The Board’s motion, 4-0-0, unanimously declared the property unique with respect to specific criteria listed in the motion: lot size, accessibility to Bedford’s arterial roadways, and a specified range of response time to each of the town’s extremities.
Such a “determination of uniqueness” is required in order to comply with Massachusetts procurement law. Town counsel George Hall explained that Massachusetts Chapter 30B allows towns to opt-out of requests for proposals “if [such requests] don’t benefit the town, in that this is the only property suitable for the intended purpose.”
Hall’s colleague Stephanie Dubanowitz, a specialist in real estate acquisition, added that the determination of uniqueness will be published for 30 days in the Central Register to satisfy legal obligations. In answer to a question from board member Bopha Malone, Hall and Dubanowitz noted they have often seen this process executed in other towns.
Prior to Monday’s vote, the board received a letter from an abutter challenging the legality of such a determination of uniqueness.
Raymond Miyares, attorney for abutter Carol C. Amick of 18 Crescent Ave., contended that state law requires a professional investigation before a property can be designated as unique.
Amick is the owner of the Crescent Avenue property; her spouse, William Moonan, is a Select Board member who has recused himself from discussions and negotiations concerning 139 The Great Road.
The property at 18 Crescent Avenue is contiguous to the 64,000-square-foot parcel at 139 The Great Road. Indeed, Moonan has said the two parcels were once a single property.
Amick has expressed her concerns as an abutter at two Select Board meetings, as well as during a virtual session for abutters.
Miyares’s February 14 letter stated that Amick “urges the Select Board not to invoke the ‘unique acquisition’ exception at its meeting this evening or thereafter, and instead to acknowledge that it was without authority to execute a contract to purchase the referenced property. She further requests that the Select Board issue a proper solicitation if it wishes to conduct a lawfully conforming procurement process.”
The letter asserted that “contracts executed in violation of Chapter 30B are invalid, and the town is not permitted to make payment under such contracts.” He also wrote, citing specific sections of state law, “A violation of Chapter 30B puts the town at risk of a bid protest from competing proposers, a legal challenge from concerned taxpayers, or an enforcement action instituted by the inspector general.”
Miyares’s also pointed out that “Ms. Amick is also the record owner of property, located at 277 The Great Road, that would have been offered to the Town on favorable terms in response to a solicitation that complied with section 16, had one been performed.”
“In addition to Ms. Amick’s Great Road property, there are undoubtedly a host of properties that meet these criteria,” the letter said. “In addition, a property cannot qualify as unique merely because it is the only property the town has identified as fitting its needs. One of the purposes of an open and fair procurement process is to allow the town to investigate thoroughly all potential properties that may meet its requirements before proceeding with a purchase.”
On Tuesday the office of the Select Board issued a statement in response to Atty. Miyares’s letter, that read in part: “After a comprehensive multi-year process to find a suitable and available site for a new fire station facility, the Select Board made a determination that advertising for further proposals would not benefit the town: a determination that was both sensible under the circumstances and consistent with state law.”
Asked on Tuesday if she was contemplating further action, Amick said, “At this point we are considering all of our options.”
About 139 The Great Road
The property a 139 The Great Road is owned by Utah State University, which intends to sell it this spring—on the open market if Bedford does not purchase the property. The Select Board has signed a purchase-and-sale agreement, but its execution depends on town meeting approval of the funding.
The $1.55 million cost is some six million dollars less than the original choice for a site, 175 The Great Road, at the corner of Webber Avenue. The Select Board was poised to begin eminent domain proceedings to acquire the building when the coronavirus halted the process in March 2020. That plan was expected to be resurrected for the March 2022 annual town meeting until the availability of 139 The Great Road was discovered a few months ago.
Later in Monday’s meeting, the Select Board recommended approval of two town meeting articles: Article 8 to acquire the land and Article 9 for design and project management of the fire headquarters. Both were approved unanimously.
Open Forum on the Fire Station scheduled for Thursday at 7 pm
A public forum on the fire station is scheduled at 7 pm on Thursday, Feb. 17, via Zoom link: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/85697880909?pwd=SVY1M1MrbEo4MUlXbDg0aFVnNHpldz09
Mike Rosenberg can be reached at [email protected], or 781-983-1763