The Special Town Meeting on Nov. 14 was a record-breaker in attendance and length in response to intense public interest in the proposed Minuteman Bikeway extension and, to a lesser degree, petitioner articles challenging the site for a new firehouse.
Voters also approved several other articles on the warrant that didn’t command as much attention.
Town Meeting affirmed the annual property tax surcharge of three percent to sustain the Community Preservation Fund.
Select Board member Margot Fleischman, who for years has been part of the Community Preservation Committee, emphasized the exemption allowances for residents who qualify. “We’ve always recognized, that for some people, it represents a hardship,” she said.
The three percent level means the town is eligible for the maximum state contribution, she noted. This year it appears the state will match 50 percent of the amount raised locally. Over the more than 20 years of the program, she added, the town has received more than $10 million in state community preservation matching funds.
Special Town Meeting also approved a $150,000 supplement to the current year’s community preservation allocation, covering an underestimated cost for lights at the Railroad Avenue tennis courts. That facility will be refitted to primarily accommodate pickleball. Also approved was an additional $14,595 for the town archives.
Town Meeting agreed to authorize the Select Board to seek approval from the Legislature allowing the town to post required public notices online or on a physical bulletin board.
The law now requires publication of so-called “legal notices” in printed newspapers of general community circulation. There are none of those in Bedford. Notices are now advertised in a regional daily at a cost significantly more than charged by the former weekly newspaper.
State Rep. Kenneth Gordon told the Town Meeting that he anticipates moving the petition forward if approved.
Two of the approved articles transfer funds from a reserve account to cover retroactive pay increases under two recently-approved collective bargaining agreements. The town and unions of the firefighters and Department of Public Works employees have signed separate contracts, effective last July 1.
Voters also approved adding $33,143 to the fiscal 2023 vocational education budget to cover one student’s tuition at Minuteman Technical High School in Lexington. Bedford is not part of the Minuteman district, but students may attend that school if their primary program is not offered at Shawsheen Valley Technical High.