Select Board Fields More Rodent Complaints

Continued complaints about rodent infestation were fielded by the Select Board at the September 11 meeting during public comment. Resident Jackie Collins, who reported that she had captured ten rats on her property in just six days, hosted a meeting of 70 concerned residents on September 10. Collins expressed frustration that two weeks after the Board of Health meeting which she attended, she still had received no follow-up as to what actions the town government had taken regarding the issue. Town Manager Robert LeLacheur, who officially disclosed that he had rats in his yard as well, shared that the town website was updated with information about what residents could do to prevent rodents from coming onto their property as well as the health risks posed by rodents. He also reported that inspections of dumpsters around town had been increased, despite only having received complaints regarding one dumpster at a West Street service station. “We need to go after offenders vigorously.” Board member Barry Berman declared.

LeLacheur reiterated that the development on Prescott Street did not seem to be the point of origin for the animals and that the developer of the project had gone “above and beyond” with prevention measures than was expected of it. He also suggested that the Archstone Development had had some issues with rodents that were never reported to local officials. LeLacheur pledged that the town would do whatever it could to handle the problem. “Cost is not the issue.” he declared.

Several members of the Select Board urged that whatever action could be done, be accomplished quickly. “It’s mission critical.” Board member John Halsey commented, “We’ve got to act on it.”

The board also voted 4-1 to indefinitely postpone action on the request from the Steelworkers Union Local 12012 to place a moratorium on non-emergency natural gas line work in town by National Grid, citing safety concerns due to the use of replacement workers. Town Counsel had advised that the Select Board did not have the authority to make a moratorium, though the chance of reprisal from National Grid if it did so, was low. Board member Vanessa Alvarado suggested that the board could place a moratorium on public projects while informing private property owners of the safety concerns. Halsey echoed a concern raised by Berman about the Main Street repair project, “If we make a declaration that we are not going to do any public projects, we may lose the [Main Street] funding.” Halsey stated. Alvarado suggested that if the gas line work under Main Street was not completed correctly, the new repairs would have to be ripped up to correct the problem. “I feel frustrated that our hands are tied.” Board Chair Andrew Friedmann declared. The board asked Alvarado to compose a letter to the state Department of Public Utilities expressing the board’s concern for public safety coming from potentially sub-standard gas line work and asking how many inspections they have performed on gas line work done in Reading. The board will review the letter at their next meeting.

The board heard from residents requesting that Ordway Terrace should be renamed Frank Driscoll’s Way. LeLacheur stated that the town has never had this type of request before and that research had to be done to see how it might be accomplished. A letter from resident Virginia Adams pointed out the street was named for Reading Fire Chief Orville Ordway, who served in that role from 1912-1936. Driscoll’s daughter stated that her father knew of the origin of the name of the street and was proud of the fact of its naming origins. It was also suggested that the street could receive an honorary name while retaining the original name for official purposes. The board will wait for town staff to complete its research on the topic.

Berman and Alvarado gave a report regarding Select Board communications, making several suggestions regarding email usage and the use of social media for public engagement purposes. Board member Dan Ensminger also suggested that the board be more proactive with local media outlets, including RCTV.

The board proclaimed September to be Hunger Action Month in Reading, encouraging residents to make donations to local food banks. It recognized Timothy K. Kelly, Jr. for achieving his Eagle Scout award and completed the Town Manager’s annual performance review. Several members of the board expressed frustration over the form used to complete the review. The board appointed Friedmann to be the second Select Board liaison to the Board of Health and reviewed its prioritized goals for the year.

LeLacheur reported that the town government had received several grants including more than $600,000 from FEMA to hire firefighters that will be disbursed over three years. Ensminger questioned how this affected the money designated for this purpose from the override. LeLacheur stated that this issue would have to be decided by the board at a later date. Halsey reported that the library will now be open on Sundays from 1:00-5:00 pm starting October 7.

Ensminger opened the meeting with a remembrance of the heroism of flight attendant and Massachusetts resident Amy Sweeney on September 11, 2001. “The price of liberty is eternal vigilance,” Ensminger commented.

The Select Board adjourned to executive session at 10:20 pm.

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