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BOS divided on Devens, but unanimous in public stand

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HARVARD — Selectmen William Marinelli and Randall Dean strongly oppose the opening paragraph of a statement Selectman Robert Eubank wrote describing the town’s opinion on Devens’ disposition.

The statement reflects Eubank’s opinion, they said, not the town’s.

At the May 22 meeting, the board discussed issuing the position statement. Eubank, who represents the board on the Joint Boards of Selectmen (JBOS), made a motion for the board to make it its own.

The first paragraph, in effect, translates the town’s two “no” votes on Scenario 2B, which includes creating a new town at Devens, as votes for Harvard holding onto its land, they said. It also states that Harvard opposes the idea of Devens becoming a town and residents support a process that’s fair and equitable. Although the other members didn’t object to the rest of the text, they said the opener seems too strong.

Marinelli questioned the need for a statement at all.

“What’s the point?” he asked.

Dean was skeptical, too.

“What does it mean? Is this posturing?” he asked.

Chairman Lucy Wallace said it’s important to make the town’s position clear. She said she’d been asked by representatives from other towns, Shirley in particular, where Harvard stands on Devens’ disposition. A lack of clarity about what the town wants has been a critical point in JBOS discussions, she and Eubank said.

Harvard was the only one of the three towns and the only stakeholder to vote no on Scenario 2B at both the town meetings and elections last year.

But Wallace said it’s key to take a stand.

“They (the other stakeholders) know what they want, but what does Harvard want? It’s been a stumbling block,” she said.

Dean said he doesn’t want to send the wrong message.

“I have a real problem with taking a negative vote as a mandate,” he said. “The other towns know what they want. We don’t.”

Marinelli suggested taking no action on Eubank’s motion. In his view, the boundaries already exist, and until a three-town vote decides otherwise, that’s the way it stays.

“No action implies that nothing happens,” he said.

In the end, however, members all agreed to take a position for the town. Eubank agreed to change that controversial first paragraph and bring it back for a later vote.

But Selectman Timothy Clark had already been tinkering with it and proposed a version that left most of the statement as is and struck all but a single sentence from the first paragraph. The amended position statement passed muster without further ado.