The Select Board meeting opened with an overview of the agenda and an extension of public comment to cover the attendees who wanted to speak in public comment.
Carl McFadden, accompanied by several high school football students, opened public comment about a partnership with the Reading High football and cheerleaders to conduct a food drive. In partnership with SNL Sports Academy, the drive will benefit the Reading Food Pantry. Donations will take place on 10/1 at 7pm at the high school field, and on 9/30 at the high school. Donations can also be delivered to Tread on Linden Street.
Rosemarie DeBenedetto spoke next in opposition to the Walgreens location as a potential senior center location due to the lack of parking and her lack of interest in the actual space itself, stating it isn’t adequate for the needs of the senior community.
Amanda Haley spoke next. She mentioned the Reading Recap website, specifically, that the references in the last Select Board meeting had inaccuracies. She expressed that there has been zero monetization on YouTube by Reading Recap and emphasized the lack of cost to any members of the town. She also spoke to the train depot camera, having zero zoom capabilities. She then spoke to the Reading teen who went missing, and how she reached out to help the mom to locate her and how helpful the camera would have been as the teen was spotted near the train station. Reading Recap has an events calendar that is open to the community. Amanda also expressed her gratitude to Vice Chair Karen Herrick for her patronage of the Reading Recap website, and her usage of content on her own campaign page. Haley celebrated this and encouraged other community members to do the same. Amanda closed with an email in expression of gratitude from a community member regarding the services that Reading Recap provides.
Lisa Egan then spoke on behalf of the Chamber of Commerce. She spoke to the Chamber’s thoughts on the potential polystyrene ban. She expressed her involvement in the process around the ban of plastic bags for local businesses and expressed her concern around the lack of awareness that small businesses have regarding this potential ban due to lack of efforts made by the Select Board. She asked that the warrant article for this November’s town meeting be postponed allowing small businesses to plan, especially with supply chain issues and cost to make the change. She also volunteered her efforts to drive awareness and engagement.
Vice-Chair, Karen Herrick spoke to the RMLD meeting she attended, sharing that they are significantly impacted by the inflation reduction act, and that due to supply chain issues and grant mismatch, the super charger at the library is delayed until Q1. She spoke to a community solar farm opportunity in Wilmington. Karen also spoke to the Killam School meeting, and the warrant article is now approved.
Mark spoke to the RECALC working group that met with the architect regarding the Walgreens space. Feedback was obtained from several groups including COA.
Fidel spoke to the financial forum on Wednesday night at 7pm. Three walkthroughs of the Killam School have been scheduled, October 26, November 4, November 5th. The Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs will be in Reading Wednesday to celebrate the MVP grant.
Class I License Approval/Transfer – Honda
Next was the Class I License Approval/Transfer from IRA to the new owners (Group One) on the lease 128 Honda. The board voted 5-0 on the motion.
Economic Development Update
The Economic Development Update was next, with the Economic Development Director, Erin Schaeffer. The update encompassed the Action Plan including goals around MBTA facilitate mixed use transit-oriented development, goals around 40R managed growth and policy changes, Haven streetscape improvements, eastern gateway infrastructure planning, brand, and market priority development areas, supporting existing local businesses and promoting public/private partnerships, and community cultural and economic development. There will be an Eastern Gateway planning forum on Thursday October 6th at 7pm-9pm, 230 Ash Street at the RMLD cafeteria.
Update on the BID
Next was an update on the BID (Downtown Reading Business Improvement District). Jim Freeman of Freeman Realty Associates, a BID member, spoke as the real estate development company. He introduced the steering committee that is putting the ideas and plans in place to represent the petition to the Select Board. They have held meetings with property owners, collaborated with Town of Hudson BID members, mentioned receiving a grant from Northern Bank to be able to contract a part time administrative support professional for signature campaign. There are 165 properties that are participating, 85 that are exempt, and the BID is excited to step in as an entity that is focused on understanding and promoting small businesses and the overall Downtown area, with the goal to make Reading a pleasant place to visit and an attractive location for businesses.
Carlo Bacci stepped up to the podium, as a Reading resident, and expressed his concerns regarding not only the strain on small businesses, but also, how this initiative might compromise the integrity of the downtown area.
Update from the Cultural Council
Co-Chair Brian Kimerer provided a financial update, citing $23,599k that the council was granted for 30 events. He spoke to community outreach that was conducted to help guide future events, and reported interesting insights, including the Reading PorchFest as the most heavily attended event. The council is now accessible on social media or at [email protected]
Open and Discuss Responses to RFP for Purchase of Real Property
A single response was received regarding the purchase of the Walgreens property for a purchase price of $7 million, less a $2 million seller credit. 17 Harden Street previously provided a response for a rental figure, but also responded with a request for purchase. Chair Mark Dockser suggested an executive session for the next meeting. Christopher Haley spoke to the parking challenges with the Walgreens property and suggested the construction of a parking garage as a potential solution.
Discussion and Update on Senior Center Exploration Process
Then the Board transitioned into Discussion and Update on Senior Center Exploration Process. Mark spoke to RECALC and their efforts in exploring solutions to meet the requirements of the senior community, as well as other community members. He asked for participation in the survey that UMASS has initiated and asked for community involvement. Mark then outlined the process that took place in exploration of solutions, including several bids that were initiated, with the Walgreens bid coming in as an attractive option to explore, with the only available space to be retrofitted and the opportunity to take action quickly. Exploration is under way with working groups collaborating with architects, and Mark encouraged more opportunities for soliciting community feedback on activities and programming that the community would be looking for, as well as providing opportunities to educate the community on the actual property and clarity on the resources that would be provided.
Vote to Close Subsequent Town Meeting Warrant
The board moved to the preview of the 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 the Parker roofing project, in addition to $392k for FY 2024
- Article 4: for modifications for FY23 operating budget, $85k in operating budget to fund pay class 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 at 100% instead of 150%
- Article 10: National Guard 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 the mandatory retirement for assistant fire chief for one more year
- Article 14: bonding request for the loans that MWRA has- we have $1.56 million available interest free loan
- Article 15: borrow $1.5 million for Maillet,Sommes & Morgan Land
- 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 9AM
- Article 23: Green Communities placeholder and potential RMLD per kilowatt tax.
The board discussed pulling out only 1 article for discussion, Article 20, to be then voted on separately. Christopher Haley reiterated his negative stance on the ban and referenced Lisa Egan’s public comment from earlier in the night.
The first person I would have gone to when dealing with businesses in town would be her and I’m not even sure anyone did that otherwise why would she have commented? We haven’t received a single email to the Select Board address about this ban and that is very telling.Christopher Haley
Karen Herrick mentioned that additional outreach was being done by the Climate Committee and was going to report back to them the boards concerns.
The board then voted 3-2 with Bacci and Haley dissenting, to move the article to town meeting. The board then voted 5-0 to recommend the remaining 22 Articles to town meeting.
Grove Street Lot 5 Update
Mark Dockser gave an update on Grove Street lot 5 and mentioned a delay with The Natural Heritage & Endangered Species Program being backlogged in their reports. Until that report is done, Mark preferred to wait on outreach to Meadow Brook Golf Club regarding an easement.
Future Agenda Items & Minutes
The board ended the meeting by discussing Future Agenda Items and Office Hours. The board did not approve 1 set of meeting minutes that was referenced in the agenda and adjourned at 10:32PM.