Selectmen Hear Proposals on Police Station Renovations and Bedford’s Recycling Program

By Peter Manning

The Selectmen met January 7, 2019, to discuss several lingering issues, most notably the police station remodeling initiative and changes to the Town’s current recycling program. Two quick conservation issues were heard first, one an update on the Middlesex Turnpike project, the other asking to legitimize a walking path behind several privately owned pieces of land. Both passed with little debate.

Police Station Remodeling

The police station remodeling initiative received a huge push forward as the Selectmen voted on an updated renovation strategy. As it stands now, the Bedford Police Department is housed in the Stearns Building. Initially constructed to be a library, the police department shares this space with the Bedford Historical Society. Unfortunately, due to changing times and limited space, the building fails to meet current day demands.

Space is limited in just about every capacity. Both the men’s and women’s locker rooms (especially the latter) are very space limited. The evidence room suffers from such great overflow that all functionality has been lost. The police have outgrown their meeting room and rely on their garage for unloading those arrested. In short, their space is simply not big enough in nearly every aspect.

The Police Department has already received funding for expansion. The Selectmen were asked to determine which expansion made the most sense. Two issues need to be resolved before a decision can be made. First, will the Historical Society continue to take residence in the Stearns Building? Second, should the building be remodeled to meet current demands, or should a larger remodel be undertaken with the hope of future-proofing the building?

The Historical Society was guaranteed space in the Stearns Building by a Selectmen edict from roughly 70 years ago. This makes for a tricky eviction process. The current Selectmen had promised the Historical Society temporary space for storage and a minimalist showroom on the first floor of the Old Town Hall. Despite this — and the promise of a permanent history museum looming — there’s disagreement if the Historical Society will fully relinquish their foothold in the Stearns Building. Negotiations will begin soon.

As for the size, Selectman Ed Pearce had a few statements on lifecycle. The project hardly seems worth it if the police run into the same issue of constraints in 2-5 years. The last renovation was about 20 years ago, and that number seems comfortable. Everyone settled on the decision to future-proof with the largest expansion model possible relatively quickly.

Recycling

The Selectmen then discussed a change to Bedford’s recycling system. Representatives from the Department of Public Works presented two new carts for single-stream recycling (papers, plastics, and cans); both are the same model as the current trash carts. One holds 48 gallons, identical to the current carts. The second holds 64 gallons, notably bulkier but not excessively unwieldy.

The Selectmen largely agreed that a 64-gallon cart was the best choice for several reasons. The larger size allows more space for cardboard boxes, a notoriously space-consuming item. Recycling tends to be lighter than trash. In the 48-gallon carts, the recycling fails to weigh down the barrel, often spilling its contents into the street. Despite its larger size, recycling’s lightweight nature prevents the barrels from being too heavy to maneuver, making it as accessible as current trash carts.

Selectman Bill Moonan had reservations about the larger size, concerned that some families will have difficulty with the 64-gallon cart size. Town manager Sarah Stanton said any wheeled cart would be easier than the grey, 18-gallon tubs currently used. In the end, the board unanimously passed a motion to order 64-gallon carts for the town, offering the 48-gallon carts through an opt-out program.

In a quick digression during the discussion of the carts, a member of the DPW announced a pilot composting program.

All four public schools and the firehouse will bring food waste to a specific location every Thursday. The goal is to reduce the weight of the trash as organic byproducts are often the heaviest portion of the waste stream The green benefits behind this pilot are further incentives. This may be spread town-wide if a pilot proves successful, although nothing more was said on the matter, other than “maybe.”


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