Wakefield council addresses back-up from 'rain event'


April 10, 2019

P.J. Glisson/Daily Globe

SHARING A jovial moment during Monday's Wakefield city council meeting are city manager Robert Brown, Jr. and city clerk Sue Ahonen.



Wakefield - The City of Wakefield addressed its first "rain event" of the year by discharging an excess of diluted raw sewage into designated ditch lines between Sunday and Monday.

According to city manager Bob Brown, the action was necessary in order to minimize sewer water back-up into the basements of some Wakefield homes and businesses.

"The pumps were fully functional prior to that," said Brown at Monday's meeting of the Wakefield city council. "We were just inundated with too much water."

The city manager said the city's sanitary sewer normally handles approximately 180,000 gallons of sewage per day, whereas he said the added rain forced the system to contend with more than 3 million total gallons.

Brown said the city began the discharge at about 9:30 a.m. Sunday and discontinued it at 5 a.m. Monday.

The three discharge locations were at U.S. Hwy. 2 and Putnam Street, Old U.S. 2 and Superior Street, and Nunnemacher Street and Cemetery Road.

According to Brown, Sunday Lake was expected to receive some of the "highly diluted" discharge, but he assured there are no health concerns.

"There was little or no threat to public health during this discharge," said Brown, who pointed out that no swimming or fishing is taking place at this time.

Moreover, he added, "The drinking water is safe. It is not impacted by the wells at all."

Brown, who said state and county health authorities were informed of the discharge, said the city needs to address all issues relating to problems with rain events.

"It has been an ongoing problem for this community," said the manager. "The problem was not caused overnight. It will not be solved overnight. It will be a process."

Mayor John Granato also announced that the city needs to purchase a more effective pump.

Granato later told the Globe that, in his opinion, the city specifically needs a centrifugal diesel pump that is larger than current pumps, as well as portable.

Old City Hall Status

In other news, Brown reported to council members that an unknown buyer, with unknown intent, has expressed interest in purchasing the old City Hall on Wakefield's main street.

He recommended pursuing an appraisal of the hall because he said it will be required whether the council agrees to sell the building or whether it decides to raze the building or to pursue grants to restore the structure.

Granato warned that any potential sale could be complicated by the fact that the city garage currently is attached to the hall, posing complications in addressing utility issues, etc.

Moreover, said the mayor, "It's going to be tough for a person to insure a building with heavy equipment stored there."

Council members voted to authorize Brown to seek an appraisal on the hall.

Public comments on the matter were mixed, with public works lead Mike Sibley encouraging the city to sell the hall while also not retaining the adjacent city garage.

Bob Blaskowski said he would favor restoration of the hall since it's "probably the last icon left in the city," but he said the garage should be demolished.

Loraine Mussati said she fears that selling the building could result in it deteriorating for years, as the memorial building did.

The old city hall has been vacant since 2014.

Election issues

The council also:

-Voted to authorize city attorney Ray O'Dea to prepare ballot language in relation to changing city election dates from odd years, which are paid by the city, to even years, which are paid by the state.

-Voted to authorize O'Dea to prepare ballot language in relation to staggering city; member terms instead of retaining the current system, which requires that all five council members be elected every two years. In a written report to the council, Brown explained that staggering terms will better assure both "stabilization" and "institutional memory."

-On the grounds of emergency needs of city staff, voted to authorize Brown to purchase a new printer at a cost not to exceed $5,500.

-Voted to authorize Brown, at his discretion, to designate overflow parking sites in relation to the Nation Stock & J Class Boat Races scheduled for July 22-26 in Wakefield. Tarro voted no on the grounds that, in past years, the overflow sites have resulted with messes that the city crew then must address.

-Voted to authorize the city manager to seek bids on a sewer camera.

-Voted to permit a five-year extension, until Aug. 31, 2024, of AT&T's right- to-operate within city boundaries in exchange for varying disbursements, which amounted to $13,457 in fiscal year 2017-18.

-Voted, as of the council's next meeting on April 23, to change the council meeting's public comment period from the beginning of the meeting to the end of the meeting after members of the community expressed dissatisfaction with the inability to comment on meeting action directly after it was taken.

During public comments, Marcia Jurakovich asked whether the city could share the written council reports prepared by Brown, and the city manager replied that his reports henceforth will be posted on the city website.


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