Town Meeting to Consider Twelve Community Preservation Requests
By Kim Siebert MacPhail
Following the public hearing portion of their meeting on Thursday night, the Community Preservation Committee (CPC) voted to recommend a total of 12 appropriations, which, if all were to gain approval, would leave $50,379.62 in the Community Preservation general reserve.
Wilson Mill design and landscape: $25,000. According to CPC member Don Corey, all of the major construction work has been completed at Wilson Mill. The $25,000 in additional funds would allow plantings and landscaping in six different areas around the mill. The Conservation Commission and DPW have already been included in the discussions to determine appropriate native species for the project.
Bond payment—Town Center: $206,300. This is an interest-plus-principal payment against the 10-year bond for the $2M north wing Town Center project that was completed 1½ years ago.
Town Hall Mechanical/Electrical/Plumbing (MEP) design: $59,500. When the Town Hall was converted from the Center School to its current use, none of the systems in the building were upgraded. “A lot of the systems are rather old and some of them are past their useful age—there are a lot of maintenance issues,” said Corey. Recommendations from a consultant brought forward approximately $800,000 in upgrades; the Facilities department has evaluated the recommendations and selected which upgrades they intend to do in stages.
The first phase of this work—funded by the $59,500 now under consideration—would cover “some of the most obvious, easy, environmental, economic, no-brainer things to cut utility costs,” Corey said.
Depot building restoration: $100,000. This is the last of three landmarks in the historic Depot Park area—after the rail car and the freight house—that has not been completed and rededicated. The proposal for all the work planned for the passenger depot building exceeds $1M, so the Town has chosen to approach the project in phases. The first phase—a new roof and some exterior painting—has already been completed.
The second phase, now under consideration for $100,000, anticipates a match of grant monies from the Massachusetts Preservation Projects Funds through the Massachusetts Historical Commission. The items to be addressed include restoration of the original main entrance door, installation of a handicapped access ramp on the north side of the building, refurbishment of the exterior siding and installation of an ADA (Accessible Design Act) compliant public restroom on the first floor.
The total project is estimated to cost $200,000; if the grant request is unsuccessful and additional funds are not found to make up the difference, the work in this phase will be downscaled.
Bond payment—350A Concord Road: $491,212.50. This is an interest and principal payment on the 15-year bond that allowed the Town to acquire 40+ acres from Princeton Properties, thus averting a high-density apartment building development in the western reaches of Bedford. Part of the land has been recommended for conservation restriction and part has been considered for development of athletic fields in the future.
Minuteman Bikepath resurfacing: $125,000. Bedford is the final town among the four bikeway communities to fund resurfacing since the corridor was opened in 1992. It is anticipated that a new surface, like the current surface, will last for 20 years.
During the public comment period, one resident strongly urged the CPC to approve this project, saying that the spills he takes off his bike in the dark mornings on his commute into Cambridge—due to ruts and tree roots that have made the surface dangerously uneven—suggest the work is long overdue.
“One of the main reasons that Bedford is such a great place to live is [the] trails and the paths and the opportunities for walking here, as identified in the Healthy Bedford survey,” said the Ruben Duren resident. “It was the second most important [factor listed in the question about] quality of life.
“The biggest reason that I moved here [this past fall],” he continued, “was the access of the bikeway, both because of the opportunity to improve not only my own health and well-being but also [that of] the community at large. It provides diverse commuting options. I actually work in Harvard Square and use it as my primary commuting [re]source, day in and day out.
“Because of the bikeway, I’m one less car on the road because I’m not driving; because of the bikeway, I’m burning less gas and doing better things for the environment. It also provides opportunities to get out with my one- and three-year-olds and introduce them to cycling in a safe environment, not on the roads. These are tremendous assets in this town.”
CPC Chair Gene Clerkin responded that the Committee has been supportive of the bikeway in the past and funded $35,000 for the design phase of the Minutemen Bikeway Extension that would connect the current bikeway to the Reformatory Branch, ending at the Concord town line.
Middle School tennis courts: $122,000. This is a complete reconstruction of the middle school courts, requested through the Capital Expenditures Committee. The project is eligible for funds under the “recreation” category.
Great Road sidewalk from Masardis Street to Grey Terrace: $34,299. This section of sidewalk was described as “old school” and in bad shape with widths not consistent with the sidewalk sections it links to.
Synthetic turf project at Sabourin Field: $355,000. “Instead of making our first bond payment on this the project, we decided to retire the entire debt,” said CPC Chair Gene Clerkin. This is for the portion of the project that was eligible for Community Preservation funds which includes everything but the “rug” or top surface of the field.
The move to retire the debt for this project with one large payment was somewhat controversial amongst the committee members because it leaves relatively little in the way of reserves for upcoming projects. Nonetheless, after discussion, the Committee reached consensus that retiring the debt was the right thing to do.
Housing Consultant: $15,000. This is Bedford’s portion of the cost for participating in a regional affordable housing consortium (RHSO). The RHSO oversees the administration of Bedford’s affordable housing stock, processing housing applications, verifying rent rate formulas, and maintaining building conditions.
Affordable Housing Reserves: $151,651. A specified percentage of total CP funding that is derived from a combination of town taxpayers’ and State matching funds must be set aside annually for each of the following categories: affordable housing, recreation, open space, and historic preservation. Even though there are no immediate plans for the use of these affordable housing funds, the percentage must, nonetheless, be earmarked and reserved. The monies are held until such a time as a suitable, eligible project is identified.
Administrative costs: $10,000. This is a consistent amount set aside annually.
Three future projects the funds might be used for were also briefly discussed, but applications for funding have not yet been filed:
Social services collaborative that would support affordable housing residents in skill development and economic independence.
Bicycle Master Plan: A conceptual plan for “the development of safe, functional, convenient and attractive bicycle facilities throughout Bedford,” including an analysis of the current biking infrastructure and recommendations for improving bicycle accommodations such as crossing aids, shared or dedicated lanes, sharrow markings, maps and graphics.
Walking Path to Fawn Lake: The current path needs improvements/refurbishments