Select Board Reviews April Town Meeting Warrant

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READING, MA — Acting Town Manager Matt Kraunelis walked the Select Board through the 16-article warrant for April Town Meeting on Tuesday. Several articles generated discussion, especially article four, amending the capital plan.

Article four, which appears in every warrant, seeks to amend the town’s ten-year capital plan. Chief Financial Officer Sharon Angstrom reported that, with Town Meeting approval, funds left over from the borrowing for the Parker Middle School roof project will be used to replace an alarm panel at Coolidge Middle School. She also shared that it is proposed that the remainder of the funds from the roof be used toward a design for a new floor and bleachers at the Hawkes Field House in Reading Memorial High School.

The floor project has been moved up one year on the plan to complete the installation during the summer of 2025. Both Superintendent of Schools Thomas Milaschewski and Director of Facilities Joe Huggins asked for the floor to be a higher priority in the plan.

School Committee member Chuck Robinson spoke to the board, sharing that the floor, which is at least 20 years old, has possibly been the source of varied injuries to students in the past several years, including two in the past 30 days, and may not have been installed correctly to begin with.

“It’s just concrete with a rubber layer over it,” Robinson explained.

Select Board member Karen Herrick expressed concern that the debt may be issued by the town at the same time as the community will be asked to fund a new school and senior center. Angstrom said that, according to auditors, “Our debt is extremely low for a community our size.” 

Select Board member Mark Dockser also expressed concern that the board was not made aware of the change until a note was received from Kraunelis last week. While sharing that the board has no “pushback” on the plan itself, he stated that the process concerns him. He suggested that the board add a future agenda item to discuss how to keep the board informed of capital planning discussions moving forward.

Article thirteen was supposed to be zoning bylaw amendments as related to the MBTA Communities requirements. However, Kraunelis reported these will be paused until November Town Meeting. The article instead will be asking for $75,000 to be paired with a grant from the state that will allow the hiring of a consultant to help with the work. Community Development Director Andrew MacNichol explained that the funding will enable his department to develop and fully vet four different concepts to determine which is best for the community.

Select Board member Chris Haley was complementary to MacNichol for his handling of the MBTA Communities  process. “Andrew and Mary [Benedetto, Senior Planner] should be commended for listening to community comments and pivoting [their plans],” Haley commented.

According to Kraunelis, other warrant articles of note include article fourteen, debt authorization for Haven Street infrastructure improvements, an easement on Gazebo Circle in article fifteen, and the Fiscal Year 2025 budget in article twelve.

Despite the fact that there are no zoning bylaw amendments, “There is still a lot of meat on this town meeting,” Kraunelis concluded.

The Select Board will vote to close the warrant at its February 27 meeting.

The Select Board voted 4-0 to approve an easement agreement with Meadowbrook Golf Club for a trail from a new parking lot on Grove Street to the town forest. It also voted 4-0 to reapprove a liquor license for Post 1917, a new restaurant on Haven Street, as well as voting 4-0, to close the warrants for the local and state elections, both to be held on March 5 at the Hawkes Field House. Town Clerk Laura Gemma noted that she is still in need of election workers for that day.

The Select Board adjourned at 9:25 pm.

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