Town Manager Sarah Stanton opened the May 27 Select Board meeting with a briefing on the town’s reopening plans. In addition to businesses following Governor Charlie Baker’s four-phase reopening plan, Bedford has developed a five-stage plan for reopening town buildings and facilities.
A similar plan is being used by neighboring Lexington and Concord. While no definitive timeline has been created for this plan, the five stages are expected to be:
- Stage 1 ~ Staff return to offices at 25% capacity
- Stage 2 ~ Town facilities begin limited reopening, solely with appointments or curbside pickup
- Stage 3 ~ Town facilities open with reduced hours and limited capacity
- Stage 4 ~ Town facilities open with regular hours, but limited capacity
- Stage 5 ~ Town facilities open with no restrictions
Tentative dates have been set for limited reopening of Town Hall and DPW offices for June 15, and for the Library practicing curbside services for June 22. Town Center will remain closed until further notice, however.
Stanton also shared plans for the upcoming future for Town Board and Committee meetings. Currently, only a limited number of essential groups, such as the Board of Health and School Committee, are permitted to meet freely and regularly via Zoom. During Phases One and Two of the town’s reopening, more and more boards and committees will be permitted to meet remotely and schedule their own meetings without requesting permission from the Select Board. All must still adhere to the provisions of the Open Meeting Law, which has been temporarily amended during the pandemic.
Bedford’s Economic Development Director Alyssa Sandoval followed Stanton with a presentation on the effects of the pandemic on businesses throughout the town. Sandoval shared the results from a survey made available for all businesses. Twenty-eight companies participated, the majority of which were small businesses (5 employees or less,) but some larger ones participated as well.
The majority of businesses surveyed saw a drastic decrease in business during the pandemic. A stark 1/3 of businesses reported a drop in revenue of 91% or greater. While smaller businesses saw the largest decreases in revenue, larger businesses reported they were struggling as well.
In response to a question of what resources businesses needed to support them at this time, an overwhelming 47% responded with financial support, while some also requested best practices information and referrals.
In hopes of responding to these calls for support, Sandoval plans to promote small businesses, as well as facilitate their success during times of restricted businesses, in ways such as streamlining the process of granting permits for restaurants to have outdoor dining areas.