Town Plans Steps to Reopen Amid Uncertainty

The scope of planning for a hoped-for phased reopening of the Town was made clear in Town Manager Sarah Stanton’s report to the Select Board on April 29. Every department is actively exploring how to move forward when the time is ripe.

The Finance Department reports the town is in good financial shape so far. The due date for real estate taxes, excise taxes, and water and sewer bills has been extended to June 1. Even so, nearly 92% of real estate tax has been collected and the department is prepared to manage any tax deferral requests.

Stanton announced that Alyssa Sandoval, Economic Development Director, is developing small business/large business partnerships to help small businesses through the crisis.  She is initiating a small business survey to gather information about their needs.

Students will not return to classrooms, but the administration and parent groups are looking for ways to celebrate the graduating class of 2020.

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Republic Services, Bedford’s refuse contractor, will once again collect overflow garbage bags and the dump continues to see a steady stream of residents bringing yard waste.

The public library is talking with other area libraries about how to coordinate reopening for limited service

Planning for Annual Town Meeting has involved a team including the Board of Health, Facilities, the Town Clerk, Town Counsel, and Moderator Cathy Cordes. Just how Bedford can manage an open town meeting that provides for discussion and voting has not yet been established. Cordes has regularly participated in discussions with other moderators about options.

Open Town Meeting is challenging simply because it is open to every voter and it is not known how many may choose to come or how to plan for social distancing. A concrete first step is to establish a shorter warrant. A draft list of articles to be postponed was established and will be discussed in detail at the next Select Board meeting.  The Board agreed that articles related to a new fire station would be among those to be postponed. The new warrant including place and time will be mailed to each household in accordance with the bylaws. The Board voted unanimously to postpone Town Meeting another 30 days, with the new date set for June 3.

Select Board member Margot Fleischman asked about future FEMA funds coming to the town. The Town Manager said the paperwork has been completed and the Town is hoping for 75% reimbursement

A motion to close Springs Brook Park and other summer recreation programs for the summer was approved 5-0-0. Select Board member Emily Mitchell underscored that the vote was only about the coronavirus conditions this summer and not indicative of the future of SBP. In addition, a motion to postpone the July 4 fireworks to Bedford Day was approved. The vendor is holding that date for the town, and as Mitchell quipped, “We are keeping our powder dry.”

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