Editor’s Note: This is the third in a series of articles about the Bedford Police Department – its philosophy, values, personnel, partnership, and plans – and how they fit into the current national conversation. Click this link to read Part I, or this link to read Part II.
The Bedford Police Department likes to say it’s value-driven. As Chief Robert Bongiorno puts it, “We respond to good people who are having a bad day. We are here to serve.”
Conversations with a range of Police Department personnel – all Bedford High School graduates — indicate that they all walk the walk.
On July 10, 2020, the Commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MA DPH) rescinded a previous emergency order related to grocery stores and pharmacies that, in part, prohibited the use of reusable checkout bags by grocery stores and pharmacies and their patrons.
The Town of Bedford will begin micropaving work on North Road, Concord Road, and Page Road (from Old Billerica Rd to the Lexington town line) tomorrow, Wednesday, July 22, 2020.
The work will involve adjusting structures (drains, manhole covers), some patching, and two layers of micro pavement. The work will be done in phases over each of the areas and is expected to last approximately 3 weeks. Police will be present during this work but some delays and lane closures can be expected.
The Bedford Arbor Resources Committee is searching for homes with street-side locations suitable for planting a town-purchased, town-planted tree as soon as autumn 2020
Tree-lined, canopied streets add more than beauty and character to a town. They do more than make our streets safer, more than raise property values, more than contribute to a vibrant business community.
The Department of Public Works recently announced a return to the summer schedule for the Compost Center.
The Compost Center, located at 108 Carlisle Road, will be open every other Saturday from 8 am to 1 pm, and every other Wednesday from 8:30 am until 2:30 pm at 106 Carlisle Road. The autumn schedule will announced at the end of September.
The National Weather Service has issued a Heat Advisory for much of Massachusetts, including the Bedford area, that remains in effect until 8 pm on Monday, July 20th, where heat index values may reach 102 degrees. Hot temperatures and high humidity can cause heat illness to occur if you are not careful. With this forecast, please be mindful of ways to prevent heat-related illness and stay safe.
As cities and towns across the country grapple with fundamental questions about policing, Bedford Police Chief Robert Bongiorno thinks his department is a national role model.
“We have a core fundamental belief in problem-solving, with empathy,” Chief Bongiorno declared. “We humanize every situation, and that is embedded in every one of our men and women. We were doing a lot of what the national reform movement is calling for well before it became the norm.”
The first in a series of four articles about the Bedford Police Department – its philosophy, values, personnel, partnerships, and plans – and how they fit into the current national conversation.
Bedford voters gathered on Sabourin Field on Saturday morning to celebrate one of the great rituals of democracy, Open Town Meeting. Looking out over the socially-distanced crowd of 100+ voters, visitors, and Town staff, Moderator Cathy Cordes opened the meeting and exclaimed, “THIS is what democracy looks like!”
Town Manager Sarah Stanton said, “Thanks to everyone [for] a true collaborative effort. We accomplished what we all wanted, for people to be safe, AND to be part of our important democratic process.”
Moderator Cordes added that she was “humbled by the turnout and the active participation of voters in the process of democracy. It is a proud moment for Bedford, and one for the history books!”
Both Stanton and Cordes credit town staff. “They’re all professionals who love Bedford and made the meeting seem effortless,” said Cordes. Members of every town department were on hand, from first responders ready for any emergency, through DPW crews, to administrative professionals helping to direct voters to their seats.
Bedford won the weather sweepstakes when Tropical Storm Fay took a westward tack, completely missing the town, leaving behind a strong breeze and puffy clouds. The temperature was in the high eighties, but the breeze and occasional shade when the sun hid behind the clouds made the morning tolerable.
The full warrant for the original meeting scheduled for March was pared to the bone with only essential votes remaining. One retained ‘essential’ was the Bedford Minuteman Company posting the colors as they do in opening Annual Town Meeting each year.
Bedford MA Today moderator Lee Yates noted the number of ‘firsts’ at today’s meeting. “Our first outdoor Town Meeting. Our first March Town Meeting in July. Our first TM with sunscreen, insect repellent, and spring water handed out to each voter. And the first TM where Rich Daugherty really did need a microphone!” Daugherty is known for his strong voice, carrying throughout the high school auditorium where town meetings are commonly held.
Bedford’s State Representative Ken Gordon added, “What a great turnout. At least 100, likely more. Respectful discussions .. .. .. Great job by the town to supply masks, waters, bug screen, sunscreen, and even a souvenir fan.” (Editor’s note: the souvenir fans did double duty, also serving as easily seen voting cards as the meeting progressed.) “As others found reasons to postpone their gatherings, Bedford toughed it out and got its business done,” Rep. Gordon continued.
There will be several articles about the decisions that were made during the meeting, and they will appear in The Bedford Citizen early next week. But in the meanwhile, please enjoy these images of the day.
A selection of images from Annual Town Meeting on Sabourin Field this morning.
Bedford’s new superintendent of schools begins his second week on the job immersed in the pandemic-induced challenges of trying to plan for the resumption of classes in two months.
“We are working really hard on how we are going to re-enter school. That’s the focus for the summer,” said Philip Conrad. “Together we are going into uncharted territory, and hopefully we will be flexible and safe and smart.”
Conrad emphasized that he and his team are staying on top of requirements issued by the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, including options for in-person, remote, and hybrid school experiences, “to keep everybody safe and healthy.”
The transition in the central office of the Bedford Public Schools is unusual to begin with, as the last new superintendent from outside the district was Joseph Buckley in 1981. Conrad, most recently principal of Andover High School, was selected by the School Committee in March to succeed the retiring Superintendent Jon Sills.
Now Conrad’s arrival is complicated by the exigencies of the coronavirus, but there is a silver lining: Sills is remaining on staff through the summer in the position of associate superintendent.
“Jon and I have a lot of interactions, pretty much on a daily basis, through a lot of different media – in person, on the phone, on Zoom,” Conrad said. “Jon’s presence is an incredible luxury for us because of his institutional knowledge. It is a wonderful way to transition from his leadership to my leadership.”
Conrad has met with, or scheduled conversations with, members of the central office leadership team, building principals and the president of the teachers’ union. Together with his predecessor he will connect with elected and appointed municipal officials. “It has been great to meet people – the welcome has been really wonderful.”
“I really want to get to everybody I can,” Conrad said, and whenever possible in person. Later in the summer, he added, “I hope we can figure out a way to meet with students and parents, outside or virtually.”
The Zoom platform, he observed, “is a great tool, and it has transformed the way we meet with people, the way we learn, maintain relationships, and the way to be able to continue to operate, whether school or businesses.”
Will it be safe to hold a conventional Bedford Day parade and street fair on September 19?
If there will be a cancellation, the Select Board will decide no later than August 1.
“It’s very much on people’s radar, but is it safe? Is this the right thing to do?” said Town Manager Sarah Stanton.
Select Board Chair Ed Pierce said, “we’re in a gap period right now, but groups need to order supplies, and if we wait too long some vendors may not be able to react in time.”
Recreation Director Amy Hamilton, who with her department has coordinated Bedford Day activities for many years, said she told the town manager she could wait until August before a decision is necessary. “People sign up online, and it does not take us that long to get things organized,” she said.
At their June 16 meeting, the School Committee approved the 2020-21 school year budget, approved changes to the JGMS and BHS handbooks, and approved a two month contract for retiring Superintendent Jon Sills to assume an associate superintendent position from July 1 through August 31, 2020.
Annual Town Meeting’s streamlined warrant has been bulked up just a bit with the addition of a concurrent Special Town Meeting (STM). The Special Town Meeting will be held to address a Tax Increment Financing (TIF) agreement with biomedical company Ultragenyx. If approved, the STM would grant the Select Board the ability to negotiate the development of the TIF and to amend an existing development agreement for the site.
Among the most eagerly awaited re-openings is that of the Bedford Free Public Library, set for a ‘soft’ resumption of services during the week of June 22.
Library Director Richard Callaghan said he and his staff are working on contactless (curbside) pickup of materials. The Library is working with a vendor now on software that will be accessible from a user’s phone or desktop to make online reservations for materials. Details will be released by the end of this week. Watch for the announcement! Meantime, patrons can still call or email the Library and the staff will make a reservation for them and will continue to answer questions via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Bedford Arbor Resources Committee (BARC) met remotely last Wednesday, June 20, 2020, to review proposed changes to tree removal plans around the parking lots of John Glenn Middle School and to discuss monitoring of gas leaks that harm trees. Chair Jaci Edwards ran the meeting. In addition to the committee, those present were DPW Director David Manugian, Facilities Director Taissir Alani, Tree Warden Dennis Freeman, and members of the engineering/architectural firm tasked with executing the project.
The town’s health director Heidi Porter said Friday that she plans to reach out to leaders of the spontaneous local anti-racism demonstrations about the importance of practices that will mitigate the spread of the Covid-19 virus.
And Porter also emphasized that there are other public health dimensions to the protests – specifically, the mental health benefits of speaking out against the epidemic of racism.
Bedford Fire Chief David Grunes congratulated Dias and Class 282, “Firefighter Charlie Dias completed an intense nine-week training program in fire behavior, firefighting equipment and control methods, hazardous materials, vehicle extrication, and additional job-specific topics. His academy class was especially challenging as it began at the end of February just as the pandemic gained traction in Massachusetts.
Since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, Annual Town Meeting has been on many residents’ minds. Open to every voter in Bedford, the meeting will still require social distancing, a challenge for residents who have been under stay-at-home orders since March and wish to greet neighbors and friends from across town.
At the Select Board’s May 13 meeting, the Board voted to hold Annual Town Meeting on Saturday, June 27 at the High School’s Sabourin Field at 1 PM. Town Meetings are exempt from Governor Baker’s order against large gatherings as they serve as legislative bodies. Town Manager Sarah Stanton and Heidi Porter Director of Health and Human Services, among many others, have placed the highest priority on safety for both town staff and residents in attendance.
When an abbreviated annual town meeting finally convenes in late June, voters will be asked to reduce the proposed fiscal year 2021 school and municipal budgets by as much as $2.2 million in response to declining revenue.
And those cuts will be relatively easy compared to the prospects for the following fiscal year, Town Manager Sarah Stanton told members of the Select Board at their virtual meeting Wednesday afternoon.
Mental Health Awareness Month was started in the United States in 1949 by the Mental Health America organization (then known as the National Association for Mental Health). Its purpose is to raise awareness and educate the public about mental illnesses, the realities of living with these conditions, and strategies for attaining mental health and wellness. It also aims to draw attention to suicide, which can be precipitated by some mental illnesses.
What is mental health?
Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being and contributes to our overall physical health. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make healthy choices. Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood.