Selectmen Review Needs of Seniors

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The Board of Selectmen heard several reports on the needs of seniors in the community at its June 13 meeting. Chief Tax Assessor Victor Santaniello reported on the senior tax relief that was approved by Town Meeting last September. Seniors who receive the tax circuit breaker from the state and who meet several other criteria will be able to apply for an abatement of their property taxes. An application has been developed and is currently under legal review. Applications will be accepted from August 1 through August 28. There will be an information session at the Pleasant Street Center as the time approaches.

The Council on Aging recently partnered with the UMass-Boston Department of Gerontology to conduct a senior need assessment for the town. The team from UMass-Boston conducted interviews, made observations, and assessed Census Bureau data before submitting a report. It is estimated that there will be between 7,000 and 8,000 people over the age of 60 in Reading by 2030. Seniors will make up 29% of the town’s population by that time, up 8% from 2015. Another 15% will be between the ages of 50 and 59 by that time as well. Twenty-five percent of seniors live alone. While interviews showed that there is general satisfaction with services offered in town, the report made several recommendations as well. The first regarded accessibility at the Pleasant Street Center. Concern was expressed over the lack of a first floor bathroom among other concerns. Expansion of the work for tax program was also suggested. Also recommended were increased transportation services and increased inter-generational opportunities.

Jane Burns, Elder and Human Service Administrator, reported on the activities of her department. Many programs at the Pleasant Street Center are near or at capacity. The center will receive close to 16,000 visitors this fiscal year. On average 68 people visit the Pleasant Street Center daily for programs. This does not take into account the number of people seeking information or services. The nurse advocate has 290 cases that she is overseeing. There are 120 medical rides offered each month. “The takeaway is that we’ve outgrown the space.” commented Selectman John Halsey. “and the number of people seeking services is going to grow.” These facts lead to several minutes of discussion by the Board on how to proceed.

The Board dressed several other issues as well. Chair John Arena was appointed to the Human Relations Advisory Committee. It also voted to establish the two parking spaces in front of Square Liquors on High Street as thirty-minute-parking-only spaces. The Board heard a report from Fire Chief Greg Burns and Police Chief Mark Segalla about a recent joint emergency training exercise they conducted. Some of the cooperation that was seen at the recent fire on Sanborn Street is a result of joint trainings like this one. The Board also took the first steps toward accepting applications for businesses to offer Keno at their establishments. Applications will be accepted starting August 1. The Board recessed to executive session at 10:45pm.

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