Bedford Fire Station Bond to Have Exclusive Town Meeting on June 10

The Select Board agreed on Monday to delay a Town Meeting vote on funding construction of a new fire station for 11 weeks. Image: /BedfordTV

The Select Board agreed on Monday to delay a Town Meeting vote on funding construction of a new fire station for 11 weeks.

The board heeded a recommendation by Town Manager Matt Hanson that the decision be scheduled for a Special Town Meeting on June 10, rather than on the March 25 Annual Town Meeting warrant.

Last week’s conditional approval by the Historic District Commission, resulting in a clear path toward demolition and construction at 139 The Great Road, followed “pretty signific redesign,” Hanson said. “It’s going to change the cost estimates. We could rush it, but speaking with the design team and staff, we don’t feel that’s the prudent thing to do.”

A Special Town Meeting in June would “give us a few more months to button up design and cost estimates,” he said.  He added that if it is decided to exclude the firehouse debt payments from the tax limits under the law known as Proposition 2 ½, the required ballot vote could be scheduled to coincide with the Sept. 2 state primary election within the mandatory 90 days of the Town Meeting vote.

“It’s a big decision for a Town Meeting to award funding for a major public safety facility,” Hanson told the board. 

Select Board member Shawn Hanegan asked whether current estimates are “beyond the margin of error.” His colleague Emily Mitchell, the board’s representative on the Fire Station Building Committee, said the recent redesign “is different enough that I don’t feel confident saying it’s going to be ‘this number.’ As much as we talk about delays, this is a delay I feel comfortable with, to get a number we can stand behind.”

She added that the extra time will also provide a marketing window for proponents.

Board member Paul Mortenson had another reason to back a delay. “I wouldn’t support any money until we’ve had a really deep dive with the new chief,” he said. 

James Bailey’s first day as chief of the Fire Department was Monday. Mitchell said Bailey will need an opportunity to study the plans in detail for how they meet programming needs.

The chair of the Building Committee, Jeffrey Cohen, agreed with the decision. “We want to make sure we have numbers that represent the actual project and not the project we thought we were going to build,” he said. “It’s really just doing more of our due diligence before we come to the town.”

Board member Margot Fleischman suggested that the Building Committee could explain the revised timetable at March Town Meeting under the first warrant article, reports of boards and committees.

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