READING – Whether fulltime, part time, or shared with other communities, is it time for Reading to have a Sustainability Director? David Zeek, chair of the Climate Advisory Committee, says yes.
“We have a sustainability program in Reading. The Climate Advisory Committee has proposed a sustainability plan. We’re doing some of the things on the plan but some of the things on that plan are not the kind of things done by a volunteer committee.”
Zeek appeared before the Reading Select Board Tuesday to make an appeal for a new town position and put a sustainability program under the control of one person. Zeek said even a small project like our community garden shows the need for centralized control.
“It’s been sort of back-n-forth in town, bouncing around,” said Zeek of the garden. “This department is involved, now that department is involved, now we’re looking at that location. It can’t really be run by somebody on the outside or a volunteer. That’s just an example of the kind of management problems we’re going to have once we go after major funding opportunities for the Green Communities, for MVP [Municipal Vulnerability Program], for the ARPA program [American Rescue Plan Act]. Now we’re talking serious money and serious efforts.”
The board was receptive, but had questions.
“I think the idea is really interesting,” said Dockser.
The first question was where to put the new position. Does Public Health make sense? How about Facilities or Planning? LeLacheur had another thought, the Reading Municipal Light Department.
Zeek presented a chart that included neighboring communities and the amount of Green Communities grant money alone they had received. It ranged from $1.67 million Natick has received since 2010 to Burlington receiving $172,000 in the past year. With grant money available, the idea of adding a staff position was easier to take.
“If the position pays for itself then it’s a no-brainer,” said Chris Haley.
Haley suggested putting the position under RMLD and sharing it with the other three communities, Lynnfield, Wilmington, and North Reading. Dockser said he’d like to look at other communities and see how they got grant money and how many had the equivalent of a Sustainability Director.
There were other items during the board’s nearly four-hour meeting, including a tease by Town Manager Bob LeLacheur that he’s hired a new Health Director. But no further details. And if you’ve ever thought you could do a better job than LeLacheur, Wednesday is the deadline to apply for the Reading position.
The ongoing wrestling match between the board and resident Walt Tuvell is now up to 10 Open Meeting Law complaints, the most recent filed Oct. 27. The board has agreed to mediation and voted Tuesday to include the 10th complaint with the others.
After Tuvell said he wanted mediation that was in-person, recorded, and as soon as possible, the board responded by saying at its last meeting it wanted mediation in hybrid form, in executive session, without recording, and in January. The mediator came back with the suggestion of a hybrid format with no recording, but Tuvell would get to see the minutes before they’re released and add changes. If the board objected to the changes, Tuvell would get to add an addendum to the minutes.
But board members Carlo Bacci, Dockser and Haley all opposed changing the format of executive session to allow Tuvell to add an addendum. Anne Landry, who wouldn’t participate in the mediation because of her job with the state, sided with Dockser, Haley, and Bacci. After initially saying she was okay with an addendum, chair Karen Herrick sided with the group in saying no addendum.
The board voted 5-0 to proceed with mediation but it did not accept allowing an addendum to the minutes. If Tuvell doesn’t agree to mediation without the possibility of an addendum, then the board must respond to OML complaints 5-10 individually. If Tuvell doesn’t like those responses, the whole thing could land with the state attorney general. Mediation is planned for a Saturday in January with Jan. 8 the most likely date. The board is also investigating whether a third party could be hired to take minutes as town staff might not be available on a Saturday.
Now that the October Special Town Meeting has approved the purchase of Lot 5 of the Meadow Brook property with the intention of putting a parking lot there, the board was updated by Dockser on something familiar to all home buyers, the inspection. But in a legal twist, Meadow Brook isn’t allowed to grant access to the town for any sort of inspection because of conditions imposed by the buyers of the five lots, Bancroft.
Bancroft takes possession of the five lots on Nov. 20 and the town will get Lot 5 on Nov. 24. That leaves four days for Bancroft to possibly give Reading access to inspect the lot. But Bancroft doesn’t have to and the town was considering what to do if Bancroft hesitated. The solution was to ask Bancroft to allow town personnel, such as the Tree Warden and Conservation Commission, access to the property for a walk-thru.
“It sounds reasonable to me but Bancroft must approve it,” said Dockser.
The board approved a number of volunteers for positions with the town including four at the start of the meeting for the Zoning Board of Appeals. The ZBA was also holding a meeting Tuesday night and with those vacancies they were unable to have a quorum without the new appointees. The board approved Cy Caouette and Ryan Bourque as full members and Patrick Houghton and Andrew Grasberger as associate members.
In addition, the Reading Center for Active Living Committee (ReCalc) added two members but is still looking for residents interested in volunteering for the committee that is charged with exploring the idea of a new Senior/Community Center. John Parsons of the Council on Aging and Mike Coltman of the Recreation Committee will join Mark Dockser on ReCalc. Two residents have expressed interest in the committee but with four spots available on the seven-member committee the Select Board encouraged others in the community to apply.
LeLacheur said police are planning to reinstate the depot parking stickers and parking enforcement, which had been essentially dropped during the health pandemic, will soon return. Stickers are available thru the town website and a sticker purchased now can be used in 2022 … the board voted to waive the $100 fee for veterans for burial markers … the board also accepted the gift of a new scoreboard at Hunt Field from Reading Little League Baseball.