, “We’ve wasted months and months on minutia.”

Town Councilor Jonathan Chines agreed.

“We’re getting into a level of minutia that’s beyond what’s reasonable,” he said. Chines made a motion to approve the plaques as presented. The motion passed 6-1, with Dombroski saying that he was opposed based on the size of the plaques.