Think about this. The only constant is change. Stephen Goldy, chairman of the Board of Selectmen, challenged Town Meeting to "embrace change" in his state of the town report Monday night.
The state of the town is ”excellent,” Goldy said. Reading was recently named America’s fourth best suburb, he said, quoting from an article whose source he did not name: “a family-friendly, white-collar town” with public schools better than “98 percent of all US communities” and "87 percent of schools in the rest of the state.”
Financially, “(T)he town’s fiscal health is good,” Goldy said. Among the five highlights he cited:
Some town services were restructured, “with little if any loss of service to the customers.” Public health services were regionalized with Melrose and Wakefield and several others – elder and human services, plumbing, gas and wiring inspections and conservation were “right size(d).” Regionalizing several town services – for veterans, inspections, public safety dispatch and conservation – are being considered.
The town received new grants totaling more than $1.6 million.
Building project debt for and was refinanced, saving $400,000 in tax funds.
Economically, Goldy pointed to a number of new businesses and developments in town:
Oaktree on Haven Street, at the former Atlantic Supermarket site, a mixed use commercial and residential project is a model, he said, for the Commonwealth’s Department of Housing and Community Development’s Smart Growth development;
He referred to Reading Woods, on the former Addison Wesley Pearson property, a Gateway Smart Growth housing project;
move on south Main Street; and
ECars’ move onto the former Artist Shoppe site on south Main Street.
Service-wise, local government has been restructured, Goldy said, particularly the Community Services Department.
Town staff is implementing licensing and permitting software which, Goldy said, will make tracking development permits and licenses easier.
On the subject of security of safety, “(F)ollowing the shooting death of a resident in Reading and the death of another Reading resident outside of the community, Reading conducted a series of three community dialogues this fall centered around the issue of substance abuse and violence prevention” here. As a result, the fiscal year 2013 budget, for July 1 2012 through June 30, 2013, includes funds "to address these issues through education, treatment and enforcement.”
On the same topic, the Board of Selectmen suspended five liquor licenses, Goldy said, each for three days, for selling alcohol to a minor.
“We expect that this is an anomaly,” he said, “and will not be repeated.”
In infrastructure, the town's 116-year-old library is first on the wait list for a grant, Goldy said. If the grant is approved, both Town Meeting and all residents would need to vote on "a debt exclusion for the town's share of the project cost."
Goldy also began what he hopes will become a tradition. He presented the first Board of Selectmen Service Award to two "outstanding volunteers." The two recipients have more than 70 years of town service between them.
Bob Nordstrand has served for more than 40 years on the Board of Assessors.
Camille Anthony just completed 18 years as a selectman. Before that, she served on the Conservation Commission for 12 years.
Both Nordstrand and Anthony are also members of Town Meeting.