Letter to the Editor: What is the Fabric of a Community Worth?

~ Submitted by Erin Sandler-Rathe

What is the fabric of a community worth? After the announcement yesterday that Utah’s System of Higher Education is willing to accept Bill Moonan and Carol Amick’s bid of $1.7 million for 139 Great Road, it would be reasonable to conclude that is its price tag. At least, Moonan and Amick seem willing to sacrifice the common good for that amount.

I’m sure they feel they have their reasons. They have cited historical preservation and abutter’s concerns as reasons for their actions. Are these worth the acrimony spreading across our Town, though?

The project was already controversial, with its high price tag and disagreements over an ideal site. Everyone who spoke at Town Meeting, even those opposed to this site, said, “Obviously we need a new fire station…” If we all agree there needs to be a new fire station, it will have to go somewhere. The problems Moonan and Amick cite with 139 Great Road hold true for all potential sites under consideration: it’s in the Historic District; there are residents adjacent to it; traffic could become problematic and impact response times. In fact, all those are true of the current fire station as well! The fact is, there is no parcel in Bedford large enough to accommodate the fire station that has no residential neighbors and would not snarl traffic at times.

Historic preservation is a worthy goal, but no one was attempting to preserve the carriage house at 139 Great Road before the Town set its sights on acquiring it. Even if it held major historical significance, is our history worth poisoning the public trust now and into the future?

More than 2/3 of Town Meeting voted for the acquisition of 139 Great Road. Fourteen citizens sued to thwart that vote, and their case was found to have no merit. Now two citizens believe they can buy their way to the solution they prefer with $1.7 million cash. Not only is that action thoroughly anti-democratic, but it has seriously undermined voters’ trust in our officials, the process of Town Meeting, our Select Board’s negotiating position in any future acquisition, and our sense of Bedford as a community that values fair play. If Moonan and Amick succeed in preventing the Town from acquiring 139 Great Road, it will be a pyrrhic victory. And no fire station can put out that kind of fire.

Editor’s Note. 6/5/2022: Ms. Sandler-Rathe’s letter to the editor was originally posted without attribution. The Citizen regrets its error.


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Thomas Kenny
Thomas Kenny
2 months ago

I agree with the writer of this article. Having two citizens do an end run while simultaneously taking their case to court leaves a bad taste in my mouth. And knowing that outbidding even a small increase in a bid is much easier for private citizens with deep pocket than the process of a town committee to raise it’s bid makes it even more distasteful, knowing the timetable and workings of town governments. Calling it a pyrrhic victory is absolutely dead on.

Katie Smith
Katie Smith
2 months ago

Why must it be only one fire station? A town this size could easily accommodate two fire stations, one of which we already have. Relocate the search out of the historical district and establish a new fire station wherever the need is growing in Bedford.
More character bashing does not serve the common good either. I assume good faith of all parties involved.

McClain, John
McClain, John
2 months ago
Reply to  Katie Smith

This was addressed at town meeting, and in the materials put out before town meeting. Even if we ultimately decide we need (and can afford) two fire stations, the current one still needs to be replaced.

Catherine Van Praagh
Catherine Van Praagh
2 months ago
Reply to  Katie Smith

The reality is that the current station is too small, too old and too run down for modern equipment and current staffing. Regardless of how many stations are built, it must be replaced. A second fire station would not offer a discount- it would also have to be built, equipped and maintained.

Paul J Bradford
Paul J Bradford
2 months ago
Reply to  Katie Smith

Having two fire stations is much more expensive, in the construction and in the annual costs. This was covered in the materials at town meeting.

Theresa Stevens
Theresa Stevens
2 months ago
Reply to  Katie Smith

The town can’t acquire one parcel of land. What makes you think it can acquire two?

Katie Smith
Katie Smith
2 months ago

We already have the current fire station. I do not understand why it couldn’t remain as a smaller substation. Is the plan that this building will be demolished as well? Where is the growth in Bedford occurring? Could we need a fire station in the expanding area?
I realize I’m late to this party and I apologize for missing the original deliberations and thank you for bringing me up to speed. I’m just generally opposed to demolishing old, particularly historic buildings. I never drive down Great Road without admiring it’s loveliness and living history.
If this process has to restart, I hope more people get involved and we can avoid the personal attacks of dissenting opinions. We should all come together to preserve the integrity and beauty of our amazing town.

Nancy Wolk
Nancy Wolk
2 months ago
Reply to  Katie Smith

The current location, cannot support the current vehicles. There’s literally not enough room for the trucks to turn around. To build a new station on the current site would require the acquisition of more parcels of land.

We’ve needed to replace this station since the 1990s.

The town has put together a wonderful series of webpages describing the situation. Here’s a link.
https://www.bedfordma.gov/new-fire-station

lisa
lisa
2 months ago

Um Wow,

I lived in Bedford for nearly 20 years. I always found the politics to be gentle in the European use of the word. People are polite, respectful. While serving on the Planning Board we were not a mirror of each other, nor were we an echo chamber. Generally, disagreements were handled kindly. Nor did we roll over for mob-rule. We sometimes made decisions which created ‘winners’ and ‘losers’.

Now, in FL, I still follow Bedford’s highlights via the Citizen and Lowell Sun. It’s a great town and folks should be proud to call it home.

I am not trying to defend the abutters action. I don’t live there and don’t know the nuances. However, I ask the Citizen Editors to consider this piece.

I am just putting it out there, as viewed by a now outsider:

  • Own your work. Don’t hide behind the title “Editor”.
  • This doesn’t have to be acrimonious if town residents choose to not feel that way. Rise above it. Empathy. Understanding.
  • Introspection. Perhaps the town Select Board and staff can use this as a learning experience. What should they have done better? Other sites, such as the Motel? What communication and processes could have been better?
  • I loved Town Meeting. It was incredibly entertaining and a raw form of democracy. However, 2/3 of town meeting is not the same as 2/3 of the voters at the polls. There are many reasons folks don’t attend Town Meeting yet still vote at the polls.  

Again, I don’t know the nuances of this instance. Bedford needs a new fire station.   

Words have meaning. Using incendiary language ignites acrimony. It would have been nice to see a piece that draws the residents together and past this, rather than creating additional US-vs-THEM drama.

I loved my time in Bedford and remember it fondly.
Lisa Mustapich, formerly of Clark Rd. 

The Bedford Citizen
Admin
2 months ago
Reply to  lisa

The letter to the editor in question should’ve been marked as ‘Submitted by’ but it was posted early in the morning and I missed adding it.

Letters to the Editor always convey the opinion of the readers who send them, not the policy or the perspective of The Bedford Citizen.

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