Select Board Adopts New Parking Violation Fees


Reading, MA — Following a prior discussion on February 21, the Select Board voted 5-0 to adopt the Police Department’s recommended parking violation fee structure. Group A violations, including parking in a no parking zone, blocking a driveway, or overtime parking, will increase from $20 to $25. Group B violations, such as blocking a fire hydrant, will increase from $50 to $100. Group C violations, including parking in a handicapped spot, will increase from $100 to $300.

The board also approved the strategy that violators could receive more than one ticket in a given day if the violation extended two hours beyond receipt of the first ticket. “The goal is to get people who are parking all day [in municipal lots] to move,” Select Board member Christopher Haley stated. Select Board chair Mark Dockser asked if the towing of vehicles with multiple daily violations was permitted. Reading Police Lieutenant Christopher Jones indicated this could also be an option.

Walgreens out for Senior Center

After an executive session to discuss the purchase of 17 Harnden Street, Dockser shared in open session that the board would not be able to execute a purchase and sale agreement for the property with the owners. The site had been under consideration for a new senior center to replace the Pleasant Street Center. In light of this, Dockser stated that the original plan of conducting a feasibility study for acceptable sites or plans for a new senior center would now be moving forward.

Public Comments

On the recommendation of Town Counsel, the board voted 5-0 to remove item three of section 1.2.5 of its policy which refers to how public comment should be handled during their meetings. The change was recommended due to a recent Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court decision that determined that though the chair of a board can regulate time, place, and manner of public comment to ensure an orderly meeting, it cannot restrain the content of the comments. 

The ruling was the result of a lawsuit in which the Southborough Select Board was sued by a resident when he was forced to stop speaking and was asked to leave a meeting after making “disparaging” comments regarding the chair. The chair in Southborough determined that the remarks violated its “Civility Code” and recessed the meeting. The Supreme Judicial Court ruled that the action had violated the resident’s right to free speech. “It has been described as ‘the right to be rude,’” Select Board member Jackie McCarthy shared.

Reading Town Counsel indicated to the Select Board that item three in section 1.5.2 is “too close [to the Southborough clause] and should be stricken.” After the vote, the board agreed that the entire section should be revisited at a future meeting.

Symonds Way

During his liaison report, Select Board member Carlo Bacci shared his belief that he had been the victim of a lengthy personal attack at a recent Recreation Committee meeting after giving an update to that committee regarding the work of the Symonds Way Exploratory Committee. He stated that Recreation Committee member Angela Binda took 45 minutes to make accusations about his personal and professional life and criticism regarding an open meeting law violation, for which he has since apologized.

“It was a big part of the meeting, unfortunately, and I thought it was uncalled for,” Bacci said.

During public comment, Binda responded, sharing her belief that there is a difference between a personal attack and a legitimate concern about process. “I have pointed out things in the meetings that I have felt were lacking in process,” Binda stated. In response to the length of her commentary at the meeting, Binda shared, “No one stopped me.” Binda also shared that Recreation Committee member Eric Gaffen stated that it seemed like there has been a conclusion that Bacci is forcing, that is, looking for a process.

SB to Reorganize After Recount

The board voted 4-1 to move its annual reorganization until its next meeting after the recount of the April 4 election results. Member Karen Herrick was the dissenting vote, citing a Town Counsel opinion that the Select Board should continue business as usual until the recount is certified. The board also voted 5-0 to appoint David Zeek as a temporary member of the Board of Registrars for the April 22 recount.

The Select Board adjourned at 9:05 pm.

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