The Select Board meeting opened with public comment from Mary Ellen O’Neill, who expressed concerns about a private citizen’s operation of a webcam and the monetization of their video content.
Next was the State Legislation Visit, opening with Senator Jason Lewis speaking to some of the legislative changes, including $1.2 billion dollars of local aid in the FY 2023 budget, including fully funding student opportunity act geared towards public schools. Local earmarks for Reading were allocated at $100k, and $600k for the town to utilize towards bridges, roads etc. $11 billion on an infrastructure bill that includes state and federal money- setting the state up to maximize the federal dollars, including electrification of commuter rail, and making intersections safer for bikers/pedestrians, as well as $200 million to promote adoption of electric vehicles, and monies to support the safety of the MBTA, and initiation in $4.1 million in local earmarks.
In addition, the major climate bill signed in August, will support Massachusetts becoming a leader in solar and offshore wind industry development and transition buildings and public transportation away from fossil fuels. Reading just received a $2.1 million grant for the storm water restoration project. Senator Lewis also spoke to a bill to strengthen mental health care, and protect access to reproductive care, and permanent access to mail in and early voting for all state and federal elections moving forward. He also spoke to a bond earmark for an allocation to a new senior center, downtown recovery, food pantry and chamber of commerce.
Representative Brad Jones spoke next. He congratulated Reading for a strong fall street fair and spoke to the economic development bill that should be signed off on soon, which would return $2.9 billion to the taxpayers. Representative Rich Haggerty spoke next, speaking to $3.7 million in unrestricted government aid, and continued to speak to what Jason Lewis mentioned. Senator Lewis also encouraged community feedback to the delegation regarding Reading’s designation as a MBTA community due to the economic development bill in response to Jackie’s call on Reading’s new designation as an MBTA community. Rep Jones spoke to the potential tax relief to small businesses and the senior community as Board member Carlo Bacci expressed his concerns on the strain of small business. Board member Chris Haley expressed similar concerns regarding small to midsize businesses in Reading, but also expressed gratitude for the grants that the legislature was able to push past the finish line. Chair Mark Dockser asked questions around our progress on Reading’s designation as a Green Community so that Reading is able to leverage access to those funds. Rep Jones informed the board that Reading is close to the finish line on that issue. Mark also asked for an update on MSBA regarding the Killam school project. Anticipating a 40-50% reimbursement rate from the state, Reading will likely land with a number closer to 25% reimbursement for the Killam school, due to supply chain, inflation, and other issues. Reading may have access to a one-time fund to help supplement the cost of the Killam project, but there will be an inevitable burden on taxpayers.
Senator Lewis then took full advantage of a challenging local issue-based conversation, and shifted the conversation to the proposal before voters on the November ballot regarding the fair share amendment (Question 1), assessing an additional 4% tax burden to households making over $1 million dollars. Senator Lewis cited that these funds would only be able to be used for education and transportation, but Rep Jones disagreed, stating that the wording of the ballot question could result in the appropriation of those funds to other initiatives.
Town Manager, Fidel Maltez, ended the delegation visit by thanking the delegation for their presence and time in the community.
Next in liaison reports, Carlo Bacci spoke to the recreation meeting, citing that over 600 kids are users of the Saturday night lights. He then shared the Halloween stroll is scheduled for October 26th from 4-5:30 downtown, advocating for the pickleball community.
Chris Haley spoke about the Killam School Committee meeting, and the fall street fair dunk tank raised $1704 to support Rough N’ Ready and the Reading Rotary.
Jackie McCarthy spoke to the Board of Health update on compliance to Tobacco laws by Reading retailers. She also mentioned the Recovery and Remembrance event on September 28th and Covid/flu vaccine clinics during the month of September and October. The Cultural Council will present in an upcoming meeting and the CPDC meeting update on 459 Main Street, including right sizing 40R and taking a step back from density. A lower density was approved, and the developer requested 12 units, CPDC approved 5. And 25 haven street was tabled for now.
Vice-Chair Karen Herrick spoke to the chair of the Climate Advisory Committee regarding the proposed polystyrene bylaw, to finalize before town meeting, and spoke to her first meeting for the Board of Library Trustees, and it’s building up of in person use. Karen will also be hosting a Select Board office hour at the library on September 20th from 11:30 – 12:30.
Mark spoke to RECALC and the senior center initiatives, asking folks to fill out the survey that went out via mail, on the town website, or at town hall. On September 19th, more RFP’s have been issued to get more information on potential opportunities to leverage additional spaces for a Senior/Community center.
Fidel then spoke to 25.3% election turnout, a majority being mail in ballots. He spoke to personnel policies being in the works, and prepping for the Town Meeting warrant, with a placeholder for the Green Communities initiative if that legislature is passed. Fidel spoke to the financial forum taking place on September 21st and October 26th, and the water tank is planned to be completed by July 2023 with leases for cell carriers (potentially four) to place towers on the tank, which would help the town with cell coverage.
Next is public hearing- to discuss and vote on the town of reading’s personnel policies. With no comment, the meeting was closed, and the motion to approve passed 5-0.
Next was discussion and Vote on RAAC recommendations for ARPA spending: Here are the results of the vote:
- $1,500,000 for Phase I of Birch Meadow – Approved 5-0
- $96,100 for YMCA Adaptive Swimming overseen by the Rec Committee – Approved 4-0-1 (Jackie McCarthy abstained due to a part time job at the YMCA)
- $13,500 for the Historical Commission – Approved 5-0
- $22,500 for the Conservation Commission – Approved 5-0
- $46,200 for the Reading Food Pantry- Approved 5-0
Next the Board moved to the Preview Warrant for November Town Meeting. There will be 23 articles on the warrant for this November’s Town Meeting outlined below:
Article 1: report outs in writing are requested and anticipated from the Killam School Building Committee, the ad Hoc Reading ARPA Advisory Committee, and the ad hoc Reading Center for Active Living Committee (ReCalc)
Article 2: instructional motions, tabled to the last night
Article 3: to modify the capital improvement plan, requesting 80k for RPD to replace their firearms, and 60k to replace the surface for Sturgis Park tennis and basketball courts. And an additional 500k in bonding for Parker Middle School roofing project, in addition to 392k for FY 2024
Article 4: for modifications for FY23 operating budget, 85k in operating budget to fund payclass study
Article 5: to pay last year’s bills
Article 6: modifications for affordable housing trust fund
Article 7: Killam School 2.2 million free cash to fund study
Article 8: RFP for 4 cell carriers on the water tower
Article 9: senior tax exemption for additional 3 years
Article 10: active-duty members to access property tax abatement
Article 11: petition to extend board of health from 3 to 5 members
Article 12: bylaw request from Board of Cemetery Trustees to ban dogs from the cemeteries
Article 13: extend mandatory retirement for assistant fire chief for one more year
Article 14: bonding request for the loans that MWRA has $1.56 million available as an interest free loan
Article 15: borrow $1.5 million for Maillet Sommes
Article 16: borrow $750k to start Haven Street design
Article 17: $500k for Parker Middle School roof
Article 18: requested reimbursement for 40R projects
Article 19: placeholder for RFP for Senior/Community Center
Article 20: New bylaw for banning polystyrene
Article 21: creation of a new trust fund (Laura S Parsons fund) to be used for programming from Council on Aging
Article 22: citizens petition. Town meeting required business downtown to shovel sidewalks by 9 am
Article 23: Green Communities placeholder.
Next, Mark kicked off discussion regarding FY2024 Capital Plan and Process. He spoke about more community and board/committee involvement as additional voices to bring in diversity of thought to help formulate the plan moving forward. He expressed interest in forming a capital plan committee as an advisory committee to the Select Board, and discussions ensued regarding not repeating efforts with other committees and thinking through how this committee might compliment others.
Discussion continued regarding next steps regarding Cell Coverage, specifically carriers identifying additional locations for alternate small cell and macrosite tower placement. Verizon specifically identified macrosite locations that include the Auburn Street Water Tank, around compost center, around Symonds way, and close to Mattera cabin. Fidel approached the board to consider discussion around one of these additional sites and issue an RFP that would involve the carrier paying for the construction of the tower and a long-term lease of that land. Fidel suggested targeting the compost center as the first location.
The board then discussed the outcome of the Summer Select Board Retreat and began discussion on a Fall Retreat. The board continued with the Town Master Plan and the notion of seeing long term goals on the 20-year vision for the Reading community.
The board then discussed future agenda items and office hours, approved 3 sets of meeting minutes, and adjourned at 11:00pm. Their next meeting will be held on September 20th to close the warrants for November Town Meeting.