Voters Approve All Capital Improvement Projects  Except Transportation

March 31, 2022

Millions of dollars in capital improvements will result from approvals by voters at Bedford’s 2022 Annual Town Meeting Monday and Tuesday.

But the biggest news is what will not happen, at least for part of the current fiscal year.

Voters Tuesday defeated the transportation improvement component of the article, a $1.6 million proposal comprising work on a variety of projects.  The measure was approved, 208-156, but fell far short of the required two-thirds vote for bonded articles.

Select Board Chair Emily Mitchell acknowledged that the vote shuts the door—at least for now—on “many long-needed transportation improvement projects. The Select Board, town staff, and the other affected boards will need to figure that out in the coming days and weeks.”

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A big reason for the failure was a lack of specificity in the warrant and other descriptions. “This is a poor way to do business,” said Walter St. Onge, a former Selectman and Finance Committee member. “It’s a very generalized bond authorization, with no real certainty as to how the money is going to be expended, for what purpose, and why.” He urged a negative vote.

Select Board member Margot Fleischman said $700,000 is earmarked for the replacement of a culvert under the Shawsheen River bridge on Summer Street. Another $300,000 targets a wider sidewalk on the north side of Railroad Avenue, she said, and $30,000 is for bicycle parking and shelters at the middle and Lane schools.

She said $200,000 will continue implementing the Great Road Master Plan, focusing on potential improvements to the intersection of Concord, North, and The Great Roads. These details were not enumerated in the warrant.

Of particular interest was money earmarked for the Minuteman Bikeway extension—a plan that was defeated Monday night when Town Meeting did not vote to authorize the Select Board to obtain necessary easements.

Fleischman explained it was recently discovered that some parts of the trail, assumed to be town property, are actually privately owned, and utilities are buried there. She said the money will fund legal and engineering work because “we want to make sure we have continued public access, even as the extension remains an unimproved trail.”

“The description is a little bit of bait and switch. What you are saying now is different than what was described,” said St. Onge, adding, “I don’t see why we should appropriate more money for a project that is not going to happen.”

Following are other significant capital projects that will happen:

  • A municipal space-needs study. This $182,000 may ultimately open the logjam that has resulted in the town museum and Bedford TV vying for the same Old Town Hall space. The vacant Veterans of Foreign Wars building on Loomis Street will be included. In answer to a question, Fleischman said it also will include the current fire station.
  • Replacement of the town/school financial system for $783,513. Resident Ronald O’Brien questioned the procurement process for the projected Munis software. Fleischman said so far the town has only obtained quotes. “There was a clear preference here. It seems the town is committed to a predetermined outcome,” St. Onge commented. Fleischman pointed out that the current system will no longer be supported by the vendor in two years, and town staff is “already experiencing a lot of operational difficulties.” She said the total cost will be $1.3 million, some of which will be in a future operating budget.
  • A $669,500 expansion study of Shawsheen Cemetery. Asked by Stephane Gagne why a study is so expensive, Fleischman replied that it also includes engineering and design.
  • Two gender-neutral bathrooms at Sabourin Field.
  • Replacement of the Public Works Department’s vacuum truck and three police vehicles.
  • A new connection to the regional water system at the Burlington line.
  • Replacement of information technology equipment in the schools, an annual expenditure.
  • Repair of the pedestrian bridge over Elm Brook on The Great Road.Mike Rosenberg can be reached at [email protected], or 781-983-1763

Mike Rosenberg can be reached at [email protected], or 781-983-1763

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