HARVARD -- Just months after the resignation of the remaining three Town Hall Building Committee members, selectmen have created a new Town Hall Construction Task Force to oversee the next steps in the building's renovation.
The three task force members, appointed by the town administrator, will be required to have construction management and financial experience.
The group will work with the architect and the owner's project manager on bid documents and final design, according to the formal charge that selectmen finalized at their meeting last week.
The task force will also select the general contractor and recommend invoices to the selectmen for approval. The group will report to the selectmen at each meeting on construction progress, budget and any other problems or recommendations.
The charge comes a few weeks after THBC members Pete Jackson, Chris Cutler and Eric Broadbent resigned, leaving no committee.
Selectmen took over the project after voters rejected a request for an additional $1M for the renovation.
Jackson, the committee's former chair, said selectmen basically ignored the committee and went on their own, choosing a plan that Jackson said he didn't believe in.
"All my career I've been involved in the design and the construction, and in this case, they took the design away so I wasn't interested anymore," he said.
Jackson argued that the design plan selectmen have chosen, Option 1B, is ill-advised because Town Hall staff would not have the space needed.
The big question, he said, is whether any building committee will be allowed to rethink that plan.
"If not, then they're just there to be like servants to the selectmen's idea, which again doesn't make anyone happy," he said. "It doesn't fulfill anyone's needs."
But Selectman Lucy Wallace said it seems 1B is the direction the board is going forward with at the moment.
"There's no doubt about it that 1B is a compromise from what the building committee had gone out for bid to have built," she said.
The plan involves moving all town employees down to the first floor, allowing for a larger meeting room on the second floor. But selectmen have recently been discussing the possibility of moving town offices out of Town Hall, freeing the space up for other activities.
Wallace said she has not been a strong advocate for the interior design of Option 1B because there is not enough space for offices.
When she first heard of the idea of moving offices to another space on Ayer Road, she did not think it was a great idea, she said.
"I've now come around to thinking that office space on Ayer Road is not a bad idea," she said.
The task force, she said, is like a building committee but a smaller group. The group will revisit the detailed design drawings, which become the basis for the construction documents that will be going out for bid again, she said.
"I think the intent of the task force is not being a committee called by the selectmen but being a working group under the town administrator," she said, adding that the task force will have more flexibility in their meeting times.
The former building committee had to post all meetings, which could slow down the overall process.
With three members appointed by a town administrator and not selectmen, the task force can meet without having to adhere to posting requirements of the Open Meeting Law.
But Wallace said Town Administrator Tim Bragan will be giving updates on what the task force is doing at every one of the selectmen's meetings.
"It's not that we won't know what's happening or the public won't know," she said.
Time, Wallace said, is getting very short.
"If you're trying to move things along then that's where the flexibility of the task force becomes a little more appealing," she said.
Jackson, a retired project manager for the Army's Corps of Engineers, said he wouldn't join the task force if given the opportunity.
"I think that they didn't listen before, I don't think they're going to listen again," he said.
Former member Chris Cutler said the same.
"I'd be very surprised if they asked me, but I don't think I would be interested," he said. "Too much history there, I think."
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