Town Meeting Concludes

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READING, MA — Town Meeting concluded its business on Thursday after approving four articles, indefinitely postponing Article twelve, and debating two instructional motions. Articles eight, nine, and eleven were approved by a hand vote, while article ten passed unanimously by a vote of 140-0.

Article eight asked Town Meeting to approve a transfer of $130,000, which was borrowed for the repair of the roof at Parker Middle School at an interest rate of .87%, to a fund to complete the purchase of a new ladder truck for the fire department. Town Manager Fidel Maltez explained that the truck had been ordered in March of 2022 for $1.3 million, but the manufacturer, citing increased supply chain costs, could not complete the order for that price. Maltez added that he and Fire Chief Greg Burns were able to negotiate an extended warranty, $25,000 in parts vouchers, and firm delivery date with penalties as part of the cost increase. The article passed without further discussion by the members of Town Meeting.

Town Moderator Alan Foulds, Town Manager Fidel Maltez, and Town Clerk Laura Gemme. Thursday’s meeting marked Maltez’s last Town Meeting session, as he is leaving Reading for Chelsea in January.

Article Nine

Article nine asked Town Meeting to appropriate $200,000 to build a gravel parking lot for the Town Forest on Grove Street. Director of Operations Jayne Wellman explained that $150,000 will come from a state earmark for the project, with the town needing to add the additional $50,000. The project will include seventeen parking spaces, a six-foot-wide walkway, and a guard rail on Grove Street. Conservation Commission chair Martha Moore reported to Town Meeting that the commission had discussed and approved the project.

Article Ten

Article ten appropriated an additional $300,000 from the 40R Smart Growth Stabilization Fund for road paving and repairs. Town Engineer Ryan Percival explained that Chapter 90 funding from the state and funding by the town provides $1 million for road repairs annually. He further explained that rises in the costs for petroleum have decreased the value of this investment. In order to maintain the town’s current road rating, an additional $300,000 would be needed.

Town Meeting member Barry Herman asked if the town would be including the $300,000 increase in future budgets. Percival answered, stating that it would be analyzed year-to-year to see if there is an increase in Chapter 90 funding from the state. The article was agreed to unanimously by Town Meeting.

Article Eleven

Assistant Town Manager Matt Kraunelis proposed article eleven, which asked Town Meeting to adopt a Massachusetts General Law that would provide town clerks with an additional $1,000 for becoming certified. “[The measure] ensures consistent operation of critical functions such as vital records, elections, and many others,” Kraunelis explained. He also shared that it would motivate town clerks to continue to pursue training.

Article Twelve

Article twelve, a citizen’s petition to add temporary pickleball courts at the Burbank Ice Arena, was indefinitely postponed at the petitioners’ request.

Instructional Motions

Town Meeting member David Zeek presented an instructional motion directing the town to develop a water and sewer pricing structure that treats multi-family units in buildings such as apartment buildings and condominium complexes as separate units as opposed to one building and that the Town Manager report the results to Town Meeting. 

The issue, Zeek explained, is that residents of these buildings are being charged for water at the highest tier rate, even though their usage would warrant lower rates if they lived in single-family homes. According to Zeek, twenty percent of the residents of Reading live in multi-family housing. He used the example of the Postmark building where there are no tier four or five users, but every unit in the building is billed at the tier five, or most expensive, rate. “Tiered rates are more effective and more equitable when they account for differences in customer type,” Zeek shared in his presentation.

Town Meeting member Vanessa Alvarado proposed an amendment asking the Select Board to consider a plan as opposed to directing the town to do so. Alvarado’s reasoning was that Town Meeting does not have the authority to direct the town or the Town Manager to do anything and that setting the water rates is the purview of the Select Board. Berman agreed with the amendment, adding that Select Board chair Jackie McCarthy had already indicated that this would be a part of the discussion when rates are set next year. The amendment was adopted. After continued discussion, the instructional motion was approved by Town Meeting.


Town Meeting member David Talbot also presented an instructional motion asking the Select Board and Community Planning and Development Commission (CPDC) to require a traffic and safety study of the impact of the addition of a second drive-through lane at McDonald’s on Main Street as outlined in a proposal in front of the CPDC right now. Talbot suggested that the second lane could double the traffic at the site, creating a further bottleneck in what is already “the worst intersection in town.”

Town Meeting member James Bonazolli objected, stating that Town Meeting should allow CPDC to follow its hearings to a conclusion, asking for a traffic study if they feel it is warranted. He also said that he does not want the town to have to pay for a study of the area. Town Meeting member Andrea Williams agreed with Bonazolli, sharing that McDonald’s is only a piece of the issue in the area. She continued, asking why the town would penalize a successful business in this way. Select Board member Carlo Bacci also asked Town Meeting to allow the process to unfold before making requests. Town Meeting voted against the instructional motion.

Town Meeting adjourned sine die just after 9:00 pm.

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