Reading, MA — The Select Board established the Reading Center for Active Living Committee (RECALC) to gather information about and investigate possibilities for updates to or a replacement of the Pleasant Street Center with a new senior center or a community center in town. Town Meeting in April of 2021 approved a $40,000 budget for this work.
The RECALC, made up of seven appointed members, has been gathering information, performing site visits to other communities, and has hired a consultant, the Gerontology Institute from UMass Boston, to perform a community engagement project. At a joint meeting of the RECALC and the Council on Aging on March 30, Caitlyn Coyle from UMass presented a community engagement timeline to the combined boards.
Coyle shared that two community forums are planned for April 6, one during the day at the Pleasant Street Center and the other in the evening at the Library. After this, three different focus groups will be formed of town leaders and community stakeholders to gather assessments of the need. In September, a community-wide survey to assess needs and seek opinions will be launched. Postcards with a QR code link to the online survey will be mailed to every address in town. There will also be paper copies of the survey at the Pleasant Street Center. Coyle anticipates a ten to twelve percent response rate on the survey. A preliminary report will be issued at the end of September, with a complete report ready in time for Town Meeting in November. At that point, funding for a feasibility study may be requested.
RECALC member Marilyn Shapeleigh expressed concern over the plan as it did not seem, in her opinion, to actively reach out to seniors in town who do not use the current Pleasant Street Center. She suggested that paper surveys be mailed to every senior in town. “We do not have the option to not take the time to do [the community engagement] correctly,” Shapeleigh stated.
RECALC member Mark Dockser suggested that it could be argued that funding for the feasibility study could come from the American Rescue Plan Act funds and that if this were the case, then the timeline for a November Town Meeting completion of the project could be relaxed. Assistant Town Manager Jean Delios also suggested that a relaxed timeline could allow for an additional community forum in May or June.
RECALC also discussed plans for an enhanced community communication plan regarding the surveys as well as public information about the status of the current Pleasant Street Center.
RECALC adjourned at 9:20 pm.