Firehouse Groundbreaking Months Away, Even with Voters’ Approval

June 4, 2024
Rendering of a proposed new fire station design from https://www.bedfordma.gov/696/New-Fire-Station-Project

Next Tuesday’s Special Town Meeting vote on a $32 million bond to finance a fire station will be the decisive decision on the future of the project.

And if the article is approved, there will be several subsequent steps required before the landscape at 139 The Great Road begins to change, probably in the spring of 2025.

Special Town Meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. in Bedford High School’s Buckley Auditorium on Tuesday, June 11. The fire station, number three of the four warrant articles, requires a two-thirds threshold to pass because it will be financed by bond sales.

Although the Historic District Commission has approved certificates of appropriateness for demolishing the existing structure at the address and replacing it with the firehouse, action is still pending on some design details such as lighting fixtures. The commission has jurisdiction over all proposed changes visible from the street.

The project will be considered by the Conservation Commission because part of the site is within 100 feet of wetlands. The Zoning Board of Appeals will be asked to approve a variance to allow construction of the training tower. And cost estimates continue to be refined.

The 13-member Fire Station Building Committee met Monday evening and reviewed their Town Meeting presentation. Committee Chair Jeff Cohen will handle the narrative at Town Meeting, with accompanying slides.

After explanations of first- and second-story floor plans and front and rear exterior renderings, including the rear storage building, Cohen will outline the financing plans.

The interest rate of 3.75 percent over 30 years will be structured so the initial payment is $2,458,000 and the final installment, almost entirely principal, will be $1,107,000. The first payment can be accommodated within the tax levy cushion the town has accumulated. If approved, there will still be $4,320,837 in unused levy.

The total cost of close to $32 million includes:

  • A basic construction budget of $15,230,000 and a total construction budget of $28,800,000. That includes demolition costs and about $3.5 million in contingency funds.
  • An “escalator” of $430,000 to allow for increasing construction costs between the Town Meeting vote and the invitation for bids, likely in December.
  • Indirect “soft costs” totaling $3.5 million include technology, equipment, and intersection and stormwater drainage improvements.

Cohen also plans to present a slide of “milestones” since the 2022 vote to purchase the property and finance the fire station design. The milestones include “a lot of stakeholder input, all the forums and meetings and gatherings we’ve had.”

Sean Schmigle, the project’s lead architect with the firm Kaestle, Boos & Associates, told the committee that the firm’s landscape team has met with abutters to the site to ascertain plans for fencing and plantings.

At last week’s Select Board meeting, Chair Shawn Hanegan urged his colleagues to help ensure a good turnout of voters at what the board is calling the “extra-special Town Meeting.”

“I really don’t want to take this for granted,” Hanegan said. “Some people are saying it’s not that important. Let’s see if all of us can work our networks and ask people to please come.”

The open house at the current fire station, scheduled for Saturday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., “helps put this out in front of people,” Hanegan said. Fire Chief James Bailey said this week he and other members of the department will “give guided tours of the building and some of its shortcomings.”

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