DEVENS - For months, there has been no Harvard representation at meetings of the Devens area Joint Boards of Selectmen (JBOS). That changed, somewhat, on Jan. 24 when Harvard selectman Chair Lucy Wallace sat with the panel at its meeting room table.
Wallace stipulated she was not participating in JBOS votes. The Harvard Board of Selectmen sent a letter to JBOS last summer indicating that they would resume routine membership at meetings whenever a topic of regional interest to the towns arose.
A 2011 Memorandum of Understanding signed by the selectmen in Ayer, Harvard and Shirley and the Devens Committee indicates that each town would tap a representative to attend JBOS meetings. Shirley JBOS representative and former JBOS Chair Rico Cappucci teased Wallace, 'You're in violation of the MOU but we won't hold it against you."
Wallace countered that upon review of Harvard Board of Selectmen minutes in 2011, there are no records or minutes on file that indicate that her board ever formally assented to the 2011 MOU. Rather, Wallace said the Harvard meeting minutes only reflect that "Ron [Ricci, a fellow Harvard selectman] would be the rep."
Also in attendance were JBOS Chair Tom Kinch of Devens, and Ayer selectman Gary Luca. Ayer's regular JBOS representative, Ayer selectman Frank Maxant, was absent.
As per the 2011 MOU, the chairmanship of the group is to change at the first meeting of the new calendar year. Also, the MOU states the chairmanship is to rotate alphabetically among the four member communities - Ayer, Devens, Harvard, and Shirley.
Following Devens' turn in the chairman seat, the baton was scheduled to be passed to Harvard. But when Kinch suggested someone make a motion to that effect, silence ensued.
"Would you like me to first take it back to the [Harvard] board?" asked Wallace.
"There's no motion on the floor," insisted Cappucci.
Kinch commented that "it was made fairly clear to the Town of Harvard" that its regular monthly attendance was desired. "I think that if we live out the MOU we signed, tonight is the night that we have to make this action."
"Harvard has not attended for whatever the reason," said Cappucci. "The MOU says they have a responsibility to attend the meetings. I was happy to see Lucy here, but until they find out what they want to do, I nominate Luca as Chair from the town of Ayer."
"I guess I'll second [that]," said Luca.
Back to Harvard, Cappucci clarified, "I'd hope they would start to attend the meetings so they can assume the chair. Until time and for the next year, my motion would be to nominate Mr. Luca."
"I have no problem with that," agreed Luca. "I've been a part of this process. Ayer has been a part of this process. We do have an obligation going forward to see this through- good, bad or indifferent. I'm prepared to do my year."
Devens Committee member Phil Crosby noted that the alphabetical order was not being maintained and that making Ayer the chair was "going out of order." Crosby suggested that Harvard assume the chairmanship role next year. "This is merely an interruption, not a change in the sequence."
"I think the JBOS has developed a value," said Kinch. "Whatever we do should be to enhance that and not jeopardize it."
"I agree with the motion that's been put forward but I also feel badly because without you [Wallace] and your town [Harvard] attending these meetings, it's a big void," said Kinch. "I'd hope you would attend these meetings this year and we can get back on course."
Kinch said the JBOS role is to be "constructive as opposed to destructive. We'll continue without Harvard if need be but it's just not the right way to do it."
Kinch, Cappucci and Luca voted 3-0 to make Luca the JBOS Chairman for the calendar year 2013. Luca made a motion, suggesting Kinch, as the Devens representative, assume the Vice Chair position. That motion, likewise, passed on a 3-0 vote.
JBOS administrative assistant Liz Garner presented Kinch with a bottle of Riesling wine to thank him for his service in the chairman role. Crosby lauded Kinch's service. "You've had some ups and downs but you're one tough cookie."
Cappucci looked around the room and noted the age of the selectmen and representatives present for the three area towns and Devens community.
"None of us are young - except for Lucy. That said, the young people either don't have the time or the will to get involved in their community," remarked Cappucci. "It's almost a no-win job. You're going to be criticized whatever you do."
Follow Mary Arata at twitter.com/maryearata.