Town of Reading

TOWN OF READING

READING – In a marathon meeting that started Tuesday and ended in the early morning hours of Wednesday, the Reading Select Board made a decision on the Meadow Brook land and named the seven members of the Town Manager Search Committee. The debates on both topics were spirited, passionate, and at times, approached nasty.

And if you’re keeping track, the 5-hour, 35-minute meeting lasted longer than the Red Sox 13-inning marathon win over Tampa Bay on Sunday.

Meadow Brook had given the town right of first refusal on five lots along Grove Street, roughly 2½ acres. At the Sept. 28 board meeting the subject of potentially just buying Lot 5 for $525,000 and turning it into a new entrance way to the Town Forest was discussed. But Tuesday night, Mark Dockser told the board that the terms had changed. The lot was now $450,000, but the offer expired at midnight.

Dockser still wanted to purchase all five lots at a cost of $2.25 million and others during public comment agreed.

“Land doesn’t become available very often,” said Recreation Committee member Angela Binda. “It’s an opportunity that doesn’t come around very often.”

But some disagreed, starting with Bill Brown during public comment as well as board member Chris Haley.

“It’s ludicrous,” said Haley. “We’d be spending $2.25 million for 2½ acres. For me the numbers don’t add up.”

Haley preferred purchasing just Lot 5, even though there was no guarantee it could be connected to the Town Forest via an easement from Meadow Brook. But he called the smaller purchase a “happy medium.”

Carlo Bacci also liked the idea of purchasing just the one lot.

“It’s a very reasonable price,” said Bacci. “This solves a lot of problems.”

The urgency of the midnight deadline was forcing the board to make a decision with a number of questions still unresolved. Then it all changed. Guy Manganiello, one of three owners of Bancroft Estates, the developer of the Meadow Brook property, was sitting in the audience and he told the board that he was willing to allow the offer to stand until November’s Town Meeting. Suddenly, there was no midnight deadline.

The debate continued on the property until two votes were taken. The first was a non-binding vote on whether to support purchasing all five lots for $2.25 million. That passed 3-2 with Bacci and Haley opposed. Then Anne Landry proposed another motion, this one to allow both options -- purchase all five lots or just lot 5 -- to come before Town Meeting next month. That passed 4-1 with Haley opposed. The issue will be discussed again in a public hearing at its Oct. 26 meeting.

It was 11:13 p.m. when discussion started about the makeup of the Town Manager Search Committee. That’s when it got nasty.

It started with the discussion of which two Select Board members would be on the committee. At the September meeting of the board, chair Karen Herrick said the 2012 committee that ultimately picked Bob LeLacheur was made up of the chair and the vice chair and she wanted to honor that precedent. Bacci and Haley said they wanted the two members of the VASC to be on the search committee, meaning Dockser and Bacci.

Haley and Bacci said their opposition to Herrick and Landry at a previous meeting led to a number of emails calling them sexist.

“It was a coordinated attack,” said Haley.

“We were attacked,” said Bacci.

Then Haley produced the minutes of a November 2012 board meeting that showed the two board members on the committee were the vice-chair and a member, not what Herrick had said previously.

“You cited precedent that doesn’t exist,” said Haley. “And Mark and Anne are going along with it.”

“If I made a mistake I apologize,” said Herrick. “What is the point of this, raking another board member over the coals?”

The uncomfortable back-and-forth between Haley and Herrick continued. Dockser at one point said, “it needs to stop,” but he was participating in the meeting via zoom so his ability to officiate the dispute was limited.

Eventually it was time to pick two board members. Haley and Bacci suggested Landry and Bacci, matching the precedent of the 2012 process. But with Dockser, Landry, and Herrick supporting the chair and vice-chair, it meant Haley and Bacci once again lost a 3-2 decision.

Then it was time to select two department heads from Library Director Amy Lannon, Police Chief David Clark, and Fire Chief Greg Burns.

Once again Haley and Bacci agreed, naming Clark and Burns as their choices. But Landry, Dockser, and Herrick supported Lannon and Burns, meaning Haley and Bacci were in a familiar place.

Then came the residents. The Select Board said at their last meeting they would each select three residents from those who had applied and it would be posted for all to see on the town website on Oct. 7. But that didn’t happen until hours before Tuesday’s meeting.

Chris Feudo was named on three of the five board member’s list so he was given the first resident’s spot. But then came silence, and no decision on the last spot.

It was 11:46 p.m. and Bacci was suggesting drawing straws or arm wrestling to decide. In the end, there were three people left in the Select Board Meeting Room and one of them was candidate Emily Sisson. With Sisson, a member of the Recreation Committee, sitting in front of them, she was the choice.

So, your 2021 Ad Hoc Town Manager Screening Committee is Select Board chair Karen Herrick, Select Board vice-chair Anne Landry, Library Director Amy Lannon, Fire Chief Greg Burns, Town Moderator Alan Foulds, Chris Feudo, and Emily Sisson.

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