HARVARD -- Police Chief Edward Denmark updated the selectmen Tuesday night on the process and progress of responding to a MassDevelopment request for proposals on its next Devens policing contract.
Part of the request for proposal process calls for a signed document from the selectmen, stating they authorized the police bid, Denmark explained. The selectmen provided it, voting unanimously to do so.
Massachusetts State Police have been providing the service for well over a decade, ever since the former Fort Devens military base was decommissioned and Devens became a civilian enclave, with warehouses, businesses and a couple hundred residents, governed by MassDevelopment until disposition is determined.
Lacking its own school system or police department, MassDevelopment awards contracts to educate Devens children in public schools and State Police provide security, with a dozen officers assigned to cover Devens and an on-site satellite station.
Due to a clause in Chapter 498, the state legislation under which Devens is governed and, in part, thanks to Joint Boards of Selectmen focusing on the issue, there's a chance that another entity might get the lucrative contract.
Under the legislation, Devens area municipalities, including Harvard, Shirley and Ayer, must be offered a chance to submit proposals when service contracts come up for renewal, while recognizing that the state agency has the final say.
With the education contract signed and sealed with the Harvard Public School District for now, the town wants a crack at the policing contract, which is up for renewal.
Tracing the timeline, Denmark said a list of questions had been submitted by the due date of May 17. He's currently awaiting MassDevelopment's feedback before wrapping up the proposal, which should be ready for selectmen to review June 4. The application deadline is June 28, he said.
Finalists will be notified in August and the contract will be awarded by the beginning of September. "It's a quick turnaround," Denmark commented.
Selectman Ron Ricci pointed out that a key aspect of the town's application is that some Devens residents are also residents of Harvard. Thus, it's appropriate to solicit their input while aiming to provide the "best possible service," he said.
Denmark agreed. It's also another step toward breaking through "barriers to regionalization," he said, citing membership in the Devens-based Regional Dispatch Center as another step in that direction.
"I'm looking for a long-term relationship" with Devens, rather than simply a one-term contract, Denmark continued. To that end he wants to find out what residents are looking for in terms of policing their community and what his department can offer "beyond baseline coverage."
In that case, how about holding a meeting there, Selectman Stu Sklar asked.
Town Administrator Tim Bragan, who has been working with Denmark on the RFP, said outreach plans are in the works. "We'll be soliciting input on Devens residents concerns and issues," he said.
He added a caveat though, as if to caution the selectmen not to get their hopes up too high. "Mass Development has the choice to do whatever they want," he said.