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Wakefield City Council ponders fading population base

 

September 11, 2018

P.J. Glisson/Daily Globe

DURING A financial presentation at Monday's Wakefield City Council meeting, Bob Blaskowski of Wakefield asks council members to plan carefully for the future, which might bring with it continuing loss of income and population.

By P.J. GLISSON

news@yourdailyglobe.com

Wakefield - While presenting a Monday report called "Wakefield's 10-Year Financial Forecast," Bob Blaskowski warned Wakefield's city council of "what we might call a slow-moving train wreck."

Blaskowski, of Wakefield, said the city is mired in declining property values, rising utility costs, and significant responsibilities in the way of employee health care and pensions while also witnessing a shrinking tax base due to fading population.

The former city councilman said the city's population in 2006 was closer to 1,900, whereas now it is 1,709. Given continuing trends, he said the city may have only 1,540 residents by the year 2030. "And that doesn't include the Ojibway closing," he said in reference to the recent announcement that the state is closing Ojibway Correctional Facility in Marenisco.

"Most municipalities try to get a five- to 10-year forecast," said Blaskowski, who added, "Policies are the first step. We have to have a set of policies in place to sustain the city fiscally, physically and aesthetically."

Blaskowski said council members should start planning now for the likely decline, and he recommended they also consider the Pareto Principle.

He explained that 19th century philosopher and economist Vilfredo Pareto came up with an "80-20 rule," which he claimed could be applied to most aspects of life. For instance, said Blaskowski of the rule, "Twenty percent of your sales force is responsible for 80 percent of your sales."

Blaskowski said similar sense could be applied to the city's budget. "We've got to have water," he said. "We have to have electricity." But he added that less essential expenditures warrant no more than a small percentage of city dollars.

"We realize that," said mayor John Granato of the importance of minding the future," but the fact of the matter is the City of Wakefield has to adapt to real time rather than projected time."

Granato said the city may have to respond to additional financial blows in the next couple years because of the prison issue. On the other hand, he said, prosperity also could occur.

"If you were a betting man, what would you bet on?" asked Blaskowski, who added, "Reactivity vs. proactivity is more expensive. You can't run a ship on a reactionary basis. You've got to plan."

Two Wakefield residents commended Blaskowski from the audience. "I agree with Bob," said Roseann Finco, who advised the council," He's got a good plan there, and you need to consider that."

Loraine Mussatti also added, "I commend you, Bob."

Mussatti told council members, "There is so much more that we could do for preparation." She stressed that the council is not to blame for the problems, but asked, "How do we take care of our assets?"

Mussatti concluded, "We've got to have plans and procedures and policies. Not just you, but all of us. We have to figure out what we're going to do together to move forward."

City Manager Richard Brackney echoed Blaskowski's conservative tone by noting the council previously has asked residents what they want for the area. "It's not going to be what we want," he said. "It's going to be what we can afford."

 
 

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