The Select Board on Monday appointed six at-large members to the Bedford Fire Station Building Committee, and they’ll be figuratively hitting the ground running.
And the committee is expected to begin meeting soon, since one of its first tasks will be to review design proposals; the deadline for bidding on design is Thursday. The Select Board wants to award a contract at its March 13 meeting.
Design is key to the future of the fire station project, sited at 139 The Great Road, in the Bedford Center Historic District. The Historic District Commission can deny a demolition permit for the building now at that location if it doesn’t feel the fire station proposal complements the neighborhood.
The original plan was to add three residents to the building committee, which is chaired by Town Manager Sarah Stanton and also includes four other members of town staff.
But after interviewing Jeff Cohen, Angelo Colasante, Jeffrey Dearing, Jamie Emerson, Suzanne Koller, and Nina Tate, the board voted 4-1 to expand the committee and appoint them all.
Select Board member Ed Pierce introduced the idea. “Each one brings something different,” he explained. “I think it would help having more citizen involvement at this level, people who can talk to others, tell them what’s going on with the project.”
Pierce, like several of the candidates, is a veteran of various school building committees, going back to the 1990s. He pointed out that those panels had significant resident representation. “It’s important for public outreach,” he said. “And it worked.”
According to an amendment to a Town Meeting motion, the fire station building committee “at minimum” will consist of the fire chief or designee, the facilities director, and three citizen representatives. Stanton later added Fire Department Capt. Mark Sullivan, another firefighter, and Select Board member Emily Mitchell.
The at-large appointees bring the membership to 12. The motion also included an additional staff member, as yet unnamed, to ensure that there won’t be any tie votes with a full committee.
The Town Meeting definition states that the three citizen appointees “have at least five years’ experience in building construction projects as a project manager, clerk of the works, architect, mechanical, electrical, or civil engineer, or other discipline directly related to building construction.” The requirement doesn’t apply to additional members.
Cohen, an architectural engineer and project manager with experience on in public sector and military projects, is a former member of the Planning Board. Colasante said his 30 years of experience ranges from field engineering to project management.
Dearing, an architect, said he was involved with the renovation of the First Parish Church on the Common, including hearings with the Historic District Commission. He added that about 30 years ago, he was involved with firehouse designs with a New York firm. Like Colasante, Dearing is a member of the Zoning Board of Appeals.
Emerson, also an architect, said he spent several years working for a firm that specializes in public safety facilities. Tate’s resume includes building committees for work on all four schools; she said she is familiar with the process. Koller cited her involvement with the HDC on the renovation of her real estate office at 90 The Great Road. She said she is a former member of the Historic Preservation Commission.
The candidates answered prepared questions about the challenges and priorities of the project. They offered a variety of perspectives and no areas of disagreement.
Dearing pointed out that the lot is long and narrow, and will have to accommodate turning vehicles and traffic flow. He spoke of the project’s “integration with the fabric of the neighborhood to feel that it belongs.”
Emerson said he sees traffic volume on The Great Road as a key issue. He called for the release of early renderings that “you can actually show people.” Colasante agreed about the importance of “letting the public know their concerns are valid. This is a landmark project, something the town will take pride in.”
Cohen commented that “one of the biggest challenges is integrating that entrance onto The Great Road,” navigating grade changes and utilities. Tate’s top “technical issue” is traffic, and she stressed that “the most challenging piece is really going to be community buy-in.”
Koller pointed out that the design should anticipate changes in population and technology. “Green components” are changing almost by the day, she added, and an emphasis on incorporation of these measures will engender more community support.
Several candidates mentioned the need to ensure the accuracy of design documents, and to give residents opportunities for input as the project proceeds. Tate said issues like parking lots and drainage are of particular concern to neighbors.
The applicants also agreed on the need to emphasize the Fire Department’s priorities, and to take the time necessary to achieve success.
Mitchell cast the sole vote against expanding the appointments. The original committee size is more manageable, she said, and members could be added later. Pierce, who will retire from the board on March 11, asserted, “This will have to be carefully designed and by involving more citizenry in the project you have more opportunities to have more voices heard. We want multiple voices.”