The Reading ARPA advisory committee meeting was called to order with no public comment and a review and approval of the 8/31/22 minutes. Next was an overview of the modeling developed by Tom Wise, that would be used to allocate hazard pay to town employees, adding compensation banding as a variable considered for allocation.
Next was follow up with Burbank YMCA and their Executive Director John Feudo, to hear more specifics on their proposal and possible conditions that could apply to an allocation. There was a reassurance that the ARPA funding would stay with the Reading YMCA, and not shared out with any other towns. Swim lesson allocation was discussed, with priority given to Reading residents but opened to other towns after a 2-3 week waiting period. Staffing shortages were also discussed, as well as the programming designed for special needs as well as partnerships with other organizations to support mental health-based programming. Two Reading residents stepped up to the podium and expressed the importance of swim lessons for kids with special needs, as well as the value of the community and the services that the YMCA provides to these kids and their families.
The committee then returned to their discussion on the modeling that was previously addressed, speaking specifically to school employees and an allocation that would be focused on when the time-frame that teachers were back in the classroom in person, and the banding around pay rates for town employees. Mark Dockser spoke to the fact that this exercise should be a uniting, not divisive exercise, and viewing this allocation from the simplest modeling perspective would make the most sense. The committee then started talking actual allocation numbers:
- Public Health: $250k, $80k of that has already been spent on PPE and test kits
- Water/Sewer: $650k
- Senior/Elder Service: $900k
- Maillet, Sommes & Morgan Land: $77k
- Schools: $2 million for a new literacy program
- Conservation Commission: $8k
- Trails Committee: $11k
- Town Forest Committee $100k out of a $200k ask
- Requested from community/private requests $396k
The committee then began to discuss some discrepancies in Town Recreation allocation and the Public Health allocation. Discussions continued, and conversation ensued around a definitive vote on a recommendation to Select Board to allocate $96,100 for programming to be provided by Reading Recreation in partnership with the YMCA and other community providers to support inclusive programming. The vote carried 8-0.
Next was discussion on the Birch Meadow project, specifically, improving the parking situation on the property. The committee voted 8-0 on a recommendation to the Select Board to allocate $1.5 million for the Birch Meadow Phase One proposal. The picture attached is the parking area portion that was approved for $500k contained in their allocation.
A discussion and vote on a recommendation to the Select Board for a $13,500k allocation for the Trails Committee followed. The vote carried 7-1, with Tom Wise being the dissenting vote and then the Conservation Commission request of $22,500 for various initiatives, including the construction of a bike rack at Mattera Cabin. The board voted 8-0.
The committee then discussed an allocation of $500k, from Mark Dockser, to augment the affordable housing trust fund. There were push-backs due to the lack of actionable initiatives around affordable housing that this allocation would be applied to. Chris Haley’s proposal for an additional $100k for a food truck used by the town and seniors was also tabled. Discussion then moved to the Reading Food Pantry and the garden club, and then to the senior center. Deliberations and discussions then continued on how to move through the rest of the requests efficiently.
The Reading Food Pantry request was ultimately amended to $46,200, to be allocated for the purchase of commercial refrigerators, 1 year worth of inflation gift cards and hiring a space consultant. The vote carried 8-0. The remaining allocations will be covered in the next October meeting before the committee is due to sunset at the end of that month.
The committee ended by discussing future agenda items and adjourned at 10:24PM.