On Monday night, Town Meeting started out the same way it has for the last 26 years with Alan Foulds kicking things off as moderator. Just as Town Meeting was starting off though, he received an emergency call and needed to leave immediately. Luckily, that story has a happy ending as reported here.
After Alan had exited, Town Clerk Laura Gemme, presented Town Meeting with 2 options: to adjourn until Thursday or to continue tonight’s meeting. The voting was unanimous to continue as well as for long time town meeting member, Jonathan Barnes, to serve as temporary Town Moderator.
With Jonathan Barnes sworn in, Town Meeting continued through the remaining Warrant Articles. One of those Warrant Articles that garnered the most discussion on the night was Article 20; Modifying Dog Licensing Late Fees. Town Manager, Fidel Maltez, presented the following information on the article:
Background: This article is to replace our current late fee structure, which has a monthly
escalator, to a one-time late fee, when a pet owner fails to register their dog on an annual basis.
- Registration of dogs are handled by the Town Clerk’s office in Town Hall. Currently, our late fees are as follows: “$10.00 fine on the first day of April and an additional $5.00 per month fine for each month thereafter.”
- It is administratively cumbersome to track the additional monthly penalty in fines. Furthermore, the monthly escalator climbs quickly and can become a burden to residents.
- We propose that only a $10 late fee be issued, to residents that fail to register their dog by April, and that monthly escalator be removed.
After the presentation was over, things were then turned over to Town Meeting members for any questions. First up was Bill Brown who recommended an amendment to increase the late fee from $10 to $25. Angela Binda spoke next and supported Bill Brown’s amendment as long as it was a one time late fee and not cumulative. Sherilla Lestrade commented that if dog owners weren’t motivated by $100+ dollar fee, they won’t be motivated by a $25 lesser fee. Barry Berman supported the amendment to get anything that will get folks to pay on time or at all for that matter. After a lengthy discussion, the amendment to the article itself passed a majority vote and the article itself passed a majority vote unanimously.
Town Clerk Laura Gemme noted the following statistics: The town is owed $102,000 in late fees to date by unlicensed dog owners. As of 2023, there are 3458 dogs in Reading. Of those, 2338 are licensed leaving 1120 late fees. In 2022, the town issued 720 tickets.
Here is the current breakdown on the final fee’s and important dates:
- Registration starts January 1st via the town’s link here.
- $10 Dog licensing Fee (spayed or neutered) each year, $20 if not.
- $25 late fee on April 1st.
- $50 bylaw violation ticket if not paid by June 1st.