MODERATOR BRAD HAYES (left), Selectman Mark Duffy (center), and Budget Committee Member Denny Miller all received standing ovations at the Wakefield Deliberative Session Feb. 4. The men, all with lengthy records of public service to the town, have decided not to seek reelection in March. (Mellisa Seamans photo) (click for larger version)
February 09, 2012WAKEFIELD — Voters here got their first look at the proposed 2012 warrant articles and budget during the Deliberative Session held last Saturday evening, Feb. 4.
The two-hour meeting moved swiftly along led by newly-appointed moderator Dino Scala. Longtime moderator Brad Hayes announced he was retiring and his assistant and son-in-law, Scala, was appointed to take the gavel and will run for election to the position next month. Hayes received a lengthy and very loud round of applause and standing ovation. Of Hayes, Scala said, "There is no person I know who is more fair, unbiased, and level than Brad Hayes" and added "I am so glad I was taken under his wing."
Other retirements announced at the start of the meeting include longtime Selectman Mark Duffy and Budget Committee Member Denny Miller. It was noted that with these retirements also goes a lot of experience and knowledge of the town. Those in the audience were encouraged to consider running for office.
The first 11 articles on the ballot relate to the election of officers and zoning ordinance changes. Of note is Article 10, which, according to Arthur Capello, the town's zoning officer, changes the definition of a building so that property owners no longer need a permit if they want to build a dog house for more than two dogs.
In money articles, the repair and maintenance of roads took up most of the discussion with all three selectmen recognizing and agreeing with the public's comments about the need for a road improvement plan. Article 13 asks voters to add $75,000 to the bridge construction savings account. Selectman Peter Kasprzyk said when emergency repairs are needed, selectmen are often left having to take money from other budget lines to pay for the work. "We don't want to keep doing this," he said. He said there are currently three bridges in need of major repair including one in Union, Canal Bridge, and one in North Wakefield.
Former selectman John Blackwood made a motion to add $125,000 to the road maintenance budget to give selectmen more money to tackle more road projects in 2012. The motion fell short on a vote of 25 yes to 32 no. Budget Committee Chairman Howie Knight said the town's Capital Improvement Plan is complete and it's time for a year-to-year plan for road maintenance. "The infrastructure of this town used to be the model for the area," said Kasprzyk and added that at the rate grass is growing up through roads in town, "someday we'll give up plows for lawnmowers."
Article 18 asks voters for $20,000 which will give selectmen enough money to put fire sprinklers in the Opera House, the top floor of the Town Hall.
Article 22 puts $55,000 into savings for construction of a new salt storage shed for the highway department. Selectmen explained the new building will replace a 1979 pole barn that is rotting, "desperate", and "in need of being pushed over." The corrosion in the building was so bad apparently, that the code enforcement officer ordered the electricity to be removed from the building.
Prepared with handouts and a PowerPoint presentation, Wakefield Food Pantry advocates were prepared to persuade voters to approve a 99-year lease that gives the Pantry one acre of town land on which to building a new Pantry building. The lease will cost $1. But persuasion wasn't needed in this case as no one spoke in opposition of the article.
The only change to selectmen's total budget was an increase of $3,400 that will be used to purchase a computer and software for the cemetery trustees. With 122 cemeteries in town, it is expected that this software will be used to create a database of all burial plots including GPS coordinates, obituaries, maps and photos of gravestones. The database can be linked to the town's website so that anyone with Internet access can research ancestry or history of those buried in Wakefield.
A motion by Cindy Bickford failed. She asked her fellow voters to consider reducing the planning board budget by $10,000, specifically the money budgeted for paying for the town planner. It was her argument that the planner is helpful to the town but does not need to attend and be compensated for every planning meeting or for doing clerical duties.
Under the general business article, Article 30, Donna Faucette tried to make a motion that would change town policy so that the selectmen could not spend any money out of surplus without proof of an emergency or without it having been approved on a Town Meeting warrant article. Town Attorney Rick Sager said the article does not qualify as "other business" and would need to be added to the town warrant next year should Faucette choose to bring it forward again. At issue, Faucette said, is the selectmen hired Municipal Resources Inc. to do an analysis of town operations and make a report, to the tune of $37,000. She argued that selectmen should not have voted to spend that amount just because there was leftover money in the 2011 budget.
Voters will go to the polls March 13 to vote on a total operating budget of $3,963,800, zoning changes, elected officials, and warrant articles. Those articles ask voters whether or not the town should form an agricultural commission and whether or not to adopt an ordinance that prohibits political signs on public property being put up more than a month before election or left up more than seven days after an election.