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Situation normal at JBOS; chaos at outset of meeting

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DEVENS — The retooled Joint Boards of Selectmen for Ayer, Harvard and Shirley, along with representatives of the Devens community (collectively known as the “JBOS”) convened on Groundhog Day, Feb. 2.

It was their second meeting as a downsized entity, with a primary and alternate representative from each community, along with a nonvoting representative from MassDevelopment, the state agency charged to oversee the management and development of the Devens Regional Enterprise Zone (DREZ).

Over the last several years, the JBOS had consisted of effectively all the selectmen and representatives. Except for some cameo appearances, the Shirley selectmen had essentially boycotted the meetings over the past year, citing the group’s ineffectiveness in achieving goals.

At the Nov. 17 meeting, the last with the “full” membership, it was repeatedly noted the chairmanship, then held by Ayer Selectman Jim Fay, would roll alphabetically to Devens, with the vice chairmanship retained by the town of Ayer for the sake of continuity. Ayer Selectman Frank Maxant was tapped by his Board of Selectmen as the town’s primary (and Fay as the board’s alternate) representatives to the new JBOS.

But confusion broke out after the first meeting of the mini-JBOS adjourned in December. While the group confirmed Devens Committee member Tom Kinch as the chairman, the group had voted in Fay’s absence and at Kinch’s suggestion to retain Fay as vice chair instead of Maxant, the primary Ayer JBOS representative.

The December consensus unraveled Thursday night, but not until after Fay appeared to accept the post in person.

“I’m in it to win it,” said Fay. But Maxant added, “we screwed up last time.”

“You filing an objection?” Kinch asked Maxant. “How can I file and objection to my motion?” retorted Maxant.

Harvard Selectman Ron Ricci had been tasked by the JBOS in November to draft the procedure for passing the leadership baton. He clariified the “vice chair is from the entity that was the outgoing chair. So whoever was designated from Ayer is the defector vice chair at this time.”

“So you don’t accept Jim?” asked Kinch.

“That’s what the agreement said,” said Ricci. “That’s how we laid it out. Right now I just want to go by the agreement until we change the agreement.”

Ricci said the point of the streamlined chair shuffle was to “eliminate picking or voting” and obviate the need for votes as occurred at the first meeting for the mini-JBOS to “elect” a new chair and vice chairman.

“There is no need for a vote,” agreed Maxant. “We shouldn’t have even voted on it.”

Fay suggested there could be a revisit of the prior vote. In the alternative, Fay suggested there be an exception for this year only to permit him to continue as vice chairman for “this iteration and it wouldn’t change the rules.”

Harvard Selectman Marie Sobalvarro agreed with Ricci, who said, “iIn fairness to my colleagues, I cannot change what the Harvard Board of Selectmen already voted on and was approved by the four parties.”

Maxant suggested since he voted for Fay as vice chairman at the December meeting, that he’d forward a motion to reconsider the vote to name Fay personally as the vice chairman of the JBOS. Fay withdrew his motion for an exception to the rule.

The confusion provoked Shirley representative and former selectman Enrico “Rico” Cappucci, who served as JBOS chairman before Fay’s tenure, to utter to Kinch: “I can see Mr. Chairman that nothing has changed.”

Kinch asked that the minutes reflect the deliberations to clarify that the Ayer representative, currently Maxant, is now in control of the vice chairman post.

Stung but smiling, Fay concluded the discussion with a literal and figurative pat on his own back: “I still thank you for your vote of confidence.”