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DEVENS — Despite the fact that none of the three Devens towns have signed the contract, the Montachusett Regional Planning Commission has moved ahead with preliminary work for the Joint Boards of Selectmen for Ayer, Harvard and Shirley, as well as Devens resident representatives. The MRPC is forwarding a state Division of Local Technical Assistance grant of up to $40,000.

The MRPC will both map out potential development and conservation areas on Devens, but also identify shared purchasing opportunities to benefit the towns.

MRPC Executive Director Glen Eaton told the JBOS on May 24 that his team has already entered the “research mode” on the project, which must wrap by the end of October, according to the grant’s terms. MRPC Planning & Development Director John Hume and Geographic Information Systems analyst Renee Marion have met with Devens Enterprise Commission staff Peter Lowitt and Neil Angus to get a handle on parcel data and any environmental constraints on Devens.

To get up to speed on Devens zoning, Hume will read-up on the 1994 Devens Reuse Plan, which provides a blue print for the build out of the former Army base.

George Ramirez, MassDevelopment Executive Vice President for Devens Operations, said the Devens Enterprise Commission created a development plan for Devens similar to what MRPC proposes. Ramirez said the regional planners could “improve on it or use the money for something else.”

Eaton said it’s all part of the MRPC plan to cast a net and drag in all regional plans for review in context with their Devens project.

Likewise, MRPC will review recent successful regionalized shared purchasing arrangements, like Lancaster’s pact with neighbors on combined toner and ink purchases. “Its white paper research stuff,” said Eaton. “Think of it as a term paper.”

The MRPC research will be topped with a public hearing in the fall before their Devens DLTA project wraps up.

Ramirez ventured to guess that MassDevelopment could join in pooled purchasing as long as the towns likewise purchased goods and services off state-vetted procurement lists. “If they want to go off the grid, fine, but we can’t.”

“How many signatures do we have?” asked JBOS Chairman Tom Kinch. None, so far, said JBOS Administrative Assistant Liz Garner, though the contract was circulated to the towns since the last JBOS meeting of April 24.

“Just give me the paper and I’ll get it singed,” said Shirley JBOS representative Rico Cappucci.

“So we need Ayer and Harvard,” Kinch deadpanned. “So everybody’s signed but Ayer, Harvard and Shirley. What about Ayer? What’s the story there?”

JBOS Vice Chairman Frank Maxant said at the last meeting of the Ayer Board of Selectmen on May 22, selectman Chairman Jim Fay “was in a very strange mood” when the Ayer meeting agenda called for a JBOS update. “I sat there thinking — what was THAT all about?”

“I’m confident in local government,” said Eaton. “I don’t want to lose reading and research time. We know how to read and research things and get stuff done preliminarily.”

Kinch appealed to his JBOS peers to report back “by the next meeting if will be signed or not.”

Follow Mary Arata at twitter.com/maryearata.

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