The Select Board discussed the formation of a committee to consider locations in town for a possible dog park on Tuesday. Resident Steven Cool shared that there are over 3,400 dogs in town, representing over 2,800 households. He also indicated that grant funding of up to $250,000 for a dog park may be possible through the Stanton Foundation, but the window for this funding will be closing by the end of the year. Town Manager Fidel Maltez said that the primary issue of concern is where a dog park could be located. He also indicated that town staff have looked into the issue but have yet to develop a recommendation. “Any kind of recommendation is going to upset someone,” Maltez added. Select Board chair Jackie McCarthy asked that a plan for a committee charter to explore possible dog park locations be drawn up so that it could be voted on within a few months.
Meadow Brook Liquor License
The Select Board continued a public hearing regarding a request from the Meadow Brook Golf Club for an alteration of the premises license to allow for alcohol service at the club’s swimming pool. Club manager Ron Rice explained that alcohol service had been authorized under temporary licenses on some holidays, but the club wants to make these a permanent feature.
Attorney Steven Cicatelli, speaking for abutters to the club, explained that, in his opinion, this license expansion would violate the Community Planning and Development Commission (CPDC) decision allowing the construction of the club. “Conditions in the CPDC decision restricted alcohol service to inside the building and a small porch on the rear of the building; this request is not permitted,” Cicatelli argued. He continued to suggest that the club is attempting to use the licensing as “an end-run” around the CPDC decision. “You cannot license something that is not permitted,” Cicatelli advised the board.
Rice countered that the CPDC decision was specific to the clubhouse and was not applicable to the pool area. Abutter Nicholas Bonanno stated that the new outdoor space at the clubhouse was added specifically to provide alcohol service for pool and tennis members. “There was no contemplation that there would be alcohol service anywhere else on this property,” Cicatelli added.
Select Board members Christopher Haley and Karen Herrick both indicated hesitancy in voting on the license until the issue of the CPDC decision was clarified. Select Board member Mark Dockser encouraged the various parties to meet to settle their concerns. The board voted 5-0 to continue the hearing to June 20.
The board voted 5-0 to authorize $3,550,000 in debt for the Auburn Street water tower, the Maillet-Sommes-Morgan project, and the Haven Street improvement project design. Town Treasurer Diane Morabito explained that as a result of the town’s AAA bond rating, the money would be borrowed at a favorable 3.25% which will be paid off over twenty years.
FY24 Water & Sewer Rates
The board reopened its discussion of water and sewer rate tiers, with Maltez offering another proposal further decreasing the differences between the tiers. Resident John Sullivan, during public comment, urged the board to continue with the flat-rate billing. “The tiered water rates unfairly penalize residents in multi-family apartments,” Sullivan declared. He further explained that his building was billed as one unit and thus would fall into the highest rate tier, despite the fact that most residents’ water usage would place them into the lowest tiers. Maltez agreed with Sullivan’s assessment, though he noted that the difference would only be around eight dollars a quarter for most residents in Sullivan’s building. Maltez explained that some multifamily buildings in town have eight units while others have sixty or more.watersewer-public-forum-23.05.31
“It is hard to implement a one-size fits all solution to this issue,” Maltez noted.
The new proposal would create three tiers, the one with the lowest usage would receive a 2% decrease in rate, the middle tier would receive a 1% increase in rate, and the third a 5% increase in rate. Select Board member Carlo Bacci stated that he sees virtually no difference between this proposal and having no tiers. “I think we are at square one again,” Bacci suggested.
Though he suggested the latest proposal, Dockser indicated that he favors the proposal from the May 23 Select Board meeting. Herrick still favors the original plan as she believes it benefits the most significant number of residents. Haley indicated that none of the plans make sense to him without other conservation incentives for large water users. He used the moment to stress again his belief that a pilot program for second water meters should be considered. McCarthy stated that she is uncomfortable with the May 23 plan without other conservation incentives in place. She also expressed concern that the tiered rates could negatively affect the 20% of Reading residents who live in multifamily buildings.
Given that no majority vote was possible for any of the proposals, as chair, McCarthy determined to delay a vote on setting the water and sewer rates to the June 20 meeting. Maltez informed the board that a decision must be made by July 1.
Parking Kiosk Roll-Out
Economic Development Director Ben Cares reported that the roll-out for the parking kiosks in the Upper Haven and Brande Court municipal parking lots would be pushed out to September 1, with a two-week “grace period” before enforcement begins. In June, there will be continued outreach to businesses as well as a “Lunch and Learn” session at the Pleasant Street Center, which will be recorded by RCTV and made available on RCTV’s YouTube channel.
Cars parked in the two lots will receive flyers in July and August concerning the changes. Cares reminded the board that the purpose of the kiosks is “to create turnover in the lots, prevent employees from parking in the lots, and to stimulate economic activity in the area.”downtown-parking-changes
Haley asked why the kiosk would not accept cash or coins. Cares pointed to capacity issues both in the police and finance departments for handling the money. Bacci also asked if there was a way to extend the grace period for four weeks instead of two. Cares indicated that this would be possible. “We want to minimize confusion and maximize the ability to make it work,” Dockser noted. The board also discussed with Cares ways to improve overall communication with small businesses in town.
The board voted 5-0 to reallocate $15,000 in American Rescue Plan Act funds initially provided to the Health Department for Covid-19 mitigation to be used to digitize Health Department records. It voted 5-0 to amend the charge and extend the sunset date for the Reading Center for Active Living Committee to June 30, 2024.
By a vote of 5-0, the board granted recommended budget requests for six boards and committees totaling $20,000. It discussed the implementation of email addresses for the chairs of boards and committees and a proposal by Haley to explore a review of and a possible change of town counsel.
The Select Board adjourned at 11:40 pm.