Special town meeting on Monday, Nov. 14, has been scheduled for the Bedford High School gymnasium, in an effort to make participation as equitable as possible.
Anticipating a significant turnout in response to articles on the proposed bikeway extension and fire station location, the Select Board Monday approved the venue change from the high school’s Buckley Auditorium, which seats fewer than 600.
The gym is “the only space that can accommodate 1,000 people,” said Town Manager Sarah Stanton in presenting the recommendation.
She applauded the Facilities Department for planning to enhance the sound system, video screens, and air filtration. “The facilities director is confident he can make it comfortable, temperature-wise and seating-wise.”
There still might need to be an overflow into the cafeteria, Stanton added.
Board Chair Emily Mitchell acknowledged that “it’s a gymnasium,” but “it does allow for everyone to be there.” She said she has received “very strong feedback that we all want to be together.”
When attendance exceeds the seating in the BHS auditorium, voters are directed to the library and classrooms, connected to the main meeting by audio. Those who want to speak need to walk to the auditorium. Voting is overseen in the satellite rooms by volunteers delegated by the moderator.
In answer to a point from board member Margot Fleischman, Stanton reported that she is working with the audio service company to provide “hearing impairment aids” for voters who request them.
The board Monday also voted unanimously to close the warrant, and against recommending approval of two petitioners’ articles that were certified earlier in the day.
One article would suspend expenditures underway for the fire station project unless they are committed by contract agreements. The other would require the moderator to appoint a study committee to gather and report on ideas for locations.
Annual Town Meeting voted on March 29 by more than a two-thirds majority to approve locating the fire station at 139 The Great Road. The petitioners, led by historian Don Corey, feel that there were not sufficient opportunities to address the issues of location, which is within the Bedford Center Historic District.
The town charter requires a minimum of 100 signatures for a petitioners’ article to be included on the warrant of a special town meeting.
Board member Shawn Hanegan acknowledged “the right to do that, but I would like to see the fire station move along.” He offered the motion against recommending; there was no discussion.
The petitioners’ articles will be numbered four and five, followed by the article that would authorize the Select Board to acquire easements along the route of the proposed bikeway extension. The easements are essential to the extension project; the same proposal failed to achieve the required two-thirds minimum at Annual Town Meeting March 28.
Update on 9/28/2022: According to the Town Calendar, Special Town Meeting is set to start at Bedford High School, on November 14, at 7pm. The Town Calendar and Town Website would post any changes if necessary