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$30M bond to help Bedford streets up for March vote

BEDFORD — Residents living on bumpy, deteriorating streets may see some relief if voters approve a $30 million bond in March.

The Town Council is also requesting a $4 million bond to build a fire substation along South River Road, as calls for service continue to increase in that area of town.

A public meeting on the two bonds is scheduled for Wednesday, Feb. 12, at 7 p.m., at the Bedford Meeting Room, 10 Meetinghouse Road.

After examining two debt payment scenarios for the road bond, the council decided to issue a 15-year term rather than a 10-year term. Although the repayment schedule is longer, the annual tax rate impact is lower over the life of the bond.

For both terms, the highest debt will occur in 2019 at 92 cents per $1,000 assessed property value, or $366.85 for a $400,000 home, on a 15-year term, compared to $1.21 per $1,000 assessed property value, or $484.40 for a $400,000 home, on a 10-year term bond. In 2015, the tax rate would be 30 cents per $1,000 assessed property value, or $121.31 for a $400,000 home, on the 15-year bond term. The total debt repayment for a 15-year term bond is $38,399,997 through 2033, compared to $35,775,000 through 2028 for a 10-year term bond.

If the $30 million bond is approved, the Town Council hopes to repair 60 miles of roads over the next six to seven years. The bond would be issued in $10 million increments over six years, with the majority of road repairs scheduled for 2015 through 2022.

"At the same time, to maximize return on investment and avoid slipping into another vicious cycle of deferred maintenance, the town will have to increase its annual maintenance budget to stay current with inflation," said Town Manager Jessie Levine.

According to Jim Stanford, director of Bedford Public Works, the backlog of road repairs exceeds the requested $30 million bond and will be supplemented by an annual $1 million in his department's operating budget.

"Given that road conditions change over time, it may be necessary to increase this local appropriation to keep up with the maintenance needs," he said.

In 2003, about 130 miles of roads needed $50 million in repairs, Levine said. Voters approved an $8 million bond in 2003 and a $12 million bond in 2005. However, voters defeated the next three road bonds, and many roads and bridges fell into disrepair. In addition, a $13.2 million infrastructure bond was approved in 2011, of which about $12 million is slated for road and bridge repairs.

Fire substation

The need for a fire station is the result of increased housing and businesses cropping up along South River Road, said Fire Chief Scott Wiggin.

In 1980, there were 217 fire calls and 264 calls for emergency services, as compared to 620 fire calls and 1,376 EMS calls in 2010, townwide. From 2004 to 2012, ambulance calls to the South River Road area increased from 272 to 882.

A year-to-date comparison resulted in 574 fire and 1,371 ambulance calls in 2012; and 571 fire and 1,557 ambulance calls from January to November 2013, townwide. In November 2012, the Fire Department responded to 51 fire calls and 120 ambulance calls, with calls increasing to 63 fires and 163 for ambulance and emergency medical services in November 2013.

The Fire Department also handles miscellaneous calls, including service other than fire/EMS, field inspections, plan reviews, burning permits and blasting permits, totaling 1,419 from January to November 2013.

For the fire substation, the council would issue a 10-year term bond. In 2015, the bond would increase the tax rate by 16 cents per $1,000 assessed property valuation, or $64 for a $400,000 home. The first full year of staffing and building operating costs would begin in 2016, with a total tax impact of $104.66 for a $400,000 home, which includes the bond payment.

The cost of purchasing land for the substation is $600,000, to be offset with $488,000 from a Town Council's land reserve fund, and $12,000 from an infrastructure bond proceeds. The proposed 10,000-square-foot station would be manned in 12-hour shifts, said Levine.

"The waking and commuter hours are the busiest for the Fire Department," said Levine. "Trends are still going up."

The cost for a new ambulance and equipment of $310,000 is included in the proposed 2014 operating budget, which will go before voters at the annual Budgetary Town Meeting at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, March 12, at Bedford High School.

Other debt

Bedford taxpayers still owe about $92,000 for the safety complex bond from 1994, with a maturity date of July 2014; $350,000 for the new library building through March 2016; $3.8 million for the 2006 road bond through July 2016; $585,000 for the 1999 landfill closure bond until January 2019; $5.7 million for the 2011 infrastructure bond until December 2021; and $7.9 million for the 2013 infrastructure bond payable through January 2023.

In June, the town was able to secure lower interest rates of 1.43 percent on a $7,785,000 bond, the second portion of the $13.2 million infrastructure bond approved by Bedford voters in 2011; and the refinancing of the 1999 landfill closure bond that was originally borrowed at 4.48 percent.

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