Town to Receive $4 Million in ARPA Funds

Bedford will be receiving about $4 million in federal post-Covid relief over the next year.

Town Manager Sarah Stanton said Monday permitted uses are limited to response to the public health emergency; replacement of revenue lost due to the pandemic; or some categories of infrastructure.

The money results from approval of the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). It is expected in three installments, with the first $1.6 million before the end of the month and the remainder before the close of fiscal year 2022.

Conservation Commission Hears Plans for 310 Great Road Stormwater Management

The proposed redevelopment of 310 The Great Road – the former Papa Gino’s – continued to work its way through the regulatory process Wednesday.

The Conservation Commission will resume a public hearing in mid-July on plans for stormwater management and compliance with local and state wetlands protection at the site.

Following a detailed presentation by project engineer Matt Hamor of LandPlex at the commission’s virtual meeting Wednesday evening, Jeff Summers, Bedford’s conservation agent, had a few questions.

Current Opportunities to Serve on Appointed Boards and Committees

Bedford’s Volunteer Coordinating Committee seeks qualified candidates for all appointive offices in the Town, except for appointees who work full or part-time for remuneration, and except for appointments to the Volunteer Coordinating Committee.

Interested residents are invited to call a member of the Volunteer Coordinating Committee to indicate an interest in serving, or to learn more about a committee, the time commitment involved, and the appointment process.

Brush Clearing starts July 1

Starting July 1st, 2021 the Public Works Department will be cutting back brush and other vegetation within the public right of way throughout the Town.  The purpose is to maintain safe access to Town sidewalks and roadways per our Town’s General bylaws.

Will there be Remote or In-Person Board and Committee Meetings?

Town government is awaiting the outcome of a state legislative conference committee decision to learn the fate of future board and committee meetings on the Zoom platform.

The cessation of the Massachusetts state of emergency at midnight Monday invalidated the protocols that suspended open meeting law requirements and allowed remote participation since the arrival of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Editor’s Note: Last-minute update from WCVB TV-5 –https://www.wcvb.com/article/massachusetts-pandemic-era-state-of-emergency-expires/36725317

Library Short Takes ~ June, 2021 ~ Reopening, Fines Update, Masks, and A New Digital Resource

There was good news from the June 8 meeting of the Bedford Free Public Library Trustees. About 1,000 Library users came into the building from reopening day, June 2 through Saturday, June 5, with 3,000 checkouts of materials. People Happy to Rediscover the Library: Staff Equally Happy to See PatronsLibrary Director Richard Callaghan reported that there were 21,000 curbside pickups from June 23, 2020, to now, and the service is continuing because patrons really like it.  Of course, you can also come into the library and pick up the books on hold for you but for the time being, curbside service will be maintained. The Library is following the Town’s guidelines for reopening of public buildings.  Although mask restrictions have been lifted for vaccinated individuals, Library staff continue to wear masks and there are signs on every entrance encouraging patrons to wear masks.  The Trustees grappled for some time with a proposal offered by one Trustee to mandate mask-wearing, although this is no longer required according to CDC and state guidelines. Both Callaghan and Assistant Director Noreen O’Gara reported that most patrons are continuing to wear masks and this is working well.

Hanscom Taxiway Resurfacing is Scheduled to Begin on August 1

Resurfacing of a Hanscom Field taxiway is scheduled to begin on Aug. 1. And that means a lot of dump trucks plying Hartwell Road between Concord Road and airfield access near the Edge Sports Center.

But town officials emphasize that this project in no way approaches the magnitude of the runway resurfacing of July 2017, which disrupted neighborhoods with heavy traffic and 24-hour activity.

Town Manager Sarah Stanton described the project to the Select Board at its virtual meeting Monday.

Jeffrey Summers: Bedford’s New Conservation Agent ~ Cohasset Salt Marshes to Bedford Wetlands

Bedford’s new conservation agent began his municipal government career in law enforcement.

Jeffrey Summers has been serving in Bedford for a little more than a month. He succeeds Rachel Kelley, who was on the job for less than four months before accepting an offer in January to be director of planning and development in Winthrop.

Summers, who grew up in New Jersey, previously worked as a police officer in Henniker, NH, home of New England College and Pat’s Peak Ski Area.

After 10 years on the force, Summers said, “I wanted to learn more about the environment and environmental issues.” He enrolled at Northeastern University and earned a degree in environmental studies.      

Summers was appointed by Town Manager Sarah Stanton after more than five years as conservation agent in Cohasset, on the South Shore.

He acknowledged the dramatic difference in topography. In Cohasset, much of Summers’s attention focused on things like coastal banks, salt marshes, and proposed beach restorations.

Arriving in Bedford, “I drove around town, and everywhere I looked there was a stream or a brook or an obvious wetland.  It’s amazing how much wetland there is in the town; it literally looks like a sponge.”

Select Board Hears Proposal for 330 South Road Rental Development

Accessibility was a major concern as the Select Board on Monday hosted the first presentation on a 24-unit rental development at 330 South Road that is being proposed as a local initiative project (LIP).

“We are good to move forward with continuing this process,” said Chair Margot Fleischman. “I feel what the Select Board is charged to do is determine the value of this development to the community. I know there is a lot of public interest.”

The property owners, Steven and Jennifer Soillis, want to convert a house and two barns into 18 housing units and add a structure with an additional six dwelling units, replacing garages and other outbuildings. 

The LIP is often called a “friendly 40B,” after the state law that allows proposals with 25 percent of the units designated as affordable to waive zoning considerations. If the Select Board cosponsors the plan, it will require only approval by the Zoning Board of Appeals and the state Department of Housing and Community Development. The plan as constituted cannot be approved under current zoning.

Summer Concerts on Tap Plus Special Events for Kids

Thursday evening summer concerts are back.

Recreation Director Amy Hamilton announced Thursday that there will be four headliners on consecutive Thursday evenings beginning on July 22.

Hamilton is promoting the series as a special feature of the town’s “activity complex,” which “boasts a vast lawn for concert-goers.”

Library Reopens Services to Patrons ~ Wednesday, June 2, at 10 A.M.

In their June newsletter, the staff and Trustees of the Bedford Free Public Library said, We would like to extend our appreciation for your patience and understanding throughout these past fourteen months,” and announced that the library will reopen on Wednesday, June 2, although with new hours.

The building will be open to the public for browsing, picking up materials, and using public computers, copiers, fax, and reference materials.

The library will observe the Commonwealth’s new guidelines for reopening:  

Three Commercial Districts, One Bike Trail ~ Virtual Event on Tuesday, June 8 at 6pm

The towns of Arlington, Bedford and Lexington jointly submitted an application to the Massachusetts Rapid Recovery Plan (RRP) Program, and were awarded a grant. The RRP Program is aimed at assisting communities develop actionable plans to aid commercial areas recover from COVID-19. 

The idea is to create a plan to help revitalize Arlington Heights, Bedford Center and East Lexington Village with a particular focus on a common asset – the Minuteman Bikeway.

Select Board Briefed on 330 South Road as Local Initiative Program

Developers of a proposal for 24 housing units at 330 South Road, near the corner of Summer Street, are considering enlisting the support of the Select Board to seek approval as a Local Initiative Program (LIP).

The board this week received a briefing on the process, in anticipation of a discussion with the developer at a June meeting. The project as proposed cannot be permitted under current zoning.

COVID-19 Updates Effective on Saturday, May 29, 2021

On May 17, 2021, the Baker-Polito Administration announced that the Commonwealth is on track to meet the goal of vaccinating 4.1 million residents by the first week of June. New cases have dropped by 89% since January 8. COVID hospitalizations are down 88% since January 1 and the positive test rate is down by 88% from peaking at 8.7% on January 1 to 1% on May 17. As a result, Governor Baker announced all remaining COVID-19 restrictions will be lifted effective May 29.

The following changes will take effect on Saturday, May 29.

Town Engineer Adrienne St. John Retiring after 36 Years ~ “Never a Dull Day Here!”

After 36 years, the engineer at the Bedford Department of Public Works is reflecting on a career that helped transform the local landscape and enhance the town’s quality of life.

“I’ve never had a dull day here,” said Adrienne St. John, whose last day at work is next Friday, June 4. “There is always a new project or a new issue or a new problem that the DPW is called upon to solve.”

She has had a hand – mostly both hands — in projects that covered the range of municipal services. At one point, she said, it seemed like “we had a third of the town dug up for numerous projects.”

After more than three-and-a-half decades, St. John said she derives her greatest satisfaction from two major ventures completed within the past three years: the reclamation of Fawn Lake and the White Cedar Swamp boardwalk along Davis Road.

The Fawn Lake dredging was “two decades in the making to get something able to be permitted through the regulatory agencies,” she pointed out. And the boardwalk is “just one little segment in the sidewalk network, but it links so many residents to the center of town.”

Developers Win Vote to Demolish 37 Hillside and Construct Reproduction

Following a protracted discussion, members of the Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) voted 4:2 on Tuesday night in favor of allowing demolition of the 1911-era home at 37 Hillside Ave. to proceed. This was the third public hearing on the case. At the first hearing, the HPC deemed the meeting “historically significant”; at the second public hearing, the Commission did not come to a decision but requested a walk-through of the property, which took place on May 15.

With Tuesday night’s decision, the development team of Suzanne and Ryan Koller and Nicholas and Nikki Vercollone (Highline Construction) can now go forward with their plan to demolish the existing structure along with a pool, garage, and deck and to build what they call a “reproduction” of the home. The distinctive roofline will be maintained. As noted in Historic Properties and Neighborhoods of Bedford, Massachusetts by Kathleen Kelly-Broomer, the home was listed in the National Register historic district in 1977. It is described as “uncommon among early 20th-century residential buildings in Bedford and retains many character-defining features of the Craftsman style.”

Select Board Approves Memorandum of Understanding for Development of 251A-F Old Billerica Road

Culminating a conversation fueled by neighbors and conservation advocates, the Select Board Monday voted unanimously to approve a memorandum of understanding with the prospective developers of acreage at 251A and 251F Old Billerica Road.

The memorandum limits the development to a maximum of 16 units (the existing house and 15 new units) and maintains most conservation land across the 15-acre property. Failure to abide by the memorandum would lead to the town reinstating its Right of First Refusal.

DPW Updates ~ David Manugian Reports to the Select Board

Editor’s Note: During Monday’s Select Board meeting, DPW Director David Manugian shared insights into a proposed link between Bedford and the MWRA, the department’s new system for road maintenance, and a report on plans for future upgrades to Shawsheen Cemetery

Proposed New MWRA Link Could Improve Bedford’s Water System

A planned direct connection between Bedford’s water distribution system and a new extension of regional conduits should improve water flow, pressure, and quality, Director of Public Works David Manugian told the Select Board on Monday.

And work could begin as soon as this fall.

Bedford Health Department to Share in $300,000 State Grant 

The Health Department is planning a community outreach campaign, thanks to a significant regional grant from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health Office of Local and Regional Health. 

Heidi Porter, Director of Health and Human Services, told the Board of Health Monday that Bedford and five neighboring towns will receive $300,000 a year for three years, with an option for renewal for another three years.

Town Offices to Open June 1, Library Will Reopen June 2

Town Manager Sarah Stanton announced at Monday’s Select Board meeting that municipal offices will reopen to the public during normal business hours beginning next Tuesday, June 1. This follows 15 months of closure or appointment-only access.

Stanton also said that she expects meetings of town boards and committees to continue virtually through the summer, with the option to meet in person beginning in the fall.

Memorial Day Update

Memorial Day in Bedford will be virtual – and, unofficially, actual

Paul Purchia, who chairs the town Patriotic Holiday Committee, said this week that the traditional components of Memorial Day ceremonies at Veterans Memorial Park will be pre-recorded and broadcast on Bedford TV.