By Ben Oleksinski
At their June 25 meeting, the Selectmen approved a proposed Special Town Meeting warrant, extended local transportation services, increased water and sewer rates, ambulance rates and abatement, recycling expenses, and heard a policy proposal for a timely renamed Energy and Sustainability Committee.
Increase for water and sewer rates: The Selectmen considered proposed water and sewer rates for the coming year, including a rate increase of 7.2%. It was further recommended to raise irrigation rates from $10.20 per 100/cubic feet to $10.70 per 100/cubic feet.
These changes are due to the fact that the town’s fixed costs (debt, insurance/benefits, capital, salaries) continue to increase, while consumption decreases. Less usage reportedly come from more efficient home appliances: washing machines, low-flow shower heads, and toilets. So, new homes being built in town are much more water-efficient than older ones.
Bedford’s water/sewer rates remain significantly lower than the combined average of other municipalities. Lower levels of consumption mean lower rates; higher levels mean average rates. The proposed rates were approved for the upcoming fiscal year 2019.
Extension for Bedford DASH services: The Selectmen approved an extension of the Bedford DASH transportation project for one additional year following the completion of the two-year pilot.
Energy update: The Energy Task Force proposed a comprehensive policy for the town, seeking to decrease municipal energy consumption and cost while also maintaining a healthy and safe environment. The ‘Town of Bedford Energy Policy’ suggested five different guidelines: energy reduction, occupant involvement, engagement and outreach, vehicle replacement, and construction and renovation of town buildings.
The Selectmen were receptive, but the plan was not approved at the meeting because of questions about implementation. They did, however, move to update the charge to the committee after some 10 years. The terms of existing committee member terms were altered to three years from one. The name of the committee was changed to the ‘Energy and Sustainability Committee’ (ESC).
These changes better reflect an increased scope of ingraining energy conversation in the culture of the municipality and not just direct energy costs of buildings.
Transfer for recycling expenses: An interfund transfer was approved for the Public Works Department reserve fund transfer, moving money to refuse/recycling and energy budgets.
Ambulance rates and bill abatement: The Selectmen adopted new ambulance services rates for the upcoming fiscal year, with an increase of 2% to the base rates and additional 5% increase to ALS-1, ALS-2, and Mileage to keep the town aligned with the recent survey of border communities.