During a discussion about the plan for the coming January 30 Board of Selectmen meeting, Town Manager Robert LeLachuer commented that the “top” Proposition 2 1/2 override number would be about $5 million. This amount was determined based on the requested amounts from the school department and municipal departments added to the accommodated costs and capital portions. A $7.5 million override was rejected by voters in October 2016. At the January 30 meeting, the selectmen will determine the actual override amount that will be asked for from the voters. Assuming the actual override number will be lower than the top amount, the board will then prioritize what taxpayers will get for the additional money on the municipal side of the budget. The School Committee will do the same on February 5. The ballot question for the April 3 election will be determined by the board on February 27.
By a vote of 8-1, a combined meeting of the Board of Selectmen and the Library Board of Trustees appointed Monette Verrier to fill the vacancy left on the Board of Trustees when Sherri VandenAkker was appointed to fill a vacancy on the School Committee. Verrier, who described the library as “the living room of the community,” is a human resources professional, a Reading resident for 21 years and has been an active volunteer and participant in library programs. She will hold the seat until the April 3 election and indicated that she intends to run to fill the two-year remainder of the term.
The board also listened to a presentation from community media consultant Susan Buske about the cable community needs assessment that was performed last fall in preparation for negotiations with Comcast regarding its franchise license. Consultant Liz Rust and Assistant Town Manager Jean Delios presented a draft housing production plan to the selectmen. This plan needs to be affirmed by the board and approved by the Department of Housing and Community Development in order for the town to retain its 40B “safe harbor” status through 2019. It also helps the town planning department work toward the ten percent affordable housing benchmark set by the state. There was much discussion about how the numbers will change with the 2020 census. Selectman John Halsey suggested, “There is no finish line; it is a moving carousel.”
Architect Mark Favormann revealed the results of the branding and way finding project that was paid for by a state grant. This project will provide coordinated signage in the downtown area, directing visitors toward parking and other areas of interest. The design of the signs are meant to convey a sense of identity and reflect Reading as a welcoming place. “Branding is about character. Signage is about comfort.” Favormann commented. The board voted 5-0 to approve the designs Favormann presented. Delios also led a discussion about downtown parking. She revealed a map that showed all the public and private parking located in the downtown. “In my opinion we have a sea of parking downtown. We just need to coordinate the use of it.” Delios commented. She suggested trying to develop partnerships with owners of private parking areas for shared use. “We need a working group similar to the way finding working group.” Delios concluded.
The selectmen adjourned at 11:19pm.