Town Meeting Petitioner Aims to Suspend, Relocate Fire Station Project

September 16, 2022

Opponents of locating a new fire station at 139 The Great Road will attempt to suspend and relocate the project through two petitioner’s articles at the Nov. 14 special town meeting.

One article, if passed, would halt any expenditures “except as necessary under contract.”

A companion article would require the moderator to appoint a five-person committee to conduct at least two public meetings, accept suggestions for fire station locations, review the recommendations, and report the results before the 2023 annual town meeting.

Former Selectman Donald Corey, who has been a vocal opponent of the planned location, is a driver behind the campaign to suspend the project. He objects to the site because he fears a fire station would compromise the historic character of the Bedford Center Historic District.

“I want to proceed with the petitioner’s articles so we can give a full presentation of issues and problems and things that were not able to be said,” Corey explained. “I had three minutes to say my concerns at Annual Town Meeting and I had a lot more that I think was of importance for people to make an informed decision. They got everything from the Select Board side.”

A longtime opponent of the proposal to relocate the fire station to 139 The Great Road, Carol Amick reached out by email on Friday. “I’m sending this out on behalf of Don Corey, who is gathering signatures for 2 petitioners’ articles relative to the location of a new fire station.  Several people are helping Don collect signatures.  In addition, Margaret and Gail Donovan, the daughters of Connie Donovan who was instrumental in getting the Bedford Historic District enabling law enacted by the Legislature in 1964, will have a booth at tomorrow’s Bedford Day event.  Please stop by if you haven’t signed the petitions!”

A former resident, Margaret Donovan has privately protested the location. She arranged for a Bedford Day booth under the name SaveOurBlock.org, where she will collect petition signatures. (As of Friday afternoon, that website had something to do with a campaign to rebuild the World Trade Center in Manhattan.)

Petitioner’s articles for a special town meeting require 100 signatures of Bedford registered voters. The deadline for submitting the petitions is Sept. 26, the day the Select Board is supposed to close the warrant.

Annual Town Meeting voted by more than a two-thirds margin on March 29 to authorize the purchase of 139 The Great Road and engage a designer to begin planning the new facility. Last Monday the Select Board authorized Town Manager Sarah Stanton to work out the details leading to a contract with an owner’s project manager.

Stanton said at the meeting she is also planning to engage a historic preservation expert, and that actual design won’t begin for several months. Soon, the Volunteer Coordinating Committee will be seeking candidates for Building Committee.

Corey, a pre-eminent local historian and member of the Historic Preservation Commission, provided a couple of examples of what he said he didn’t have time to report:

  • “The Select Board is violating the clearly-stated intent of the Historic District,” Corey charged. Corey bases this on a statement from Town Historian Louise Brown after the district was created in 1962: “There has been an awful lot of destruction, but now with everything in the local Historic District, everything is safe.” Corey said the proposal disregards 60 years of precedent.
  • As part of an area listed in the National Register of Historic Places, Corey said, the building at 139 The Great Road cannot be demolished using state or federal money because it would “damage the integrity” of the district. The town used $150,000 from an American Rescue Plan Act grant to meet an unexpected gap in the purchase price for the property.

“These are things that I wanted to say but never had the opportunity,” said Corey.

According to the potential special town meeting article, the citizens’ panel could not include members of town boards or committees, or officeholders.  “The intent of Corey’s article is to allow townspeople to participate in a process to identify the best new fire station site for the community,” according to a handout.

Editor’s Note 09.20.2022: The correct link for SaveOurBlock.org has been inserted into the text.

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September 20, 2022 10:33 pm

Those of us who are supporting the two articles for the Special Town Meeting Warrant that call for a more thorough look at the proposed site for the new fire station believe we are acting in everyone’s best interest. We honestly believe that locating the station at 139 Great Road would possibly be the biggest mistake Bedford has ever made and would lead to much buyer’s remorse.
 
Those who have commented below clearly do not share that belief. But they are operating on the selective information that was released by the Town in the weeks leading up to the March 29th vote. We are going to spend the next eight weeks filling in the information gaps at SaveOurBlock.org as a clearinghouse for those who wish to know more. A full discussion of the pros and cons will be presented there.
 
If 139 Great Road actually is the right location for the new station, shining more light on the issues can only make that more obvious and give greater legitimacy to a plan that was approved by only a few votes in March — 268 out of thousands of eligible voters! Or, as the Bedford Citizen reported at the time, by the slimmest of margins.
 
There is nothing counterproductive or disrespectful about looking more deeply into the merits and drawbacks of the official plan before drastically changing Bedford’s cherished face forever. We think it would be disrespectful to fail to do that and, judging by the feedback we got at Bedford Day, we are not alone.
 
(Please note: An SSL glitch routed visitors to an unrelated site on our server. Any continued trouble reaching SaveOurBlock.org can be resolved by clearing the cache.)
 

Mario Mendes
September 29, 2022 10:59 pm

You don’t even live in town. Go away. Find an issue you can be passionate about where you actually live.

2/3 or the voters in town said “get rid of the ugly old building because the firehouse is actually more important.”

Whether you think 2/3 or people who voted in the town meeting is 2/3 of all voters in Bedford or not as you tried to argue on FB does not matter because by MA law, that’s how town meeting voting works. Those who show up are the voters. Those who do not show up to vote are not counted as voters for the town meeting.

Let the people in Bedford make decisions for Bedford. According to your FB page, you live in NY. Stay out of our business.

September 30, 2022 10:04 am
Reply to  Mario Mendes

I have been sick this week, but tested negative and hope to start adding content to SaveOurBlock.org today and throughout the weekend. If you care about Bedford as much as you say you do you will want to get to the facts rather than just reinforce your own position, which is based on limited information. It will address all your concerns, including more info on how Town Meeting works — or at least is supposed to. (By the way, the Town Manager chose to buy a house in Concord.)

Last edited 1 year ago by Margaret L Donovan
September 30, 2022 4:40 pm
Reply to  Mario Mendes

I have been sick this week, but tested negative for Covid and hope to start adding content to SaveOurBlock.org today and throughout the weekend. If you care about Bedford as much as you say you do you will want to get to the facts rather than just reinforce your own position, which is based on limited information. The site will address all of your concerns, including more info on how Town Meeting works — or at least is supposed to. The idea that the input from someone who grew up in Bedford, has deep roots in Bedford, has immediate family in Bedford, and will be buried in Bedford has no value and should not be shared with voters — whether it serves the town’s best interests or not — speaks for itself.

Thomas Kenny
September 18, 2022 1:07 pm

I am confused as to what the concern is, other than NIMBY, of replacing a decrepit and mostly ignored building that adds nothing to the “Historic District” on Great Road, far from the Town Green where the existing Fire Station now resides in a Historic District that everyone recognizes and gathers on. This new location of such local neighborhood concern is separated by what most Townpeople consider the actual Historic District, by a small strip mall and a full service gas station. I am confident that the New Fire Station will be appropriate in design to actually improve the location that over 2/3’rd of the town people voted to proceed with.The existing Fire Station, though overcrowded and outdated, is kept neat and clean and has always been a good neighbor and an asset to the community at that location. I fully expect that tradition by our Fire and rescue personnel to continue. It is time to stop all this divisive and sometimes underhanded legal maneuvers to ursurp the will of the majority of the voters of Bedford. .

Mario Mendes
September 19, 2022 1:34 pm
Reply to  Thomas Kenny

This is 100% NIMBY.

If you search this site or meeting notes, one of the abutters of 139 Great Road offered to sell one of their properties so the station could be done there instead, but it did not qualify as a good site either. So this entire thing is full of NIMBY shenanigans.

Mario Mendes
September 17, 2022 12:04 am

More than 2/3 of voters voted to get rid of that o
d building because it is not more important than a new fire station. Not at all.

And once again, people in positions of influence and power in our town’s governments are doing everything they can so the people don’t get what they voted for.

All of them, without a single exception, cannot have the best interest of the town they claim to serve when they are willingly doing everything they can to stop the will of the voters.

I call for their immediate resignation. All of them.

Kate Trigg
September 18, 2022 2:11 pm
Reply to  Mario Mendes

Unfortunately Mario, you are incorrect. Many of us, without “power or influence”, voted down the location of the new fire station. Why? Because as much as we, as a town, all realize a new station is badly needed, there are two other options within the critical response time needed (Bedford Motel and TD Band building) that are far better suited for a new station, fire truck turnaround and less traffic impact. The 139 Great Road location is long and narrow not to mention the traffic impact the new station would have on that very busy intersection. And yes, “that old building” is part of our cherished history and the beauty that makes up our town center. Making the best choice with more dialogue allowed (which is not what many voters had to voice their reasons for objection) is best for the whole town.

Tim Bennett
September 18, 2022 4:58 pm
Reply to  Kate Trigg

The motel site “was not on the list of potential locations because it is beyond the boundaries of balanced response time to the town’s extremities” according to this article. So it seems like that site at the very least is not better suited, unless you think what is best for the town is a fire station that can’t serve many of its residents. The same article cites $7.5 million dollars (over 4 times the price of 139, after it was artificially inflated by opponents of its purchase) as the price of the TD Bank building, in addition to the lengthy period needed to seize it by eminent domain, during which the town would be under served by the current station. The 139 Great Road location makes the most sense from a financial and response time standpoint, and I have yet to see any evidence that either of the other locations is better from a traffic standpoint, given 175’s proximity to the Whole Foods plaza and the Motel’s location between two “complex intersections”.

Mario Mendes
September 18, 2022 9:09 pm
Reply to  Kate Trigg

2/3+ of voters town made it known the building id old and of no importance, or of so little importance that they’re completely find with having it being torn completely down and putting a fire station where it stands now.

It doesn’t matter if there are other places. The people voted for the new station to replace *that* building. That building is worthless to 2/3+ of voters in town.

The same people agreed that whatever is build there, will have to look like it belongs there.

Town officials are supposed to do what the voters vote for, not the opposite of what the voters vote on. Doing otherwise means they are in directly conflict with what they are elected/hired to do, and as such they must go.

“that old building” is part of our cherished history and the beauty that makes up our town center.”

You can’t even see the building from the street. There is a huge tree in front of it. As far as preserving beauty from the past, that building is worthless.

Last edited 1 year ago by Mario Mendes
September 19, 2022 12:17 pm
Reply to  Kate Trigg

The problem, Kate, with the idea that these other sites are “much better suited,” is that they have already been studied and rejected by the relevant boards. The Motel has been deemed to have too much impact on response times, and the TD bank location requires an additional $7 million price tag and an eminent domain process. The site that has been selected has been vetted for response time, and the purchase has already closed. You and these petitioners may feel these other locations are “better,” but the experts that have been consulted to help the Town make this decision – as well as the 2/3 of TM who voted for the plan – do not.

Mike Barnes
September 18, 2022 4:45 pm
Reply to  Mario Mendes

You can say the same thing about the bike path. It was voted down by the people yet the powers to be didn’t like the end result so they are calling another vote.

Mario Mendes
September 19, 2022 1:31 pm
Reply to  Mike Barnes

Yes and no. The bike path project was voted yes. The part that got voted now was the part that allowed the town to purchase the parts of the path that are currently on people’s property.

I would like the path to stay as it is. Having said that, the project to get it fixed was voted and passed. And under our democracy rules, even though I voted No, the bike path got passed, and I have to live with that, because it is not up to how I feel about the path, or what you feel about the path, or anyone else. It is about how the town as a whole voted.

What is happening here is that these people believe their voices not having been heard counts more than the 2/3+ votes of the voters. And that is plain wrong. It go voted on. It passed. Period.

John McClain
September 19, 2022 2:36 pm
Reply to  Mario Mendes

“And once again, people in positions of influence and power in our town’s governments are doing everything they can so the people don’t get what they voted for.” Mario, I think your anger is misdirected, I haven’t seen anyone in town goverment looking to stop this project, quite the opposite actually. The entire select board supports this project and is very keen to see this move forward.

These two petitions are not coming from the (current) select board.

Mario Mendes
September 19, 2022 11:02 pm
Reply to  John McClain

It is a fantastic thing that everyone in the board are for this project. But there are those involved in our town’s government’s day to day dealings who are trying to derail the project still, for example people in the historic district commission. But there are others as well. These are the people I say should resign.

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