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Bedford sets Jan. 8 hearing on fire substation proposal

BEDFORD — Residents will be able to comment on plans to spend about $450,600 from the Town Council's land capital reserve fund for a fire substation and to support the McQuesten Brook mitigation program.

The public hearing is scheduled for 7 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 8, at the Bedford Meeting Room, 10 Meetinghouse Road. The hearing will also include discussions on the Town Council's proposed $26.6 million operating budget; the proposed amendments to the Tax Increment Financing District development and financing plan; and the repeal or amendment of the town's Sunday sales ordinance.

The council is asking voters to approve $288,000 to purchase land for the site of the proposed fire substation to serve the South River Road area and $162,600 for a residential property on Wathen Road.

The home on the Wathen Road property, off South River Road near Colby Court, would be purchased and razed to save money on repairing a bridge over McQuesten Brook, said Town Manager Jessie Levine.

"It's the only property on the far side of the road, and it's cheaper to purchase the property than repairing the bridge to save one home," she said.

The New Hampshire Rivers Council has been working with officials in Bedford and Manchester to protect and improve the McQuesten Brook watershed, which is partially located in Bedford , and runs between Second and South Main streets on Manchester's West Side.

According to the New Hampshire Rivers Council website, McQuesten Brook and pond contain one of the state's highest populations of native wild brook trout and other wildlife. Stormwater and runoff have harmful effects on habitat, water quality and wildlife caused by chemicals, sediments, nutrients and toxins that are washed into McQuesten Brook after rainfall, snow melt, or from lawns, car washing and other activities.

The bridge will also be removed as part of the Tax Increment Financing District development and financing plan. In 2010, the council created the district on South River Road to identify property values and tax revenues, and to invest in the area's infrastructure.

Substation proposal

In March, voters will be asked to approve a $4 million bond for a fire substation along South River Road. If approved, it will be the town's second fire station.

Levine said the second fire station is needed because the town's population has grown by about 2,929 people from 2000-10, with 47 percent of that growth in the South River Road corridor. The Fire Department's call volume has increased by 40 percent, with emergency response increasing by 400 to 500 percent. The South River Road area takes up 8 percent of the town's land mass, but requires 40 percent of its call volume.

Also, the number of commercial and multifamily developments has increased from 1991 to present, with the redevelopment of the former Wayfarer Inn property pending. Meanwhile, response to the remaining 92 percent of Bedford is affected by the amount of time dedicated to the South River Road area.

Levine recommended repealing or amending the Sunday sales licensing ordinance and any fines associated with noncompliance. The ordinance is related to a state statute that requires towns to take action to allow businesses to operate on Sundays.

The Town Council agreed to bring the matter to voters because the town has not been able to administer the ordinance fairly and licensing only produces an annual revenue of about $18,000, which in 2014 would be offset by other revenues.

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