The architectural firm chosen by the Bedford Select Board on Monday to design the town’s new fire station has experience working in historic areas and engaging with communities, according to Town Manager Sarah Stanton.
Kaestle Boos Associates, Inc., of Boston, the unanimous recommendation of the Fire Station Building Committee, specializes in municipal and school facilities.
The Select Board authorized the town manager to negotiate an agreement with the firm. The price cannot exceed the $2,001,655 approved at the 2022 Annual Town Meeting. That total included the cost of the owner’s project manager, so the ceiling for the design is $1,420,000, and that information was included in the request for qualifications.
Stanton said she expects the contract to be ready for the April 10 board meeting.
The location for the new station is 139 The Great Road, within the Bedford Center Historic District. Opponents, including some abutters, unsuccessfully challenged the site selection process in court, and there are still voices of opposition.
Stanton, who chairs the Building Committee, said Kaestle Boos has “substantial experience in two areas very important to Bedford.”
Work in historic districts has included renovation as well as demolition and replacement, she said. And the firm interacts with the public; “they know there will be a lot of meetings.” Stanton added that there will not be a cap on the number of meetings.
In answer to a question by board member Shawn Hanegan, Stanton said Kaestle Boos has used video, walking tours, and school visits to inform people about projects. She added that the firm at times incorporates changes into its design as a result of input. Stanton added that discussions with the Historic District Commission could be monthly.
Among facilities in the region designed by Kaestle Boos are fire stations in Acton and Sudbury and the Minuteman Vocational Technical High School in Lexington.
Kaestle Boos was the favorite among four bidders (a fifth firm was found to be short of minimum qualifications). Interviews on March 2 were conducted by a subcommittee of the Building Committee, comprising Fire Chief David Grunes, Facilities Director Taissir Alani, at-large member Jeff Cohen, Stanton, and a representative of PMA Consultants, the owner’s project manager.
Each firm was asked seven identical questions that were provided in advance. The responses were ranked by each subcommittee member. Stanton said all five ranked Kaestle Boos at the top, “a reflection of how thoughtful their proposal was.”
Grunes pointed out that fire-station design is “a specialty market,” with unique variables such as program needs, firefighter safety, and “staying current on trends and philosophies on how to design a functional fire station.”
Kaestle Boos, Grunes said, “really highlighted the fact that they are willing to listen,” not only about programmatic needs, but also about long-term maintenance. They also very clearly articulated how they are going to speak with the community. They did a very good job of how this building is going to present itself on The Great Road. They came into this process with eyes wide open about who all the parties are.”
Cohen told the Select Board that Kaestle Boos representatives “rose to the top. I think they did exceptionally well. They are going to be able to devote a lot of focus to this project.” He also noted the firm’s “recent experience with geothermal.” Alani added that the designer has quality subconsultants.
Stanton stressed that throughout the process, all steps were “100 percent aboveboard. Every single facet has been legal and appropriate.” That includes procurement laws and the Town Meeting amendment that set Building Committee criteria, she said, as validated by town counsel.