At their Tuesday, July 11 meeting, the Board of Selectmen reviewed questions for a survey it will be posing to the community this summer. The survey, which will be anonymous, will ask residents how they voted in last October’s Proposition 2 1/2 override election, why they voted the way they did, and if their opinions have changed since the election. The selectmen plan to use this information to help guide discussion regarding a possible override question on this year’s town election ballot in April. A couple of residents shared some concerns, not about the survey itself, but about the wording of a few of the questions. Resident Vanessa Alvarado asked whether or not the School Committee had been consulted on the language of the questions as she believed that at least one of the questions could be interpreted as creating a divide between the municipal government and the schools. “It is not our intent to be divisive,” declared Chair John Arena. Arena agreed that he and Vice Chair Barry Berman would review the survey questions with School Committee Chair Chuck Robinson and Vice Chair Elaine Webb before making it public. The survey will be available on the town website in a few weeks.
The board also reviewed the Town Manager’s Fiscal Year 2017 goals and set a plan for his annual review process. This generated a long discussion about ways to have better communication between the board and the committees and commissions it appoints. The Board of Selectman oversees over 30 different groups, many of whom rarely report back regarding their activities. The board also looked ahead to the Town Manager’s Fiscal Year 2018 goals, having a long discussion about ways to develop charitable giving partnerships between citizens and the town government. “Many groups give a lot to this town, and it would be great if it could be coordinated,” added board member John Halsey.
The board also proclaimed July 27 as Americans with Disabilities Act Day in Reading. It is the 27th Anniversary of the passage of the landmark bill. In a 4-0 vote, the board approved the town’s Hazard Mitigation Plan, the approval of which gives the town possible access to federal grants to help avoid a disaster or to funds to help with the costs if a disaster occurs. Halsey compared the move to taking out an insurance policy.
Voting 4-0, the board approved its 2018 meeting schedule, with an eye to changing the budget planning process to give maximum time for citizens to campaign regarding a potential Proposition 2 1/2 override in April. The board also reviewed the sale of an overgrown property on Brook Street which is in tax arrears and straddles the Reading/Wakefield border. Wakefield will be initiating the sale and will share the proceeds with Reading in proportion to Reading’s interest in the property.
The meeting opened with a moment of silence after the Town Manager’s report in memory of the construction worker who lost his life at the Woburn Library construction site on Tuesday. The board adjourned to executive session at 10:45pm.