HARVARD — The future of Devens was a major issue leading up to the March 28 election, and the campaign finance reports reflect that.
The ballot included a Board of Selectmen’s race surrounding the Devens issue and two questions about the former base’s future. All told, at least $7,000 was spent promoting different sides.
Selectman William Marinelli was elected to his third term as a selectman and is one of the leading figures on the Devens Disposition Executive Board. He spent a town record of $3,773 during the campaign, up from the roughly $1,500 he spent during his 2003 campaign.
Much of the additional expense stemmed from town-wide mailings that outlined his work with the executive board, said Marinelli.
”I think a significant factor here was the Devens issue, and my campaign was closely linked with a position on the Devens issue,” he said. “It clearly cost money to get that position out there.”
The position is the so-called 2B scenario, which would create a new town at Devens and return jurisdiction to Harvard over the Barnum Road industrial area.
The proposal was presented by the executive board in January after months of negotiations regarding how the existing reuse plan at Devens should be changed.
Among the points seen as driving the process is the desire of MassDevelopment to abolish the housing cap of 282 units at Devens and for residents of the former base to have a clear idea on what the community’s long-term future will be. Marinelli was integral in negotiating Harvard’s end of the deal and termed it an opportunity for additional tax revenue with little risk of liability.
While Marinelli’s opponent, Timothy Clark, did not make Devens a major issue for the campaign, a grassroots activist group known as Citizens for Harvard’s Future did.
The majority went toward the latter, said group treasurer Sue Robbins.
”It’s very expensive to do mailings,” she said.
Finance reports show the U.S. Postal Service was the weapon of choice by both sides.
Marinelli’s campaign spent $1,910 on postage, plus another $1,194 for printing services through Image Software of Devens. Image Software also contributed a $500 discount that was listed under an in-kind contribution.
With Citizens for Harvard’s Future, finance reports show expenditures of $700 on printing and $1,500 on postage. The group also paid $635 to Gokey and Quinn for bus tours, while Marinelli spent $581 in newspaper ads.
In the end, advisory votes at town meeting and the ballot were returned split on 2B: It was voted down at the town meeting and accepted at the ballot.
Since this fall’s vote on 2B requires affirmative votes from town meeting and the ballot, its detractors declared the vote a victory.
Marinelli, however, noted that the ballot vote had significantly more tallies and termed it a more accurate presentation of the town’s will on the matter. Throughout, Marinelli has maintained that MassDevelopment would appeal to the legislature to get its way at Devens if the towns do not agree with 2B, while those against it maintain it’s not a slam dunk that the legislature would agree to that.
On the fund-raising side, Citizens for Harvard’s Future received $3,780 in donations from 13 residents, with $368 more in donations under $50.
Marinelli received $950 in contributions from five residents and $125 in donations under $50. The remaining $2,698 came out of his pocket.
“The only thing I can say is, I seldom do anything halfway,” he said.
Clark spent $2,096 on his campaign with $606 going to fliers, $597 to postage and $436 on signs as the big-ticket items. He drew $950 in contributions from seven contributions, plus $683 in donations under $50 and $463 out-of-pocket.
Robbins was treasurer for Clarks’ campaign as well as for Citizens for Harvard’s Future, which she said was coincidental.
”I’m good with numbers,” she said. “I do a lot of treasurer work.”
Having served as treasurer for several public figures in recent years, Robbins said factors besides Devens figured into large totals this year.
“Just compared to other years where I’ve helped other candidates, the costs have increased,” she said.
Town Clerk Janet Vellante keeps records that indicate an upward trend as well. She couldn’t remember an election with greater spending in her 12 years with the town.
The closest figures were $3,236 by Selectman Scott Kimball in 2003 and $2,345 by former Selectman Larry Finnegan in 2001, she said.
While the cost of running was high for Marinelli this time around, he’s not concerned about financing another run in three years, saying this term would likely be his last. He dispelled the idea that campaign expenses were the reason, saying it was directly related to spending time with his family again once this term is done.
”Cost has little to do with it,” he said.
Citizens for Harvard’s Future is planning to stick around, at least until the November vote.
The group already has one major cost-cutting measure in mind, said Robbins.
”As the group goes forward I believe a bulk mail permit will be acquired to cut those expenses,” she said.