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HARVARD – Within hours of the March 22 Harvard Hillside debate, an olive branch was extended to attempt to bridge competing Annual Town Meeting warrant articles regarding three historic town-owned buildings. At the debate, school committee candidate SusanMary Redinger suggested supporters for Article 17 and Article 18 compromise, or else face the chance of failure due to the discord and voter confusion.

Despite nodding heads and a conciliatory tone thereafter, such a public meeting failed to materialize. The stakes are high as voters meet tomorrow in the Bromfield gymnasium to sort it out. Town Meeting opens at 9 a.m.

On March 23, selectman Ron Ricci – a co-sponsor of Article 18 along with fellow selectman Bill Johnson – sought to move the ball forward. Ricci posted two meetings dates “to discuss a possible compromise that could be presented to the voters,” According to an email that circulated among potential invitees.

The first meeting invite was replaced with another when some were confused as to whether Ricci was calling a selectmen’s meeting – a role assumed by the selectmen chairman. Ricci quickly clarified that the public meeting would be a sit-down between invitees to discuss middle ground on Articles 17 and 18.

Invitees included selectmen Ron Ricci and Bill Johnson as co-sponsors of Article 18, Ron Ostberg, the Chairman of the Municipal Building Committee (MBC) which sponsored Article 17, Town Administrator Tim Bragan, Finance Committee Chairman Bob Thurston, and Capital Planning and Investment Committee Chairman George McKenna.

The suggested meeting dates were Friday, March 25 at 4 p.m. or, in the alternative, Monday March 28 at 8 a.m. depending on the group’s availability. On Thursday, both dates were posted on the town website where official meeting notices are posted.

Ostberg responded to the group email on Thursday that “The MBC is a sub-committee of the BOS [Board of Selectmen]. The BOS has not directed us to attend this meeting.”

Unable to convene the parties, Ricci removed the notices later that day. And there are still no such meetings planned before Annual Town Meeting despite tacit agreement to do so.

Ricci appealed to Bragan – who drafts the selectmen meeting agendas – to devote a portion of the Wednesday, March 30 morning meeting to the discord. “We really need to do something before Saturday’s ATM.”

The Wednesday morning selectmen’s meeting agenda does include a reference to “Final review of ATM warrant.” However that means the selectmen would procedurally, but not substantively, review the manner in which warrant articles are introduced to Town Meeting. Ricci and Bragan have both requested of Chairman Peter Warren that the discussion be expanded to search for a middle ground.

On Monday night, Warren – who is a proponent of Article 17 and served as the selectmen’s liaison to the MBC – responded to the Harvard Hillside, “There will be no public meeting.”

Selectman Bill Johnson, a co-sponsor of Article 18 along with Ricci, is also hopeful that in these final days before Town Meeting, some sort of meeting will occur.

“There are common elements to both articles that we can agree on. We should work together to bring these pieces to Town Meeting for voter approval, so that the Town can get started on this project while we sort out the remaining differences,” said Johnson. “We owe this to everyone who has put so much into this effort over the past year, and most importantly to the citizens that have entrusted us with moving this issue forward. I for one am willing to meet with anyone at anytime to engage in such a discussion.”

Article 17 and 18 each aim to land $225,000 for schematics for two historic buildings. Each proposal includes work to Town Hall, but from there the plans veer in different directions.

Article 17 seeks an expanded Town Hall for government use but with an addition for civic and community use. Article 17 also seeks to renovate and expand the Hildreth House as a dedicated center for the Council on Aging. No portion of the study money would be used to explore rehab needs at the Old Library

Article 18 seeks study money for the renovation – without expansion – of both Town Hall for continued government use and the Old Library for a variety of functions, initially temporary Town Hall space, and then additional space for Council on Aging program consolidation/expansion and other community activities. Hildreth House would remain a senior center and small group meeting space, but without expansion at this time.