2015 Special Town Meeting Wrap-up: Voters Mostly in Agreement

This report was compiled by several members of  The Bedford Citizen’s board of directors including Dot Bergin, Joan Bowen, Bob Dorer, Meredith McCulloch, Jan Shepard, Ginni Spencer, Julie Turner and Jerry Wolfe.

Special-Town-Meeting-2015Strong agreement among voters was the hallmark of the November 2 Special Town Meeting with two exceptions:   Article 2, a bylaw amendment to permit expansion of housing unit at the former Page School site, was withdrawn by the petitioner; and Article 3, a second petitioner’s article, was soundly defeated. All other articles were approved by voice vote with little or no discussion.

Some highlights from Monday night’s meeting include:

Article 6: Complete Streets Policy, Acceptance of M.G.L. Chapter 901

Article 6 asked the voters to adopt the provisions of Chapter 901, formalizing a Complete Streets Policy for Bedford.  Adopting the policy makes the Town eligible for funds targeted toward safer streets for pedestrians and bicyclists and all other modes of transportation. Town Meeting acceptance of the statute allows the town to apply to be certified as a “complete streets community.” Certification requirements include town adoption of a complete streets bylaw that is approved by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation and a baseline inventory of pedestrian and bicycle accommodations.

The complete streets program is consistent with the town’s Comprehensive Plan, Great Road Master Plan, and the Bike and Pedestrian Master Plan.

The Selectmen, Finance Committee, Planning Board, and Transportation Advisory Committee all recommended approval.

One question was asked as to whether adoption of the statute would increase or impact the town’s right to take land by eminent domain.  The response was that it would not; the separate eminent domain statute would apply.

A majority vote was required, and the article was adopted by voice vote.

Article 7: Proposed Amendments to the 2016 Capital Budget

Article 7 was by moved by Selectmen Bill Moonan, who went on to describe the background for the article.    At last March’s Annual Town Meeting, three approved capital projects were withdrawn at the last minute due to concerns about the level of state aid for FY16. Those issues have since been clarified. The proposed amendments restored funds for those projects for a total of $188,783, to provide new video surveillance at all four schools, replace window blinds in Town Center, and provide security and lighting systems for the seasonal storage facility at 108 Carlisle Road. Also, the renaming of an existing budget line item from a general school building study to a specific study related to Lane School was requested due to increased space needs at that school.

Two questions were raised by citizens.  One question was related to a reference to a town-wide surveillance system. Selectman Moonan noted that the “town wide” system was in fact just those items mentioned in this article and not anything else.  Surveillance cameras are at the schools and at the storage facility on Carlisle Road. The other question related to improving the overly bright current lighting at the DPW storage area on Carlisle Rd.  The speaker noted that the light was particularly troublesome during the rain as one drives by at night.  Moonan noted the lighting will be changed to LED lighting designed with the dark sky approach, and should definitely be an improvement over existing conditions.

The moderator then called for the vote, which passed by a majority voice note.

Articles 8 and 9: Community Preservation Surcharge and CPC Budget Adjustments

The Community Preservation surcharge of 3% was approved for the 14th time. In addition, two Community Preservation Budget items, bond payments on the Town Hall project and Affordable Housing Reserves, were reduced due to lower than expected state matching funds.

Article 10: Historical Museum Feasibility Study

Thanks to a matching Survey and Planning grant available through the Massachusetts Historical Commission (MHC), the town museum feasibility study called for in article 10 could be completed at reduced cost to the Town.

According to Historic Preservation Commission member and president of the Bedford Historical Society Don Corey, Bedford recently learned about the MHC’s 2016 grant round.  Because Bedford has successfully competed for these grants in the past, Corey contacted the program administrator and learned that the Article 10 feasibility study would be an eligible project, which in the administrator’s words “sounded like an interesting model for other towns to consider”.

The MHC/Grantee match shares are 50/50, based on the town’s funding being in place at the time of the request. After Monday’s affirmative vote on Article 10, the town prepared and has submitted a Notice of Intent to apply for a $25,000 grant toward the total project cost of $50,000. The Notices of Intent will be evaluated on December 9, and qualified applicants will be invited to submit full applications by February 8, 2016, with grant awards to be made at MHC’s March 9, 2016, meeting.

Article 12: Amend Ambulance Enterprise Fund FY16.

Since the FY16 budget was approved last March, the Town has implemented advanced life support services. The amendments decrease the budget by $32,973 due to a later start on implementation than expected. There was no discussion, and the article was adopted unanimously by voice vote.

Keep our journalism strong! Support The Citizen Journalism Fund today. Contact The Bedford Citizen: editor@thebedfordcitizen.org or 781-325-8606

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