Reading, MA — Select Board member Vanessa Alvarado took a moment of personal privilege at the beginning of the June 16 Select Board meeting to call for a change in the “quantitative and qualitative factors in our local government that will move our accountability in human rights and climate change forward.” Alvarado’s suggestions include a plan to hire more persons of color, reports on the number of persons of color on the town staff, and a plan for working with the Reading Municipal Light Department on issues such as electric car charging stations in town-owned parking lots.
Alvarado also called for more immediate and visible changes such as a Black Lives Matter sign in front of town hall, a pride flag on display in town hall, a gender-neutral bathroom in town hall, and a menorah on display on the town common during December.
“These are more than symbols.” Alvarado declared. “They are a reflection of our community values.”
Alvarado cited the instructional motion passed by Town Meeting by a vote of 124-15 condemning the actions of the Minneapolis police officers that resulted in the death of George Floyd as evidence that residents desire to see change. “We showed that we are allies of the black community. That commitment must be ongoing and persistent.” Alvarado stated. “I am hoping at this time and this moment we can make these needed changes.”
Chair Mark Dockser suggested that the issues raised by Alvarado could be a portion of the discussion at the upcoming Select Board retreat planned for July.
The Select Board voted 5-0 to extend the liquor license of the Venetian Moon to include outdoor dining. Assistant Town Manager Jean Delios shared that the downtown restaurant will be erecting a tent on the cobblestone parking area adjacent to their space to allow for outdoor dining. The tent will provide space for fifty-eight customers, with plans to offer outdoor dining through the summer. Delios continued sharing that the permitting process for the tent occurred in the space of just over a week, using the new town protocols put in place to help businesses rebound after the COVID-19 shutdown.
Town Manager Robert LeLacheur shared that he was comfortable with the board making the decision, despite the lack of a two-week notice. He reported that he has been assured by Representative Brad Jones and Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito that the legislation allowing the lack of notice will pass the legislature soon and that municipalities who act now, will face no problems. LeLacheur also commented on the speed of the permitting, “They are talking about a ten-week season, it does not make sense for them to have to wait two-weeks for a license.”
By a vote of 5-0, the Select Board chose to continue the Metro North Housing Service Agreement and gave a sense of the board without a vote for the Department of Public Works to pursue a permanent cell tower separate from the water tower on Auburn Street.
The Select Board also voted 5-0 to make multiple appointments to various volunteer boards and committees. There was discussion regarding the Board of Health (BoH) and the reappointment of BoH member Kevin Sexton, as Sexton is not a health professional. Alvarado, in particular, suggested that, despite Sexton’s value to the BoH, several other applicants were more qualified. BoH chair Eleanor Shonkoff suggested a plan to have a BoH advisory group to assist the BoH and utilize the talent of those who had applied but were not appointed. Select Board member Carlo Bacci stated that he was impressed by the quality of the applicants, but several showed concern over the level of commitment, especially during the COVID-19 crisis. Bacci extolled Sexton’s commitment to the BoH and his ability to “get things done” that had been a benefit to the BoH’s activities.
After continued discussion, the Select Board voted 5-0 to appoint Kerry Dunhill to a full-member position on the BoH, expiring in 2023. Paula Curren was appointed to a full-member position expiring in 2021 by a vote of 4-1, and Sexton to the associate member position by a vote of 4-1. Bacci was the dissenting vote in both appointments as he had proposed Sexton for the full member position.
The Select Board adjourned to executive session at 10:50pm.