Select Board Weigh Dog Park Options

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Reading, MA — Options for the development of a dog park in Reading were a prime topic of discussion this past Tuesday for the Select Board. Resident Stephen Cool shared that he and Conservation Administrator Chuck Tirone had investigated multiple locations in town where a dog park might be, visiting several options. These include Symonds Way, Memorial Park, Hunt Park, Reading Municipal Light Department land off Bradley Street, and near the location of the former water treatment plant. Cool also noted that he had had a conversation with a private landowner about locating a dog park on their property.

Of these locations, Cool suggested the two that fit the criteria best are Memorial Park and Hunt Park. He was also quick to point out that locating a dog park at Memorial Park came with potential land use concerns relating to the original gift of the property. Pleasant Street resident Peter Siegel objected to the use of Hunt Park for the project. He has concerns regarding traffic and parking issues along with the loss of the multi-purpose park that exists currently. “[Hunt Park] was intended for families and sports,” Siegel stated. “I hope that our park doesn’t turn to the dogs.” There is a potential time factor for a decision, as $250,000 in grant money for the project might be available if a project is approved by the end of the year.

Director of Equity and Social Justice Hiring Process and Reporting Structure

The board discussed a possible structural change for the Director of Equity and Social Justice role. Before leaving Reading, former director Sudeshna Chatterjee had suggested that the role’s current placement as part of the Reading Public Library was too restricting. Town Manager Fidel Maltez presented a plan in which the person in the position reports directly to the town manager, with office space in the police station along with the Coalition for Prevention and Support.

Select Board member Mark Dockser shared his belief that “structurally [the change] makes sense” but questioned the placement of the director’s office in the police station, wondering if placement in Town Hall would be better to encourage the “water cooler” type of interactions with other staff that would be useful. Select Board member Christopher Haley agreed with the structural change as well, “It’s a town-wide position; it did not feel like that, and it is good to rectify that now.”

Resident Linda Snow Dockser also questioned the office space location. “Placement in the police station creates an invisible barrier for many people,” Dockser noted. While expressing understanding of Dockser’s concern, Maltez shared that there is no room in Town Hall for another office and that the police station is the best option for the moment.

Subsequent Town Meeting

The board took a first look at the warrant for Town Meeting in November. Expected business includes articles regarding $500,000 for additional street paving, construction of a parking lot for the Town Forest on Grove Street, a $125,000 material cost increase for a new ladder truck for the fire department, and phase two of the Birch Meadow project.

Trash and Recycling

Maltez also intends to reintroduce a plan to purchase trash and recycling barrels for each household in town for automated pickup. When a similar article was presented at the April Town Meeting, it failed by ten votes to get the necessary two-thirds needed to pass, though more than half the members present voted in favor of the article. 


Maltez shared that every trash company he speaks with will be requiring automated pickup when the town goes out to bid for a new contract. “All companies say that manual collection is not an option,” Maltez reported. Households will have the option of leasing an additional barrel for $200 annually, which will cover the additional solid waste and disposal costs indicated by an additional barrel. One-time “overflow” bags will also be available for purchase. Any household requesting an additional recycling barrel will receive one as well.

This time, Town Meeting will be asked to appropriate the $900,000 needed for the purchase from free cash reserves, which only requires a majority vote. The previous proposal was to borrow the funds to make the purchase.

“I don’t think this [issue] is about barrels,” Dockser suggested. “It is about the trash plan for the town going forward and how not to get ‘held over the barrel’ by contractors.” Select Board chair Jackie McCarthy agreed, “No one is going to host a parade about this decision,” McCarthy quipped, “but it is a representation of how we as a town need to respond to market realities.” The board also had a brief discussion regarding the expansion of composting and how it could decrease overall trash output in town.

Military Leave, Liquor License Transfer, ARPA Funds

In other business, the Select Board also reviewed possible changes to town policies regarding military leave, and it voted 4-0 to approve a liquor license transfer to City Wine Spirits & Smoke Shop from Bay State Liquors. The board heard a request from the Reading Food Pantry for an additional $28,500 in American Rescue Act (ARPA) funds to continue its gift card program. Select Board member Karen Herrick noted that all the ARPA funds had been allocated but suggested that unspent funds might be available in the future. Maltez reported that of the original allocation of $250,000 for COVID response, $73,000 remained unspent, though the Board of Health was using a portion of that for a town-wide health needs assessment.

The Select Board adjourned at 11:00 p.m.

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