Library’s Urgency the Headliner on Monday’s Special Town Meeting Warrant

November 3, 2023

Monday’s Special Town Meeting, which starts at 6:30 p.m. in the Bedford High School Auditorium, resembles a Major League exhibition baseball game during spring training – with Taylor Swift throwing out the ceremonial first pitch.

Well, maybe not Taylor Swift – probably more like Taylor Hall. But still, a celebrity.

That headliner on Monday’s 15-article warrant is Article 3, a supplemental appropriation from the community preservation fund to replace the heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning system at the Bedford Free Public Library.

The remainder of the warrant – like most fall Town Meetings here – is replete with specific issues important to particular constituencies, if not the town as a whole in many cases. 

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Like spring training, Monday’s Town Meeting is an opportunity to build strength and agility (bylaw amendments), improve personnel patterns (public safety hiring), tend to technical details, fine-tune some financial processes (new stabilization fund, police contract allocation), and prepare for the regular season (a petitioners’ article on fire station sites) when the games count (Town Counsel has ruled that the article is advisory only).

The session will be called to order by Deputy Moderator Betsey Anderson at 6:30 p.m. and is expected to complete all business that night.

There is an urgency to Article 3. Library trustees and staff are alarmed at the deterioration of the HVAC systems, which were installed when the facility was expanded in 1998.

Town Meeting approved bonding $2.5 million to cover the work in 2021. But when the two bids on the job were opened in May, they were some $700,000 in excess of the authorized amount. 

Facilities Director Ron Scaltreto has said that he recommended a $1.5 million transfusion to ensure that all expenses would be covered. There is almost $2.3 million remaining from the original allocation. Any unexpended money would revert to the community preservation undesignated fund balance. 

If the money is approved, work should begin in the spring and continue for 12 to 15 months. The proposed equipment would be “the most energy efficient system in any town or school building,” Scaltreto said. 

Other expected highlights of the warrant include:

  • Article 7, a petitioners’ article calling for resurrection of a fire station site survey, followed by a report to the 2024 Town Meeting on the best option for completion of a new facility the following year. Town counsel has advised that due to the wording of the petitioners’ article, the vote will not be binding. The petitioners say the purpose of the proposal is to ensure there is a Plan B in case the Historic District Commission rejects the appropriateness of changes to the current site.
  • Article 15, adoption of the so-called state specialized energy code as part of the bylaws. The provisions, a priority of the Bedford chapter of Mothers Out Front, tightens the timetable for separation from fossil fuels for larger residential and commercial buildings.
  • Articles 5 and 6, decoupling police patrolmen from the civil service system and deleting an age ceiling for new firefighters, respectively. These are intended to broaden the pool of prospective new first responders.
  • Articles 11-13, proposed bylaw amendments, respectively addressing tree preservation and protection, permitting for disturbing pavement on streets and sidewalks, and some change to large water meter replacement processes.

Town Meeting also will decide on whether to retain the three percent community preservation surcharge, allocate funds to cover several weeks of a pay increase resulting from a new police patrolmen’s contract, and acceptance of a state law channeling fines for parking in spaces reserved for disabled people for use by the Disability Commission.

Also, acceptance of a state law that would provide some property tax relief for qualifying residents who volunteer for some municipal tasks; closeout of a special sewer revenue fund, and creation of a new stabilization fund for benefits received through the statewide opioid settlement.  

Click here for more information about the Special Town Meeting, including links about how Town Meeting works.

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