RAAC Supports YMCA Funding Requests, Birch Meadow | While reading

READING – At last week’s meeting, the Reading ARPA Advisory Committee (RAAC) took no votes and did not recommend spending a single penny. It was a very different story on Tuesday night.

The RAAC got five votes and approved funds for the Burbank Y, Birch Meadow, preservation of the city’s history, conservation and pantry. By the end of the 3.5-hour meeting, the RAAC had allocated over $1.7 million.

This flurry of spending left $1,917,314 in ARPA funds remaining, meaning the finish line was near for the committee, with only two big demands left on the table – bounties and water and sewer. . The remaining money, if any, would go to smaller requests. But the late hour prevailed and the members will meet one last time on October 12 to finish their work.

RAAC recommendations now go to the Select Board which has the final say on ARPA funds.

The evening began with a follow-up presentation by the Burbank YMCA to provide more details on their previous proposal requesting $96,100 for adapted and/or specialized recreation programs for people/children with disabilities.

John Feudo, executive director of the Burbank YMCA, told the committee that swimming programs would prioritize Reading residents and perhaps include a registration period just for them. Questions about costs, personnel and timing were all answered.

“Any funding we receive from the City of Reading ARPA fund is a donation to the YMCA of Burbank in the form of a grant and we will place it in an earmarked fund,” Feudo said, addressing committee concerns about the funds. staying in town and not going to the Greater Boston YMCA.

RAAC members then referred to an earlier discussion of the two models that Tom Wise and Shawn Brandt presented at the last meeting. Since then, Wise had updated the models with additional information about the city’s staffing, as well as added compensation figures at its three levels. Low-paying employees were now classified up to $55,500. The medium was $55,501 to $97,125 and the high was above $97,125.

After a general discussion that included opinions on Microsoft Teams in the early days of Covid and the possibility of excluding high-level admins from premium compensation, it was time to start spending money.

It all started with a motion to give the YMCA of Burbank $96,100. It also included a plan to route the money through Reading Recreation. It went 8-0.

“I’m just happy we got something,” Speaker Marianne Downing said of the first vote.

It was just the beginning.

The next step was $1.5 million for the first phase of the Birch Meadow master plan. This included the central spine walkway, pavilion with restrooms, butt wall, and Imagination Station parking lot, including improvements to the surrounding wetlands. It also went 8-0.

Next is the Reading Historical Commission’s request for $13,500. Wise objected partly because he was focusing on big-ticket items and partly because he felt the city budget could absorb that amount. But others disagreed.

“It’s a modest sum for the history of the city,” said Mark Dockser.

That one went 7-1 with Wise opposed.

It continued.

The Conservation Commission’s request for $22,500 was as follows. But $2,500 of that total was for a bike rack at Mattera Cabin. Wise offered to drop the bike rack but lost, 6-2, with Chris Haley also opposing.

With the $22,500 move and the bike racks back on the table, it went 8-0 with Wise and Haley on board this time.

After a short break, the Reading Food Pantry was next. The pantry had requested $124,000 in July, then returned in August with a reduced request of $84,000. But that request was turned down 4 to 4. Shawn Brandt and Wise then offered a $46,000 compromise, which included two new refrigerators and a $15,000 consultant to find a new home for the pantry in town. . It went 8-0.

If the select board approves what the RAAC has recommended, the committee will have $1,917,314 to spend on Oct. 12. Discussions that evening could be difficult. Five of the eight RAAC members have allocated more than $1 million to water and sewer in their informal rankings. But both Select Board and RAAC members Haley and Dockser said no further ARPA funds should be used for water and sewer. With ranges at committee of $0 to $1,504,680, a trade-off could be a challenge.

But a compromise of $1 million, for example, would allow the committee to allocate $750,000 for bonus payments, and still have money for the demands of Reading Rotary ($75,000), Reading Garden Club ($12,000), Chamber of Commerce ($55,000). ), and the First Congregational Church ($34,000). It sounds simple, but the disagreement over the water and sewer figure is vast.

Since May, the RAAC had approved spending just over half of the city’s original ARPA funds ($7,592,234) and the Select Board, which has the final say, agreed. All were deemed urgent.

The select committee approved:

$2 million for a new literacy program for schools.

$650,000 to help limit rising water and sewer rates.

$900,000 for services for seniors.

$250,000 for covid supplies and test kits.

$77,000 for flood mitigation in Maillet Sommes.

$8,000 to survey two lots on Sanborn Lane.

$11,620 for the trail committee for work at Mattera Cabin as well as improvements to the boardwalk.

$100,000 to the Municipal Forestry Committee to continue its work of removing dead trees and invasive species.

These approvals left $3,595,614 remaining in available ARPA funds. But in the space of two hours on Tuesday, the total has dropped significantly with an October meeting remaining for the Reading ARPA advisory committee.

Chris B. Hall