Select Board Walks Through Town Meeting Warrant

Town Meeting Warrant

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Reading, MA — Town Manager Fidel Maltez took time on Tuesday night to walk the Select Board through the potential Town Meeting warrant planned for November. The first five articles on items such as reports and amending the current Fiscal Year 2024 budget are typical for Subsequent Town Meeting. Article six will involve appropriating $2 million for phase two of the Birch Meadow project.


In a presentation to the board prior to the warrant discussion, the Reading Pickleball Players Association (RPPA) shared that the pickleball courts originally planned for the project had been removed due to abutter concerns. Eileen Manning, representing the RPPA, said that the loss of those proposed courts would create difficulties for residents seeking playing space. Manning continued to share that the group is 400 persons strong and is growing.

“[Pickleball] is a significant recreational and social activity for people, especially older adults,” Manning indicated.

Eileen Manning – Reading Pickleball Players Association

Manning then presented a plan to build and locate temporary courts in the parking area behind the Reading Ice Arena on Symonds Way. She cited the ample space and distance from homes that makes the area ideal for the courts. “The temporary nature of the courts will not disrupt any long-term plans for Symonds Way,” Manning suggested. She continued to share that the Ice Arena Authority is open to the idea, noting that the Arena Authority’s lease would have to be amended for the plan to proceed.

Manning indicated that the cost for the temporary courts would be about $200,000. She then proposed a possible Town Meeting warrant article requesting the funding.

After Select Board member Mark Dockser questioned if the RPPA would be doing any fundraising for the project, Manning reported that any fundraising activities would be “dampened” by the temporary nature of the courts. This led Select Board member Chris Haley to suggest that the location be made permanent.

Member Karen Herrick expressed skepticism regarding the timing of the project. “What I am hearing is, ‘We aren’t doing any fundraising, we want the taxpayers to invest $200,000 in courts for us.’ This is a very different proposition [than what had been shared in the past],” Herrick said. She also expressed concerns regarding amending the lease with the Authority and her sense of the “lack of process” for the request.

Select Board chair Jackie McCarthy suggested that the RPPA submit a citizen’s petition to Town Meeting for project funding.

Trash, Fire Truck, Parking – Article Seven – Nine

Maltez reported that article seven would ask the town to appropriate $900,000 from free cash reserves to purchase trash and recycling bins. Article eight asks for additional funding for a new fire truck which the town has already ordered. The manufacturer is asking for the additional funding due to supply chain issues and other cost overruns. Maltez suggested the funding could come from savings on the Parker Middle School roof project. Article nine requests $200,000 for the construction of a parking area for the Town Forest on Grove Street. Of this total, $150,000 has been secured from a state earmark.

Reading Payment Plan – Article Ten

Article ten proposes additional funding for paving work around town. Town Engineer Ryan Percival gave a thorough presentation regarding the general condition of the roads in town. He suggested that an additional $500,000 could help cover added expenses in maintaining the roads at their current levels. Dockser and Select Board member Carlo Bacci indicated they are more comfortable with $300,000.

Town Engineer Ryan Percival

Bylaw Committee chair Jesse Arnold provided information on article eleven, which would require clearing snow from sidewalks downtown. The Bylaw Committee took on the issue after a citizen’s petition warrant article in November of 2022 was indefinitely postponed. Several suggestions were made at that time to clarify the article. Arnold shared that the committee proposes to make the bylaw effective for the downtown Smart Growth district only, as this district has defined borders. Maltez made it clear that enactment of this bylaw would not change the work that the Department of Public Works already does downtown after a snowstorm. 

Haley raised the concern that singling out one area of town does not seem fair as no other property owners in town have similar requirements. He noted that property owners near the schools are not required to clear their sidewalks, sometimes causing children to walk in the street. Haley also expressed concern over the need for more communication with downtown property owners about the article.

The Select Board intends to vote to close the warrant on September 26.

State Delegation Visit

The Select Board began its meeting by hearing from legislative delegation members. Representative Richard Haggarty expounded on the accomplishments of the legislature, especially regarding funding for the town in the state’s Fiscal Year 2024 budget. Haggarty highlighted $11.4 million in Chapter 70 money for special education, $4.1 million in local aid, and $685,000 in other funding. Senator Jason Lewis added that revenues collected from the “Fair Share” tax are being used to fund universal school meals, additional money for local roads, and efforts toward free community college tuition in the state. He also “shouted out” progress being made in Reading Public Schools in the area of literacy, stating that Reading’s efforts are a “blueprint” for others to follow.

Military Leave

After a public hearing, the Select Board voted 4-0 to amend their policy regarding military leave for two employees. The board also briefly discussed additional American Rescue Plan Act funds for the Reading Food Pantry.

Capital Plan and Charter Review

The board reviewed updates to the Capital Plan and elected Haley as its representative to the decennial Charter Review Committee by a vote of 5-0.

The Select Board adjourned at 11:45 p.m.

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