Town Meeting Recap: Yes to Police Contracts, Fingerprinting, and a Fire Truck
With significantly less residents in attendance than on Monday night, Thursday's town meeting sailed through 20 articles.
Headlining Thursday night's town meeting were three different issues affecting the Police and Fire Departments: a new contract for the Wakefield Police Department, which has been out of a contract for the last two years, a new fire truck for the Wakefield Fire Department, as the current truck is nearing the end of its life expectancy, and a new policy to require fingerprint-based background checks for those applying for certain licenses in town.
All three passed, as well as 17 other articles addressing everything from storm drainage to tree care to money for school technology.
The new police contract in Wakefield is effective retroactive to 2010, as Wakefield police officers have been working for the last two years without a contract.
"Yet they have continued to conduct themselves in a way we would expect from a Wakefield police officer," said Town Administrator Stephen Maio. "I want to thank them for the professionalism displayed when they were without a contract over the last two years."
The new contract, although containing small cost-of-living increases, offers Wakefield Police officers educational incentives to earn higher degrees. An officer can earn a 5 percent increase in base pay for earning an associate's degree, a 10 percent increase for a bachelor's degree, and a 15 percent increase for a master's degree, according to the contract. These are the same percentages available to the Fire Department.
"Between terrorisim to cyber theft to domestic violence, the town of Wakefield recognizes how important officer education is to a succesful police force," said Maio.
The contract also includes a one percent merit increase for the Police Department maintaining its certification, and gives officers the ability to work when injured performing "light duty" work.
"I believe this is a good contract for the town and the union as it sets a good standard for cost of living increases as well as treats officers fairly," said Maio.
New Ladder Truck
The town also approved spending $950,000 on a new aerial ladder truck for the Wakefield Fire Department. The vote passed unanimously.
"I'm relieved," said Chief Michael Sullivan after the vote.
The town's current truck is 17 years old, putting it towards the end of an average truck's life expectancy of 15-20 years. Chief Sullivan said the town spends on average $20,000 each year just to maintain the truck in working condition. When the truck is out of service, the highest piece of equipment available to the Fire Department is a 24-foot ladder, which won't reach a third-story window.
Chief Sullivan said he plans to put in the order for the new truck immediately, and hopes to have the truck at the Wakefield Fire Department within a year.
Fingerprinting for Town Licenses
Following a state-wide trend, residents voted to pass a new town by-law that would require anyone applying for a license through the town of Wakefield to undergo a fingerprint background check.
The new bylaw applies to the following occupations: Hawker and peddler, liquor licensee, manager or alternate manager of a liquor licensee, solicitors and canvassers, dealers in junk, second-hand articles and antiques, second-hand motor cehicle dealer, hackney carriage (Taxi) operator, and ice cream truck vendor.
This particular article generated the most about of discussion, and although it still passed handily with a majority vote, there were several dissenters.
Chief Richard Smith said that as the system stands now, Wakefield has no way to run a background check on anyone applying for an aforementioned license from out-of-state.
"These people are applying for positons of trust within our community and it's extremely important that we base these decisions on the best information available," he said.
The new bylaw pertains only to people who are applying for a new license - existing licenses, and renwals of those licenses will be retained without fingerprinting. Applicants must already go through a CORI check.
Residents voiced that they were generally in favor of keeping Wakefield safe, but wondering about infringements onto applicants civil liberties.
"If you do something stupid when you're 20 and then go to open a business when you're 60, will this keep you from starting a business?" asked Elizabeth Lowry.
Chief Smith said the recommendation from police is only one aspect of the application process, and the final decision is still up to the Board of Selectmen. He added that fingerprints will not be saved at the station.
"You can take it home with you and frame it," he said.
All the other articles taken up at the meeting, Articles 2, 4, and 6 through 23 were also approved. You can review the full list here.
The meeting was adjourned at 10 p.m., after the approval of Article 23. Town Meeting will re-convene on Monday night at 7:30 p.m. at the Galvin Middle School to address the remaining articles, Articles 24 - 31.