By MARK SARDELLA
WAKEFIELD — Local attorney Brian McGrail has been appointed as a “Special Municipal Employee” which will allow him to represent the town pro bono before the Zoning Board of Appeals for the planned renovation and expansion of the Public Safety Building.
The Town Council made the appointment at their meeting on Monday night after advertising for the position and getting only one taker: McGrail.
The action was necessary because the town’s plans for the Public Safety Building will require filing an application for zoning relief with the Board of Appeals. Town Counsel Thomas Mullen cannot represent the town’s application with the ZBA and also represent the Board of Appeals as a town board.
Town Administrator Stephen P. Maio told the Town Council that there are rare times when the town needs to go before the Zoning Board, and at those times, it needs legal representation. In this case, Maio explained, the town will be altering a building that got a Special Permit from the ZBA about 20 years ago.
Without the designation of “Special Municipal Employee,” for this work, McGrail wouldn’t be able to also represent private clients before the Board of Appeals. McGrail is considered one of the leading zoning attorneys in Wakefield, representing many large and small clients seeking zoning relief.
Town Counsel Thomas Mullen elaborated that without the designation “Special Municipal Employee,” if McGrail represented the town he would, under state law, automatically become a regular municipal employee. As a regular “town employee,” he would then be precluded from representing private clients before town boards.
“Brian would be an excellent selection and we should be grateful for his application,” Mullen said.
Town Councilor Ann Santos said that she had “no qualms whatsoever” about appointing Brian McGrail to this role.
Other board members thanked McGrail for volunteering and noted that by representing the town at no charge it would mean a tremendous cost savings.
Town Councilor Edward Dombroski made the motion to appoint McGrail as a Special Municipal Employee for the purpose of representing the town before local boards in the matter of the Public Safety Building expansion and renovation.
In June of 2020, Town Meeting approved $9.6 million for the project. An additional $2.5 million was appropriated at last fall’s Regular Town Meeting.
A feasibility study has found that the Police Department is facing serious space issues and other limitations in its current space and is facing critical points with technology storage and maintenance.
The emergency 911 systems, IT and electrical equipment are housed in spaces that do not have the sufficient temperature-control features necessary for proper functioning. These spaces experience leaks and the fire-prevention system over these crucial assets is water. A failure of these systems would impact the safety of every resident, business, and visitor.
Due to lack of space, families and residents in crisis are meeting with officers in converted closets instead of the calm, safe areas they need. Storage lockers and equipment are kept in hallways. Officers are performing tactical training in a small roll call room. The archive and records rooms are at capacity. There is also no space to add any additional resources in the future despite increasing demands on mental health, substance-use, and other police staff.
The configuration of the first floor does not allow for officers to be present in the lobby during evening hours or on weekends. Because the dispatch office is located on the second floor, those who enter the lobby—from those who experience a medical situation to those performing a custody swap—have to call for assistance on the telephone. In extreme situations, people often look for safety in police stations. Critical response time is lost with the current setup.
The garage/sally port at the prisoner’s entrance is too small, requiring the 10’ by 10’ sally port door to be open onto Crescent Street when prisoners are escorted in and out of the transport van. This poses a serious safety risk to the general public.
The HVAC system pumps from the Fire Department’s maintenance room into the police-side of the building creating strong chemical odors and black soot around vents. There are cracks and leaks throughout the structure, inadequate soundproofing in conference and leadership spaces, and other concerns.
McGrail reacted to the appointment with appreciation.
“I’ve lived in town my entire life and see it as a way to contribute to my community,” he said. “Thank you for the opportunity to do that.”