The overall theme of October was communication, as the Select Board worked to be more transparent with residents regarding water bills, proposed construction projects, and expectations of the Town Manager. This was also the month that the Meadow Brook Golf Club broke ground for a new clubhouse, and the Reading Police attempted to arrest a man who barricaded himself inside of a home construction site.
In an October 6th meeting of the Select Board, Director of Public Works, Jane Kinsella provided an updated look at how water and sewer bills work in Reading. The update came after several residents contacted the Board asking about an increase in their bill amount.
“Kinsella shared that three ‘buckets’ make up the water and sewer bill: the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA) assessment, wages and overhead, and capital and debt expenses. Typically, according to Kinsella, Reading has had a two percent annual drop in usage, but this year’s use is up 27% over last year in the same period. The increase is attributed to more residents staying home during the COVID-19 shutdown and a warmer than average summer. Kinsella explained that this increased usage is the primary reason for larger-than-average bills this quarter,” reported Kevin Vendt.
Town Manager Bob LeLacheur addressed why Reading has a higher water rate than other towns in the region and reminded the Board that the new water and sewer rates would not affect the next bill.
On October 4th, the Meadow Brook Golf Club broke ground on a new clubhouse after a three-alarm electrical fire destroyed the 75-year-old building in April.
“The small, socially distant gathering included the club Board of Governors, past presidents, long time members, and guests involved with the construction project,” reported The Reading Post.
The event was opened by Club President Sally Mason Boemer’s speeches, member Mary Ellen Hurton, former Club President Marcia Brown, and board member Kevin Roche.
Concerned residents brought their objections to the construction of a temporary cell tower to the Select Board during a virtual meeting on October 20th.
“The [Auburn Street water] tower, which is scheduled for replacement, is home to antennas for three different cell phone carriers and some local emergency services communications equipment. At issue is the proposal to construct a temporary cell tower on the site to hold the antennas until the new water tower is completed. A previous Select Board had suggested that a permanent cell tower on the site would be preferable for security reasons,” reported Kevin Vendt.
Residents presented their objections to the Board, expressing concern on a myriad of topics, including how the project might affect property values and quality of life in the neighborhood and whether or not the town would have to pay to solve problems for the cell carriers.
“Member Carlo Bacci suggested that the carriers be given a date for the beginning of the water tower project and let them decide what to do. Chair Mark Dockser followed this with suggestions about advice from town counsel and continued conversations with the carriers. The board will expect regular updates from town staff and anticipates a vote on a plan to move forward in December,” reported Vendt.
In an October 26th press release from the Reading Police Department, Police Chief Clark reported that RPD had arrested and charged a man who had barricaded himself inside a home under construction. The officers charged the man, named Vincent Martorano, with Disturbing the Peace and Resisting Arrest.
“At approximately 10:28 a.m. on Monday, Oct. 26, Reading Police went to a construction site at a vacant home on Grand Street to arrest MARTORANO on the outstanding warrants and issue a restraining order. MARTORANO, who is known to police, subsequently refused to come out and barricaded himself inside the house. The other workers at the construction were safely evacuated from the building. No one was injured as a result of this incident,” stated the press release.
The Northeastern Massachusetts Law Enforcement Council (NEMLEC) SWAT team responded to the scene, and the situation was resolved peacefully.
The Select Board formally reviewed Town Manager Bob LeLacheur during an October 27th meeting. The annual review was coupled with a 5-0 vote to approve the Town Manager’s goals for Fiscal Year 2020-21.
“During the review, most critical comments to Town Manager Robert LeLacheur from the board centered on communications issues. ‘We need better visibility for all items moving forward.’ Chair Mark Dockser began. He also said that he believes the board needs to own a piece of the communications issue. ‘We need to be clearer with our expectations as a board,’ he declared,” reported Kevin Vendt.