Reading, MA — The Select Board voted 5-0 on Tuesday night to authorize the Town Manager and the procurement officer to submit a request for proposal and hire a firm to act as a consultant for the town manager search process. Current Town Manager Robert LeLacheur has submitted his resignation effective February 25, 2022.
Select Board member Mark Dockser, who did some research on the topic, indicated, “The consensus is that a consultant seems to make sense.” Member Anne Landry added that the use of a consultant will “lend a level of professionalism to the process.” The consultant likely will help organize a screening committee to review and perform initial candidate interviews, develop a plan to “sell” the town to prospective candidates, and ensure that notice of the position is placed in appropriate networks.
Select Board chair Karen Herrick indicated her hope that a new town manager be hired in time to start in mid-January, allowing for an overlap with LeLacheur. Town Counsel Ivria Fried indicated to the board that the short time frame might limit some candidate availability as some potential candidates are likely to have extended notice periods in their current employment town. The board may add a meeting next week to develop a plan as to who might participate in a screening committee.
The Select Board also voted 5-0 to declare voting machines damaged in last spring’s Town Hall flood as surplus. This declaration will allow the town to use insurance money for replacement of the equipment. The board also voted 5-0 to seek mediation for the fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth open meeting law complaints filed by resident Walter Tuvell. Many of these relate to the use of executive sessions to discuss previous complaints filed by Tuvell.
The board was also advised by Town Accountant Sharon Angstrom during a Financial Forum with the School Committee and the Finance Committee regarding the $7.592 million dollars allocated to Reading by the American Rescue Plan. Angstrom indicated that the funds could be used to negate the impacts of COVID on public health concerns, economic impacts, lost public sector revenue, premium pay for workers, and water, sewer, and broadband infrastructure improvements. Angstrom was clear that the funds cannot be used to replenish “rainy day” funds or to make payments into pension funds. The town has five years to use the funds.
Finance Committee member Jeanne Borawski suggested that time be spent developing a framework to help make the decision about fund use. Borawski also indicated a desire to use funds for projects with greater long-term impacts. Select Board member Chris Haley offered the idea of broadband access for businesses and residents of the downtown area. School Committee member Chuck Robinson added that the town could use the funds for items typically paid for by free cash, thus freeing up those funds for other uses. School Committee chair Thomas Wise added the idea of funds for full-day kindergarten.
Angstrom indicated that the discussion was intended only to introduce the topic and begin a community dialogue. The Financial Forum concluded at 10:00 pm.