HARVARD – At a selectmen’s meeting earlier this month, Chairman Lucy Wallace brought up an issue the board has discussed many times before without resolving it. Now, they were asked to decide, for the record, whether to continue participating in JBOS.
Originally formed as a three-town selectmen advisory board to MassDevelopment after the state agency assumed jurisdiction of the former Fort Devens, JBOS now includes representatives from each board or their designees and a representative of the Devens community, as well as a non-voting seat for a MassDevelopment official.
The recent query came from JBOS Chairman Tom Kinch, who also asked Ayer and Shirley if they were in or out.
Shirley selectmen agreed they would continue to send designated representative Enrico Cappucci to monthly JBOS meetings.
Lacking a volunteer on the board, Ayer selectmen put out a call for a community member to represent them as well.
Wallace noted that selectmen had discussed JBOS participation at a strategic planning session in July and agreed to take the subject up at a their next regular meeting.
Another query from JBOS was a moot point by the time the board took it up, asking how Harvard selectmen stood on the District Local Technical Assistance (DLTA) grant that the Montachusett Regional Planning Commission (MRPC) was prepared to administer for the joint boards, providing planning services to Devens that other member communities could share.
As of the last JBOS meeting, however, that issue was already dead.
According to Kinch and others at that session, all three selectmen boards had agreed to sign on, meeting grant criteria. But after MRPC started the process, Ayer and Harvard backed out, derailing the deal. An MRPC representative present that night said that for this grant cycle, anyway, the earmarked money would not benefit anybody.
Lost opportunity or communication gap, Harvard selectmen seemed surprised.
Tim Clark said he thought the DLTA grant was to assess the impact of Devens doings on the three towns.
Wallace recalled the board having determined that the planning services offered by the grant wouldn’t be much use to Harvard, but she didn’t think they’d officially bowed out. No matter now, they agreed.
Getting back to JBOS participation, Selectman Marie Sobalvarro said the board had settled that issue. “Our consensus was that we’d weigh in on specific matters,” she said.
Ron Ricci said he sees JBOS as a kind of United Nations and useful for that reason, but he’s waxed hot and cold about participation in the past. Now, he wondered who would keep track of important issues and alert the board when they should take notice via JBOS.
Clark said there might be some concern about JBOS money being spent unwisely, without three-town input. It may be that “our funds are being frittered away on a clerk,” whose services may not be necessary, he said, given the light agenda these days.
But in a general sense, he said it’s good to have JBOS as a Devens conduit.
Wallace agreed, more or less, that Harvard should keep an eye on Devens via JBOS.
The gist of her view was that only issues of shared concern warranted JBOS attention and that the group should only “convene” on that basis.
But the existence and operation of JBOS was not the issue they were asked to weigh in on, nor is it within one member town’s purview to make that call.
For now, it looks like JBOS will continue to meet, with sporadic attendance.
Shirley’s designated representative has a perfect attendance record, or close to it, as does Devens, whose representative is now the chairman. The alternate Devens member, Phil Crosby, is also faithful in his attendance and generally sits at the table alongside Kinch.
MassDevelopment’s VP for Devens operations, George Ramirez, or his designated alternate, Ed Starzec, attend on the state agency’s behalf.
But Kinch wanted to firm up the roster. Basically, he asked which towns are in or out, who the reps are and whether they plan to attend meetings.
Harvard held out for its own view. “Why not just say we’ll participate when there are specific matters to discuss?” Ricci suggested at the Aug. 7 selectmen’s meeting.
“I’m with Ron,” Bill Johnson said. “The less said the better.”
The board did not vote but agreed that Tim Clark was still “official liaison” to JBOS and would show up as needed. They did not name an alternate.
Wallace followed up with an Aug. 8 letter to Kinch.
Just one paragraph, her response cited the board’s strategic planning session and its Aug. 7 meeting and stated Harvard’s case. The selectmen had “decided to recommend that the JBOS be convened only in case of specific matter requiring consideration by all three towns abutting Devens, ” Wallace wrote. “Obviously, any member of the JBOS could call or request a meeting should a specific need arise.”