Town Manager Previews Town Meeting – Part II

Reading Town Manager Fidel Maltez – Photos by Kenan Cooper

Reading, MA — As Town Meeting approaches next week, The Reading Post sat down with Town Manager Fidel Maltez to preview the warrant, which is the agenda for the business that will be conducted at the meeting. [Read Part I Here] The warrant is twenty-three articles long, and Maltez suggested it could take upwards of four nights to complete. Part one of this series previewed articles one through seven.

Article eight asks Town Meeting to give the Select Board the authority to execute leases of space on the new Auburn Street water tower to one or more cell phone companies for communications antennas. Maltez shared that the previous tower had three such antennas on it. By law, the town must engage in a public procurement process from the cell carriers and will accept the four highest bids submitted. Maltez expressed his hope that Verizon is one of the four highest bids, as Verizon service in town has been a source of criticism for the past months. “I am urging [Verizon] to help us out in this realm,” Maltez stated.

Article nine would authorize the Select Board to petition the legislature to extend the Senior Property tax exemption program for another three years. This would be the second extension for the program that began six years ago. Maltez noted that it is “our desire” to make this provision a part of Massachusetts General Law (MGL) so that the extensions will be unnecessary in the future. He stated that the legislative delegation is “actively pursuing” the provision. Article ten will ask Town Meeting to accept MGL provisions allowing for a property tax exemption for members of the National Guard and reserves while deployed on active duty overseas. Maltez shared that it is unclear how many Reading residents to which this may apply, though he shared that Assessor Victor Santaniello indicated that he had received five such requests over his twenty years in Wakefield.

Reading Town Manager Fidel Maltez

Article eleven asks the legislature to amend the home rule charter to provide for the Board of Health to be expanded to five members from the current group of three. Maltez indicated that many other towns had made this change. “Only having three members makes it hard for [the Board of Health members] to collaborate with each other as any two members constitute a quorum,” Maltez said.

Article twelve would add language to the bylaw prohibiting dogs from the grounds of any cemetery in town without special permission from the Board of Cemetery Trustees. Maltez noted that adding this provision to the bylaw would enhance enforceability of the rule. Article thirteen petitions the legislature to pass a special law allowing Assistant Fire Chief Anthony Del Signore to continue to work past the age of sixty-five. Del Signore intends to work for one more year.

Article fourteen authorizes the town to borrow up to $1.5 million from the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority local water assistance program. This ten-year loan is interest-free and, according to Maltez, is “a very good way to borrow money at no interest.” This funding would be used for water system infrastructure improvements. Article fifteen authorizes the town to borrow $1 million for the Maillet, Sommes, Morgan conservation land stormwater project. The town has received $2.1 million in a state grant for the project and hopes the $1 million will eventually be funded by a federal government earmark. The money will only be borrowed if the federal earmark fails to materialize. Maltez joked, “I keep calling them every day for news” about the earmark.

The  Reading Post will review warrant articles sixteen through twenty-three in the next Town Meeting Preview article, due later this week.

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