Board Approves New Parking Regulations
The Select Board voted 5-0 to make five changes to parking regulations at several locations in the downtown area at its March 26 meeting. The suggestions were discussed and approved by the Parking/Traffic/Transportation Task Force (PTTTF) prior to board action and were presented to the board by police Lieutenant Christine Amendola and Parking Enforcement Officer Michael Scouten. The first change was requested by Fire Chief Greg Burns and prohibits parking on the west side of Linden Street from Haven Street to Brande Court. The restriction was requested due to the difficulty fire apparatus has in maneuvering the turn onto Linden Street in an emergency. One vehicle has already been damaged as a result of this difficulty.
A two-hour parking limit is now in place on the west side of Lincoln Street between Prescott Street and Fulton Street. Although this area, across from the depot, has always been marked on town parking maps as two-hour parking, there was never any official regulation stating the limit. This change makes parking limits in the area uniform and easier to enforce. Two additional on-street spaces in front of 2 Haven Street have now been designated as thirty-minute parking, making a total of four 30-minute spaces in the location. This was requested by nearby business owners to help speed up turnaround in front of their stores.
Most of the discussion on parking revolved around creating a four-hour parking regulation in town and then designating the Brande Court lot and the upper lot behind CVS as four-hour parking. This was requested by business owners seeking to enhance the ability of customers to frequent multiple businesses in one trip. The example was given of a patron going to a hair salon, then having time to get lunch or go to a shop before being forced to leave due to a two-hour parking restriction. Lt. Amendola suggested that keeping the parking limit in the two lots uniform aids officers in enforcement. The two lots combine for 164 of the 1,400 downtown parking spaces.
Local business owner Peter Simms expressed concern about the change, reminding the board that the current two-hour limit was created initially to prevent employees from monopolizing the spaces in the lots. “Four-hour parking will be a disaster,” Simms commented. Board member John Halsey, in response to Simms’s concerns, floated the idea of a trial period for the change. Board member Vanessa Alvarado asked about plans to create additional employee parking in the area. Assistant Town Manager Jean Delios replied that ideas were being considered. Questions were also asked about moving the four-hour parking to outlying areas of the downtown. Town Manager Robert LeLacheur commented that if the board’s plan was to have a certain percentage of the parking downtown be four-hour parking, using the two lots was the simplest way to accomplish the goal.
The Select Board voted 5-0 to add a section to their policies regarding the disposal of surplus equipment valued under $10,000. Currently, there is a bylaw that states that the disposal of all surplus equipment must be approved by town meeting. This often leads to old equipment being stored for months after replacement or prevents certain equipment from being traded in to reduce the cost of newer replacements. While state law requires town meeting action over the $10,000 threshold, it gives individual towns flexibility to deal with anything under the threshold as they see fit. Under the new policy, the Select Board could vote to allow town staff to dispose of the surplus in any regular meeting, creating greater efficiency. The policy will only go into effect if Town Meeting approves an amendment removing the current bylaw. An article to make the change is on the warrant for April Town Meeting.
The Select Board voted 5-0 to amend its policies regarding the process for evaluating the town manager. The new policy sets the process for goal setting and establishes a timeline for when the evaluation must be accomplished each year. The board also voted 5-0 to conclude a major rewrite of sections one and two of its policies. This lengthy final step in a process which took almost a year to complete consisted of walking through each paragraph of the policy and addressing comments that had been submitted in writing by each board member.
Completing this task was the final act of outgoing board member Dan Ensminger, who decided not to seek reelection to the board. The meeting opened with Halsey giving a tribute to Ensminger, thanking him for his thirty-eight years of service to the town. This has included time on the ad hoc Industrial Development Commission in 1981, a charter member of the Community Planning and Development Commission in 1986, one term as a Reading Municipal Light Board Commissioner, and 15 years, in two stints on what is now called the Select Board. “Whenever something new comes along, Dan is not afraid to take on the task,” Halsey commented as he presented a certificate of thanks to Ensminger. “As long as you get things done, it does not matter who gets the credit,” Ensminger stated. “Thanks to Reading for the opportunity.” He said in conclusion.
The Select Board adjourned at 11:25 pm.