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Food Pantry asks Wakefield selectmen to allow site survey

Selectmen agree to submit cable contract to Time-Warner

November 03, 2011
WAKEFIELD — Representatives from the Wakefield Food Pantry met with selectmen last Wednesday evening, Oct. 26, to discuss a new proposal to relocate the pantry and to get the board's blessing on their plan to use town land for a new building and possible community garden.

A year ago the Food Pantry began looking for a new location. The pantry shares space in the former police station at 132 Meadow Street with the Wakefield Parks and Recreation Department, and both need more room. Selectmen asked the pantry to move out and suggested moving to the Great Wakefield Resource Center in Union. Since the bulk of the pantry's clients came from Sanbornville, some within walking distance, the pantry decided instead to look for a new location or land to build on in Sanbornville.

Food Pantry Building Committee Chair Dave Schweitzer wrote to selectmen on Oct. 13 about the subject, and he and President Janet Miller met with the board on Oct. 26 to discuss a new proposal, backed by a room full of pantry volunteers and supporters.

"We have found a piece of Town-owned property at the 29-acre parcel upon which the Wakefield Transfer Station now operates that could meet our site needs and have also identified patron(s) who would financially assist us in building a new Food Pantry building and determined that approximately 3 acres would be sufficient for the new building and needed parking for clients," Schweitzer wrote in his letter.

The meeting Schweitzer said, "We would like to stay on town property and request that the Board of Selectmen endorse a warrant article for the three acres that would allow us to lease it for $1 a year for 99 years." The Food Pantry would build its own building on the parcel with help from patrons. At the end of the lease the building would become town property.

Selectman Peter Kasprzyk asked what the cost to the town would be.

Schweitzer answered that the town's only cost would be the survey needed to define the three acres.

Miller added that in addition to the building, the pantry would need space for parking and a community garden as well.

Selectman Chair Ken Paul said he was in favor of selling the three acres for $1 but not leasing in order to avoid the potential liability to the town. He said he also felt 99 years was a long time.

Kasprzyk pointed out that there was only one access to the lot which would have to be shared. He added that leasing would prevent unintended uses.

Selectman Mark Duffy questioned why three acres were needed instead of two and said he was skeptical that three usable acres could be found. He said he was not opposed to the proposal but needed to see a plan for the site.

Paul said the pantry should make a sketch and review it with Warren Winn, the Transfer Station Manager.

Duffy said he would like to see more than a "napkin sketch," and said there were tools in the town map software to do that.

Miller asked, "Then it's OK for us to survey the lot and make a plan?"

The board said yes.

She pointed out that the pantry saves money for the town and that the proposed community garden would make it possible to raise food for recipient. Spaces could also be leased to residents to grow their own food.

Schweitzer asked if the board was willing to endorse a warrant article for a lease next March.

Paul said he wanted to see the plan first before committing.

Schweitzer said the detailsneed to be settled before the end of December to secure the help needed to build the building.

Two questions were asked from the audience. The first was whether a $1 sale contract could specify that the lot has to be sold back to the town if the pantry disbanded. There was no answer to that question.

The second question was why was the term 99 years? Schweitzer answered that the benefactors would require it.

Miller and Schweitzer thanked the board and promised to return with a plan.

Cable contract

Selectmen have been reviewing a renewal franchise contract with Time Warner Cable for some time now. Duffy said he had talked the contract over with Town Administrator Teresa Williams and now felt they should just submit it to Time Warner in its present form and see what the cable company's response will be.

Williams confirmed with Duffy that a request for $10,000 as a startup grant for the Public Access Channel was now included. "Nothing was given when the channel started," she said.

Station Manager Jerry O'Connor said that Attorney Kate Miller "put in everything that we asked for. It was a great job by an experienced law firm."

Resident Jim Miller asked to see a copy of the contract. O'Connor gave him his copy.

The board voted unanimously to move forward and submit the contract.

Public hearings

Conservation Commission Chair Dave Mankus asked selectmen to schedule a joint public hearing with the Conservation Commission on two conservation easements: one for 32 acres (Map 108, lot 32) and the other for the Union Meadows easement the Commission has been working on for some time. Mankus emphasized that the public hearing on the smaller parcel needs to be done before year end for the owner's tax purposes.

Mankus suggest holding the hearing on Monday, Nov. 21, given that the selectmen's normal meeting date of Nov. 23 is the day before Thanksgiving. The board consulted with Town Administrator Teresa Williams, who reminded them that the Heritage Commission will also need to hold a public hearing on the Old Maids Tavern easement as well. Rather than meet on the 21st or 23rd, selectmen agreed to meet and schedule the public hearings for Nov. 16. Williams said she would put the public hearing legal notice in the Nov. 3 issue of the Granite State News.

Other business

Williams clarified that the 15 percent senior discount with Time Warner Cable only applied to basic cable service. "If you bundle with other services you are already getting a better discount."

The board reviewed a letter from consultant Robert Saunders of CE2 in Hopkinton on testing needed and disposal costs for the pile of burn pit ash at the Transfer Station. Saunders recommended weighing some of the material to get a better idea of total weight and also testing before winter snowfalls cover the pile. Based on a rate quote from two brokers of $75 to $78 a ton, disposal cost should be covered by the landfill reserve, according to Williams. Selectmen agreed to proceed with testing and weighing.

Police Chief Ken Fifield has funding for next year's Operation Safe Commute but needs to have a public hearing on accepting the $3,600 grant. The board agreed to hold that hearing on Nov. 16 with the others.

Williams said the town has had its first unpaid furlough day on Columbus Day and there was some confusion over who had to work and who would be paid. "The original description stated all town operations would be closed without wages (except for Police, Fire/EMS). It needs to be more clear and state 'except for Group II employees Police, Fire/EMS.' The original version made it sound like 'except for the police department,' which meant the secretaries could work." Selectmen approved her clarification. The second planned furlough day is the day after Thanksgiving.

Paul said he had talked with Chief Fifield about the condition of the police cruiser proposed for replacement next year. He said the vehicle will be in better shape than the one that Code Enforcement Officer Arthur Capello is currently using, and he favored putting only the new police cruiser on the warrant. Kasprzyk said he favored letting the voters decide on whether Capello should get a new vehicle. Duffy said the cost of cruiser repairs was still much less than the cost of a new vehicle and he and Paul agreed to endorse only the police cruiser.

The board approved appointing Conservation Commission Alternate Tom Dube to be a full member.

Parks and Recreation Director Wayne Robinson said the Garvin Park playground will be rebuilt during the first week of December and asked for volunteers to help. The playground is for 4-9 year-olds and help is needed putting up a fence and installing signs and equipment.

The Wakefield Board of Selectmen meet next on Wednesday, Nov. 9 at 7 p.m. at the Town Hall meeting room.

Martin Lord Osman
Salmon Press
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