Reading, MA — At the conclusion of his report on August 10, Town Manager Robert LeLacheur surprised several members of the Select Board by offering his letter of resignation effective February 25, 2022. In his letter to the board, LeLacheur did not cite a reason for his departure but did express thanks “to thank everyone for their words of encouragement and thanks along the way, and wish you all good health and safety in the coming years.”
LeLacheur also shared that he wanted to stay in his position long enough to help work with new Superintendent of Schools Tom Milachewski through Milachewski’s first budget process. He also stated that he wanted to give the board time to seek his replacement. LeLacheur is only the second town manager in Reading’s history and has been town manager since 2013, previously serving the town as the Assistant Town Manager. The board has yet to set timeline for seeking a new town manager.
The board voted 5-0 to appoint several persons to boards and committees as a part of their consent agenda. The Volunteer Appointment Sub-Committee (VASC) disagreed regarding the reappointment of Nancy Zemleck to the Board of Registrars. VASC member Carlo Bacci had voted to replace Zemleck with the applicant and former Select Board member Dan Ensminger. By law, the board needs to be made up of persons from both major political parties. VASC member Mark Dockser argued that reappointing Zemleck would maintain the two Democrat/one Republican makeup the board has had in recent years, which is reflective of the political makeup of the town. After discussion, the board voted 3-2 to reappoint Zemleck to the Board of Registrars. Bacci and member Chris Haley were the dissenting votes.
The Select Board voted 5-0 to approve plans to upgrade the western end of Chapin Avenue that will be completed by the developer of the former Reading Chronicle building on Main Street. These improvements include two parking spaces on the south side of Chapin Avenue, sidewalks on both sides of the street, which will connect to the sidewalks on Main Street, a public bicycle rack, and two street trees. These improvements were part of the approval process with the Community Planning and Development Commission.
The board reviewed the possibility of purchasing five lots available on Grove Street, currently owned by the Meadowbrook Golf Club. LeLacheur explained that the club has a buyer for the lots and has negotiated a price. Still, the town has the option to purchase the lots for the price negotiated with the potential buyer, which is around $2.25 million. LeLacheur commented further that the option must be exercised by October.
Select Board chair Karen Herrick suggested that the land could be used to create an entrance gateway into the town forest if purchased. Dockser stated that he agreed with feelings regarding the purchase that Bacci had expressed. “It’s hard to walk away from land.” Dockser acknowledged,“But it is kind of pricey.” The board confirmed for an interest in exploring the opportunity further. LeLacheur plans to inquire of town counsel as to whether or not these discussions will be best served in public or executive session.
The Select Board voted 5-0 to accept a self-imposed Code of Conduct for itself. Most of the language was determined last spring at a Select Board retreat but was never voted on by the board. Dockser described the code as “a structure as to how we work.” Select Board member Anne Landry agreed, “We need to be thoughtful how we work together as colleagues,” Landry stated.
The board also voted 5-0 to approve changes to its communications policy which will replace publication of emails sent to the board in their packet with a list of emails received and from whom. This has come about due to concerns regarding the amount and types of emails published in the packet.
Landry had noted in the July 20 Select Board meeting that emails published in the packet have “become a vehicle for personal attacks . . . all kinds of shenanigans” and have taken the place of letters to the editor in local media. Bacci agreed, stating that some members of the public have taken to “weaponizing” the packet. Bacci did, however, express concern that the lack of publication of emails in the packet might lead to a surge in public records requests that would have to be filled by town staff.
The Select Board adjourned at 10:30 pm.