Better Government Communication Discussed by Select Board

How to better communicate with the community was the primary topic of the May 15 Select Board meeting. Acting Chair Barry Berman, expressing concern over the small percentage of people who indicated on the Selectmen Survey last summer that they receive their information from public officials, led a discussion with the board about being “proactive” in the board’s communication with residents. Berman floating the idea of “marketing” the Select Board’s work to residents. Ideas such as the use of social media and how to better utilize the board’s presence on RCTV were the bulk of the discussion. Concern was expressed by Member Dan Ensminger about who would manage the use of a social media account, what points of view would be expressed, and whether or not there was the risk of open meeting law violations if too many members commented on a social media post. Member Vanessa Alvarado echoed some of the same concerns. Alvarado suggested a Facebook page where agendas could be posted prior to meetings and the results of votes taken could be posted after meetings. “We could present the basic facts of what we do,” Alvarado stated. Town Manager Robert LeLacheur reminded the board of the concerns expressed by Town Counsel Rey Miyares on the risks involved in using social media. “We may have to assume some risk.” Berman countered. Berman and Alvarado plan to meet with town staff and come to the board at a future meeting with a proposal on how to move forward.

The board voted 5-0 to accept the acting chair’s plan for new board liaison assignments. Liaisons report back to the Select Board about the activities of many of the boards, committees, and commissions that the Select Board oversees. Related to this was a discussion about a proposal from Berman and presented by Board Member Andrew Friedmann regarding creating a Select Board liaison to each of the major development projects in town. This board member would be the “point of contact” from the board for residents and neighborhood groups once these projects are underway. According to Friedmann, the liaison would, “capture questions and concerns from residents and funnel them to relevant town staff.” Alvarado suggested that “The goal is to be accessible to residents and give them a point of contact.” Board Member John Halsey expressed concern about the plan, wondering how it differed from what the board members already do now. “It seems like we are layering government on top of government.” Halsey indicated. The topic will be taken up at a future Select Board meeting.

The Select Board by a vote of 5-0 proclaimed the week of May 13-19 to be National Police Week in Reading. It also, by the same vote, proclaimed May 20-26 as Public Works Week. This annual proclamation recognizes and thanks members of the Public Works department for their efforts.

The Select Board witnessed the badge pinning of two new firefighters in town and the promotion to captain of a third member of the fire department. Ensminger reported that the Volunteer Appointment Sub-Committee (VASC) has close to 100 volunteer openings to fill in town and presented the board with dates that the VASC will be conducting interviews. He stressed that anyone interested in a volunteer position could go to the town website to see what positions are open and to apply for the openings.

The Select Board adjourned to executive session at 9:40 pm.


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