AYER -- He didn't just say "no."
Ayer Selectman Chairman and former JBOS Chairman Jim Fay shot extra bullets into the heart of a concept hatched by the Joint Boards of Selectmen for Ayer, Harvard and Shirley and Devens resident representatives.
JBOS Chairman Tom Kinch and his fellow Devens Committee member Phil Crosby had suggested that the JBOS take advantage of a grant program funded by the Legislature, administered by the Department of Housing and Community Development and locally offered by the Montachusett Regional Planning Council.
The idea was to study both pooled purchasing opportunities between the towns and Devens, but also to chart target development and preservation areas for Devens.
On March 27, the MRPC approved the grant request of the towns for the JBOS-commissioned study. The exact sums approved were $29,641 for the mapping of Priority Development Areas and Priority Protection Areas, including a "shared planner research project," according to MRPC Executive Director Glenn Eaton.
There was also $15,015 approved for the research into collective purchasing opportunities between the towns and MassDevelopment, which manages the Devens Regional Enterprise Zone.
But getting the four communities to sign-off on the actual contract with MRPC has been a chore. Neither the Harvard nor the Shirley selectmen have taken up the matter. In Ayer on June 5, Selectman Chairman Jim Fay rejected the DLTA grant outright. Kinch replaced Fay as
Fay said that earlier that day he received an email from JBOS administrative assistant Liz Garner asking if the board would deliberate over the DLTA contract that evening. Before hearing from his peers, Fay opened the discussion, "I know enough about it to not want to do it."
Fay stated that there have already been "three bites at the apple" when it comes to changing Devens zoning through Super Town Meeting. All three towns must agree, via their Town Meetings, to Devens zoning changes. Such Super Town Meeting votes failed to pass zoning changes in 2006, 2009 and March 28.
"I don't see wasting taxpayer money" on further Devens zoning study, said Fay. Though the grant funding source was not municipal money, "It's still public money. It could go somewhere more meaningful and productive than telling Devens what to do with itself."
Fay said he would not expend any time or money on Devens initiatives.
Fay is the alternate JBOS representative for Ayer. The primary representative is selectman Frank Maxant. Maxant stated to Fay "This is a little more sharply focused."
Maxant said while the MRPC mission statement for the contract was "a rehash perhaps of the open space and Reuse Plan of a couple of years ago," Maxant said the grant would allow study of how the towns could save by buying goods and services in bulk to realize volume discounts.
Selectman Gary Luca asked to see the proposed contract. "We never saw it."
Fay said he'd just received the proposed MRPC contract from Town Administrator Robert Pontbriand "thirty seconds ago."
Luca said he was "all for trying to keep this going and find an end result" to the Devens puzzle, in which the 4,400 acre DREZ remains under the custody and control of MassDevelopment in terms of the provision of municipal services.
While Luca expressed comfort with the expenditure, Capital Planning Committee Chairman Mary Spinner opposed the spending from the audience. "It's the taxpayers' money!"
"Just like trucks and everything else we've got," answered Luca, who indicated he was comfortable with signing the MRPC contract.
Maxant opposed moving on the contract that night, but suggested the selectmen consider the contract again at their June 19 meeting. Maxant said the delay would send a message to the JBOS to "get your act together" on the paperwork.
Fay said a recent JBOS report indicated that the MRPC had already moved forward with the work despite the lack of a contract in hand. "We haven't even seen the document! Good grief!"
"I'd vote against it," offered selectman Pauline Conley. In the end, only Luca voted to approve the contract. The motion failed, with Fay, Maxant, Conley and Selectman Christopher Hillman opposed to the proposal.
Maxant asked for clarification, as to whether the discussion was being moved to the June 19 meeting.
"No," answered Fay. "We just voted it down."
The JBOS meets again on June 28 at 7:30 p.m. in Conference Room One, 33 Andrews Parkway on Devens.