Protection of the integrity of the bucolic Buehler ponds leads the relatively modest community preservation projects list for fiscal year 2024.
The Bedford Select Board at its Jan. 30 meeting recommended approval of the projects, which will ultimately be decided at Annual Town Meeting on March 27.
The entire community preservation budget is $1,411,160, but $906,203 is for installments on several major purchases and projects that were financed by bonding.
Under state law, community preservation projects must fall within three categories: affordable housing, historic preservation, and open space/recreation. Local funding is generated by a surcharge on real estate tax payments, and a percentage is matched by state funds.
For years it has been the practice to divert eligible maintenance and repairs of town property to the community preservation fund, which means the work is in effect subsidized by state money.
The main focus of the $152,000 allocation for the Buehler Conservation Area is fortification of the berm that impounds two small ponds. The berm is “starting to fail,” according to Public Works Director David Manugian, whose department will be in charge of the project.
The ponds are the centerpiece of the scenic conservation area, a total of 10.5 acres acquired by the town through three separate transactions beginning in 1978. The site is west of the narrow-gauge rail trail, just north of Job Lane School.
The ponds are remnants of the Buehler family estate, which stretched to the east from North Road across the rail trail to Springs Road more than a half-century ago. The Buehlers at one time stocked the hillside off North Road with a species of deer from the Far East and constructed a replica pagoda, which became the popular name of the ponds, an informal swimming destination through the 1960s.
Besides the Buehler conservation work, other planned projects for next fiscal year in the category of recreation and open space are $43,000 for fencing on the high school athletics complex; $37,800 to upgrade the walkway across the beach to the pond at Springs Brook Park; and $11,000 for trails improvements.
Allocations proposed under historic preservation are $75,570 for upgrading the elevator controls in Old Town Hall, $71,500 for repairing the roof of the Job Lane House, and $28,270 for preservation of archival records.
The affordable housing components are $37,817 to continue the life-management program for Bedford Housing Authority residents and $38,000 for affiliation with the Regional Housing Services Office, which administers the town’s affordable housing inventory.
The bond payments are for the purchase of acreage off Concord Road that was targeted for a large housing development many years ago; the mechanical, electrical, and plumbing upgrade of Town Hall; the development of athletic fields on land off Liljegren Way; payments securing the affordable housing at Bedford Village; and restoration work at Fawn Lake. All of these obligations are scheduled to be completed between 2026 and 2030.
Another $10,000 is allocated for administration.
The chair of the Community Preservation Committee, Lee Vorderer, told the Select Board that local grants are open to all, and her group “nurtures those who are interested in making application. We really are excited to spend the money on things that help Bedford.”