The Select Board meeting this past Tuesday night was the first of the new year and was primarily focused on an update from the Board of Health and the Housing Production Plan but opened with public comment.
Resident Joseph Carnahan was the lone speaker and expressed gratitude to the board for the Christmas Tree and Menorah holiday decorations as well as town counsel for her explanations on government speech and private speech.
Liaison and Town Manager Reports
Jackie McCarthy started off with liaison reports and mentioned the need for volunteers for the various openings on boards and committees in town.
Karen Herrick reported that there would be $150k set aside for full day kindergarten in the School Committee budget with a goal of making it free to residents over the course of the next few years. Karen also noted that Birch Meadow Elementary School would be the pilot location for composting in Reading.
Carlo Bacci attended the Reading Rec Committee meeting and noted that Reading Softball Little League will be donating a homerun fence to the town. Sturges Park was also brought up with re-doing the basketball courts and other improvements. Carlo also attended CPDC that had concerns with lighting over at Birch Meadow as part of the new central spine project that was set to start this Spring.
Chris Haley brought up the uplifting emails the board received over the ARPA money from the Reading Food Pantry as well as the Reading Teachers Association. He thanked the ARPA Committee as well as fellow board members for making a significant difference in peoples lives over the holiday break.
Mark Dockser noted that RECALC was meeting this week and would discuss the UMass study results regarding the senior center and a January 24th lunch and learn at the Pleasant Street Center. Mark also encouraged residents to attend the Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration at Reading Memorial High School starting at 9:30am and kicks off with a breakfast.
Fidel Maltez started off with the good news on grants. The town received two grants over the holiday period. The first being the Maillet, Sommes, & Morgan MVP Project that the Senate approved for $2 million dollars and the second was $500,000 from Mass DOT to install sidewalks on Auburn Street and Parkview Rd to address walk-ability and traffic concerns over in the Birch Meadow area.
Public Health Update
Public Health Director, Ade Solarin, gave an update on the Covid-19 and Influenza numbers for 2022. Covid accounted for 2,910 cases and 155 Influenza for the 2022 calendar year. As of last Friday, the Centers for Disease Control elevated Middlesex County to high-risk county in Massachusetts. Mary Giuliana, Director of Health Services for Reading Public Schools, reported that this school year has seen 289 students that were confirmed Covid positive cases and 75 staff members that were also positive.
Housing Production Plan
Nicole Lambert a project manager from Anser Advisory went over the housing production plan, where the town is in the process, the survey results and the subsidized housing inventory additions since 2018. Each community in Massachusetts is required to meet a goal of 10% of all housing units to be dedicated as affordable to those making 80% AMI or less. Reading currently sits above that at 10.5%. The current plan expires in February of 2023 and is expected to be voted on at the next Select Board meeting on January 24th.
Wakefield Inter-Municipal Agreement
Fidel then briefed the board on the inter-municipal agreement with Wakefield. He mentioned that only 1 student at Reading Memorial High School attended the POST program and terminating the agreement, set to expire or renew on June 30th, could save the town $60,000. Fidel shared that he spoke with Superintendent Thomas Milaschewski and they had no potential students interested in the program next year. Instead, they would be focused on a new program called EMBARC.
The board then voted 5-0 to terminate the inter-municipal agreement with Wakefield.
Town Manager Review Process
The board then moved on to discussing the process in which to review the town manager. The board previously agreed to the year review and a 360 degree model in Fidel’s contract. It was then decided to use the same review sheet that was previously used in former town manager, Bob Lelacheur’s, final year. Each board member will be sent a copy to fill out and members of town staff will also be included. The board agreed on the town staff portions of the review to be anonymous and sent over to Sean Donahue, Human Resources Director, for anonymity.
Affordable Housing Trust Fund
The board then discussed general ideas and guidance on the new Affordable Housing Board of Trustees that would be forming in the summer. The state has not signed off yet on the creation of the newly adopted trust fund that was approved during this past November’s Town Meeting. Jackie suggested they look into what Concord was doing with their trust fund and would report back to the board. There is roughly $450,000 in the trust fund and members are expected to be approved by June 30th.
FY2024 Budget Preview
Fidel then gave a very brief overview of the Fiscal Year 2024 budget and noted a savings of about $131,000 in natural gas credits with a newly revised contract. That new contract runs from June 2024 – May of 2027 and is priced at $6.6 per dekatherm. With those savings, a majority of all the towns budget requests could be met with the exception of 2 new personnel; a custodian for the Pleasant Street Center and a part-time ZBA clerk. About $60,000 was earmarked for getting the fire captains off of the ladder trucks and into separate vehicles for efficiency. Also mentioned was roughly $1 million dollars to automate the towns trash pickup service via 1 recycling and 1 trash barrel per household. Chris mentioned that in his household the 1 and 1 scenario isn’t going to work and that Reading is a family community and will need more that that allotment. Fidel then mentioned special trash bags as being an option in addition to purchasing extra receptacles at full or discounted rates.
The board then discussed future agendas including an update on the Lot 5 purchase from Meadow Brook for February, the incoming parking kiosks and potential modification to the ticketing fining structure.
The Select Board then approved 2 sets of meeting minutes, 5-0, with minimal revisions from what was included in the packet and adjourned at 10:46PM.