Published in the August 31, 2017 edition


NORTH READING — At press time, it was learned by the Transcript that action taken by the Andover Board of Selectmen Monday night gives a strong indication of that town’s desire to continue its quest to provide water to North Reading well into the next century.
This change of heart occurred after North Reading voted at its June 2016 Town Meeting to switch from its own well water, which is supplemented by purchasing two-thirds of its water needs from Andover, to buying into the MWRA system via connections in Reading and a new pumping station the town would need to build on Mill Street at the Reading town line.
Town Administrator Michael Gilleberto told the Transcript Wednesday morning that in response to all the concerns raised by North Reading’s Board of Selectmen last week, Andover voted 4-1 Aug. 28 to sign an updated “summary of terms sheet, which was the document that was pending in the discussion last Monday night.”
Additionally, Andover Selectmen took a separate vote to extend the current Intermunicipal Agreement (IMA) between the two towns by two years — to 2021 — the town administrator said. This vote was unanimous and gives North Reading the leeway it would need to potentially continue on a path for the MWRA connection while also fully evaluating options involved in remaining Andover’s largest water customer.
The updated summary of terms had not yet been submitted to Gilleberto’s office as of Wednesday morning, but it will be included in the Selectmen’s meeting packet to be discussed at the board’s meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 5, as requested by North Reading, he said.
Multiple meetings held
Discussions on whether the town of Andover will continue supplying the water needs of North Reading were ongoing during the past week to reach this point in the process.
North Reading selectmen were firm in their message to Andover at their last meeting on Aug. 21 that a definitive offer signed by a majority of Andover’s board must be in hand before their next meeting the day after Labor Day. It would appear Andover is listening and taking the town’s stance seriously.
If an agreement amenable to both towns is not met within that time frame, as of Aug. 21 at least a majority of North Reading’s selectmen were prepared to end negotiations with Andover and turn the town’s full attention to transitioning from an Andover water connection to the MWRA connection on the current timeline of July 2019.
Gilleberto had updated the Transcript on the developments in a phone interview Monday afternoon after having spent several hours that afternoon in Andover participating in a business meeting with Selectmen Bob Mauceri and Steve O’Leary along with their three Andover counterparts and representatives from the town’s Water Department and the town’s consulting firm of Wright-Pierce.
It was the second such meeting in a week between these parties “to report the outcome of our board’s discussion (last) Monday evening to relay the concerns and the timeline for the town of Andover to consider,” Gilleberto said.
No official representative from North Reading was slated to appear before Andover officials at its Aug. 28 meeting. Gilleberto said both towns watch the other town’s meetings on video to stay informed but otherwise they have been allowing each town to debate the issue among themselves in open sessions.
“They’ve provided us the opportunity to operate here so that consultation can be among the town of North Reading’s side,” he said, and North Reading has also allowed Andover officials that same consideration.
“Both communities are monitoring each (public) meeting. We’ll watch it again when they meet (Aug. 28). … The business discussions have been taking place in between the meetings.”
Only two selectmen from each town’s five-member board may be involved in those business discussions to prevent a violation of the Open Meeting Law as a majority of an elected body is barred from deliberating outside of a posted public meeting.
Gilleberto said his “understanding of where things stand” is that a decision will be made on Sept. 5 one way or another by North Reading’s selectmen. “We are on a very tight timeline and I fully expect that we are going to keep to that timeline. We have to,” Gilleberto stressed.
Reading briefed
Reading has not been left out of the loop, Gilleberto added, noting that a previously scheduled meeting with officials from that town was held Aug. 23 to update them on North Reading’s dilemma.
“We provided them a candid update as to where things stand. They understand that we’re looking at a number of different scenarios. We try to be forthright with everybody. The issue is difficult enough as it is.”