Tax group's vote on Bedford road bond irks some residents
BEDFORD — Resident Scott Tranchemontagne feels the town is facing a road crisis, and the proposed road bond would increase home values, decrease costly car repairs and provide safety for pedestrians and children.
Tranchemontagne, of Old Farm Road, said the 2,000 homeowners living on the 150 roads slated for repairs with the $30 million road bond have been paying for other road repairs for many years and now it's their turn to have their failed roads fixed.
But he is concerned that the recent opinion by the Bedford Taxpayers Association to not support the road bond may jeopardize passage of the bond when voters go to the polls on Tuesday, March 11.
"The Bedford Taxpayers Association doesn't represent me," he said. "How many years must we wait to have our roads repaired? If we don't start this multi-year project when will we? I believe in holding the line on taxes, but our roads are literally crumbling underneath us."
Tranchemontagne said the roads will not fix themselves and the longer the town waits will result in more expensive repairs and higher taxes.
"I don't think the Bedford Taxpayers Association wants that, and I wish they would look at this road bond as a critical investment that must be made," said Tranchemontagne. "I invite the Bedford Taxpayers Association to drive down Old Farm Road and the other roads on the list and see the conditions for themselves."
His neighbor, Curt Little, who has lived on Old Farm Road since 1988, said the street has never been repaved.
"At some point civic pride has to enter the picture," Little said.
Poisoning the well
Three town councilors — Chairman Chris Bandazian, Normand Longval and Bill Dermody — recently met with members of the Bedford Taxpayers Association board to discuss the road bond. They were given the impression that the group would support the bond. However, in a vote of eight BTA board members, six voted not to support it, Dermody said.
The Bedford Taxpayers Association mails a newsletter to residents shortly before elections disclosing their recommendations on town and school district budgets, bonds and candidates.
"The BTA has arbitrarily taken it upon themselves to decide for the town of Bedford because their green sheet is faithfully used by people to mark their ballot," said Dermody. "I told them, I think the three councilors that were there felt they have been kicked in the butt by four members of the BTA. And I think those 2,000 houses have been betrayed. Those six people who are not elected by anybody took it upon themselves, and I expect they didn't consult with other members of the BTA. Six people simultaneously poison the well."
Dermody also said if the road bond fails on March 11, he fears a voter could make a motion at the March 12 Budgetary Town Meeting to increase the budget, by $5 million for example, to include money for road repairs.
"Let the Bedford Taxpayers Association take the bows for forcing another $1.50 per $1,000 on the tax rate. They'll have to answer for their actions," he said.
Roy Stewart, who co-founded the BTA in 1989 and has served as president for most of that time, said councilors were right in thinking the organization would support the road bond.
"I thought we all had that feeling until some board members started screaming no to just about everything. The amount and the overlapping payments scared most of our board. There'll be a spike in taxes, and we felt it should be studied further to come up with less than $30 million. It wasn't my position, but they called other board members and urged them to change their minds," said Stewart. "Every year you delay the roads get worse, but I don't think it's chaotic. Don't forget about it, but they should put out a reduction so it's acceptable."
If approved, the bond would authorize the town to issue three, 15-year bonds of $10 million each in 2015, 2017 and 2019, with construction beginning in 2015 and ending in 2020-21. The loan will be staggered because the Public Works Department can't handle more than $5 million of road work in one year. The plan is to do $5 million of road work a year, and design a two-year plan for the next phase.
The council said the town's bond rating is excellent and interest rates are low, which puts the town in a good position for saving money. The proposed bond would cost taxpayers about 30 cents per thousand of assessed valuation over the first two years, or $120 per year for a $400,000 home; then increasing to 60 cents in years three and four and to 90 cents in years five and six.
The long-range plan is to establish a road maintenance program, by adding $200,000 per year to the Public Works Department's road budget to reach $2 million per year, Public Works Director Jim Stanford said. The $1 million annual maintenance budget has not increased since 2003.
The annual road maintenance budget is included in the Town Council's proposed $26 million budget, which will go before voters at the annual Town Meeting on Wednesday, March 12, at 7 p.m. at Bedford High School.
The program "will leave no road behind," said Stanford.
Voting on the road bond, the $3.8 million fire substation bond and election of school and town candidates takes place from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 11, at Bedford High School.