“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.” — Henry David Thoreau
Article 7 was worded by a knowledgeable town resident, but if necessary can be amended from the floor of Town Meeting. The intent of the Petitioners’ Article is to give Bedford the same opportunity: To amend a plan that for a variety of reasons may not succeed in achieving its goal of providing Bedford with the urgently needed new fire station. If an amended article is passed, it would then be binding on the Select Board and the identification of the most suitable “Plan B” would begin. The article will be presented at the November 6th STM by a very responsible and dedicated resident, Michael Seibert.
“This article would provide a path to a viable alternative location in the event that the Historic District Commission determines the exterior architectural features of buildings and structures to be erected within the historic district, which are subject to view from the public street, and/or the proposed alteration of the land and streetscape would be detrimental to the character of the Historic District and to the public interest, contrary therefore to the purpose and mandate of the Acts of 1964 as amended, or in the event of any other impediment(s) that could cause such a delay at the current location as to put the vital project in jeopardy.” In other words, in the event that the current plan proves to be fatally flawed, the town should have a “Plan B” ready to go.
As I explained: I don’t think that trying to reroute a runaway train before it goes over a cliff qualifies as derailing it. The Bedford Citizen article on Sunday explained that HDC approval is not a “slam dunk” — and it never was. So why wasn’t there a Plan B from the start? The statement of Bedford’s Professional Firefighters Local 2310 is a stunning testimony that Bedford needs to rethink the current agenda for many urgent reasons and fast. The upcoming Special Town Meeting is the best possible time to get this right. Isn’t getting it right what really matters?
The startling news of the firefighters’ courageous appearance at tonight’s Fire Station Building Committee meeting was a great relief, but almost a greater sadness. The wreckage that the troubled project has caused, the profound division and hard feelings — and above all the burden it inflicted on those thoroughly decent public servants — is painful to think about. It was so avoidable. A lot can be learned from the way this has been handled…
The Bedford Citizen’s 9/17/23 “Week in Review” included a curious heading: “The Bedford Historic District Commission’s affirmation of plans for a fire station at 139 The Great Road is far from a slam dunk.” It linked to “Some Commission Members Still Skeptical about Firehouse Site.” I left a comment pointing out that: The HDC’s “affirmation” of the plans to locate a massive industrial building at the gateway to Bedford’s historic Center, changing the streetscape forever, was never a “slam dunk”. Why that should be a surprise deserves close attention. The underlying problems with the project will be examined this week on Save Our Block.
The article’s headline was also curious since it is the duty of every commissioner to be skeptical and withhold judgment until all of the facts have been presented. “Save Our Block” will again have a booth at Bedford Day to show that there are two sides to the issue.
* It is too bad that the public’s right to know what is going on in the official business related to this consequential project has not been respected. Meetings of the Fire Station Building Committee and The Historic District Commission have gone mostly unrecorded. Bedford TV routinely records certain meetings but these are not among them. For the people who want to be knowledgeable — and for the historical record — there is no reason for spotty coverage.
When I called Bedford TV to confirm that they were going to record the September 6th HDC hearing, they had received no request. So they asked for Town Manager permission and got it the next day. For many busy townspeople, The Bedford Citizen coverage that Mike Rosenburg faithfully provides gives them a good idea of what is unfolding. For others, observing what actually transpires is valuable.
In a town that cherishes open town meetings, firsthand knowledge is priceless. The Town is not limited to the requirements of the Open Meetings Law. A by-law requiring at least an audio recording of every Town meeting, including executive sessions (to be posted with the minutes — and redacted where that is required by law) would be in the vanguard of accountability and respect for the public’s Right-To-Know. The new Town Manager could really get off on the right foot by reforming the current haphazard protocols. That would give citizens the appetite and tools for greater and smarter engagement.
A pattern of intolerance for differing opinions in official Bedford has picked up speed over the last few years. The Town Manager and Select Board members set the tone for the community but their handbook pledge to “represent the entire community at all times” seems to have been replaced with “the ends justify the means.” The recent turnover in key positions is promising.
Letter to the Editor: Town Followed Correct Process in Selecting Fire Station Building Committee — 3/2/23
Letter to the Editor: Build New Fire Station Farther East on Great Road,
Convert Existing Station to Sub-station — 2/10/23
See the “Discussions” page for links to related Bedford Citizen Facebook threads.
The failure of the Finance Committee to reach the number of votes required to recommend approval or disapproval of the
Petitioners Articles underscores the fact that there are indeed very good reasons to question the wisdom of the current course.
These excerpts from Select Board executive session minutes that were finally released shed light on the selection process.
See “Supporting Documents” page for the source documents.
In his third Letter to the Editor, Mr. Corey examined a number of other drawbacks to the current site for the new fire station that were not brought to citizens’ attention before the 3/29/22 vote. That letter seems to have fallen between the cracks at the Citizen. But his conclusion is repeated here:
Come to the Special Town Meeting on November 14th and hear why 139 The Great Road is not the bargain it is represented to be.
In his second of three Letters to the Editor, Don Corey explores why the need for a substation must be factored into plans for a central fire station now.
The Bedford Citizen report on the Finance Committee’s October 6th meeting included a review of the Fire Station discussion, but we think a more detailed analysis of what transpired will provide much-needed insight into good-faith objections to the current plan and the process that produced it.
It is time for the rubber to hit the road regarding the many reasons to object to the current fire station plan. It is important to note that while this site reflects the beliefs, opinions, and concerns of many Bedford residents and often uses the “we” voice to convey that, I am solely accountable for its content.
Since Bedford Day, I have engaged in a number of online threads and found that they generate a lot more heat than light. There is much faulty information being circulated that isn’t constructive. Being offensive will not take Bedford any closer to the new fire station the town and its great team of firefighters and emergency responders deserve. We believe that is what everyone cares about and achieving that is the sole reason for this site.
Now that the Special Town Meeting Warrant has been closed and the two articles submitted by longtime resident, historian, and public servant Don Corey will be voted on and passed or rejected on a 50/50 basis on November 14th, it is vital to understand what is at stake and not just repeat talking points. The issues will be handled in depth under the Questions and Answers tab, but I will address one of them here.
The reason that Save Our Block was the name chosen for this website, as explained in the essay below, is to emphasize that the Bacon “carriage house” is not what is chiefly threatened. What is most in danger is not a house or even a block, but the historic character and civic integrity of the town itself. Briefly:
1) Grading 139 Great Road and replacing the lawn with a cement pad would be an eyesore, no matter how carefully the facility is designed or how many experts are consulted. There is simply no reason to do that before considering the alternatives to such a radical move.
2) The selection process was irregular, to say the least. It may well have been one more casualty of Covid, but the details that will follow are incontestable and require attention.
3) The language of the State Legislature’s “Act of 1964” that established the Historic District Commission does not give the Commission any authority to override the blatant in- “appropriateness” of the project. Efforts to bring political pressure to bear on the Commission are profoundly unsettling.
Not everyone will recognize the triple threat posed to the town by this project but we hope that at least fifty percent of the voters plus one will. We will examine each factor closely in the Q and A section and are very confident that over the next six weeks there will be a shift in perception.
When preconceptions are removed from the examination and discussion it becomes clear that there are much better ways to meet Bedford’s urgent need for an exceptional fire station that can be implemented far sooner than the current proposal. Why would anyone object to that? –Margaret Donovan 10/1/22
This site is being launched to support the community, not to further divide it. We hope that sharing important information that is now lacking and presenting a fresh perspective will lead visitors to test their assumptions before deciding if the current fire station plan really is the only thing we can or should do.
That is why we adopted the symbolism of the fieldstone wall at 139 The Great Road. It is a retaining wall. It doesn’t divide — it supports. And it connects the future to the past. A dozen generations have walked past it on their way to school or work or the market. Men who went off to fight in the Civil War might have climbed on it as children. It is a fixture of the town itself.
But focusing on only the house and wall misses what is most at stake. We think the fire station would ruin the visual integrity of one of Bedford Center’s key blocks because architects may design a suitable building, but they will never be able to integrate it — and a concrete front yard — into that gracious block.
If this location actually is the right thing for Bedford, it will hold up under more scrutiny than has been brought to bear on it so far. We know that 268 residents out of thousands of eligible voters think it’s the right thing. But if it’s not, it could become the worst mistake in town history.
It is cavalier to suggest that the current plan “meets Bedford’s needs” — because a solution that pleases some of the people and deeply saddens many others is not a solution. It is a breach — that can only be healed by shining more light on the issues that have not been addressed.
At Town Meeting, a member of the Historic District Commission read that body’s official statement during the public comments. It is too bad the Commission wasn’t given a platform before the vote to educate voters as to the limits on the discretionary powers granted to them under the legislative Acts of 1964.
This is a perfect example of why people worked hard during a time of rapid expansion to establish a Historic District. They realized that only a body vested with the power to protect the town’s intrinsic value could withstand urgent, short-term pressures and require solutions that honor both the past and present.
The location of the new fire station is one of the most consequential decisions Bedford’s townspeople will ever make. If everyone will examine and consider the information to be offered here, while there is still time to correct course, we are much more likely to find a solution we can all embrace.
A “stakeholder” is anyone with something at risk when a policy is being discussed. In this case, that is everyone whose heart is invested in this unique and precious town. We’re all rooting for the same team. No one wants to see a mistake made that cannot be undone.