HARVARD — The voters have spoken on the Devens disposition issue and the Board of Selectmen should follow their lead, according to selectmen Scott Kimball and William Marinelli.
That is, they have voted to go forward with the so-called 2B scenario, in which Devens becomes a town and certain parcels return to the jurisdiction of Ayer, Harvard and Shirley. Stakeholders reportedly favor the idea and the Devens Disposition Executive Board is currently drafting a memorandum of understanding based on that option.
At Monday’s meeting, the selectmen were not on the same page, however. They considered a proposal to form a panel to study the matter further, but after a lively debate, the motion was defeated, 3-2. Selectmen Lucy Wallace and Robert Eubank, who had proposed the panel, voted for it. Kimball, Marinelli and Chairman Randall Dean voted against it.
Dean has consistently said he wants to keep the process moving forward, although he did not necessarily endorse 2B on its own merits. Kimball thinks townspeople want Devens to become a town and have said so. People studied the issue and made their wishes known at the polls, he said.
”It was an excellent turnout Harvard voters are not uninformed,” he said.
The election provided a clear direction, said Marinelli.
A majority of voters said no to 2B at the March 25 annual town meeting. When the two non-binding ballot questions were presented at the election two days later, voters favored Devens becoming a town and did not favor taking back jurisdiction.
Wallace and Eubank didn’t think the votes were conclusive, however. They said townspeople have not made up their minds on the Devens issue and need more information before the disposition proposition comes to a decisive vote in November.
Eubank proposed forming an eight-member, bi-partisan panel — with four members who favor 2B and four who do not — to be appointed at the next selectmen’s meeting on April 18. The group would study facets of the Devens question that have not been fully explored, such as finances, as well as legal issues and the disposition process. It would present its findings to the selectmen and could also hold hearings to inform the public, he said.
Marinelli said the Devens Focus Group, appointed in 2002, studied those issues.
The intent would not be to reinvent the wheel, said Eubank, but the panel might go over ground the group had covered.
”This is an attempt to reconcile contradictions” in facts and figures that have been disseminated, he said. At issue are housing numbers and the financial impact new Devens households might have on the town if it regained jurisdiction.
Discounting “spin,” Eubank said the town is deeply divided on the Devens issue, and so are the selectmen. But Dean said 2B is the question before the town now and should be settled in November. The memorandum of understanding will spell out the details worked out so far, said town administrator Paul Cohen. The current memorandum draft will be posted on the town Web site and available in hard copy at Town Hall and the library.