Submitted by Don Corey
Defeat of Article 7 at STM may prove to be short-sighted based on Bedford’s prior experience with utilities and other wire owners when Great Road from Walsh to Hillside was widened. Overhead wiring was buried along that section of Great Road, ending in underground vaults in front of 139 Great Road (139 TGR). The utility poles and shallowly buried wires leading from the vaults to the poles make that site currently unusable for the fire station. Going forward, everyone should be aware of problems that were encountered in that original wire burial project.
Utility companies dislike such wire burial projects, but the road widening necessitated one having priority. That project was difficult and complex due to the many wires at that location and the multiple wire owners whose work had to be coordinated. With pressure from DPW, the multi-year project was finally completed almost a year behind schedule. The Board of Selectmen subsequently voted unanimously not to support any future wire burial project along the Great Road.
A new work order for removal of the utility poles in front of 139 TGR is pending. Before the poles can be removed, a new wire burial project is needed to relocate the shallowly buried wires from the vaults to a new utility pole location. Based on the town’s actual experience with the previous project, major delays should be anticipated.
Several years will be needed to design, fund, and build new infrastructure before wire owners can even begin work. No wire burial project is necessary at any other site, so design, funding, and start of construction of a new station could be underway elsewhere instead within that time. Several more years elapsed before completion of the prior wire burial project, and at least that much time must be anticipated this time before the utility poles could be removed; a new fire station might begin operations elsewhere instead by then. This project will have little or no priority with wire owners; they would be hard pressed to take skilled technicians off projects serving their customers for another long difficult project at this site with no public benefit and with other potential sites. The question of if, or when, the last wires might ever be relocated could well arise.
If 139 TGR is still unusable for the fire station in 4 or 5 years, Bedford could be in the same position as it is now.