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

Board of Health Urges Its Wider Role in Covid-19 Policy Decisions

The Board of Health unanimously approved a motion at its meeting on Monday night that it be “included in all communications and meetings that are being held in the town by town employees relative to Covid-19 and/or SARS-CoV-2.” The motion as finally passed also states that it will be reviewed in 30 days.

Editor’s Note: the Board of Health is a five-member elected board.  The Department of Health and Human Services – often referred to as “the Health Department” is a town department staffed by employees of the town.

Pushback came the next day, on December 15, with an 1,100-word “Statement to the Community,” signed by the leadership of the major town boards and read by School Committee Chair Dan Brosgol at the start of its meeting.  The statement said in part: “While we can always improve communication back and forth with residents, elected officials, and Town staff, we are comfortable as the leaders of this community with continuing under the structure we have in place….In this structure, staff are empowered by us to make decisions with input from a variety of sources, including the relevant boards and commissions that help guide major policy decisions for the town. We…are fully confident in our department heads and staff to make the day-to-day decisions in the operation of the Town and Schools.”  The statement was signed by Brosgol, Select Board Chair Ed Pierce, and Board of Health Chair Sarah Thompson who had voted for the motion calling for a different arrangement at her Board’s meeting on December 14. 

Bedford VA Resident Receives One of Nation’s First Covid-19 Vaccinations

For a small town in New England, Bedford has racked up a lot of firsts.

Like the first annual ceremony to celebrate the first shots of the American Revolution – and the first battle flag in that fight. Or the first municipality to sign on for the state Community Preservation Act. Many people say the Marshalls in the Bedford Marketplace was the first store in the chain.

Here’s another one: On Monday at 12:07 pm, the first patient in a US Veterans Affairs facility received the new Covid-19 vaccine.

Emotional Support Resources for Teachers and Staff through the Counseling Department

Bedford’s public school teachers, bombarded by the exigencies of the Covid-19 pandemic, are actually feeling the love.

That’s according to testimony from the four building principals at last Tuesday evening’s meeting of the Bedford School Committee.

The subject came up during a discussion about resources available to support teachers and staff through the counseling department.

Ann Guay on Bringing Remote JGMS and BHS Students Back into the Buildings

School Committee member Ann Guay offered a creative way at last Tuesday’s board meeting to get more Middle and High School students back into their buildings.

Her idea: a pilot program that would continue the remote portion of the hybrid model, but in the schoolhouses instead of at home.

“Some students are really struggling learning remotely at home, for a variety of reasons,” Guay said. “I want to propose that we think about a pilot program,” if the space is available.

Flu Clinic on Wednesday, December 2 ~ From 2 to 3:30 pm

The influenza immunization is now required for all children 6 months of age or older who are attending Massachusetts child care, pre-school, kindergarten, K-12, and colleges and universities. The new vaccine requirement is an important step to reduce flu-related illness and ​the overall impact of respiratory illness during the COVID-19 pandemic. Students are expected to have received a flu vaccine by December 31, 2020, for the 2020-2021 influenza season, unless either a medical or religious exemption is provided. 

The Bedford Public Schools in collaboration with the Bedford Board of Health is offering Bedford school students and residents the opportunity to receive a flu vaccine at a designated drive-thru flu clinic that is structured to maximize protection of Bedford residents and staff at the clinic.

School Committee Approves Energy Policy Revisions to Ratify Current Practice

The School Committee last Tuesday unanimously approved two revisions to the town’s energy policy that actually ratified current practice.

One provision is that the town purchase 100 percent renewable energy for operations. Also, as part of the guidelines for construction and renovation, a primary goal is minimizing the use of fossil fuels to run the buildings.

Board of Health ~ Short Takes, 2 November 2020

The Board of Health last week reviewed the implementation of new state policies designed to try to control the spread of the coronavirus Covid-19.

“We saw something coming and we are very grateful for the governor’s leadership to initiate this,” said Heidi Porter, director of the town’s Health and Human Services Department.

“Any time you are in public you will be wearing a mask now,” Porter said, “even if you’re walking around your own neighborhood.” Also, gatherings, including privately, are limited to no more than 10 indoors and 25 outdoors.

Bedford School Department ~ Proposed FY22 Capital Projects

If you’re looking for major school undertakings on the fiscal year 2022 proposed capital projects list, there aren’t any.

The School Committee last week reviewed a short roster of routine capital projects for technology and preventive maintenance. The items are expected to be reviewed by the Capital Expenditure Committee on Wednesday.