Annual Town Meeting 2016: Day Three Recap – Tuesday, April 6

Compiled by The Bedford Citizen

Old Town SealBedford’s 2016 Annual Town Meeting ended quietly at 10:40 pm on Tuesday, April 5 after full discussions of several remaining articles and the Town’s operating budget for Fiscal Year 2017.

Thanks to The Citizen’s reporters, here are summaries of the articles that sparked debate.

Article 19: Capital Projects, 17-32Town-School Communication System
On the second night of ATM March 29 the budget line for a town-wide communication system had been debated for an hour, when the meeting was adjourned without a vote. It was taken up again at the beginning of the next session April 5.(A planned Monday, April 4 session was cancelled due to weather.) At both sessions debate centered on the question of whether a town-owned system would be cost effective when compared to an outside vendor.

The next Tuesday, a vote to bond the article was approved with the understanding that additional options suggested by residents would be explored. Moderator Catherine Cordes pointed out that the motion was to approve the funds, but that the specific implementation of the project was not part of the motion. The Selectmen will issue a Request for Proposal before a contract is awarded.

Previously reported in the Bedford Citizen:

Article 20: Community Preservation Budget
The Community Preservation Commission budget sparked a few questions but was approved with little opposition. One voter opposed spending $100,000 for design of a program to reduce aquatic vegetation saying that nature should be allowed to take its course. Don Corey spoke in favor of 75,000 for the Historic Properties Preservation Fund.

Article 21: Expanded Local Transit Pilot Program
Article 21 supports a pilot project for a local transit service pilot in Bedford. It will supplement the current Bedford Local Transit (BLT) service with an additional bus for a two-year trial period costing $207,300.  The pilot program will provide a dispatch service that will gather information about which mix of service options will work best for Bedford.

After moving the article Selectman Margot Fleischman presented an overview of the plan and the status of the existing BLT service.   She noted the BLT is a one driver, one vehicle (fourteen passenger van) service with a one-hour window for dispatch in the morning and then 6 and ½ hours of scheduled services throughout the rest of the day. Although still in demand out of town trips can no longer be provided due to the volume of in-town service requests.  The scheduled routes start and end at the Council on Aging at Town Center. The current system is not capable of tracking unmet needs. Fleischman also noted that the changing demographics in Bedford, with significant growth in the elderly population, add to the need for alternative transportation options.

The Selectmen, Finance Committee, Planning Board, and Transportation Advisory Committee all strongly endorsed this article.
During the town citizen comment period concern was raised about the existing service and the disability accessibility for the added service.  Fleischman noted it is a complement to the existing service and in no way will replace or reduce the current BLT services and that accessibility issues will be covered in the request for proposals for the pilot.
Another citizen thanked town officials for putting forth this article and complemented the general climate of concern for ensuring mobility options for town residents.    Another comment from a former BLT user reinforced the presented information about the existing service being unavailable due to high demand.

See a previous Bedford Citizen article:

Article 24: Bedford’s FY2017 Operating Budgets
Each year the Annual Town Meeting reviews and approves a budget for the next fiscal year beginning July 1. On Tuesday April 5,Stephen Steele, chair of the Finance Committee presented the FY17 comprehensive operating budget of $83,722,578, which includes the costs of operating the town and the schools. Funds to support the budget are raised primarily from local taxes.

It passed unanimously with onea hold on the Insurance and Benefits account.  All other accounts were approved by voice vote. The questioner asked whether there were funds set aside for future retirement liabilities.  The reply was that those funds were the subject of the upcoming Article 27 “Other Post-Employment Benefits Liability Trust Fund Appropriation.”  The Insurance and Benefits account then also passed unanimously.

The FY 2017 budget reflects a 3.4% increase over FY 2016, and a residential tax levy impact of approximately $1,400 per $100,000 of assessed value.

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