~Submitted by Don Corey
The need for a fire substation east of the Route 3 corridor has been on the table for years. When I was a Selectman decades ago, we hired the former State Fire Marshall, Robert Ulm, as the new Chief. He was extremely knowledgeable regarding fire safety. Development on Middlesex Turnpike was underway then, and Chief Ulm was clear that Bedford would need a substation in that corridor. It was not a question of “If,” but of “When”.
The Select Board is aware of the situation. Hence, the Bedford Motel site is considered unacceptable for the fire station because it is “too far away” for rapid response to that corridor. The Board’s decision that 139 The Great Road is best because it is a few hundred yards closer is very subjective.
I live on the edge of town – the last house on Page Road. It is 2-1/4 miles from the Fire Station. A school serving special-needs children and young adults on Oak Park Drive is almost 4-1/2 miles from the Fire Station by Burlington Road or 5 miles by Old Billerica Road. The Albion Road residential neighborhood is also almost 4-1/2 miles away. That is double the distance for the Fire Department to reach anywhere else in town. Those who, live, work, and pay property taxes along that corridor don’t receive as rapid response as the rest of us.
Consideration of a substation there should have been part of the discussion since Day 1 of the new main fire station planning. The value of the high-tech properties along the corridor has skyrocketed. The resident population has greatly increased. When the Tri-Town highway improvement project is completed, a further surge in economic development is anticipated.
An independent impartial needs assessment should be conducted (perhaps by the State Fire Marshall’s office), and the issue should be brought to Town Meeting. Approval of a Town Meeting article for a substation would allow consideration of alternative main fire station sites. Neither Lexington’s nor Concord’s main fire station is even close to historic buildings in the town centers because both have substations.
Burlington and Billerica have substations to protect their residents and properties along that corridor, but Bedford has failed to act. The Select Board has no interest in a substation, and it has stifled debate on the issue. It clearly intends to “kick the can down the road” for years.