The Town of Bedford greatly values the participation of its residents and their spirit of volunteerism and is thankful for the patience that all our boards and committees have shown during this strange time of Covid-19. We know how much board and committee volunteers enjoy serving our community, and working hard to make Bedford a better place.
Governor Baker, in concert with the Office of Attorney General Maura Healy, has relaxed the Open Meeting Law to allow boards and committees to meet virtually instead of in person. For more information on the order, please see here: https://www.mass.gov/doc/order-suspending-certain-provision-of-open-meeting-law/download.
Additionally, Governor Baker has banned gatherings of more than 10 people for indoor activities. As such, Bedford’s town-owned buildings will remain closed for public meetings until further notice.
As the work of boards and committees is so important in our Town, the Select Board has implemented “remote participation” procedures allowed under Governor Baker’s aforementioned Order for all boards, committees, and commissions.
Members of the Covid-19 Task Force, with approval of the Select Board, have developed a plan for Town boards and committees to begin meeting again virtually. Due to staff availability, this will be a phased approach. Phase 1 committees are listed below and each has an assigned staff person.
For Phase 1, per the guidance of Town Counsel, public meetings must be held with a staff member facilitating the meeting, using a Town-owned Zoom account.
Private Zoom accounts may not be used to hold public meetings.
Staff have attended training on how to facilitate Zoom public meetings that comply with the Open Meeting Law and will be the facilitators for any public meetings of Phase 1 committees.
Phase 1 board and committees should only be meeting if there are important matters that need attention, or to address an upcoming project.
The Town has a limited number of Zoom licenses, and are advising that no more than four committees meet at any given time. This may mean that your board and committee must pick a new time to meet, choose a non-traditional time of day, or adjust to a different day or night.
According to current Town policy, board and committee meetings can only be called and scheduled by the Chair, and take place Monday through Thursday (daytime/evening), or Friday during Town Hall regular business hours (8 am to 1 pm.) We ask that boards and committees be understanding of staff time, as many of our staff have to work around issues like childcare coverage, or health-related issues as a result of Covid-19.
We suggest that board or committee chairs check in with the assigned staff person to discuss suitable times for meetings. Public notice requirements for public hearings and meeting posting requirements with the Town Clerk remain in place, and staff is aware of the procedures required.
As the reopening of the state and town progresses, all of the other committees not listed, or “Phase 2 board and committees”, will be contacted when they are allowed to meet, which is estimated in early to mid-August.
If a Phase 2 board or committee has an urgent matter that requires meeting in the interim, the board or committee chair should email the proposed agenda to the Town Manager’s Office; to request Select Board approval to meet; and have a staff person temporarily assigned.
The Town appreciates your patience and kindness as we navigate this new world of virtual meetings. As always, if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to reach out.
Phase One (1) Boards and Committees
Arbor Resource Committee, Bedford Housing Partnership, Capital Expenditure Committee, Charter and Bylaw Review Committee, Community Preservation Committee, Conservation Commission, Council on Aging, Finance Committee, Historic District Commission, Land Acquisition Committee, Municipal Affordable Housing Trust, Recreation Commission, Registrars of Voters, Trails Committee, Youth & Family Services, Zoning Board of Appeals, Select Board, Board of Assessors, Board of Health, Library Trustees, Planning Board, and School Committee.