Town Manager Sarah Stanton kicked off Wednesday’s June 10 Select Board Meeting with an update on Bedford’s reopening plans. As the town’s Covid-19 case count remains steady, Stanton reported that town buildings will open June 15 by appointment only. This reopening comes just a week after the beginning of Phase 2 of Governor Charlie Baker’s four-phase reopening plan. Restaurants are among the businesses to begin reopening in phase 2, as they will be able to offer outdoor dining. In continuing to support local restaurants, the town is hoping to streamline the permit process for outdoor dining.
The Select Board granted Town Manager Stanton on a temporary basis the ability to issue liquor licenses for these expanded outdoor seating areas, where restaurants may not have been able to previously serve drinks.
Preparing for Annual Town Meeting ~ Saturday, July 11 at 9 am
The Board then addressed some of the questions remaining around Annual Town Meeting. Town Moderator Cathy Cordes raised the possibility of reducing the quorum to accommodate what could be a lightly attended meeting compared to those in the past. Governor Baker approved a bill that could allow the Town to temporarily reduce the quorum, which currently sits at 100 voters, to as low as 10. Cordes, however, is confident that there will be a strong turnout of voters and believes the quorum does not need to be reduced. The Board decided to further discuss the reduction at their June 24 meeting, although most agreed with Cordes that reducing the quorum wouldn’t be necessary.
Addressing another necessary adjustment for the upcoming meeting, Cordes explained the requirements which come with the streamlined Warrant approved by the Select Board. All articles which appeared on the Warrant for the March Town Meeting must be addressed in some form at the meeting. However, because the Board elected to indefinitely postpone many of the non-urgent articles until a later date, the postponed articles still must be addressed. To do so, Cordes proposed a Consent Agenda. The Consent Agenda would compile all of the postponed articles into one, so that voters can take one vote to delay all the postponed articles, rather than vote to postpone each one individually. Voters may still choose to remove some from the Consent Agenda and discuss them, although no motion may be made on them.
Cordes also advised that those attending the meeting “do their homework” and study each motion on their own before the meeting. Unlike previous indoor meetings, there won’t be a screen on the field, so presenting details of the articles will only be verbal. Cordes plans to present each article and recommendations from the Boards on the motion. Residents will then have the floor for discussion.
Stanton reviewed some of the budget cuts the town would be making in response to the deficit caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. “These are very difficult decisions to be made, and I think we need to be very thoughtful about the cuts we are making,” Stanton explained. The cuts include removing new positions at both the Police Station and DPW, as well as furloughing Kids Club employees. Stanton noted that while it’s possible future cuts will be necessary, “I’m thankful we’re not in the position of Brookline, where they’re pink-slipping 300 teachers.”
The Board voted to approve the budget reductions, which totaled $608,111. The Board also voted to approve the proposed 1/12 budget for the first two weeks of July due to Town Meeting being delayed until July. The 1/12 budget, based on the previous year when approved one month at a time, allows the town to continue to pay bills.
The Board was introduced to Ultragenyx, a biopharmaceutical company focusing on creating products to treat rare diseases. The company is hoping to develop a manufacturing plant in Bedford at 170 Middlesex Turnpike. Stanton and Economic Development Director Alyssa Sandoval met with Ultragenyx in hopes of bringing the plant to Bedford.
“It’s a very exciting project in that the development of a biomanufacturing facility in Bedford would really help to cement Bedford in a smaller but growing field in life sciences in general, but also for biomanufacturing,” Sandoval said. The facility would create around 100 well-paying jobs, as well as produce $350,000 annually in property tax revenue.
In a letter from Ultragenyx the company was described in this way, “We are a biopharmaceutical company committed to developing novel medicines for the treatment of rare and ultra-rare genetic diseases for which there are typically no approved therapies treating the underlying disease.”
Stanton and Sandoval hope to offer Ultragenyx a Tax Increment Financing agreement (TIF), which would subsidize the biomanufacturing plant in Bedford. The Select Board approved the TIF, as well as scheduling a Special Town Meeting inside of the upcoming July 11 Town Meeting for the town to grant the Select Board the ability to delegate the development of the TIF and to amend an existing development agreement for the site.
The Board will review and vote upon a temporary extension of Bedford TV’s contract with the town as Public, Education, and Government Access provider at their June 17 meeting.