Reading, MA — The recall election of Select Board member Vanessa Alvarado has been set for September 1 as a result of a 4-0 vote by the Select Board. This election will be concurrent with the state primary election on the same day. A recall petition was certified by Town Clerk Laura Gemme on March 19. Through her attorney, Alvarado subsequently challenged the legitimacy of 912 of the signatures on the petition. The Board of Registrars will hold a public hearing on June 29 to consider the challenge. If Alvarado’s challenge is successful, the recall petition will be considered invalid, canceling the recall election.
Concern was voiced over the uncertainty of mail-in voting and other COVID-19 safety measures that have not yet been approved by the legislature, though Select Board chair Mark Dockser suggested it was, “highly likely we will get the provisions we have asked for.”
By a vote of 5-0, the Select Board also set the water rate for 2021 at $10.37 per 100 cubic feet, a 3.2% increase over 2020. The sewer rate was also set at $10.37 per 100 cubic feet, which is a 3% decrease over 2020. In total, the combined rate will remain the same for residential customers. The stormwater rate will also remain unchanged at $60 per residential household, and $60 per 3,210 square feet for commercial properties. To keep the combined rate with no increase and maintain the current suggested Fiscal Year 2021 budget, the recommendation will be for Town Meeting to authorize the use of $800,000 in water reserves, $525,000 in sewer reserves, and $90,000 in stormwater reserves.
The Select Board also determined by a 5-0 vote that the June 15 Town Meeting will be primarily virtual with accommodations at the Reading Memorial High School Performing Arts Center for members with technical concerns. Town Moderator Alan Foulds reviewed the specifics of using Zoom meeting technology, including how votes will be counted and how members will be able to address the meeting. Town Meeting members will be receiving a letter with the specifics, including invitations to precinct meetings and a June 13 trial-run Town Meeting to test the system. If major technical issues occur, the meeting will be adjourned to June 18.
A change in officers and directors as well as a change in manager for the Meadowbrook Golf Club on Grove Street was approved by a 5-0 vote of the board. A temporary change in location for serving alcohol was also approved by a 5-0 vote for the club’s coming season. A fire destroyed the club on April 17. A tent will be erected at the pro shop which will allow for fifty-two seats. An additional six seats will be inside the pro shop, where all the beverages will be stored. Attorney Brian McGrail, speaking for the club, referred to the change as a “relatively modest accommodation.”
The board also approved changes to the process for local restaurants requesting to create outdoor dining spaces until November 30. Assistant Town Manager Jean Delios stated that the changes will make the approval process, “straightforward and simple as possible for applicants.” Parking on Grove Street from the Meadowbrook entrance to the town line will be restricted while a water main project is completed this summer. Residents wishing access to the Town Forest may park at the Wood End Elementary School. The board continued the waiving of employee parking permit fees until December 31. It also approved an updated non-union classification and compensation plan. All the votes were unanimous.
Assistant Director of Public Works Christopher Cole presented suggested changes and updates to the Select Board policies regarding Public Works. Most changes are minor and represent simple language updates. There are also proposals for four new sections to be added to the policy, these include new provisions for driveways, a public shade tree policy, addressing standards, and traffic signage. A public hearing on the suggested updates will be held in the future, prior to board action.
The Select Board adjourned at 11:20pm.