HARVARD -- The most talked about topic on selectmen's agenda the night before Special Town Meeting was the 12-article STM warrant, which they discussed, signed and dissected, one item at a time, voting on some of them to determine which articles they would support.
But over the course of a two-hour meeting, followed by a late-breaking executive session that wasn't on the agenda but which Town Administrator Tim Bragan introduced "to discuss ongoing potential litigation," the board also polished off several other items of business, including the town administrator's report.
Trick or Treat
Citing communication from a resident, Bragan asked selectmen if they wanted to consider changing the date for Halloween trick-or-treating from Oct. 31 to the nearest Saturday. The resident argued that the switch would be welcomed by folks who live in the town center, the focal point of scheduled spooky activity each year.
Chairman Marie Sobalvarro asked if the resident lived in the center.
Bragan said no.
"Oh my goodness ... the tom-toms were beating on this one," Leo Blair said, as the email sent to Bragan "spread like wildfire." But he did not take a stand on the issue. "I have no opinion," about it, he said.
Noting that it might be too close to the actual holiday to re-set the date for the annual door-to-door candy campaign, Bragan suggested a future discussion of the matter aimed at next year.
In the meantime, other residents can weigh in, especially those who live in the town center.
Stu Sklar agreed. Rather than act arbitrarily, "I'd like to hear from folks, he said.
Special Police Officer Request Tabled
Police Chief Edward Denmark submitted a request to hire retired Police Detective Gregory Newman as a special police officer. Selectmen didn't act on it, however. Bragan said he responded to the chief's request, explaining that "given special legislation we passed," former officers over the mandatory retirement age of 65 must meet certain criteria to be eligible for the post-retirement job in question. It calls for 20 years of continuous service in town. "He does not qualify," Bragan said.
Surplus Soil for Sale -- or Free
DPW Director Rich Nota told selectmen that his department has been dumping excess road construction materials at the transfer station, and that after 15 years, the build-up is substantial, "about 15,000 cubic yards on top."
The designated area is full, he said. He asked the board to declare it surplus so he can sell or give it away as "free fill" via arranged pickup. "It's clean, solid material," he said, and with the board's OK, he'll get rid of it, at no expense to the town, Nota said.
The board agreed.
With Nota in house, Leo Blair brought up an issue residents have contacted him about: roadside sight lines obscured by overgrown brush. He asked if there's a way citizens can log onto the DPW website with roadside brush alerts?
Sobalvarro said she received a similar call about roadside branch pickup.
"We have a spot for snow and ice complaints," Nota replied, but a place can be added for "other comments." As for the branches, which the DPW downed earlier, pickup should be soon. With work on Ayer Road completed, a crew can get to it "before the snow flies," he said.
Hidden Drive Sign OK'd
Selectmen voted unanimously the approve a homeowner's request to erect a "Hidden Driveway" sign to alert motorists and cyclists to the hard-to-spot residential driveway at 85 Old Littleton Road.
At Stu Sklar's suggestion, the board added to the motion permission to put up a pole-mounted mirror in the town's right-of-way, if the owner so chooses and at the owner's expense.
Powder House Hit
After significant damage was done to the small, historic Power House behind Town Hall recently when a motorist accidentally plowed into it, Bragan has been working with the insurance company and the Historic District to plot a repair plan. It's in the works, Bragan told selectmen, but it will take "awhile" to get the job done.
The emergency dispatch facility, now located at the police station, was slated to move in August to the new Devens Dispatch Center, a regional facility the town opted to join. For various reasons, the move was delayed, but the move is now set for Oct. 27. But even with local dispatchers working off-site, the police station will still be "covered" around the clock and accessible to the public, Bragan said.