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What To Expect at Reading Town Meeting

Annual Town Meeting is on April 23.

Here’s a twist on the warrant for annual Town Meeting. One of the articles proposes to reduce the size of Town Meeting, from 192 to 144 members, or from 24 to 18 residents in each of the town’s eight precincts.

That article would also require a write-in candidate to receive at least 10 votes to be elected.

Not enough town residents are interested in being Town Meeting members to sustain a Town Meeting of 192 members, according to the background of the article included with the warrant.

Last month, when all Town Meeting members had to run for election as a result of re-precincting after the 2010 federal census, ”(C)andidates took out nomination papers for only 70 percent of the available seats,”  the background states.

Between 2011 and 2007, Town Meeting seats outnumbered candidates.

The last time that all Town Meeting seats were up for election due to “re-precincting,” in 2002, enough candidates had their names on the printed ballot to fill them, the background states, and races were contested in half the precincts.

“This clearly shows a change,” the article background states, “since 10 years ago in interest in running for Town Meeting.”

Town Meeting members cannot be elected town-wide, Town Manger Peter Hechenbleikner told the selectmen Tuesday, according to the city solicitor.

The article also proposes to increase the number of write-in votes required for election to 10. A resident must get 10 signatures on nomination papers to get on the ballot for a Town Meeting seat.

Town Meeting starts this coming Monday, April 23.

The complete warrant is posted on line on the town website; click “Departments,” then “Town Clerk.”

Among the other 23 articles, one would grant an easement to Northern Bank and Trust to place an ATM machine in the town-owned parking area in the so-called CVS parking lot between Woburn Street and Haven Street. The owner of the bank also owns the MF Charles building which faces Main Street; the Community Planning and Development Commission approved a site plan on April 2 for renovations to that building. The bank would give the town an easement over the driveway, currently one-way out of the parking lot, for an easement to the ATM.

One possible result: two-way traffic in the driveway between Haven Street and the parking lot, instead of one way out. That would improve circulation in the parking lot, according to the background, “which has been envisioned in the (town’s) Master Plan and parking studies for a number of years.”

Other articles would:

  • Remove future members of the reading police department, including the chief, from the Civil Service process and allow the town – not the state Civil Service Commission --  to hire, promote and discipline members of that department. The Civil service process is “slow, cumbersome” and “one size fits all,” the background states.
  • Allow the police department to do fingerprint-based state and national criminal history checks for individuals applying for certain licenses, including door-to-door salespeople, managers of alcoholic beverage licenses, dealers of second hand articles and ice cream truck drivers.
  • Amend the budget for the current fiscal year, 2012, which ends June 30, approve the budget for fiscal 2013; amend the town’s Capital Improvement Plan; and dispose of surplus property, such as vehicles and “surplus soil/stone at the Compost Center.“

Two articles are on the warrant by resident petition. One would amend the town’s bylaws to create an appeal of the town’s demolition delay bylaw. The petitioner, Erin Calvo-Bacci, may withdraw that article, according to discussion at the most recent selectmen’s meeting, if an appeal process is added to the bylaw and a rewritten bylaw is presented to Town Meeting in the fall.

The second by-petition article proposes to amend the US Constitution to reverse the effects of a US Supreme Court decision, Citizens United, that allows unlimited spending by corporations, unions and other in our elections.

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