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

New Bulk Waste Pick-Up Policy in Effect January 1, 2021

In March, 2020, the Bedford Select Board approved pick-up/collection fees on certain bulk items.

When calling to schedule a pick-up of a bulk item, appliance, and television/monitor, or electronics, residents will have to provide a credit card number to Republic Services Customer Service for the fees listed on the Town’s flyer.

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. 

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.

Board of Health’s Enforcement Authority Turns Toward Helping Residents

The Board of Health has a lot of code enforcement authority.

But during these extraordinary times, some of that enforcement, enhanced by collaborative departments, is being directed to helping residents in need. Heidi Porter, director of Health and Human Services, stressed that point at Monday’s virtual meeting of the Board of Health.

Library’s Reserved Book Pick-up Moves Indoors on November 2

Beginning Monday, November 2, 2020, curbside pick-up for books reserved through the Bedford Free Public Library will move indoors for the winter.

Pick-up remains by appointment only and masks will be required. Indoor pickup will be located at the back entrance to the meeting room, on the side of the building closest to Bedford High School.

Superintendent’s Update ~ Positive COVID Test at BHS ~ October 23, 2020

3 New positive COVID-19 cases at BHS – 9 Pending Cases – Close Contacts being Notified New and recent cases related to gatherings outside of the school environment

Sadly, we were informed today that a number of school community members (i.e., student or staff) at Bedford High School have been diagnosed with confirmed cases of COVID-19. This is of course very disappointing news. We have learned that there have been multiple gatherings that have occurred outside of the high school but have involved Bedford High School students and families.

These cases involve gatherings where safety precautions were not taken by both adults and students to protect against the spread of COVID. Since October 1, 2020 there have been 9 COVID-19 positive cases at the high school among students. Of those cases, 4 have become positive since October 21, 2020. Since contract tracing is still being conducted, there may be more pending positive cases or close contacts identified that result from the gatherings. Currently, 15 high school students are under quarantine.

Upon receipt of the positive reports, the Bedford school health personnel in collaboration with the Bedford Board of Health immediately began case investigations. The first step in a school case investigation is to determine whether or not the positive case attended school during the infectious period. According to MA Department of Public Health (MDPH) guidelines, the infectious period for COVID-19 is two days prior to becoming symptomatic or, if asymptomatic, two days prior to testing.

The investigation to date has revealed that these COVID-19 positive school community members may have been present at Bedford High School during their infectious period, and close contacts are being identified among the school community in this situation. All close contacts will be identified and instructed to quarantine for 14 days after the last exposure to the person who tested positive, regardless of a test result. We will continue to monitor this situation over the weekend and decide if the number of positive cases and close contacts requires Bedford High School to move to an ALL REMOTE model for the 14-day quarantine period.

The Board of Health is currently awaiting receipt of COVID-19 testing results for numerous close contacts of the aforementioned individuals. This data will enable us to determine how widespread the situation is at this time. Based on the analytical results of these pending tests, I am letting you know that it is very possible that we may need to close Bedford High School and transition from the Hybrid Model to the Full Remote Model. I will make this decision in collaboration with the Health and Human Services Director, Town Manager, and the Bedford School Committee and will communicate to the community Sunday, October 25, 2020

If this were to happen, BHS would be closed from Monday, October 26, 2020, and reopen on Monday, November 9, 2020.

Superintendent Conrad’s Friday Update – October 23, 2020

Thank you to everyone for all of your hard work and your tireless efforts on behalf of our students! We all recognize that our success is due to the hours and hours of preparation and learning that our teachers, parents, administrators, and other school staff are spending preparing for students in person and in the hybrid model.

Our teachers are learning to instruct and instructing our students through technology simultaneously. An amazing feat when you think about the fact that they have done this in less than a year. Our families are creating positive learning environments at home too. This is without a doubt a Herculean task and I am so grateful to all of you for your efforts.

Thank you to our parents who continue to collaborate with all of us to do what is best for students. Our community efforts are inspiring. In these unprecedented times, our community has risen to the challenge. For that I am grateful.

Fawn Lake Update – Dredging is Complete, Work to Begin on New Dam

As of Friday, October 16, the Dredgit crew completed the dredging operation at Fawn Lake, and removed the dewatering equipment.

The materials storage bin has been dismantled and the lawn area will be regraded, leaving a level area for a nice overlook to the lake. A total of 8,076 cubic yards of bottom sediment and 350 cubic yards of floating/submerged aquatic vegetation were removed from the site. In addition to complying with all the environmental conditions, Dredgit is also proud to report 3,060 accident-free man-hours on the project.

Short Takes from the Bedford Free Public Library – October 2020

The Library’s “Grab and Go” book pickup initiative has been a great success since it was launched on June 23.  But what happens to curbside pickup when the cold and snowy weather descends?

Library Director Richard Callaghan and Assistant Director Noreen O’Gara have come up with the answer, which they are calling “Curbside/Inside.”  

Bedford’s New Conservation Administrator ~ Rachel Kelly

Bedford’s new conservation administrator says she is passionate about the natural environment and is excited about the prospects of interacting with the public.

Rachel Kelly of Melrose began her duties in Town Hall’s code enforcement suite early this month.

Kelly succeeds Elizabeth Bagdonas, who retired seven months ago after almost 30 years in the position. Kelly’s first meeting with the Conservation Commission is scheduled for Oct. 21.

Bedford’s Select Board Considers Shawsheen Cemetery Issues

In response to concerns about the upkeep of Shawsheen Cemetery, Town Manager Sarah Stanton and DPW Director David Manugian updated the Select Board on conditions at the cemetery at their October 13 meeting.

Residents have raised concerns about cemetery maintenance, in particular about the large patches of thin or missing grass. According to Manugian there are several factors contributing to the problem.  The first is that before the burial ground was established in 1849, the original 18 acres was a sandpit. Over the years the town dumped unwanted soils in that area, so there is little topsoil for establishing grass.  Another factor is that Massachusetts is in a multi-year drought and there is no irrigation system at the cemetery.

Additional DPW Recycling Events Scheduled for October 17 and October 24

The Department of Public Works is planning two collection events on Saturday, October 17 and Saturday, October 24. Each event will run from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Compost Center on 108 Carlisle Road.

Both events are open to Bedford residents only. Proof of residency is required.

On Saturday, October 17, Bedford residents will have the opportunity to get rid of electronic waste and debris homeowners have generated from household projects. Also, Habitat for Humanity will accept hardwood furniture and other household items that day.

The following week,  on  Saturday, October 24, residents may bring scrap metal, rigid plastics, tires, propane tanks, and expired fire extinguishers for recycling.

Responding to Positive Cases of COVID-19 and Contact Tracing – FAQ October 6, 2020

Frequently Asked Questions on COVID-19 and their Response to Positive Cases and Contact Tracing.

Will the names of positive COVID-19 cases in the school community be released?
No

Will personal health information be released on COVID-19 positive cases?
No.

Will the identification of individual classrooms occupied by positive cases be released?
At this time, no.

If it is determined that my child is not a close contact, will I be informed that a child/teacher in my child’s class has tested positive?
At this time, no.

How will I know if there is a case of COVID-19 in my child’s classroom/school?
The school nurses strive to monitor illness and potential COVID-19 cases as well as identify any possible positive cases in the school community. Recognizing the importance of protecting confidentiality and following the MA DPH guidelines for close contact management, at this time you will be only notified if your child is considered a close contact.

If my child is diagnosed with COVID-19, will his/her/their privacy be maintained?
Your child’s name will not be revealed if diagnosed with COVID-19. Close contacts will be notified and told that they have been exposed to someone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19, and will be provided with information about quarantine and given further instructions. No personal identification will be given to others.

And So It Begins: Town Clerk Bridget Rodrigue Mails First Batch of Ballots to Bedford Voters

With roughly 5,000 of Bedford’s 10,536 registered voters requesting vote-by-mail ballots for the November 3 election, Town Clerk Bridget Rodrique is clearly heading into her office’s busiest season.

In a recent interview, Rodrigue seemed unfazed, noting that she loves being busy; has an experienced and supportive staff; and has a well-developed plan in place. In addition, the Town Clerk’s office has been reconfigured for efficiency and security to support preparing and mailing ballots, then storing them safely until they are counted on Election Day.

Bedford’s ballots were expected to be received by October 9, but they arrived last Friday, and a complex process is underway.

Pre-Election Calendar

Bedford is One of Six Recipients of MAPC’s Racial Equity Municipal Action Plan Grant

Bedford will soon embark on a year-long process to plan and implement a racial equity action plan for municipal and school employees, at no cost to the town.

The program, awarded competitively, is called REMAP, an acronym for the Racial Equity Municipal Action Plan. It is sponsored by a collaboration among three government entities: the Metropolitan Area Planning Council, the Government Alliance on Race and Equity, and the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.

Funding for the consultants involved will be covered as a technical assistance grant. The six recipients were announced this week.

The first four months will focus on “tailored” training, reflection, and self-assessment. Beginning in February, the town will turn to developing a starting to implement a racial equity municipal action plan.

“It is going to be wonderful to have such valuable consulting that we would not normally be able to get,” stated Town Manager Sarah A. Stanton, who said she will be the point person for execution and implementation.

She said the process will focus on “working with staff and some elected officials to put together policy initiatives.” The agenda includes examining current guidelines and procedures and creating an action plan for the next steps.