I attended the Bedford Finance Committee meeting on [Thursday, March 5, 2020]. Unfortunately, I must report that I was disappointed in the fiscal oversight performed by the committee on this evening.
I attended this meeting to learn more about the Town’s proposal to spend over 30 million dollars on a new fire station. The proposed re-location of the station requires a hostile, eminent domain taking of a property that is contributing over $64 thousand dollars per year to our tax base. The taking and demolition of this multi-tenant building will displace, or put out of work, 50-100 members of our community. Furthermore, this proposal has been developed in secret without community input and sprung on us with little time to understand the issues and proposed solution before are asked to vote on the plan at Annual Town Meeting.
There were a couple of questions posed by the Committee that flirted with seriousness but, unfortunately, the line of questioning was not appropriately probing. For example, one Committee Member asked about traffic concerns given that the proposed site for the new fire station sits along one of the most congested stretches of the Great Road. The Fire Chief offered that he thought that the planned relocation of the station will help reduce congestion on the Great Road. I do not know if he is correct, although I am skeptical. What I do know is that this response should have been followed up with a question such as “What is the basis for your opinion – has there been a traffic impact study performed and can we see the report?” No Finance Committee member followed-up with an attempt to identify factual support for the opinion provided. This and other similar exchanges between the committee members, Fire Chief, and Town Manager left me feeling that the committee was simply going through the motion of holding a hearing rather than critically evaluating the substantial financial implications of the matter before them.
We may need a new Fire Station, but what we really need is a fiscally responsible solution obtained with community involvement rather than extravagant expenditures planned behind closed doors. The Finance Committee has failed to provide responsible oversight to this proposed expenditure. I encourage my fellow Bedford taxpayers to vote against this plan (Article 26) at our Town Meeting on March 23rd and demand a fiscally responsible solution obtained with community involvement.
Dave Gavelek, Proud Bedford Citizen 20+ years