Reading, MA — The first article of the Subsequent Town Meeting, held on November 13 was the submission of reports. The first report was a brief one given by Town Manager Robert LeLachuer, updating the members of Town Meeting about a bylaw passed by Town Meeting last year. The bylaw prevented the establishment of commercial marijuana establishments in Reading. The bylaw had to be approved by the legislature to take effect. LeLachuer reported that Reading’s legislative delegation asked that it be withdrawn because new state laws about the establishments had been passed, making the Reading bylaw superfluous.
General Manager of the Reading Municipal Light Department Colleen O’Brien submitted her annual report. O’Brien advised Town Meeting about infrastructure improvements that have been made over the last year, including a new 2.5 megawatt generator added to the grid to help with times of peak demand. O’Brien commented on the success of the “Shred the Peak” program, designed to help reduce rates year round for all RMLD customers. Seventy-eight percent of the LED streetlight program has been completed, with the entire project expected to be done by Town Meeting next year. O’Brien also reported on several other initiatives aimed at reducing cosmos costs.
Superintendent of Schools Dr. John Doherty gave his annual “State of the Schools” address. “We are in a time of tremendous change in education,” Doherty remarked, “without curriculum coordinators and directors, changes are more difficult to manage.” Doherty expressed the need for additional funding to help the school district continue to move forward. He then focused on three examples of progress that have been made in the last year. The first example was in the area of community building within the schools. The second was strides that have been made in closing the achievement gap between those with educational challenges and those who are more gifted academically. The third example Doherty cited was the quality of the staff Reading Public Schools employ. Doherty lauded their dedication and commitment to the students of Reading. Doherty concluded by presenting the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents Awards for Academic and Community Excellence for 2017 to two RMHS seniors, Erin Kwon and Mathias Kool.
Articles three and four dealt with updates to the town’s capital improvement plan. Town Meeting appropriated an additional $550,000 for this year’s plan to repair and replace the skylights at the Wood End Elementary School and to upgrade the wireless network access at all the schools.
Articles six, seven, and eight were housekeeping articles that passed without any comment. Article nine was split into twenty-two sections; each point was a different section of the bylaws where the language was no longer in agreement with the new Reading Home Rule Charter. Each of the sections was presented separately with a vote on the entire Article at the end of all the discussions. Much discussion arose over the desire of some Town Meeting members to change all gender specific language in the bylaws to be gender neutral. Several members offered amendments, seeking these changes, but it became apparent that this was a larger task than a few simple adjustments. There will be an instructional motion at the end of the Town Meeting that will ask the Bylaw Committee to review all the bylaws to make the language gender neutral and bring the new document to Town Meeting for approval.
Town Meeting adjourned for the night at 10:40pm and will reconvene on Thursday, November 16 at 7:30pm.