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.
The meeting opened with the opportunity for public comment. Rosemarie DiBenedetto approached the podium, and expressed her desire to purchase the Walgreen’s building, tear it down, and build a parking garage with commercial space. She also emphasized her desire that everything should be “green”. She then spoke to her dissatisfaction and complaints regarding the pleasant street center and lack of services and several repairs that, in her opinion, have required attention for some time.
Marilyn Shapleigh was next to the podium, representing the COA, confirming the attendance of John Parsons, and Rosemarie DiBenedetto.
John Parsons spoke next. He mentioned the lack of staffing for the senior center, having three people doing the work of five. He expressed that the seniors really need to have a fully staffed senior center.
Next were SB Liaison and Town Manager Reports. Carlo Bacci attended the Board of Health, mentioning issuing an RFP for a community needs assessment survey to address public health needs around Covid. Also, Reading is a participating town in a multi town grant. Reading Covid cases are low, and the Board of Health is monitoring the situation.
Chris Haley attended the economic development summit, and the RMLD open house, which was an incredible event. He then spoke to his office hours, where he expressed resident concerns around parking and the senior center.
Karen Herrick was next and spoke to a meeting with Lisa Egan regarding concerns about the polystyrene ban issue. She then spoke to the remembrance and recovery event, and the Council on Aging meeting, speaking to ADA versus inclusive design issues discussed. She also attended the financial forum regarding affordability of the Killam School, and the $2.1 million dollar grant that we received for the Maillet Sommes project.
Mark Dockser mentioned ReCalc met, discussed the 7-0 unanimous vote in support of moving forward with 17 Harnden Street (the former Walgreens). Also, the community survey that closed out, UMASS was asked for survey results that will be received on October 25th.
Town Manager Reports on Republic Trash Services
Fidel Maltez spoke next to the ongoing trash issues in town. We have a 10-year contract with JRM, ending in 2026. He spoke to the crash in the recycling market and that Reading was safeguarded. On May 16th, JRM closed and sold the business, employees and assets to Republic Services, a fortune 500 company and one of the three largest. Fidel spoke to several missed pickups, and is working to escalate and rectify the issue. He was assured that trash would be picked up on schedule this week as they missed their Saturday commitments. Reading use to be serviced from JRM’s Peabody location but moved to Republic’s Tyngsborough location to better service the needs of their customers in the long run, including Reading. Chris expressed concerns that trash was not picked up from schools and that rats we’re going to become an issue as well as reports that trash and recycling we’re being dumped into the same trucks. Carlo wanted to know what our remedy would be if this continued? Fidel mentioned that we’d have to provide written notice to cancel the contract if services were not being provided but the town can not have a new trash company tomorrow and we’d expect the increase in contract costs to be significant. Mark requested to investigate possible penalties in the contract to see if there was anything that can be done.
A complete street grant was requested for sidewalk installation on Auburn Street. In addition, a request for a 5 million grant to focus on walk-ability on Oakland Road and Birch Meadow, and the last beer garden will be on October 22nd.
Close State Election Warrant
Next Laura Gemme spoke to begin discussion to Close State Election Warrant for November 8th, 2022. The motion carried 5-0 in a roll call vote to close the warrant.
Discussion on Green Communities
Next was Discussion on Green Communities Legislation and Town Meeting Warrant Article 22. The governor signed the legislation to allow Reading to implement a new surcharge for the renewable energy fund, roughly 4 dollars per year. It takes 90 days for legislation to take effect. Having said that, the necessity of article 22 is in question, and town council recommended a hold on that article until there is more clarity on the legislation. Karen expressed her concern regarding tabling the article, stating that adding another warrant article on the April town meeting agenda was a concern. She expressed her concern regarding Town Council’s thinking regarding tabling the article, as it would be a “kick in the pants” to take that step back. She is also anticipating approval of green community funding, and she would like to earmark a portion of the funds to the senior center project.
Discuss Future Agendas
Next was Discussion of Future Agenda items and approval of meeting minutes, and the Select Board then starting discussion to consider and potentially act on response from owner of 17 Harnden Street discuss the acquisition and value of 17 Harnden Street. The board openly shared their support and their concerns and questions to consider as they deliberate on the RFP in executive session, with the most prevalent point being that both our senior community and the patrons of the potential new Killam School should be serviced, not one or the other.
Approve Meeting Minutes
The board then discussed two sets of meeting minutes. One from September 13th and another from September 20th. A brief discussion ensued over the September 13th minutes with changes by Karen eliminating the comment from Lisa Egan at the prior board meeting: “She noted there has been absolutely zero outreach to the business community that this was coming” and replaced it with “She expressed concerns regarding limited business outreach”. Chris had indicated that it was pertinent to the discussion that Lisa mentioned it and Karen mentioned it was supposed to be summary notes for the meeting. A compromise by Mark was proposed and changed from “absolutely zero” to “no” and both sets of minutes were approved 5-0.
17 Harnden Street
Fidel then shared his presentation regarding options that were explored for the senior center. He provided details on the Walgreens building RFP, which is estimated at $12-14 million to purchase and renovate the building which would cost $140/year to the average homeowner. Other options presented include expansion of the current senior center costing $18-21 million, or construction of a new building on Symonds Way which would cost upwards of $30 million.
The board continued discussion, and then moved into executive session. Once concluded, open session ensued. Mark was appointed as the Select Board representative in the negotiations of 17 Harden Street purchase. The vote passed 5-0 to continue discussions.
The board then adjourned at 10:00PM.