HAMPDEN – After three weeks, six candidates and two rescheduled hearings, the Hampden Board of Selectmen (BOS) and the Planning Board voted in a joint meeting to appoint Heather Beattie and Christina Broder Mascaro to the Planning Board.
The two will fill seats left vacant after the August departure of Robert Howarth and Phil Schneider, which left the Planning Council unable to vote on two special permits for controversial self-storage facilities.
âI see this board as a great toolbox,â Acting Planning Board Chairman John Matthews said after the Sept. 15 talks. He said he was looking for skills or tools that would add to those of existing members. Planning council member Jason Barroso explained that he was looking for council members who would reflect the demographics of the city, including how long members have lived there.
Beattie, a former nurse and lawyer, had applied for a seat the last time an opening occurred between elections, which the three members of the Planning Council appreciated. Although she had minimal experience with schematics and plans, her legal education was seen as an advantage.
“His professional opinion would be a great asset,” Barroso said.
On their second recommendation, the Planning Council was originally split between Brodeur Mascaro and Donald Collins, but ultimately accepted Brodeur Mascaro. Matthews said he was “in awe” of her and appreciates “young people who are interested in the city”. He also expressed his appreciation for the diversity she would add as a woman on the board. Barroso said he liked the way she described her method of problem solving.
BOS member Craig Rivest asked Beattie and Brodeur Mascaro why they hadn’t already presented to the planning council. Brodeur Mascaro explained that although she grew up in town, she only recently returned and wanted to get involved. Beattie said she was now retired and was “interested in doing something new, something that I can contribute”.
BOS member John Flynn told planning council members he would have suggested a candidate other than Brodeur Mascaro, but he trusted the unanimous recommendation of the three planning council members.
Collins, who had previously served on the planning board, was approved by the planning board as an alternate candidate if the BOS rejected any of the others. At the joint September 20 meeting, BOS chairman Donald Davenport decided to do just that, replacing Brodeur Mascaro with Collins, but Matthews explained that Collins came to the planning board after the September 15 meeting and expressed relief at not being chosen.
Despite this, Davenport nominated Collins to fill one of the seats. No one seconded the motion, so there was no vote. Both boards then voted unanimously to seat Beattie and voted Brodeur Mascaro 4-2, with BOS members Craig Rivest and Davenport dissenting.
The other candidates, David Demers, Marq Mosier and Richard Muise, had varied skills and backgrounds. Matthews described them as âa lot of good peopleâ and Davenport joked, âThey were all great candidates. For people who don’t understand, I’m already lining them up for other boards.
Matthews cried when he addressed Barroso and planning board member Madison Pixely and said: “Thank you board members for holding on.”
Even the process of interviewing and selecting candidates was not without controversy. Davenport had said early on that he preferred both councils to interview candidates, but the Planning Council was adamant that the rules provided for a process in which the Planning Council interviewed and recommended candidates, who are then voted at a joint meeting of the two boards.
After the first round of three interviews, in which the planning board included questions previously submitted by Davenport, Davenport said at a September 13 board meeting that he contacted the planning board to ask him to have the two councils interview the three remaining candidates. together. He said the planning board had rejected him and questioned his motivation, which he said came down to efficiency and the board’s responsibility to conduct an informed vote.
âSo we are left with three options,â Davenport said. “We can wait for their recommendations and then validate them, which I will not do.” The other two options he presented were for the BOS to re-interview all candidates or attend the September 15 meeting, “without input,” and then see what recommendations were made. The third option is the one the BOS chose. Davenport called the process “very disheartening”. At the time, Flynn said he saw an opportunity to participate in the process through the questions submitted by Davenport.
At the Sept. 15 Planning Council meeting, Matthews responded to Davenport’s comments. He assured the BOS and the public that the Planning Board was not playing a âpower gameâ.
âIf we wanted to change the process,â it would be after âa thorough review,â Matthews said. âI’m trying to be open and honest with everyone here tonight. We are not looking for a Board of Selectmen ‘rubber stamp’. He added that the board is looking for people they would like to work with for the long term.
Davenport on Sept. 20 announced an article for the town’s annual spring meeting to change the bylaw and codify a process in which the BOS would interview candidates for board of directors alongside the board members in question.
The special permit hearings that were scheduled for September 8 and 15 were postponed to September 28 and 29, with the applicants’ consent.