Bedford open forum draws nearly 20 panelists from three governing bodies to meet with public

A lively crowd filled the audience at the Bedford Public Library at an informal meeting held Jan. 29 that brought together nearly 40 Bedford residents and a panel of some 20 members of three governing bodies – the state, the town and the school district – whose impact touches upon economic, educational and community issues.

The meeting, co-moderated by State Rep. John A. Graham and State Sen. Andy Sanborn, was designed so that all those who are knowledgeable about topics within their area of expertise could be assembled in one place for the convenience of the public.

The wealth of questions coming from the crowd were handled by one or more of around 20 participating panelists who could answer with conviction, direct or redirect, a question to another panelist who had a more complete answer.

Several in the audience commented toward the end of the evening on the value of the meeting. The concensus was that having so many experts in one room enabled those with questions to find answers without placing numerous phone calls or launching upon a letter-writing campaign.

Some in the audience questioned the panel about expenditures related to school transportation. One resident noted that four school buses pass his house each day but that each bus he observes seems to be carrying only four or five students. Meanwhile, he said he sees a long line of parents in their private vehicles waiting outside the schools as the day finishes. The gist was that perhaps fewer buses are needed.

Resident John VanUden wanted answers about a monthly charge on his phone bill. The fee goes to help support local community television in Bedford. His concern was answered with an explanation that the Bedford television station serves a high purpose in ensuring transparency in that it televises Town Council meetings and other important functions.

Resident Jim Prendible said that his family lived on a road that was so deteriorated by cracks and an eroded surface it was a source of alignment repairs to his vehicle. He wanted to know where to send the bills for his front end repairs.

The answer he received was that his road needed to be fully replaced rather than repaired. When? Nobody knew for sure.

Concerns about taxes, the funding of retirement plans, the curriculum mandated for schools and many other issues were heard and explained. In cases where the facts had to be obtained elsewhere, one or another of the panelists promised a follow-up phone call to the person asking the question.

Town Council member Jim Scanlon took the last couple of minutes to thank all who attended and to close the meeting, which ended around 9 p.m. He said he was impressed with the meeting’s high level of energy and the range of the questions and comments brought to the table.

“The people came and told us what they thought and why they thought it,” Scanlon said. “You told what you think is important to you. We’ll do this again but we need you to be a part of it.”

For more information on the public forum held on Jan. 29, at the Bedford Public Library, contact the meeting’s co-moderator, State Rep. John A. Graham, via email at