Friday, February 8, 2008
News from surrounding towns
The following regional news was extracted from material available in: the Community Newspaper Company website: wickedlocal.com, the Lowell Sun, and the Bedford Public Schools web site.
Bedford: The town is trying to obtain partial state reimbursement for the Bedford High School renovation project now in progress. Voters approved local funds for the approximately $50 million project which began in 2006.
The Bedford High School renovation project made the Massachusetts School Building Authority's recent list of projects approved for potential reimbursement after a five-year moratorium on building funds. Bedford is listed as a "project scope invitation" and the town is documenting all costs for the state.
The project includes an addition and renovations to the existing high school buildings. A new wing containing administrative and guidance offices, a health suite, a new extended lobby area, and a renovated art wing opened for students in January. A new second floor library addition is also complete and the renovated auditorium is expected to be complete this month. Renovations will be made to gym areas and the kitchen and cafeteria with the project expected to be completed late this year.
Bedford also plans to set up a school building maintenance trust. If the town puts one percent of total project construction costs into the fund, the MSBA is expected to award the town a matching grant of one percent.
Chelmsford: Facing a projected $3.3 million budget deficit for the upcoming FY09, the Board of Selectmen plans to put an override request before voters. Chelmsford Public Schools have a $2.3 million budget shortfall, town departments' $924,000, and town employee benefits and insurance have a $91,000 shortfall.
If Chelmsford voters do not approve an override this spring, the town will need to cut around 30 school staff and potentially close an elementary school. Selectmen will decide details of the override this week including the amount and structure of the request.
Acton: The Minor Chord, a music instrument and lesson store in Acton for over two decades, is moving west on 2A to a new store next to Donelan's Supermarket in Littleton. The owner is Carlisle resident Bill Brown.
Billerica: Engineers for Home Depot recently presented results of a traffic study to the Billerica Planning Board. The retail chain has plans to build a store and a garden center on Route 3A where the Billerica Mall now stands. Billerica also hired an engineering consultant to evaluate traffic and safety issues for the town.
Some residents oppose Home Depot moving into Billerica because they expect traffic to spill into the town center area. Other residents, concerned about the run-down condition of the Billerica Mall, believe the new store will revitalize the site. Except for its anchor stores —Kmart, the Burlington Coat Factory and the Market Basket supermarket —the Billerica Mall is mostly vacant. The project has been delayed two years as Home Depot revised plans after facing local opposition.
In nearby Lowell, a Lowe's Home Improvement Store is planned for a commercial site on Chelmsford Street. It is approved by the city though construction has not yet started.
Westford: After the Town Hall was declared structurally unsafe in December, employees moved into temporary spaces in other town buildings. The town's Building Commissioner had to revoke the occupancy permit after an engineering review found that support beams in the 1870 building could only carry 50 pounds of weight per square foot. The review was done after the Town Clerk reported heavy file cabinets stacking up in the building.
The Town Clerk, Tax Collector and Town Manager now work from temporary space in the Police Department while other departments share conference rooms in different town buildings. It is unclear if the old Town Hall can be used safely for municipal offices again. Selectman put out a Request for Proposal to lease or purchase a property for town offices.
© 2008 The