Petitioners’ Article Calls for Another Committee to Assess Need for Fire Department Substation

January 9, 2024

Opponents of building a fire station in the Historic District late on Monday filed a petitioners’ article for the March Annual Town Meeting warrant calling for an ad hoc committee to “assess the overall current public safety need,” including a Bedford Fire Department substation.

The matter was submitted to the town clerk’s office about an hour before the petitioners’ article deadline mandated by the town charter.

The advocates, in their explanatory notes accompanying the text, say, “Residents need to consider if this matter (a substation) should be part of a solution before any project is set in stone. It should also consider whether addressing the town’s safety outlook comprehensively would be more or less cost-effective than pursuing the substation issue separately.”

Three generations of Bedford fire apparatus: The Eagle, the 1953 Mack engine, and Ladder One

“A collaborative response from the Select Board would help to unify residents behind the town’s fire station policy going forward,” the petitioners wrote.

Plans for fire station construction are in limbo after the Historic District Commission last week rejected by a 3-2 vote the town’s filing for a certificate of appropriateness to demolish the structure at 139 The Great Road, making room for the new facility.

Submission of the petitioners’ article appears to have been timed with that ruling since the town has already invested more than $3 million in the contested site, and approval would have made the issue of cost-effectiveness moot. The Select Board is requesting that the Historic District Commission reconsider its decision.

The 13 petitioners include residents who have steadfastly battled the proposal to locate a station in the Historic District through public pronouncements, Town Meeting articles, and litigation.

They include former Selectman William Moonan and his wife Carol Amick, who are abutters to the site; former Selectman Don Corey and Jan van Steenwijk of the Bedford Historical Society; and Gail Hartwell, whose sister Margaret Donovan, a former resident, has been among the most active opponents.

The petition presents a tight timetable for the new committee that would meet in April and May to review all available “information and recommendations” on the need for a substation, followed by compiling and presenting “a digest of their findings” at a June Select Board meeting.

Then the committee would “ask the board for permission to present the findings at the next Special or Annual Town Meeting.”

Over the past decade, as the search for a fire station site progressed through twists and turns, town officials have maintained that a substation serving East Bedford would add to personnel and equipment costs, but would not relieve the need for a central station as planned.

A substation, including a site and supporting data, has not been introduced during the Select Board’s annual assessment of goals and objectives since the replacement fire station became a priority.

Composing the proposed seven-member ad hoc committee, according to the article, would be a former Select Board member, a former Finance or Capital Expenditure Committee member, the fire chief or his designee, a member of the firefighters’ union, and a member of the Fire Station Building Committee, as well as two at-large members.

The article is worded in a way that doesn’t require anything. The Select Board can form a study committee without Town Meeting authorization.

Others who signed the petition included Michael Seibert, the former Finance Committee member who presented an unsuccessful petitioners’ article on behalf of Donovan at the November Special Town Meeting; his wife Abby Seibert, a member of the Finance Committee; Anne Bickford, who served with Abby Seibert on the School Committee; Bickford’s husband Allen Marshall and her father-in-law Don Marshall.

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