This page hasn’t been updated since last year. More “Q and A’s” will be added as soon as possible for anyone who wants to examine the questions from more than just the official Town angle. But for now, the two below are still relevant issues to consider before voting on November 6th.
The articles were submitted by longtime resident, historian, and former selectman Don Corey because the manner in which the Town promoted the 139 Great Road property for the new fire station did not provide for the civic engagement that would normally be essential when evaluating such a controversial and consequential project.
The Select Board functions as Bedford’s executive branch and Town Meeting participants act as the town’s legislative body. Asking voters to choose between “This or Not This?” instead of “This or That?” was a Hobson’s Choice and not in keeping with Town Meeting protocols for citizen participation.
As the Town website explains, Select Board members are ethically charged to “represent the entire community at all times.” But the Town Manager and Select Board have functioned as advocates of one specific plan. The experts and consultants who contributed to the site selection were valuable but could never take the place of citizen input and inquiry.
The list of public forums in the weeks prior to the vote is quite limited and there is no evidence of good faith efforts to persuade opponents of the plan and directly answer their objections.
Identifying the best location for the new fire station has to begin by acknowledging that all the sites have drawbacks. Drawbacks require tradeoffs and the final decision on which tradeoffs are acceptable has to be made by Bedford voters.
The current agenda skipped a vitally important step. The democratic process was short-circuited. The FinCom vote to make no recommendation on the articles reflects that. And Articles 4 & 5 on the Special Town Meeting Warrant seek to correct that.
The discussion began in 1994 but the search did not begin in earnest until 2015. Freedom of Information requests filed with the Town Clerk in October did not produce a single document, call record, calendar log, or email to suggest that anyone other than the TD Bank site owners and Stewart Radiance Laboratory were ever contacted.
If 139 TGR were actually the only viable location for the new station, that might give the HDC legal justification for permitting the damage that would be done to the Historic District. If the HDC denies the demolition application, which the wording of the legislative act that established the Commission’s authority requires, then the Town will have to start thinking out of the box. The passage of Petitioners Articles 4 & 5 could put Bedford a lot closer to a real solution.