Select Board Reviews Tiered Water and Sewer Rates

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Reading, MA — The Select Board opened a public hearing on Tuesday regarding the proposal to adopt a tiered system for water and sewer rates in town. Previously, all such usage has been billed at a flat rate. Town Manager Fidel Maltez presented the new plan at the Select Board’s May 9 meeting. He explained that with the proposed system, the town would create five usage tiers and charge households a higher rate as more water is used in a progressive manner similar to income taxes. He also expressed his belief that a tiered system would encourage conservation.


Based upon a request from chair Jackie McCarthy, Maltez presented a revised plan where tiers one and two would be charged at the same rate. Under the prior proposal, those in the lowest water usage tier would receive an eleven percent savings on their quarterly bill, the second tier would see a five percent savings, tier three would see a three percent increase, tier four a ten percent increase, and tier five a fourteen percent increase. With the newer proposal, tiers one and two would receive a six percent reduction in their bills, tier three a three percent increase, tier four a six percent increase, and tier five a ten percent increase. McCarthy stated that the goal of the revised plan was an attempt to reduce the difference between tiers. Select Board member Karen Herrick expressed concern over the revised plan.

“[Compressing tiers one and two] does not encourage conservation,” Herrick suggested.

Select Board member Chris Haley also argued for exploring the option of a pilot program for fifty residents to install second water meters. Haley reminded the board that those who use water for irrigation and pools are paying for water to go into the sewer system, which does not do so. “I do not see the downside of a pilot program,” Haley argued. He also suggested that data shows that second meters also encourage conservation efforts.

A public forum on the tiered rate plan is scheduled for May 31, with a vote by the board planned for their June 6 meeting.

CPDC Update

Community Planning and Development Commission chair Heather Clish and Community Development Director Andrew MacNichol reported to the board on progress being made towards MBTA Communities compliance to the board. Reading has been designated as a commuter rail community and, as a result, needs to create zoning to allow for greater density housing in designated areas around or near the depot.


MacNichol outlined a plan for significant community engagement in the process of creating a plan with a target of Town Meeting action on zoning changes by April of 2024. MacNichol shared that the community engagement will be designed to “provide us with actionable direction from the community” regarding proposed changes. Clish advised the board and other residents to engage early in the process to achieve the town’s best results.

By a vote of 5-0, the board proclaimed National Public Works Week and Arbor Day in town. It also voted 5-0 to approve a final update to the non-union classification plan. Maltez stated that this action was the final piece of the pay and class study conducted last year. “[The update] will make us able to attract and retain [staff],” Select Board member Mark Dockser declared.


The board voted 5-0 to act on an option to increase cost of living adjustments for those receiving pensions from Reading. The plan takes advantage of a bill signed by the governor in November allowing a one-time additional two percent cost of living adjustment off the base for those receiving pensions from the Town of Reading. For most, this would amount to a $280 increase. Town Accountant Sharon Angstrom explained on May 9 that approval of the measure would increase the town’s liability by $842,40, which would be spread over the next seven years.

The board voted 5-0 to approve a resolution proclaiming Pride Month in Reading. By a 5-0 vote, it also approved another resolution proclaiming Juneteenth.

Dockser presented an unrefined plan to adjust the charge and extend the sunset date for the Reading Center for Active Living Committee. He explained that now that the group’s work on space needs was largely complete, it could possibly look into programming, transportation, funding, and other needs for seniors. He also suggested that two additional members could expand the committee membership. Dockser will produce a document to be voted on at the June 6 meeting of the Select Board.

The Select Board voted 5-0 to expand the scope of the work being done by the Symonds Way Exploratory Committee to include all the town-owned areas surrounding the property. Dockser indicated that having the committee look at a broader sphere “makes sense.” The board also voted 5-0 to direct Maltez to issue a request for a proposal for a feasibility study looking into possible locations for a new or remodeled senior/community center.

The Select Board adjourned at 10:50 pm.

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