HARVARD -- Discussions of the Town Hall renovation project were sidelined for a while but are now back on track with controls in place to fit the budget.

That said, selectmen last week noted that the revised price tag for the next municipal makeover waiting in the wings -- a proposed Hildreth House renovation and addition -- might still be too hefty.

Concerned about how the two big-ticket projects fit into the big picture, given others in the long-term queue and the town's level of debt at any given time, Chairwoman Marie Sobalvarro wanted to see some numbers on the table. To that end, she brought forward the Capital Planning and Investment Committee's project list.

At issue was that selectmen should get a grip on the big picture from a management standpoint rather than simply reacting to CPIC requests based on affordability or how badly a particular item or building -- say the old library or Bromfield House -- needs repair or replacement, or if the proposed work is worth it at any cost.

Selectman Leo Blair, for example, said the typical approach has been reactive, rather than proactive, and backwards besides. The first consideration should be available funds, he said, with pending projects prioritized after that, rather than the other way around.


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Blair questioned the viability and suitability of some of the buildings, arguing that a more sensible, cost-effective solution to the town's aging buildings problem would be to sell or raze repurposed other-era residences such as Hildreth House and Bromfield House rather than fix them up for municipal uses they were not well suited for in the first place.

Wrapping up their meeting last week, with an executive session to follow, selectmen scanned a sheaf of "long pages" they asked Town Administrator Tim Bragan to compile.

With a cover sheet that listed CPIC requests for the next three decades and annual subtotals ranging from nearly $31,000 to more than $900,000, the next pages showed the town's budget picture in detail over the same time frame, with expenses and funding sources. Missing from the list were school projects.

Two of the pages laid out the town's debt scenario by the numbers, with color-coded sections showing outstanding and future debt and its various purposes.

The aim was not to dig into the numbers then and there, selectmen said, but they would peruse the documents and talk more later, with an eye to improved long-term planning.