The Select Board meeting opened with an overview of the agenda and then public comment to cover the attendees who wanted to speak. First was Bill Brown, requesting ARPA funds to help offset the cost of the Vietnam memorial. Tim Twomey was next, speaking to concerns of parking and access on California Road during baseball games as a public safety concern.
Jackie McCarthy opened liaison reports, thanking election volunteers and staff as well as the Vietnam veteran’s memorial ceremony. The Board of Health is going through a community needs assessment, including discussions on community communications.
Chris Haley spoke next to the support received for the veterans during the ceremony and emphasized the need to be better informed on what is constitutionally protected. He also emphasized that he and Fidel are available at any point to address any community needs around potholes, parking, and that matters do not need to wait to be addressed at a Select Board meeting.
Carlo Bacci also spoke to the veteran’s event, and the track naming ceremony for Hal Croft. He spoke to the 60% turnout on election day, and CPDC update on the Veterans’ Way project, the sign approval at 77 Haven as well as other aesthetic projects underway and the Rite Aid building project has a reduction in units from 24 to 12. A four family, purchased on Village Street, will be knocked down and four condos will be constructed. Carlo spoke to the Historical Commission and Historic District Commission’s executive session regarding 186 Summer Ave.
Karen Herrick was next, speaking to the DEI event at the high school. She mentioned that RMLD had chosen a new General Manager, Greg Phipps, and mentioned the strong candidate pool. She also spoke to the pathways program for the High School and the Select Board being invited to a Senior Citizens dinner sponsored by the legislature in North Reading.
Mark Dockser spoke to the COA’s usage of the ARPA funds, feedback on the UMASS survey results regarding senior center, and ongoing discussions on 17 Harden Street and discussions on lot 5 at Meadowbrook.
Town Manager Reports
Fidel Maltez concluded with an update on Town Meeting, and reported that trash and recycling are on schedule, but leaf pickup is behind schedule. Additionally, there was a flag being displayed by a resident that garnered much attention last week. Fidel pointed to the memo in the Select Board packet with a ruling from the ACLU that the speech was protected but will deal with each and every occurrence on a case by case basis.
Public Hearing – Traffic Improvements
Next was the public hearing regarding Traffic Improvements: Stop Signs at Hillcrest Rd and Copeland Rd. Both safety amendments were approved 5-0.
New baseball field at Joshua Eaton
Next was the Vote to accept gift of new baseball field at Joshua Eaton. The Select Board voted 5-0 after discussions centered around parking concerns.
Next was Discussion of future locations of Pickleball Courts. The Rec Committee shared some ideas for expansion, including shared space at Sturgis park, Barrows, Washington Park, and plans to create 8 pickleball courts during the phase 2 stage of Birch Meadow in 2025.
Reading Ice Arena Authority
Next Carl McFadden provided a presentation from Reading Burbank Ice Arena. Nelson Burbank set up a public private partnership that was described as “forward thinking”, generating over two million dollars for the town. He spoke to the $350k rainy day fund in place for disasters in partnership with Nelson, He asked that the town think about earmarking profits from Reading ice arena for recreational activities. He spoke to the solid financial standing of the arena.
Karen asked to look at audits for the last couple of years. She also asked about the Board of Directors, asking if they are all Reading residents and wondering why the Board members were not publicized. Karen expressed concerns regarding the lack of transparency of the Reading Ice Authority. She also spoke about the opportunity to consider solar panels as the ice arena considers replacing the roof. Jackie asked questions about parking and traffic and Chris had a few questions as well but mainly pointed out that we shouldn’t be telling a private business what they can and can’t do. Mark suggested that questions are funneled through the Town Manager.
Symonds Way Exploratory Committee
Next was Discussion and Vote on Select Board Representative to Symonds Way Exploratory Committee. Mark and Chis suggested that the liaison be Carlo. The vote passed 5-0.
Town Common Menorah
This discussion was prompted by Mark, who shared that our neighboring towns are displaying Menorahs. He stated that this would be welcoming to the community and provide an opportunity to expand holiday celebrations. He mentioned that the chamber of commerce and the rotary as well as the clergy associations are all being interested in these partnerships. The cost of the menorah is roughly $1600.
Chris is in support, and asked community members to reach out to him if there are other groups who are interested in being represented in Town Common.
Carlo spoke next- asking who supplied the tree lighting lights. Fidel shared that it began as a fully privately paid event, but this year, we paid for electricity, we paid for replacement lights, and labor for DPW to put the lights up. Carlo then asked about a live nativity scene and whether the Board would support that. Mark said no, as this would be considered a religious activity. Carlo then spoke to a Christmas tree option- citing that there has been an attack on Christmas and including a Christmas tree on town common would be more inclusive.
Jackie asked if general funds would be used, and questioned what the vote is on, and if a vote is requested, a funding source should be discussed to ensure town ownership of the menorah and have it be categorized as public speech. Karen then spoke to her dissatisfaction of Chris’s line of questioning before asking why Town Government could not own and fly a pride flag. She also mentioned the lack of potentially having a discussion and proposing a vote for the next meeting.
The vote passed 5-0.
Safe Routes to School Grant
This grant would help improve walk-ability as well as bike safety around the schools. The grant is for $1.5 million and would be focused on the Birch Meadow area. The request is due on November 18th but does not guarantee the town will receive it. Approved 5-0 by the board.
Next was Discussion and Vote on VASC recommendations for various boards and committee appointments. Jackie shared that she enjoyed meeting with folks, and talked about her VASC recommendations that Chris agreed with:
- Karen Janowski as a member of the Council on Aging, term effective immediately and expiring June 30, 2025
- Nancy Tawadros as a member of the Council on Aging, term effective immediately and expiring June 30, 2024
- Nancy Ziemlak as an associate member of the Council on Aging, term effective immediately and expiring June 30, 2023
- Jean Prato as an associate member of the Council on Aging, term effective immediately and expiring June 30, 2023
- Melissa Pucci as a member of the Recreation Committee, term effective immediately and expiring June 30, 2025
- Tim Kirwan as an associate member of the Trails Committee, term effective immediately and expiring June 30, 2024
Future Agendas & Minutes
The Board then Discussed future agenda items, approved the October 11th and 25th meeting minutes, and adjourned.