By Meredith McCulloch
December 22, 2014: Abutters and other residents filled the room at the Selectmen’s meeting Monday night to hear the board discuss the plan by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (DOT) to relocate their salt shed near Route 3. Many had previously contacted the Selectmen expressing concern about increased traffic, noise and light pollution and potential infiltration of salt into the ground water.
A letter to the Selectmen signed by 27 residents said in part “It is our understanding that since this project will be located on state-controlled property, Town jurisdiction over permitting is limited to the Conservation Commission.” But the letter goes on to say “We respectfully request that the Board of Selectmen make known to MassDOT your interest in being kept apprised of the project for the purpose of communicating and advocating for the interests of the Bedford residents in its proximity.”
A public meeting with representatives from MassDOT, which initiated the project, will be held on Thursday, January 15 at 7pm in the Multi-Purpose Room at Town Hall on Mudge Way. The Selectmen agreed to send a list of their concerns to DOT in advance of that meeting, so DOT representatives can be prepared to respond to them. State Representative Ken Gordon, who arranged the meeting, was also in attendance. (See his letter https://www.thebedfordcitizen.org/2014/12/18/from-ken-gordon-about-the-salt-shed/)
Selectman Mark Siegenthaler questioned how the current site could be declared “surplus” and sold, when there is a need to rebuild the facility. “Surplus means you don’t need it, and we really do need it,” he commented, adding that he would like to see more transparency.
Selectmen Bill Moonan asked whether other sites were considered. Selectmen Mike Rosenberg pointed out that by looking for a site two miles north toward the Billerica line or two miles toward Route 3, the salt shed could be located in a commercial district and not in a residential zone. Rosenberg also asked the Town Manager to seek advice from Town Counsel as to what possibilities the Town could explore.
Margot Fleischman, Chair of the Selectmen, said she is concerned about the elevation of the site, and whether the lights would be higher or blasting would be required.
Sandra Hackman, a member of the Planning Board, but speaking for herself, said she foresees an impact on businesses from heavier traffic especially in the morning when people are trying to get to work. Gordon asked how would it differ from current facility in gems of traffic?
Resident Paul Hill echoed concerns about the effect of the stored salt on water quality, noting that industrial chemicals have poisoned previous town that had to be closed. (Presently the only wells Bedford is using are in the Shawsheen well field.)
The questions raised will be incorporated into a document for the Selectmen’s review on January 5 and after approval it will be sent to the MassDOT.