Vanessa Alvarado opened the September 8 Select Board meeting with a moment of personal privilege, reacting to the recent September 1 recall election. She shared, “[I am] humbled and honored by the support I received in the recent election.” Alvarado continued, “Regardless of how you voted, know that I am here tonight . . . with a commitment to serve the Town of Reading.”
Town Clerk Laura Gemme reported that prior to the election, 6,891 ballots for the recall, and 6,899 ballots for the primary were mailed out to voters. Gemme specifically thanked the National Honor Society students and other volunteers for helping with the mailings. She also reported that there were just over 2,400 early-voting ballots, as well as just over 4,500 in-person voters. Gemme continued that she expects “the same thing in November” though given that there will only be one election, it will be less chaotic.
Gemme also shared that, due to mail-in votes, she anticipates that there could be close to 100% turnout in November. She reminded the board that mail-in votes can be placed in the Town Hall dropbox as well as placed in the mail. Ballots for the November election could be available as soon as the first week of October.
The board voted 5-0 to approve an alteration of premises for Ricky’s Liquors on Main Street. The adjoining JK’s Market will be closing, and the two stores will be combined into one package store. Select Board Chair Mark Dockser took the opportunity to emphasize to the owner, Ricky Patel, how seriously the board takes under-aged drinking. Patel assured Dockser that precautions continue to be taken to avoid under-aged sales, including TIPS training for all employees.
David Zeek, from the Climate Advisory Committee, presented possible goals for a Sustainability Master Plan for the town. Zeek encouraged the board to begin discussions regarding what he referred to as “high-level sustainability goals” for eventual adoption into the town’s master plan.
Possible sustainability goals include work in public and private buildings, encouraging the use of electric vehicles, and increasing the use of locally produced food. Zeek also encouraged that the town be planning for “long-term” weather events. The hope of the Climate Advisory Committee is to help the town “develop a shared understanding of where we want to go.” Zeek continued.
The Select Board did vote 5-0 to sponsor an article for the November Town Meeting for the adoption of the Stretch Code, a building energy code created to encourage energy-efficient design and construction in new residential homes and commercial buildings of greater than 100,000 square feet. Adoption of the Stretch Code is a specific requirement of the “Green Communities” application process.
Erica McNamera and Sammy Salkin from the Reading Coalition for Prevention and Support updated the board as to its activities during the past months. Highlighted were the resources for substance abuse and mental health support offered but the town. These can be accessed by residents through both the town and the school department websites.
Town Manager Robert LeLacheur reviewed the upcoming November Town Meeting. Most articles are those that were “leftover” from the Annual Town Meeting in June. LeLacheur informed the board that Moderator Alan Foulds recommends that Town Meeting use the “same approach” as in June, which is mostly virtual. Unlike in June, Town Meeting would have to approve the virtual concept, and thus a contingency plan may be needed.
The Select Board received many emails regarding a proposed cell phone tower on the site of the water tower, mostly from abutters to the site. LeLacheur expressed that he needs to understand the objections raised by those concerned beyond those mentioned in the emails so that the staff can respond. Alvarado stated that she had heard objections regarding height, the removal of trees and number of carriers mentioned. Select Board member Anne Landry indicated that many of the concerns seemed to be process-related. The board will plan a public meeting to listen to the concerns.
The Select Board adjourned at 11:00 pm.