DEVENS — Two weeks ago the Devens Committee and Harvard selectmen met to discuss their positions on disposition and the future of Devens.
While no binding decisions came out of the session, an account of it brought up to the Devens Enterprise Commission (DEC) illustrated an ongoing difference of opinion on how Harvard has approached the disposition question.
While two of the Harvard selectmen feel there needs to be more information on the alternatives before they can support Devens as a town, the commissioner relating the meeting told his peers that discourse with those two officials is falling on deaf ears.
The account was offered by DEC Vice Chairman Paul VonLoesecke, who said it was good news that three Harvard selectmen supported Devens as a new town. It is unfortunate, he added, that two others have continued what he said has been Harvard’s problem all along: A condescending and superior attitude coupled with an unwillingness to listen.
Contacted this week, VonLoesecke, again, did not attach names, but stood behind his earlier comments.
“Their attitudes were superior, they were condescending, and they evidenced the fact that they have no ears for the opposition argument,” he said.
Both Eubank and Wallace said that was not a fair or accurate characterization. The decision at Devens is an extremely important one for Harvard, they said, and they do not feel there is enough information in hand to make an educated decision.
Recounting his contributions to the joint meeting, Eubank said he wanted to hear a Lincoln-Douglass-style debate on the topic where a clear case would be made for whether Devens should become a town.
“I have not yet heard a really good reason for why the best possible solution is for Devens to become a separate town. I have not heard that case made,” he said. “I think there is a case for Devens not becoming a town. I’m sure there is a case for Devens becoming a town … I just don’t think we’ve had a clear debate about what the best solution for that area is.
“I want the issue debated. I want both sides of the story aired out so people can decide what the issues are,” he said.
“There’s definitely been a pattern of separating the parties here, discussing it separately and hoping they’ll back into the right decision. I don’t think that’s how we went into this process,” she said.
On a local level, Wallace acknowledged some officials are wearying of the work involved with Devens, which she termed unfortunate since the matter has really not been brought to the voters for discussion in any meaningful way.
“I can see this drive for ‘we just need to make a decision and be done with it’ … My feeling is this is probably the biggest decision the town will make in the next 100 years and we really need to do our due diligence,” she said.
VonLoesecke’s response was that those who have participated in the disposition process throughout have a clear understanding of why a town makes sense.
VonLoesecke added there was never any interest in Devens from Harvard until about three years ago, when a minority of local officials became intensely interested in the potential financial benefits of Devens.
He said on the whole, Harvard is a rural community with no desire to be otherwise.
“The mentality here is not that of running an industrial area, that’s why most people here don’t want to get involved,” he said.
Of the other stakeholders, he said, “There’s a general disbelief in Harvard’s position because they think it’s being articulated by a very small minority in the town.”
Wallace acknowledged there is a question of involvement with Harvard, but said that could be due to a lack of public discourse on the topic, as opposed to apathy.
She also questioned where negative comments fit into such a discussion.
“In the end, we all need to listen to each other and we should start by respecting each other,” she said.
Eubank offered a similar sentiment.
“I think we’ve taken positions that are reasonable and interested in finding the best solution overall,” he said. “I think that kind of (negative) attitude makes it harder for people to put issues on the table and share their views.”