Letter to the Editor: Petitioners’ Article Seeks Risk Mitigation for New Fire Station

Submitted by Michael Seibert 

While considering whether or not to support and submit the November town meeting petitioners’ article, I spoke with its author, many of its signatories, two members of the project’s building committee, and each member of our Select Board. I read the materials available via the Town of Bedford project page and SaveOurBlock.

In gathering later information, I also met with our new town manager, five Bedford firefighters, and several impartial residents who have experience with municipal building projects.  I attended a presentation made by the architects and project building committee.

I invite other residents to do the same before making assertions about the motivation or content of the petition, and in order to arrive at a fully informed decision.

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Here’s what I’ve learned so far.  The petitioners seek that the Select Board identify and report the details of a Plan B site as a fallback in the event that the primary site fails to remain tenable.  I discovered that the existential risks of Plan A are the need for a 2/3 town meeting vote approving a construction bond, and a decision by our Historic District Commission about whether or not demolishing the building at 139 Great Road and altering the streetscape derogates the district.

As a result of my information gathering, here is what the petitioners’ article is not:

  • Neither for nor against any sites
  • Doesn’t breach contracts
  • Not about slowing construction
  • Doesn’t add cost
  • Not an illegal article
  • Doesn’t bind the Select Board
  • Not about rehashing available information
  • Doesn’t disrupt nor distract our building committee

This article seeks to keep our progress on track and within budget by developing additional information to ensure we realize a fire station that meets or exceeds the needs of our emergency responders, without going back to square one if any of the risks to Plan A materialize.

Simply put, it requests a commonplace, industry-standard risk mitigation practice.

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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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Timothy Orlean Bennett
October 12, 2023 8:30 pm

It’s awesome that you spoke to the actual author of the article before you submitted it!
I wonder why the author couldn’t submit it themselves though… is it because they don’t actually live in this town?
I also disagree with a number of your points. Even if we ignore the massive time sink this represents, and assume that an unbiased group of Bedford citizens is willing to volunteer to conduct this study, any other site would need to be seized and paid for (unlike the current site) via Eminent Domain. If employing this method on uninhabited tracts along the rail trail was considered harmful by Town Meeting, why would seizing sizable amounts of town center be any more palatable?
Regardless of whether it is “about slowing construction,” this is exactly what will occur, even though this exploratory work has already been done and a fitting site chosen.
It’s also hard to argue that this petition is “neither for nor against any site” when the lead signature gatherer is blatantly against the current site, as can be seen plainly on SaveOurBlock.

Seth Cargiuolo
October 10, 2023 1:25 pm

There are a number of assertions here that are demonstrably and provably false.

“Doesn’t breach contracts”

The article would change the language of the contract between the town and the design firm. That is a breach of contract.

“Doesn’t add cost.”

Asking the design firm to change the scope of their work will add cost, because they need to re-scope their work. Directing the Select Board to find and evaluate alternate sites adds cost, because the site selection & evaluation process is not free – that has real dollar costs as well as time costs. Finally, if another site is selected, the town will have to pay for that property and/or any legal fees associated with the eminent domain taking of those parcels.

“Neither for or against any sites.”

If proponents were not opposed to the 139 The Great Road site, this petitioner’s article would not exist, the lawsuit against the town would not have been filed, the plaintiffs would not have forced a new bid from the town.

“Doesn’t bind the SB.”

The article “directs the Select Board.” It doesn’t beseech, urge, ask, or suggest, it “directs.” If that doesn’t intend to bind, what does?

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