~ Submitted by Carol Amick and Bill Moonan
We are saddened and disappointed that the Select Board failed to follow the statutory procurement process in its actions to identify a site for a new fire station. We all know that their vote declaring 139 The Great Rd. “unique” was baseless, as there are other larger and wider properties that would have better accommodated the fire station design and kept our firefighters from serving as traffic cops, a necessary requirement to get the ladder truck into the narrow 139 Great Road site.
We are also disheartened that the Select Board chose 139 The Great Road in secret, instead of following Bedford’s tradition of public participation and inclusion, using a committee of citizens and elected officials to evaluate potential sites. This is the process that the Town has used for decades to procure or modify its municipal facilities.
Had the Select Board instead chosen to treat our community as willing and insightful participants in Town decision-making, rather than self-serving outsiders, residents could have weighed in on a number of possible locations, including the one the Select Board itself chose in 2020 (175 The Great Road), and another site (the Bedford Motel at 30 North Road), that is just as close to the current fire station as the site that the Select Board now claims is “unique.” Both of these sites were on the Select Board’s list of finalist sites.
It has been gratifying to hear from so many residents who have told us that, given a choice, they would have picked the Bedford Motel site because a fire station in that part of the Historic District would have had the least impact on the streetscape, which is visually commercial, and is large enough to provide a four-bay fire station with rear access to the bays for ease of repositioning fire apparatus.
We were not motivated as abutters to try to stop this sale. We believe Town officials’ promises that a berm topped with shrubs and trees would be constructed between our property and 139 The Great Road to serve as an adequate natural barrier between our residence, which is two football fields away from the proposed firehouse site. Instead, our motivation was and continues to be to protect our precious Center Historic District. Bedford will be a less appealing place in the future if our elected officials are allowed to cause serious and irremediable damage to the best part of the Historic District. This District is an important memorial to our rich history and the contributions of our early residents. To destroy a key historic home in the District for a fire station (with a projected 20-year useful life) will deprive current and future citizens of access to their heritage. This is short-sighted and tragic.
From the Opinion Editor’s note: At 455 words, this statement exceeds our 400-word limit per letter but since it concerns today’s action by the Select Board regarding the purchase of 139 The Great Road, it was decided that we should publish it in full.