DEVENS — A leaner, meaner gathering of the Joint Boards of Selectmen for Ayer, Harvard and Shirley took place Thursday night on Devens.
The group is now down to five representative members — one from each town, the Devens Committee, and a nonvoting seat set aside for MassDevelopment. There are also alternate members for each of the five stakeholders at the table.
It’s a diametric turnabout from the board’s constitution over the past several years. Up until this fall, JBOS meetings were a collection of all three towns’ Boards of Selectmen (five selectmen each from Ayer and Harvard and three selectmen from Shirley) along with members of the Devens Committee.
Previously led by Ayer selectman Jim Fay, the group passed the leadership baton to the next community in alphabetical order — Devens. More particularly Devens Committee member Tom Kinch was selected Thursday night as the new JBOS Chairman. Devens Committee member Phil Crosby is the alternate Devens member to the shrunken JBOS.
To maintain a degree of continuity with the prior Ayer leadership, Ayer will now fill the vice chairman position. Ayer selectman Frank Maxant represents Ayer, but suggested Fay, the Ayer alternate, would be interested in the vice chairman role.
“I got the impression in talking to Jim that he’d be very happy accepting the position,” Maxant said.
It was so voted, though Fay wasn’t present to accept.
Harvard selectman Peter Warren, that town’s JBOS alternate, was in attendance. Primary Harvard JBOS member Ron Ricci was not.
Shirley selectmen had ceased attending JBOS meetings months ago, citing its prior ineffectiveness and unwieldy size as an impediment to reaching consensus. After a temporary hiatus, Shirley returned to the table. Former Shirley selectman Rico Cappucci fulfills the Shirley role, with an alternate member still to be announced.
Cappucci said it was “good to cut down” the size of the body, adding it was “very difficult to get everyone on the same page.” He suggested the reformulated JBOS could also fall apart unless the members are forceful and concise in returning JBOS’ talking points to their respective boards.
“If I say ‘Look, we’re all going to take a left turn’ and two [of three Shirley selectmen] say no, then what am I doing here?” asked Cappucci rhetorically. “Otherwise, we’ll be doing the same thing … it’s just wasting everyone’s time. We have other things to do.”
George Ramirez, MassDevelopment’s executive vice president for Devens operations, has indicated that he’ll sit in on meetings as the primary representative for the quasi-public agency that maintains and develops Devens lands. But MassDevelopment alternate and spokesman Ed Starzec, stood in for Ramirez Thursday night.
Starzec ran flack for the agency at the very outset of the meeting. Over the summer, the JBOS vociferously asked MassDevelopment to pay to install a cable television camera and sound system in the main meeting room on Andrews Way.
On Thursday, the control room for the cameras was locked up. Starzec said Ramirez holds the key to the equipment.
“This is sort of childish, isn’t it?” said Warren.
“I’ll straighten it out,” pledged Starzec.