Select Board Considers Tiered Water and Sewer Rates

Water & Sewer

Reading, MA — Consultant Matt Abrahams reported his findings to the Select Board on Tuesday regarding the effects a tiered water and sewer rate system would have if applied in Reading. Abrahams suggested that it is common for member communities of the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority to use tiered rate systems for billing. A tiered rate system would offer lower rates for low-end users and higher rates for those with greater consumption of water. When asked by resident Carla Nazzaro if Massachusetts General Law required this change, Abrahams responded, “It seems so.”

Abrahams noted that the water enterprise fund currently has reserves of 41.5% of annual expenditures and that the sewer enterprise fund presently has reserves of 92% of annual expenditures. Both these exceed the recommended rate of reserves of 20%. He suggested that the “excess” reserves could be used over a five-year period to mitigate rate increases. For example, if water rates, currently at $11.41 per 100 cubic feet, were to increase at 3.25% annually, the reserves would be reduced to the 20% level by 2028. The same is true of the sewer rates at a 2% annual increase.


Abrahams also suggested that if tiers were to be implemented in Fiscal Year 2024, overall water bills for lower-end and typical users would be lower than the flat rate scenario over the first few years. Select Board chair Mark Dockser pointed out that typical users would see overall lower water bills over the entire five-year cycle.

Dockser continued, “What we need to look at long-term is how do we encourage conservation.” Select Board member Karen Herrick followed this, citing affordability concerns. Nazzaro continued in her comments, suggesting that, in her opinion, the tiered-rate system seems to be punitive toward larger families, who presumably have higher water usage.

The Select Board will continue its discussion at future meetings. Water and sewer rates for the next year are usually set in May.

Presentation from ReCalc

John Sasso updated the Select Board on the Reading Center for Active Living Committee’s (ReCALC) work findings. Sasso shared that the primary recommendation of ReCALC is action in finding solutions to the immediate needs of the senior population in town. Supporting recommendations include a more detailed assessment of needs, a feasibility study regarding a new senior center location, continued investment in senior services, and support of any concept that meets the needs of seniors first.

Sasso continued presenting eight areas of need for seniors and how each may affect a new center. These needs include socialization, specialty program offerings, physical activities, meals, and accessibility. “We want to make sure all things we talk about are accessible and inclusive,” Sasso shared.


When addressing the possible costs of a new center, Sasso stated, “ReCALC believes the desire for a new senior center is real, but it should not take precedence over programs.” He concluded with three next steps for the community: define and execute an immediate facility solution, continue to enhance programming and continue to develop communication strategies.

Parking Kiosk Roll-Out


New Economic Development Director Ben Cares outlined plans to proceed with the kiosks in the Upper Haven and Brande Court municipal parking lots downtown. Once installed, parking in the lots will be free for the first hour. After the first hour, parking will cost $1 per hour. After four hours, each additional hour will cost $5. Patrons of the lots will be able to pay with a credit card or cash at the kiosks or with an application on their phones. Cares pointed out that the goal is to ensure turnover in the lots and discourage “all-day” parking.

Cares noted that the new regulations would encourage employees to park in the “outer core” of the downtown area. “There is ample parking for employees, just not next to their place of work,” Cares added. “It will be a maximum five-minute walk.”

In April and May, Cares will begin with notices of the changes to the public and to businesses. The kiosks will be installed in June, with enforcement starting in July. The plan is for an August or September public meeting to discuss any issues. “Studies have shown this [approach] is a benefit for businesses,” Cares concluded.

Select Board member Christopher Haley shared that he likes the multi-month approach to the informational campaign but questioned whether or not the parking violation fines were high enough to dissuade those who currently park in the lots all day. Dockser stated that a more detailed discussion regarding fines would continue at a future Select Board meeting.

Town Forest Committee

Town Forest Committee chair Bill Sullivan reported that just over thirteen acres of dead red pine trees had been removed from the Town forest in three phases over the last two years, with more to come. He also highlighted issues caused by invasive species such as buckthorn and Japanese knot wood. An invasive plant inventory was created in February, and mitigation efforts are underway, some of these using the $100,000 in American Rescue Plan Act funds the Select Board authorized for use by the Town Forest Committee. Herrick suggested that there may be earmarks available at the state and federal levels to aid in the removal and control of the invasive species and for continued dead tree removal.


Sullivan also spoke about continuing concerns regarding conflicts between commercial dog walkers and other forest users. Current bylaws allow unleashed dogs “under voice control” in the forest, but Sullivan is concerned that issues may escalate. He suggests a change in the bylaw may be needed. Select Board member Carlo Bacci also noted that this issue might highlight the need for some form of dog park in town.

The Select Board voted 5-0 to declare 37 Glock pistols and ammunition surplus. This will allow the police department to sell the weapons to a vendor for use as spare parts. The board also voted 5-0 to appoint member Jackie McCarthy as its representative to the newly formed Affordable Housing Trust Fund Board. The board will actively seek other members to fill spots on the board.

The Select Board adjourned to executive session at 10:40 pm.

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