Reading, MA — After five sessions, Annual Town Meeting concluded its business on Monday, discussing and voting on eleven different articles. After tabling article six, the paying of unpaid bills, Town Meeting voted 162-1 to approve article seven, the transfer of funds to the Other Post Employment Benefits Trust. It voted 167-3 to authorize revolving funds under Article nine and accepted allocation to the Affordable Housing Trust under article ten by a vote 164-7. With the approval of article fifteen, Town Meeting voted 170-0 to allow borrowing in anticipation of Chapter 90 funding and to accept this funding when received. According to Town Accountant Sharon Angstrom, this funding from the state is used for road repair and typically is just shy of $600,000 annually.
Town Meeting also voted 174-1 to accept a clause in the Massachusetts General Law allowing veterans whose property is in trusts to apply for a Veterans Disability Exemption on their property taxes. Assessor Victor Santaniello explained that approximately 150 residents could qualify for the exemption. In his report, Finance Committee chair Ed Ross stated, “The support of our veterans is of utmost importance.”
By a vote of 165-5, Town Meeting also approved a change that would allow a 100% real estate tax exemption to Gold Star families. Though there are currently no known families in town who qualify, Santaniello felt that passing the article would be “a way to be prepared” if it is needed.
Town Manager Robert Lelacheur presented article thirteen, debt authorization for replacing the stadium turf field and track at Reading Memorial High School. LeLacheur explained that at fifteen years, it had outlived its lifecycle. According to LeLacheur, the project will cost approximately $3.25 million, $250,000 of which was already authorized for design work in the Fiscal Year 2022 budget. He reported that this project was a high priority for both the school department and the proposed master plan for the Birch Meadow Complex as outlined by the Recreation Committee. Town Meeting voted 162-14 to approve the article. The project is expected to be completed during the summer of 2022.
In a similar article, Town Meeting, by a vote of 164-9, approved a $2.7 million debt authorization for the repair and replacement of the Parker Middle School roof. As in the previous project, $250,000 for design was already approved in the FY 2022 budget. This project also is expected to be completed in time for the beginning of school in the fall of 2022.
After being recommended by both the Select Board and the Conservation Commission (ConsCom), Town Meeting voted to approve the transfer of the Maillet land off Willow Street to the ConsCom for open space management. Development Director Julie Mercier stated that the 5.82-acre parcel was one whose “importance cannot be overstated.” Mercier continued to share that the transfer will increase the size of conservation land in the area as it abuts land already under ConsCom management. It will help protect wildlife and protect the headwaters of the Aberjona River.
Town Meeting member James Maughan offered an amendment changing the language to ensure that the Department of Public Works (DPW), which has a sewer easement across the property, would coordinate with the ConsCom if any work needs to be done. Debate on the amendment centered on the nature of emergency work needing to be done in a timely fashion. ConsCom member John Sullivan shared that DPW and ConsCom already have several of these agreements in place around town. The amendment passed by a vote of 93-76. The final article passed as well by a vote of 162-11.
Community Planning and Development Commission (CPDC) member Heather Clish presented article eighteen, which would amend the stormwater and erosion control bylaw to bring it into compliance with revised state and federal laws on the subject. Maughan again offered an amendment to the proposal suggesting that the CPDC work with the ConsCom in developing appropriate stormwater runoff calculations to maintain consistency between the two bodies. The amendment failed by a vote of 47-117. Town Meeting did vote 162-7 to approve the unamended motion.
One Town Meeting member, Peter McNeill Kramer, was removed from Town Meeting for lack of attendance by a vote of 148-20. According to precinct chair Shawn Brandt, Kramer won the seat by write-in when he ran for Select Board but has never attended a session of town meeting. Kramer has also been unresponsive to outreach attempts.
There were six instructional motions offered to close out Town Meeting’s business. Moderator Alan Foulds noted for the members that instructional motions are non-binding. Two motions were brought forth as a school project by students at Coolidge Middle School. The first of these asked Town Meeting to instruct the Recreation Committee to consider the installation of a skate park at the Birch Meadow Complex, which passed 152-14. The second asked Town Meeting to instruct the Recreation Committee to consider placing picnic tables at Birch Meadow. This motion passed 149-18.
The following instructional motion was offered by Sarah Brukilacchio and asked for a CPDC review of the 40R regulations regarding setbacks abutting residential properties in the smart growth overlay district to be completed by the April 2022 town meeting. This motion passed 125-3.
John Sasso presented an instructional motion asking the Select Board to assemble an advisory committee to address family and mental health support in town and report the committee’s progress to town meeting next year. The motion passed by a vote of 125-27.
Angela Binda proposed an instructional motion that asked the Bylaw Committee and Charter Review Committee to consider a streamlined method for removing non-attending town meeting members. It also would instruct the Town Clerk to publish town meeting attendance records for voters to consider before voting. The motion failed 65-88.
The final instructional motion asked that the Rules Committee consider the use of electronic voting by town meeting to streamlining the voting process and help assemble voting records of the members. The committee should also seek to establish circumstances when electronic voting might not be needed. The motion passed 75-66.
Town Meeting completed its business and adjourned sine die at 11:40 pm.