Town Manager Engages Preservation Expert to Consult on Firehouse Project

September 16, 2022

Town Manager Sarah Stanton has added an extra layer of protection to the design process for the proposed new fire station in the Bedford Center Historic District.

Stanton told the Select Board Monday that she has engaged the services of a “historic preservation consultant.” She said this specialist will be working with department heads, neighbors, and the Historic District Commission “to get a better handle on the property, including the details of the current building.”

The approved site of 139 The Great Road has engendered concern among some residents about the impact of a fire station on the character of the historic area.

“I think the historic preservation consultant will be wonderful,” working in partnership with other stakeholders, Stanton said. “We have folks speaking the same language, sharing the same value of preservation, and working on behalf of the town.” She said the consultant will “engage in conversation with the Historic District Commission to find out their concerns.”

Stanton Tuesday said she wants to wait until a contract is executed before announcing the name of the consultant.

The Board Monday also approved authorizing the town manager to negotiate with PMA Associates of Braintree, the choice as the owner’s project manager for the fire station. Stanton said the firm has “extensive experience” in fire station projects, especially in historic districts. She mentioned Arlington, North Andover, and Uxbridge as clients.

The selection committee for the project manager – Stanton, Fire Chief David Grunes, Facilities Director Taissir Alani, and Amy Fidalgo, assistant town manager for operations — interviewed five applicants. Fire Department Capt. Mark Sullivan joined the group for sessions with the two finalists.

In a letter to Stanton on behalf of the search committee, Alani said PMA “presented a clear vision on how to help the town navigate through the process of communicating with every appropriate town committee and all stakeholders. This collaboration would continue through the process of forming the building committee, hiring of the project architects, as well as throughout the design, construction, and closeout of the project.”

Stanton said this is “step one on our journey to build a new fire station.” That journey will take time, she emphasized.

The Building Committee will include three residents, as well as the town manager, and representatives of the Fire and Facilities Departments, Stanton said. The Volunteer Coordinating Committee will be the clearinghouse for citizens interested in serving.

The Building Committee will work with the project manager and the consultant to prepare a request for proposals leading to selection of an architect, she said.

That won’t happen until at least the beginning of 2023, Stanton added, “months and months away.” Under state procurement law for construction of a public building, there are “lots of steps.”

“We still have an urgent need for a new station, but we can’t rush this process,” said Board Chair Emily Mitchell. “I really love that we are able to bring in a historic preservation consultant.”

Board member Ed Pierce called for “periodic open forums on where the process is, what it looks like. That will be extremely helpful for the next phase.”

Stanton concurred. “This process is so detailed and thoughtful. The more we can get public feedback the better.” Mitchell said she believes the project management firm, PMA, values public meetings and outreach, and also favors “building green.”

The town manager also stressed the importance of working with firefighters on the planning. “They have a lot of thoughts on what they want their building to look like.”

“We know we have a great team. It’s great to see them in action on this project,” Stanton declared.

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