Economic Development Bill ~ Its Effect on Zoning Density for MBTA Communities, and a Change to Simple Majority Zoning Votes

Recently-signed state legislation designed to expand housing opportunities presents some challenges for Bedford.

The law, which affects MBTA communities, requires a zoning district of “reasonable size” in which at least 15 housing units can be situated on an acre of land, located no more than a half-mile from a commuter rail or bus station.

The provision was part of Gov. Charlie Baker’s economic development bill, which he signed in January.

Vaccination Rates, Covid Testing, & Other Topics Discussed at Monday’s Board of Health Meeting

The director of the town’s Health and Human Services Department told the Board of Health Monday that 18 percent of Bedford residents have been fully vaccinated to protect from the Covid-19 virus.

Heidi Porter said the percentage is consistent with state and national trends. On Tuesday, Porter said the most recent report by the state Department of Public Health, as of April 1, noted that 2,831 out of 14,995 residents have been fully vaccinated – that’s 18.9 percent. She added that not all residents are eligible yet.

Ventilation in Schools Meets High Standards

Facilities Director Taissir Alani continues to assure the Bedford School Committee that ventilation equipment in the school is meeting the highest standards.

Alani presented contractor’s documents indicating levels of airflow in classrooms and other school spaces, comparing the designed capacity and the actual flow.

BHS & JGMS on Track for Full-time, In-Person Learning before State’s April 28 Deadline

Bedford High School and John Glenn Middle School are on track to reopen for full-time learning before the end of April, administrators told the School Committee at its virtual meeting Tuesday. “My expectation is that we will be either on time or ahead of schedule,” said School Superintendent Philip Conrad. “Our planning committee continues to work and will come back. We will definitely beat the 28th.” April 28 is the state-imposed deadline for all public schools to reopen grades 6-8.

Board of Health Announces Vaccines Delayed for Town Clinics

A brief Board of Health agenda for the meeting held on Tuesday, Feb. 16 focused largely on an update about weekly town vaccination clinics which were offered for the first time on Feb. 10.  The second clinic was held on Wednesday, Feb. 17, but Health Department Director Heidi Porter announced that she has been notified by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health that Bedford will not be provided further vaccine for the foreseeable future.  Residents who have already received their first doses through the town clinic will be able to return for their second doses as planned. 

A Message for Residents: Community Forum on Covid-19 ~ Wednesday, Feb. 10 at 7 pm

Please remember to attend the Town’s Covid-19 virtual community forum on Zoom this Wednesday, Feb. 10, at 7 pm. Representatives from the Select Board, Board of Health, and School Committee, in addition to Town and School staff, will be available for the presentation and to answer questions.

Letter to the Editor: Volunteer Coordinating Committee Seeks Appointees for Open Board and Committee Positions

The Town of Bedford has many volunteers on Town Committees who donate their time and knowledge.  A number of those committees are looking for new volunteers to lend their enthusiasm and interest to the town to ensure that Bedford remains the special place that it is.  While we have excellent town employees, we cannot express how important it is for town residents to contribute their voices to the functioning of the Town of Bedford.

Bylaw Changes Reviewed by Select Board in Preparation for Annual Town Meeting

Of the 53 Articles planned for the Annual Town Meeting, 30 are expected to be general bylaw amendments. The Select Board heard updates on many of these proposals, and also held a public hearing on amendments to the salary administration bylaw, on Jan. 24.

Town Moderator Cathy Cordes and Jan Shepard, both members of the Charter and Bylaw Review Committee, presented the amendments.

While most articles went through without discussion, there was interest in further amending one of them to allow a possible “opt-out” of the annual town caucus. This would be done by replacing the current text of “shall” to “may,” allowing the Select Board to decide.

Potential Candidates Stand for Bedford’s 2021 Town Election

With seats on several boards without candidates last week, as of Wednesday, Jan. 27, each contest has at least one candidate except the Board of Assessors. (Click this link to learn more about Ron Cordes’s thoughts about serving as an Assessor)

With thanks to the Town Clerk’s office for the list of residents who have visited the Town Clerk’s office to sign a statement of intent and collect a candidate packet that includes nomination papers.

Candidate packets are available through the Town Clerk’s office until 5 pm on Wednesday, February 5, and must be returned for verification of signatures by noon on Friday, February 8.

February 5 and must be returned for verification of signatures by noon on Friday, February 8.

What Does a Town Assessor Do?

The elected Board of Assessors is composed of three townspeople, each elected for a three-year term. Elected Assessors must pass a training course provided by the state Department of Revenue which teaches, among other things, the state-approved methods for assessing the value of all real and personal property in the Town. From this, you may correctly infer that Assessors are not allowed to use whatever methods they want in assessing property. They are required, both under the order of the State Supreme Judicial Court and Massachusetts General Law, to follow the procedures approved by the Department of Revenue.
 
Assessors perform two separate and distinct functions.

School Committee Mulls “Recovery” Budget for In-Classroom Learning

School Committee members explored in detail at their meeting on Jan. 12 the educational implications of returning to school in the fall with smaller class sizes, particularly at Davis and Lane Schools.

One of the fiscal 2022 budget options the committee is considering incorporates additional personnel to allow for expanding the number of classrooms.

The so-called “recovery” budget option assumes that almost all students will be back in school, and the primary reason for the additional classrooms is to sustain physical distancing. The assumption is that the pandemic, while perhaps receding, will still be a consideration.

Community Preservation Committee ~ A Public Hearing on the FY22 Budget

The Covid-19 pandemic has suspended and modified a lot of growth and change locally – including community preservation projects.

The Community Preservation Committee last week voted to approve $1,777,680 in expenditures for projects and services in fiscal year 2022. The recommendations will be presented to the Select Board, which will decide about inclusion on the town meeting warrant.

Less than 8 percent of that total, however, is for new projects. More than half of the money goes to repayment of bonded projects, and the remainder is for work postponed at the abbreviated 2020 annual town meeting.

Optimal Social Distancing in Schools Debated at Board of Health Meeting

Optimal social distancing in the school environment (including but not limited to classrooms, hallways, lunchrooms, school buses) was discussed at length at the meeting of the Board of Health on January 4. 

Board member Ann Kiessling, consistent with the position taken at prior meetings, argued that there is no published data that clearly establishes the relative value of 6’ over 3’ of social distancing between students as a way of slowing or preventing virus transmission.  After the Board’s last meeting on December 21 during which the issue was discussed, Kiessling asked that Health Director Heidi Porter and Community Nurse Mark Waksmonski research the question further.   Based on the information they provided, Kiessling noted that “The bottom line is that there are no public studies on the relative value of 6’ vs. 3’ for children…Nobody has looked at it.  Nobody has studied it.  And there is quite a bit of evidence that 3’ of distance is probably ok….I am not advocating either but I am advocating that there is no science that drives 6’ is better than 3’ in a child’s classroom.” 

Board of Health Takes Significant Action in Three Areas

At its meeting on December 21 the Board of Health took three steps directly related to what took place at its previous meeting on December 14:

* Reversed its course on a motion unanimously approved at its meeting on December 14 calling for its inclusion in the meetings and communications of the town’s Covid-19 Task Force.
* Reopened investigation into the question of conflict of interest on the part of Board member Dr. Ann Kiessling
* Discussed and passed a new communication policy to be effective immediately