Special Town Meeting 2021 ~ Voted all 8 Articles in 25 Minutes

Special Town Meeting 2021 approved all eight articles on the warrant on Monday night, as the legislative branch of town government convened in person for the first time in two years.

The proceedings took 25 minutes, which was the same duration that elapsed between the scheduled 7 p.m. start until the 100-voter quorum materialized in Bedford High School’s Buckley Auditorium.

Voters approved a $700,000 reduction in the fiscal 2022 reserve fund, an $84,506 addition to the vocational education budget covering additional local students, and a $43,448 budget transfer to pay for current year expenses resulting from a new contract with the police supervisors signed earlier Monday.

Also approved were adjustments to the Community Preservation and Cable Television budgets, and Article 8, amendments to the Shawsheen subdistrict of the business zone that, among other things, will permit four-story buildings under certain conditions. The article passed without negative comments.

Indeed, only one voter spoke in opposition to anything, and that was the annual confirmation of the 3 percent community preservation surcharge, which like everything passed easily. The remaining warrant article was debate rules.

Special Town Meeting 2021 may have been different from its predecessors—temporary Moderator Mark Siegenthaler read all the motions, there were no live presentations, and many seats were taped to separate unrelated voters. Everyone wore face coverings, as required by the Board of Health.

But the social aspect of Town Meeting flourished, with town officials, department heads, and voters chatting in small groups before and after the formal proceedings.

Faces in the Crowd

Monday’s Select Board Meeting

Less than an hour before the scheduled start of Special Town Meeting, the Select Board approved a three-year contract with the Police Supervisors Association that capped what Chief Robert Bongiorno said reflected “a really solid process, and fair all the way around.” The police sergeants and lieutenants earlier voted to approve the contract.

Town Manager Sarah Stanton said the agreement provides for a 2 percent pay increase the first year, retroactive to July 1. The adjustment for each of the remaining years is 2.5 percent

Other provisions she mentioned included “modest” increases in night differential, special assignments, third shift, medical response, and outside details. Stanton thanked the union’s negotiators, Sgts. Patrick Towle, Paul Saunders, and Robert Abajian.

Stanton said the agreement also includes “language that reflects statewide police reform. It gives us the flexibility to move forward if this state adopts standards.” Asked by board member Bopha Malone if new standards would necessitate departmental changes, Stanton referred to the ongoing work of the state Peace Officers Standards and Training (POST) Commission, which has been charged by state law with “creating a mandatory certification process for police officers, as well as processes for decertification, suspension of certification, or reprimand in the event of certain misconduct.”

“If there was a sweeping change to work conditions or appropriation  of funds, I think we will want to work with the unions,” she said, noting, ”I think it’s going to take some time for them to move forward with statewide reform.”

Bongiorno said the agreement is “really fair” for both sides and reflects “a willingness to cooperate that I have not seen.”

Monday night’s six-minute Select Board meeting was its only in-person session since March 9, 2020, except for a brief pre-annual town meeting session in May. That meant the board could legally vote by voice instead of the roll call voting required at virtual meetings.

“It’s amazing that we are able to do that,” said board member William Moonan after the voice vote. “I know,” laughed Chair Margot Fleischman. “It’s so discombobulating.”

Mike Rosenberg can be reached at mike@thebedfordcitizen.org, or 781-983-1763

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Chris Gittins
Chris Gittins
9 months ago

> Article 8, amendments to the Shawsheen subdistrict of the business zone that, among other things, will permit four-story buildings under certain conditions.

A point of clarification: The amended zoning bylaw (Section 22) will allow four-story buildings by Special Permit if the design meets specific technical criteria and the Planning Board is convinced that the overall proposal is of sufficient benefit to Town that it merits a Special Permit. Four-story buildings are still not allowed by-right in the Shawsheen subdistrict.

Chris Gittins
Member, Bedford Planning Board

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