Reading, MA — The Coalition for Prevention and Support, formerly known as the Reading Coalition Against Substance Abuse, presented its annual report to the Select Board on Tuesday, highlighting its activities for the past year. Coalition Director Erica McNamara shared three organizational goals that fit into a strategic prevention framework plan. The first goal which McNamara listed as most challenging is building community collaboratives. The second is reducing substance misuse, and the third is promoting mental health. “[We] don’t just want to make a splash in the community, but we want to have a ripple effect,” McNamara shared. The Coalition sponsored 115 activities during the past year, reaching 2,100 individuals in town.
Coalition Outreach Coordinator Krystal Mellonaskos-Gamay shared some of her activities, including a trusted adult chat at Reading Memorial High School, an eating disorder prevention presentation, working with students who have misused substances at school, and piloting the pocket talk program, which provides police officers with translation devices. She is also involved in ninth-grade opioid prevention classes and developing the “Rocket Leaders in Action” program.
Clinician Tanya Jarzyniecki has been on the job since April. She has spent her first months building relationships in the community through ride-arounds with police officers, developing office hours at the senior center, the library, and the police station, and providing some short-term counseling for individuals in need. She has also worked with the crisis intervention team, which was established in 2020. She reminded the board of the Interface Program, which has helped connect 107 residents with counseling services in 2021 and 2022.
The Select Board voted 5-0 to designate the town clerk and the police chief to approve and assign sufficient police officer coverage at elections for 2022 and 2023. Town Clerk Laura Gemme shared regarding new legislation which grants the Select Board the authority to appoint the officers. Town Manager Fidel Maltez offered the opinion that the appointing of officers is an operational matter that has been and should be handled by staff. Gemme shared that her collaboration with Police Chief David Clark has worked smoothly and that Reading has had no issues in this regard. The board will review the designation in January of 2024. The Select Board also voted 5-0 to close the September 6 state primary election warrant.
By a vote of 5-0, the Select Board approved the proposed new parking regulations changing the parking restriction in some areas around the depot to 6:30am to 9:30am. The regulation previously lasted until 10:30am. This will bring all streets with this regulation into conformity and is intended to keep non-residents from parking in residential areas. The board also approved a regulation stating that spaces with electric vehicle (EV) charging stations are only used by vehicles actively charging. Select Board member Chris Haley expressed concern over one vehicle which seems to be abusing one of the newly installed EV charging stations on Main Street by “charging” for over five hours a day, monopolizing the spot. Police Lieutenant Chris Jones assured the board that this regulation would allow enforcement of the two-hour parking limit for EVs that are charging in the area.
A proclamation honoring the life and legacy of former Boston Celtics great Bill Russell, who recently passed away, was made by the board by a vote of 5-0. Russell once lived in Reading in the 1960s but was forced to leave due to racially motivated harassment. Town Manager Fidel Maltez shared that in March of 1963, Town Meeting approved a similar resolution to the one proposed. Select Board member Jackie McCarthy suggested a slight amendment to the resolution adding a clause that the town will “support efforts to learn from and gain inspiration from [Russell’s] values as he lived them.” “This was an awful thing that happened, and I am in favor of doing something we can do to try to make amends,” Select Board member Karen Herrick commented.
By a vote of 5-0, the Select Board approved $1.5 million in debt for the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA) lead-lined replacement loan program. This is a ten-year, no-interest loan from the MWRA used to replace lead-lined water mains in town. It is part two of a similar loan for $2.8 million that was made in 2021.
The Select Board voted 5-0 to approve a budget of $5,500 for the Conservation Commission, which will be used for signage, outreach, maintenance of the 900 acres of conservation land in town, as well as consulting services. The board also voted 5-0 to approve easements at 269 Main Street, 104 Lilah Lane, and 369 Main Street.
The Select Board voted 5-0 to recommend a five-member Affordable Housing Trust Board to Town Meeting. If established by Town Meeting, this board will have the authority to use funds in the Affordable Housing Trust to spur affordable housing development in town. Select Board member Carlo Bacci expressed concern that the audit provision in the proposal could have the effect of draining the fund. Maltez assured the board that the fund would continue to be audited as part of the overall town financial audit and that the town would absorb any expenses.
The board concluded by directing Maltez to issue a new request for proposal (RFP) for expanded senior center space, this time including the leasing or purchasing of property. This follows a previously issued RFP that only contemplated space leasing and garnered one proposal from the owners of the former Walgreens building on Harnden Street. Select Board chair Mark Dockser suggested that a broader knowledge of what options are available for this use would help the town make the most informed decision regarding the possible expansion of senior center space. The board voted 5-0 to approve the motion.
The Select Board adjourned at 10:20pm.