Published in the December 28, 2020 edition.


WAKEFIELD – Engineering and consulting firm Weston & Sampson has been chosen to conduct a feasibility study of the Public Works Facility on North Avenue. The study will be aimed at analyzing the deficiencies at the current site and identifying potential solutions up to and including the possibility of constructing an entirely new facility at the present location or elsewhere.

The Permanent Building Committee at its most recent meeting announced that Weston & Sampson had been the only firm to return a bid proposal for the job.

PBC Chairman Joseph Bertrand said that Weston & Sampson’s bid met all of the requirements and the price of $91,000 fell within the $100,000 budget for the feasibility study. The 2019 Annual Town Meeting appropriated $100,000 for a Public Works Facility Feasibility Study.

Bertrand noted that the firm would not just be looking at the North Avenue facility but at possible alternate sites as well.

DPW Director Joseph Conway said that he was a little surprised that no other bids were submitted but pointed out that Weston & Sampson is quite familiar with Wakefield’s situation. Weston & Sampson did a preliminary study several years ago, he recalled, when there were discussions of a combined Wakefield-Reading public works facility at Camp Curtis Guild.

Conway said that representatives of Weston & Sampson attended a walk-through of the current facility, took lots of photos and asked questions.

“They understand what we are looking for in a building,” Conway said.

PBC member Jerry Hammersley asked Conway what alternate sites would be looked at.

Conway said that there were about four sites to be vetted, but he was not optimistic that any of the sites would work, noting that the town is so built out that alternatives to the current site are limited.

He mentioned the nearby Kytron property as well as re-aligning some of the space behind the Galvin Middle School. An area near Route 128 is also a possibility, although Conway suggested that it is likely too wet. Another possibility mentioned was Nasella Field.

Conway noted that Weston & Sampson has already collected all available environmental information on the current Public Works site as well as the Kytron property.

Hammersley asked if the culvert that runs under the current facility would be reconstructed if a new facility is built on the present location. Conway said that if any work is done at the current site, the culvert would be replaced.

Public Works use of the North Avenue location pre-dates 1937. The North Avenue facility supports the following DPW divisions: Highway, Forestry, Parks, Fleet, Water, Sewer and a small workshop. The North Avenue facility also supports at least nine other town departments for such things as vehicle maintenance, vehicle fueling, building improvements, etc. The facility has also served as a command center for operations during snow and other emergencies.

In 2016, then-DPW Director Richard Stinson identified numerous issues and deficiencies with the Public Works Facility. Stinson told the Finance Committee at the time that the size of the buildings and the size of the overall site are inadequate for DPW operations. Because the ground underneath the site is contaminated, he said, the options for upgrading the current site are limited. Tearing down and rebuilding the existing facilities could entail expensive environmental remediation.

Other issues with the facility identified in 2016 included the vehicle maintenance shop, which is responsible for the maintenance and repair of nearly all town vehicles, including police cruisers. The shop was said to be inadequate in size and height to properly work on vehicles. Areas of the concrete floor near the lifts were cracked and sinking.

The former paint bay is no longer being used because of inadequate ventilation and environmental issues. As a result, vehicles with rust and corrosion are no longer repaired in-house. Sending them out for body work is expensive.

The vehicle storage garage was described as inadequate for the storage of vehicles and equipment. Vehicles must be parked several layers deep, meaning multiple vehicles often have to be moved to get one vehicle out, a particular hazard in an emergency situation. The floor drain system inside the building was reportedly collapsing. Other structural issues cited in 2016 included cracking and crumbling exterior support columns.

Other problems and deficiencies identified at the North Avenue facility in 2016 included: serious roof leaks in both buildings; inadequate storage for parts, tools and equipment; building ventilation issues; insufficient parking for staff; structural issues with both buildings; an inadequate and outdated vehicle fueling system and inadequate site security.

Last September, the Town Council appointed a new Public Works Facility Advisory Committee to work with the Permanent Building Committee to address conditions at the DPW facility on North Avenue. Members appointed to the new Public Works Facility Feasibility Committee include Town Councilor Peter May, Public Works Director Joseph Conway, DPW Business Manager Anne Waitt, Town Engineer William Renault, DPW Facilities Manager Christopher Hunt and DPW Facilities Manager Christopher Pierce. The two citizen members appointed to the committee are Joseph Harrington and former DPW Director Richard Stinson.

The recent PBC vote to award the feasibility study contract to Weston & Sampson was unanimous. Representatives of the firm will be asked to attend a January meeting of the Permanent Building Committee to discuss the upcoming feasibility study.