DEVENS -- When the MassDevelopment board of directors met on Devens, absent was board chairman and Massachusetts Housing and Economic Development Secretary Gregory Bialecki.
MassDevelopment President and CEO Marty Jones indicated that instead of the once-per-year visit, the board might consider holding another meeting on Devens -- perhaps in the evening hours to allow those with daytime jobs to attend and interface with the directors.
In attendance were three Harvard, one Ayer and no Shirley selectmen. Ayer Selectman Frank Maxant clarified that he was in attendance in his individual, not official, capacity.
Two members of the Devens Advisory Committee attended as well. With no major project pending that requires tri-town approval through the "Super Town Meeting" process, this year's was a low-key event in comparison to prior years.
The board voted unanimously to approve $409,707 for software needed for the E911 regional emergency dispatching center under construction on Barnum Road in Devens. The facility will serve Devens, and the towns of Harvard, Lancaster and Lunenburg.
MassDevelopment touted other projects in the pipeline. Saint Gobain is building its LED light assembly operation within the 450,000-square-foot former Evergreen Solar plant on Barnum Road. New England Studios is working on phase one of its movie and television studios off Jackson Road.
In July, the town of Shirley became the 10th community to join the Devens Household Hazardous Waste center off Cook Street. And the eighth zero net-energy house built off Adams Circle is now under agreement.
Measuring Devens' sustainability
Devens Enterprise Commission Director Peter Lowitt presented a draft sustainability report regarding sustainable development indicators on Devens, last studied in 2000.
Lowitt reported the average Massachusetts salary is $57,000, but the average Devens salary is $68,000. Lowitt said the DEC website illustrates the land-use boards' "accessibility and openness" in terms of governance.
Judging Devens' fitness is tougher, said Lowitt. "The data doesn't really fall out for Devens" as "we're a quasi-governmental agency." One metric Lowitt is exploring is the "large increase" in the linear footage of sidewalks today versus what existed in 2000.
In looking at public transportation, Lowitt said Devens is increasingly serviced by rail. There was 8,000 linear feet of rail line in 2000 -- today there's 14,300 linear feet of rail with six to eight buildings served by rail.
"We need to do some work on" Devens sustainable-energy goals, said Lowitt. A 3-megawatt solar farm is planned off Walker Road. The zero net-energy homes are topped by solar panels.
Data shared by the Nashua River Watershed Association will be plumbed for data to support Devens contribution towards water quality. The Devens Eco Efficiency Center is helping to "green" Devens operations with reuse and recycling goals.
Frank Maxant of Ayer is a selectman but appeared individually, asking Lowitt to discuss how many businesses are currently served by rail. Lowitt answered his study doesn't look at "mature" businesses, but the potential despite the fact that some served buildings are vacant at this time.
But Lowitt asserted that the rail service decreased truck traffic, using Devens Recycling Center on Independence Drive as an example. "They use 40 to 60 rail cars a month," said Lowitt. "Each car takes three trucks off the roads."
Maxant also asked how much rent MassDevelopment has paid to occupy office space at 33 Andrews Parkway on Devens. MassDevelopment Chief of Staff Meg Delorier promised staff would respond to Maxant's request.