The Board of Selectmen reviewed two different types of policy manuals at its May 16 meeting. The personnel policies for Reading town employees have been under update for several months, and this was the first chance for the Selectmen to weigh in on it. Most of the suggested changes have to do with updating items related to the changing nature of technology and bringing the town’s policies into compliance with recent changes in employee law in Massachusetts. The Selectmen also began the process of reviewing their own policy manual. Important changes that may be made will be in the area of the accountability and reporting procedures for other boards and committees that report to the Selectmen. Changes to the policies could also include procedures that have become common for the board but have never been codified. No action was taken on either item.
The meeting opened with a statement from Selectmen Chair John Arena regarding the vandalism incident discovered at the high school on May 3. Arena stated that the Board had received several comments from the public about the incident. After starting by outlining the timeline of his activity since the incident. Arena stated, “As an American, I view the ACT of defacing town property with symbols of the Nazi regime to intimidate or shock children or citizens as detestable. The act of defacing schools with such symbols is diametrically opposed to our values.” Arena then asked the Board to request the Human Relations Advisory Committee to propose educational opportunities for the community. The Board voted 4-0 to do so. The issue came again up later in the meeting where the Board members wanted it to be clear that the incident itself is a school department issue and is being dealt with by the school department accordingly.
The Board also heard a presentation from the Reading Council for Girls, the non-profit group that owns Camp Rice Moody in Reading. The presentation was geared toward laying the groundwork for a possible gift of the property to the town at some point in the future. This presentation was just the beginning of the process.
The town accountant, Sharon Angstrom, made her quarterly report to the Board. Angstrom highlighted that 96% of anticipated revenues have been collected for the current fiscal year. Expenditures are at 83% of what was budgeted. This suggests that a sum will be returned to the town’s free cash reserves at the end of the year. It is uncertain as to how much that might be. Angstrom also reported that the water account is at 104% of anticipated revenues despite being six weeks away from the end of the fiscal year. It is unclear at this time whether or not there has been less water conservation or if the increased revenue is due to a higher number of water users in town. It will be monitored for the coming year to see if adjustments need to be made. Only 79% of budgeted expenditures has been made, though it was pointed out that the town will have a payment due to the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority before the end of the Fiscal Year.
Also discussed at the meeting was the need to review downtown parking with local business owners and other stakeholders. There are plans for a possible Citizen’s Academy in the fall that will help residents understand how local government works and what it does or does not do. The meeting adjourned at 10:15pm.