Letter to the Editor:  A Case for More Resident Participation in Fire Station Design

Submitted by Margaret Donovan

The Select Board’s response to Joe Piantedosi’s March 1st Letter to the Editor was notable for merely deflecting instead of responding to his concerns. It began by misstating his central objection, as I read it, which was not with the “process of selecting the Fire Station Building Committee,” but that only one of the “at least three town citizen representatives at large who have construction experience,” as called for in his amendment, was allowed to participate in the designer interviews on March 2.  

Approximately 10 percent more voters at the Annual Town Meeting voted for his amendment than voted to purchase the Great Road property. Instead of dismissing his claims as “inaccurate,” a real response would have explained why the Town Manager deviated from the requirements of his amendment. Another apparent deviation was that even though many applicants “applied or tried to apply as far back as last spring,” the committee was not in place before an Owner’s Project Manager was appointed in September. 

The Board said they recognized “Mr. Piantedosi’s history of volunteering,” but implicit in any recognition is that that after serving five terms as a Selectman and toiling to make Veteran’s Park a worthy memorial, he would not have written that letter carelessly. As he said, he is deeply concerned. To dismiss his assertions as “simply untrue” instead of rebutting each one specifically is what “could corrode public confidence.” 

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The Select Board’s response dismissed his closing concern that “town residents should have a right to voice their concerns on any subject even if it’s not on the agenda” by stating that the Board has been limiting public comments to agenda items since 2020. The claim that “this is a common practice in municipalities” may be true, but it is not true in any public forum that I have attended, and it is not the case in even one of Bedford’s five bordering towns! 

In other words, if the Town Manager approached her Select Board in Concord, there would be no limits on what she could bring to the attention of her town’s governing board. It would be good to know why Bedford’s Select Board chose to restrict what they hear from the townspeople they serve. And it would be even better to rescind such an arbitrary practice.  Two or three minutes spent listening to whatever issue a resident appearing before them wishes to address should not be too much to ask.

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The opinions expressed in Letters to the Editor are those of the writer, not The Bedford Citizen.

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Molly L Haskell
April 3, 2023 12:30 pm

As part of a standard canon of managerial theory and principles, MBA programs point to research showing that diversity in corporate life delivers in superior results. This applies to all levels of management and for every kind of endeavor. Can we not take such lessons into the composition of the Firehouse Committee?

Ann Kiessling
March 11, 2023 8:07 am

Thank you, Margaret, for this extremely helpful clarification on both issues, the Fire Station Building Committee and Public Comment freedoms.

March 10, 2023 5:01 pm

In addition to leaving a comment here or on The Bedford Citizen’s Facebook page, private comments or questions focusing on the substance of my letter can be directed to me at [email protected] or [email protected].

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