Long-range road plan headed for TM

Mar 31, 2020 by

Published in the March 31, 2020 edition.

By MARK SARDELLA

WAKEFIELD – The Town Council last week approved a number of public works-related articles for Annual Town Meeting. Among them was funding for a long-range road improvement plan.

The plan was presented in detail at the Feb. 24 Town Council meeting, but before voting, councilors wanted to see exactly how the town would fund the $19,654,743 long range plan for upgrading the town’s 88 roadway miles.

Dialing in by phone to last week’s Town Council Meeting due to ongoing virus concerns, DPW Director Joseph Conway and Town Engineer William Renault briefly summarized the plan.

The goal of the strategic roadway plan would be to systematically improve the town’s 88-mile road network to an acceptable standard. To do that, the DPW will request funding to allow for consistent annual investments so that the town’s roadway network does not deteriorate to the point that would result in more costly repairs. 

At last week’s meeting Town Administrator Stephen P. Maio outlined a bonding schedule that he said would fund the roadwork within the town’s current debt structure.

Maio reminded the board that the Debt Service Fund was put in place years ago after a failed override attempt to build three elementary schools.

He said that having a Debt Service Plan with annual funding has allowed a consistent, smooth approach to funding “big ticket” items within Proposition 2½. Those projects, Maio said, have included the Dolbeare School ($9 million), the Woodville School ($14 million), the Public Safety Building ($10 million), High School field Improvements ($5 million), several fire trucks ($3 million), the Walton School ($6 million) and the Senior Center ($2.5 million).

By maintaining a consistent level of funding over the years in the Debt Service Fund, Maio said, the town has been able to add new projects like the Walton School, the Greenwood School roof, the Public Safety Building and now hopefully roads.

He noted that for the current year (FY 2020), the level of Debt Service funding from the tax levy was: $2,201,039.00 (excluding the Galvin Middle School) with and additional $750,000 for roads and $125,000 for sidewalks added at last year’s Annual Town Meeting for a total of $3,076,039.

By putting the same amount toward debt service for FY 2021, Maio explained, the town will be able to bond the first $2.5 million for the roadway improvement project.  This would be part of a $10 million process that would involve bonding $2.5 million a year to get rid of the road maintenance backlog and ideally get to a point where needed road maintenance can be handled through the DPW’s annual budget.

Part of the reason this is possible, Maio added, is because the town will have paid off existing bonds like the Woodville School.

By sticking to the Debt Service funding plan that he outlined, Maio said, the Debt Service fund would actually grow each year to the point where the town could even bond new projects such as upgrading the DPW facility.

Town Council Chairman Edward Dombroski stressed that the roadway improvement plan allows the town to get the biggest bang for the buck by not allowing roads to deteriorate to the point where they need to be completely reconstructed.

Maio admitted that funding the plan through bonding has “a lot of moving parts,” but he noted that the town’s bond counsel, Town Treasurer John J. McCarthy Jr. and Town Accountant Kevin Gill have all been involved in the discussions. The entire community, he added, will have a chance to discuss it at Annual Town Meeting.

Conway also presented several other public works-related articles and funding requests for the upcoming annual Town Meeting:

• Annual Eminent Domain article — $1 

• Refuse/Recycling/Yard Waste budget – $2,274,241

• Revolving Amounts for Roadway Spending — $75,000 (This revolving account is funded through payments from developers and contractors whose work impacts the roads.)

• New Salem Street drainage repairs – $800,000

• Walton Lane betterment – $91,000

The Town Council approved all of those items as articles for Annual Town Meeting.

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