Architect: Firehouse Could Be Open as Soon as Early 2026

June 14, 2023
A community forum on the new fire station project was held on Tuesday night at Town Hall. Image: @BedfordTv

Bedford’s new fire station could be operational early in 2026, if all of the pieces fall into place.

Sean Schmigle, associate principal with the architectural firm Kaestle Boos Associates of Foxborough, said that schedule is based on approval of construction at the annual town meeting in March 2024. Two months for bidding will follow, he said, with construction beginning in June.

Schmigle was responding to a resident’s question during a lightly-attended community progress report at Town Hall on Tuesday evening, part of the project’s outreach effort. Members of the building committee were joined at the head table by fire station designers and owner’s project manager. 

The new fire station is planned for 139 The Great Road, within the Bedford Center Historic District. That’s one of the variables inherent in the timetable, as the design requires approval by the Historic District Commission.

Schmigle said he expects some preliminary design samples will be ready to share with the commission at its August meeting. He noted that there is a historic preservation consultant on the project team.

Brian DeFilippis of PMA Consultants, project manager, said his firm worked closely with the historic district commission on a fire station project in Andover, concentrating on finishes, color selection, roofing, window types, landscaping, and buffers. “This is something that we have knowledge in, and we are looking forward to listening and making this one favorable as well,” he said.

In Bedford, “We visited the entire historic district and gathered data and images of homes and businesses to identify materials, helping us inform what this new structure would look like,” Schmigle reported. “Things we have been hearing consistently” include maintaining the green front, minimizing pavement, simple roof lines, preserving the “old New England character,” and ensuring headlights don’t shine into neighboring residences.

The presenters projected photographs of fire stations designed to reflect the historic character of their surroundings, in the Ballardvale section of Andover, Nantucket, Chatham, and Carver.

Courtesy Photo: Bedford Fire Department

The utility poles and wires in front of 139 The Great Road are another challenge, at least according to historian and former town official Don Corey.

Corey said there are three poles within the 125 feet of frontage and contended that the site is not usable “unless and until the poles and wires are relocated.” And that will be a challenge, he continued, because they are a convergence point for underground wiring along The Great Road. “You are going to have to start a multiyear process to move the endpoint,” he said. “I’m pretty certain it is going to be beyond my lifetime when Dig Safe gives the all-clear to move the first bucket of dirt out of that site.”

The former selectman and Planning Board member made the same point as part of an unsuccessful petitioners’ article to stop the project at the November 2022 Special Town Meeting.

The professionals did not respond to Corey’s point until prodded by resident Robert Dorer. Todd Costa, a principal with Kaestle Boos, acknowledged that “we recognize the poles as a concern.” He said by lifting the wires, the poles coil remain depending on the location of curb cuts for access. “But we don’t have an answer tonight.”

Fire Chief David Grunes said Kaestle Boos team includes a “utility consultant,” and the issue is “on our radar.”

Schmigle said the ongoing site evaluation also focuses on traffic impact, abutters, some wetlands restrictions, and existing and future utilities. There will be an analysis to determine if any soil remediation is necessary, he said. 

“We are going to revisit traffic studies already done,” he said, and once the ingress and egress are located the design team can determine the need for signalization at The Great, Hillside, and Bacon Roads.

Schmigle declared that it is important for decisions to be “collaborative and community based.”

A subconsultant is almost finished studying departmental programming needs with Grunes, Schmigle reported, and is identifying “needs for the next 25-plus years for a building that is supposed to last 50-plus years.” That means sufficient space for growth, he said. “Then we will really begin identifying how this property can be developed,” such as “how apparatus and the public enter and exit the site.”

Other concerns from residents addressed by the panel were:

  • Pedestrian safety. When the ladder truck is parked on the apron of the current station at 55 The Great Road, pedestrians have to walk into the bicycle lane to pass, Dorer said. Grunes promised that at 139 The Great Road, “we’re not going to interfere with pedestrians.” He added that on Monday firefighters maneuvered the ladder truck around the new site.
  • Price increases are monitored regularly during the buildup to bidding for construction, and escalators are built in, Schmigle said.  “We work with three different estimators,” Costa added.
  • There is no evidence of significant ledge on the property. Drilling and boring are “part of the data collection process,” Schmigle reported.
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