HARVARD -- Tuesday night's selectmen's meeting launched with annual appointments to boards and committees under their jurisdiction, some of them new. "We have oodles" of appointments to make, Chairman Marie Sobalvarro said, suggesting they get started.
Several candidates stepped up to the microphone. First came Don Graham, who was appointed to a three-year term on the Board of Assessors, the seat vacated by Rick Maiore.
A town resident for four years, Graham works as a corporate project manager. In answer to a question, he told the board he's aware that he must take a state assessors course to qualify for the position and that he would do so.
Sherry Graham was appointed to the Board of Realtors position on the Historic Commission, a three-year term. A town resident for four years and the mother of three, Graham said she likes the way the Town Center looks and wants to help preserve its beauty.
The selectmen wanted to know how she'd handle reviewing a project request from a homeowner in the historic district if the property was one that she had listed or sold. "Would you recuse yourself? Lucy Wallace asked. Graham didn't think it would be a problem but said she would step aside if it seemed to be a conflict.
Moe Dancause was appointed to a three-year term on the HC. After 27 years in town and now retired, he has the time to serve and wants to help maintain the town's historic integrity, Dancause told the board.
James Saalfield was appointed to the Conservation Commission. A resident for 30 years, he's been involved in various town activities, he said, and gave a rather unusual reason for wanting this position. "I want to learn the conservation laws," he said.
David Hopper was appointed to the Municipal Affordable Housing Trust. Because he was out of town on business, MAHT member Bruce Nickerson came as his "proxy." He told the board that Hopper is a licensed architect working for the Department of the Navy and had served on town boards before, including the Affordable Housing Partnership and the Shaker Hills 40B subcommittee. "We badly need his membership and his talents," Nickerson said.
Chris Roy was appointed to the Devens Economic Analysis Team. A town resident for three years, he works for another town, managing utility engineering. Now, he wants to put his skills to work for the town he lives in, Roy said and he's interested in Devens.
The following individuals were reappointed to their respective boards but were not in attendance. Elaine Lazarus, Economic Development Committee; Sherlie LaPierre, MAHT; Robert Capobianco, Zoning Board of Appeals, full member; Ted Maxant, Orville Dodson and Michael Lawton as ZBA alternates.
Also, Tim Bragan was reappointed to the Town Hall Building Committee.
Long Distance Issue
There was some concern about Capobianco continuing to serve on the ZBA, despite being in Florida all winter and participating in meetings via televised computer link. "I know they allow remote participation," but it can be a challenge, Lucy Wallace said. "Who pays for the cost of mailing" documents to the absent member?
Town Administrator Tim Bragan pointed out that it was not the ZBA but the Board of Selectmen that allowed remote participation under the state law. Basically, the other boards can use it because the selectmen accepted the provision allowing them to do so, he explained. As for the mailings, the individual boards take care of that.
"I supported the idea" on a once in a while basis, Stu Sklar said. But he did not think the intent of the law was to allow continuous long-distance participation, as Capobianco did all winter on the ZBA. He'd like to revisit the issue, he said.
Chairman Marie Sobalvarro said she wanted to honor ZBA Chairman Chris Tracey's request to reappoint Capobianco, but she, too, wants to talk more about the issue later, with outreach to other boards.
Bragan back on THBC, reluctantly
When it came to reappointing Bragan to the Town Hall Building Committee, there was some discussion and the decision to do so was not unanimous, with Leo Blair voting no.
Ironically, the angst was sparked by Bragan's previous decision to step down. After deciding not to continue, however, he told the board he would stay on, at least for now.
Citing an upcoming meeting with the Historic Commission at which a vote is anticipated, Bragan explained that the meeting - set for the next night -- would be derailed if he quits now, since the THBC won't have a quorum without him. And that, in turn, would delay the project.
It seemed, then, given the circumstances, that it would "behoove" the town administrator to accept the appointment for another year, the selectmen said.
Bragan agreed. But Blair persisted. He asked Bragan why he wanted to leave the THBC.
Time, Bragan told him. He needs to "balance" his commitments. He attends multiple municipal meetings and conflicts can arise. For example, he has missed the last three Finance Committee meetings, he said. Besides, he'd get as much input outside the THBC as within it, he said. As it is, he casts the most "no" votes but he's consistently overruled.
"But I'll do it," he said.
"What I'm hearing makes no sense," Blair said.
Bragan has said that he has neither the time nor the desire to continue serving, and that the "prevailing view" on the board is in opposition, Blair said. Yet the selectmen want to reappoint him anyway.
"We're being asked to support a candidate who doesn't want to be there and is ineffective," he concluded.
Bragan said Blair was correct, in part, but staying was a tactical move he's willing to make, for now, to keep the building project on track. Basically, he said it's part of his job.
"Yes, but later, you can resign" and select a suitable replacement," Sobalvarro said. With a motion on the table and the agenda's clock ticking overtime by four minutes, she proposed moving on.
The four-minute comment ruffled Blair, who said he's been "circumspect" so far, but whether the meeting is running late or not, he aimed to talk through the issue.
The motion to reappoint Bragan passed, four to one. Blair said no.