Selectmen discuss Oct. 2 Special Town Meeting funding requests 

Carlisle’s October 2 Special Town Meeting will consider two Warrant Articles requesting a total of $300K  for building improvements and project design studies at the Concord-Carlisle High School campus, and $85K for designs for roadway changes to improve traffic and pedestrian safety. The Carlisle Board of Selectmen (BOS) discussed the CCHS funding with representatives from the Regional School District on August 28. On September 11, the Selectmen weighed how to fund the roadway design project. 

Articles 1 & 2 for CCHS

The Concord-Carlisle Regional School District is asking the communities of Carlisle and Concord to back two Warrant Articles to fund $300K in projects at Concord-Carlisle High School (CCHS). The two proposed Warrant Articles include one for $100K and a second for $200K. The new school building opened in 2014. Superintendent Laurie Hunter explained how the funds would be utilized. 

Article 1 – Safety & Compliance

The first Warrant Article for $100K addresses safety and capital improvement projects at the school: 

Lower field drainage                         $25,000

Ambulance access to Nurse’s office $25,000

Repair emergency showers               $30,000

Repair spray booth ductwork           $20,000

Total                                              $100,000

A request for $25K is proposed to tackle drainage issues on one of the lower athletic fields, which during heavy rains impact the abutters to that field. Part of the repair involves placing a pipe one-foot higher than the water table, directing the flow of water in another direction.

In emergency situations when an ambulance may be needed at the high school, there is not an adequate access point near the nurse’s office. A request for $25K would be used to cut into the current curbing in front of the office to allow an ambulance to back in.

The last two items on the list include repairing emergency shower controls ($30K) and spray booth ductwork ($20K).

Article 2 – Design & Feasibility Study for CCHS

The second Warrant Article for $200K is for an engineering design and feasibility study for future capital projects at the high school. A request-for-proposal (RFP) has been posted and those bids are due back in mid-September. It was noted that as Town Meeting approaches in early October, the Warrant Article may be modified to reflect the actual cost of the bids received.

The design and feasibility study would encompass two types of projects—those that are a completion of previous projects, and those that are desired, or as Hunter labeled, the “maybe list.”

On the list of possible projects includes a plan for a concession/refreshment facility with restrooms by the football field. The project list also includes an irrigation system to maintain the grass that is near the amphitheater.

Also, a big topic of late has been the parking at the high school, which has been an on-going challenge for the administration and the students. There is enough parking for the senior students, but not for the juniors, some of whom rely on their own transportation for after-school commitments. Hunter said that options are needed to address the situation.

The next set of projects, the “maybe list” derives from the Campus Advisory Committee. The committee, made up of students, community members and school administration provided a list of desired improvements to the RSC which, in turn, winnowed the ideas to a subset for further exploration. Included on this list are: a six- or eight-lane track, a potential field house or ice rink and outdoor educational spaces.

Necessity discussed

BOS Vice-Chair Kate Reid suggested breaking up the second Warrant Article into two separate Articles—one for those projects that are a completion of previous projects – such as irrigation, and parking improvements, and another Warrant Article for those Reid categorized as “pie in the sky” projects – such as design work for a possible field house and ice rink. Hunter responded that the design study is meant to look into the future, at the big picture and how the projects can all fit together.

Reid said that some of the projects are not part of a school function, or perhaps necessary. Asking a community to support projects considered extraneous is difficult when in the very near future property taxes are no longer a deduction from personal income. Selectman Luke Ascolillo agreed with Reid’s request to divide the Warrant Article. 

Hunter reiterated that the projects supported by the Warrant Article are part of a bigger picture and the design is meant to treat them simultaneously. She said that the design and feasibility study is only a study. It is not a commitment to complete the projects.

While Regional School Committee member Mary Storrs agreed that some of the projects could be considered “pie in the sky,” but said that until a design study is conducted the feasibility of the projects remains unknown. Storrs also said that there is an “appetite for private funding” in the community to support school projects, but before moving forward, a design is needed. 

After discussion, the CCHS funding request was left as two Warrant Articles.

Article 3 – Traffic safety plans

Selectmen discussed details of possible funding mechanisms for the third Warrant Article when they spoke with Carlisle Finance Director Kerry Colburn-Dion on September 11. Searching for a way to fund the $85,000 expenditure, Colburn-Dion said that the town’s Free Cash reserves would not be available, because the process to receive state certification of the Free Cash balance would not be completed  in time for the Special Town Meeting on October 2. She suggested three options: transfer funds from the DPW budget, the Stabilization Fund or borrowing. Her preferred option is a transfer from the DPW budget. 

The Selectmen decided to defer a decision until their next meeting on September 25.

The Traffic Safety Advisory Committee (TSAC) has spearheaded a grant proposal to the Commonwealth Complete Streets Program to expand pedestrian mobility and safety in Carlisle. The request totals $400K for four projects in the Town Center. See “Selectmen approve traffic safety roadmap,” Mosquito, July 25 for more information on these as well as other projects identified. Any funds received from the grant can only be used for project construction. Hence the need for engineering and design funds to be provided by the town – the $85K.

The proposed fund transfer

Colburn-Dion’s preferred option for the $85K is to do a transfer from the Department of Public Works budget, but not from the Chapter 90 funds for street repairs. She said, “If we took money from Chapter 90 we would have to make a presentation to the state. [DPW Superintendent] Gary Davis already has some projects done with cost overruns because of fuel and asphalt cost increases.” She continued, “The best option is a transfer from the DPW budget, but we may have to backfill it later from Free Cash or from other departments.” She said that Davis has agreed. 

Selectman Kerry Kissinger asked, “Do we have any idea of what Free Cash will be?” Colburn-Dion responded, “It is too early in the [fiscal] year to make that call.”

Selectman Alan Lewis commented that the full $85K might not be needed. “Maybe only one of the four projects will get funded [by the grant].” Design and engineering would be done only for projects that receive grant funding. 

Chair Nathan Brown ended the discussion: “We can do the transfer at the next Selectmen’s meeting after we have information on the Finance Committee position.”

The RSC is hosting a public forums on the CCHS Warrant Articles on Wednesday, September 26 at 6:30 p.m. at the Carlisle School Community Room. 

A Special Town Meeting to vote for the Articles will be held on Tuesday, October 2, 2018 at 7 p.m. at the Carlisle School auditorium. ∆