Bedford Firefighters Express ‘Numerous Concerns’ about Plans for New Station

Many members of the Bedford Professional Firefighters Local 2310 came to Monday’s meeting of the Fire Station Building Committee to express their concerns about plans to build a new fire station at 139 The Great Road. Staff photo by Mike Rosenberg

The president of the Bedford Professional Firefighters Local 2310 told the Fire Station Building Committee on Monday night that the union members have “numerous concerns” about the feasibility of locating a new station at 139 The Great Road.

Indeed, said Lt. Mark Daly, “We would be willing to stay at 55 The Great Road rather than build in the wrong location.”

Asked by Building Committee Chair Jeff Cohen to enumerate, Daly presented a list of issues, some of which are prominent on the agenda as planning proceeds.

Cohen said, “Hopefully we can check as many of these concerns off as we can.” He added, “We don’t want to compromise public safety. That’s first and foremost in my mind.”

Almost two dozen firefighters attended the meeting in Town Hall. Near the end of his prepared statement, Daly said that firefighters “have been used as pawns for this project since day one, and have not enjoyed watching townspeople argue with each other in our name.”

Daly is an original member of the Building Committee, along with Capt. Mark Sullivan and Interim Chief Paul Sheehan who succeeded David Grunes when he retired last month.

The location was on a list of several potential firehouse sites identified in a survey several years ago, but the preferred location was 175 The Great Road at the corner of Webber Avenue. Acquisition of that location that likely would have involved eminent domain proceedings, was earmarked for the 2020 Annual Town Meeting.

But the onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in a truncated Town Meeting warrant, and as town officials considered next steps, the property at 139 The Great Road came on the market. The purchase and design expenses were approved by Annual Town Meeting in March 2022, saving several million dollars.

The property is in the Bedford Center Historic District, and the Historic District Commission has the ultimate authority on accepting the design. Some commission members have expressed concern about the impact of the construction on the character of the neighborhood.

The lieutenant told the committee that the questions arose once firefighters saw “some of the requirements advocated for by the HDC and the abutters.” He said, “We were optimistic this site could satisfy the requirements of all stakeholders. However, there are numerous concerns rising about locating the station at 139 The Great Road.”

Daly said several of the firefighters’ concerns are based on “the many limitations of the parcel, such as the slope, departure sight lines, especially to the left on The Great Road, and signalization.

“Moving utility poles will be a lengthy and expensive process,” Daly said.

The proposed size is too small to store all the department’s equipment, he said. He also acknowledged the neighborhood complaints that will be elicited by noise and lights.

Daly also said firefighters worry that at Town Meeting, cost concerns may lead to reductions in interior functionality.

“Voicing our concerns now, we realize there will be backlash,” Daly said. “The community is our priority,” and firefighters are grateful for “residents’ support and appreciation.”

“We are working with the design team to see if we can address those issues,” Cohen said. “We are going to do our best.”

Angelo Colasante, an at-large committee member, told Daly and the firefighters, “I don’t know if we are ever going to get to the point of a perfect situation. I think we are going to try. We want to turn over a building that’s operational, that’s comfortable, that’s going to fit into the Historic District comfortably.”

“I appreciate you bringing this up now and showing up,” he continued. “We are going to take it very seriously. I don’t know if there’s an alternative. The goal is that this is the site currently on the table. Anything else will throw a major delay into achieving what we want.”

Daly replied that the current location would be “the easiest place” for a new station. “It should be considered,” he said. “That will be a much easier sell.”

Asked how the Fire Department would function during construction, Daly said a temporary facility would be needed. Firefighter David Dillen said that a second story could be added above two additional apparatus bays on the west side. He also called for construction of an east Bedford substation.

“I appreciate the offer to stay, but you shouldn’t have to do that,” said Select Board member Emily Mitchell. “You deserve better and we can give you something better.”

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Nancy Wolk
September 19, 2023 2:11 pm

55 Can not work. Unless people are willing to allow the homes behind the current fire station to be taken by eminent domain and the HDC would have to agree to demolish those homes. And for those saying “The Bedford Motel”, that is ALSO in the historic district and near wetlands. The last thing we need on a beautiful summer night is an emergency vehicle hitting a kid trying to get to Bedford Farms.

The current site is SMALLER than 139. So we can’t fit the current equipment. And there are residences all around the fire station at 55. Do the people living down the street have more say than those living by the current fire station?

Electric poles can be moved. Maybe all of that needs to be underground anyway to fit the “historic district”.

I’m so tired of everyone refusing to just get this done and instead kick the can down the road.

Patty Dahlgren
September 18, 2023 9:28 pm

It can’t fit all the equipment which means it’s obsolete before its built? What?! How is it that the site selection, purchase and design of this site wasn’t informed every single step of the way by the first responders who use it? No idea where the best location is but I know who to ask – ask the firefighters. And please, please no talk of locating the 2nd fire station off Hartwell by the Hanscom North Airfield or Hartwell Hill. The firemen are already exposed daily to toxic fumes, smoke and chemicals. Don’t expect our brave first responders who are already more at risk than most, to work and sleep on a superfund site too. Please give our firefighters what they need to save your life.

Ted T. Martin
September 19, 2023 5:34 am
Reply to  Patty Dahlgren

It seems to me the better site would be where The Bedford Motel now stands; it has been said that is too far away from the current one, come on it’s not that far away.

Nancy Wolk
September 19, 2023 2:13 pm
Reply to  Ted T. Martin

It is a terrible location at the juncture of 4 major roads in Bedford. Plus there are wetlands behind it. The town has already accepted 139.

Dave Draper
September 20, 2023 9:44 am
Reply to  Nancy Wolk

If new facts come to light and 139 turns out to have significant shortcomings then now is the time to stop and re-evaluate the decision. Spending millions of dollars on a new station that is obsolete before it is constructed and has other shortcomings is not a wise decision. I do not know where the best location would be, I have some ideas, however building a new station that doesn’t fit the needs is a waste to time and money.

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