HARVARD -- Selectmen decided to accept MassDevelopment's invitation to attend its annual board meeting, but they debated whether to send questions ahead of time, as requested.
"Should we make a statement as a board?" Chairman Lucy Wallace asked her colleagues when the issue came up Monday night.
Selectman Tim Clark noted that this board is interested in "procurement," the Devens police contract in particular. Harvard has been vying for a chance to bid on that contract for years.
"We've been polite," Clark said and asked repeatedly through "diplomatic channels." But the contract for policing Devens has been summarily awarded to Massachusetts State Police ever since MassDevelopment took over jurisdiction of the de-commissioned military base in 1994.
This despite a provision in state law guaranteeing opportunities to bid on public safety services would be offered to the three host towns, Ayer Harvard and Shirley, whose historic boundaries exist within the confines of the former Fort Devens. The law, Chapter 498, spells out the rules for Devens' governance until disposition is decided.
At a Joint Boards of Selectmen (JBOS) meeting over the past summer that Harvard's representative, Clark, did not attend, MassDevelopment's vice president for Devens, George Ramirez, said that the agency intended to issue a request for proposals when the current, two-year State Police contract expires. It had just been finalized at the time.
In its quest for a crack at the contract next time around, the Harvard Board of Selectmen had asked for a copy of the existing contract. Ramirez agreed to release it as a public records document only after it was signed and sealed. The selectmen finally got it.
Now, they want to know when the RFP will be issued.
"When is it going out to bid?" Selectman Ron Ricci asked. That's the question they want to ask. But he was leery of the proposed screening process.
"I've got no problem asking a pointed question...it's a public meeting," he said. But he balked at the notion of sending it ahead of time.
Selectman Bill Johnson said the advance notice might give MassDevelopment a chance to come up with a date.
After some discussion, the board agreed to forward the query Ricci put so succinctly.
In an aside lobbed at JBOS, Wallace mentioned an item on the agenda of its next meeting, calling for discussion about hiring legal counsel and most likely tapping into the JBOS bank account for the purpose. Currently, that nest egg is being used primarily to pay its administrative assistant, Liz Garner, Wallace noted.
Some discussion followed about what, exactly, JBOS has to do these days, with no pressing Devens issues that the three towns' selectmen need to talk about. Consensus was that it has taken on "a life of its own."
At least, that's the slant this board has officially taken, having agreed that it would participate in JBOS if and when an issue of mutual interest or concern comes up.
In a written response to JBOS Chairman Tom Kinch last month, Wallace reiterated the selectmen's stand, positing that JBOS should convene only when called for rather than meeting regularly.
Meantime, it might be "useful" to remind MassDevelopment of what the JBOS function is, the selectmen said, and the Oct. 11 board meeting would be a good time to do so.