Friday, May 8, 1998

Questions and contests should draw voters to polls on Monday

by Mary Hult

Voters will have to be on their toes for the May 11 town election. First, the scheduling is somewhat unusual with the election on Monday, rather than the traditional Tuesday. Hours as usual are 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Secondly, this will be only the second town election to be held in Town Hall on Westford Street, not the school. In addition, not only will voters have to choose between two candidates for two of the selectmen's seats, but, in a rather unusual twist, residents will need to decide which two of the four write-in candidates they would like to serve on the planning board. They will then have to correctly write the names and addresses of their two favorites on the ballot, as well as mark an "X" next to their names. Lastly, since Town Meeting gave its voice of approval to the associated Warrant articles, citizens will face six ballot questions.

The majority of the offices are uncontested but there are three very interesting races. While voters had worried about sufficient volunteers to man the board of selectmen which will expand to five members this year, more than enough candidates emerged at the March 31 caucus. The race for the one-year selectmen's seat is between John Ballantine and Greg Peterson, while Charlie Parker and Burt Rubenstein are vying for the two-year term.

Since no candidates stepped forward at the caucus for the two five-year terms on the planning board, four have entered as write-in candidates: Dan Holzman, Ron O'Reilly, Andrew Ostrom and Kate Reid. The two candidates who garner the most votes will be the winners. (See ballot and tear-sheet on page 18.)

As for the ballot questions, the first two ask if voters want to appoint, rather than elect, the tax collector and treasurer. This suggestion was originally made by the Carlisle 2000 Task Force as a result of their study of town government. Voted down as part of a larger package last year, selectmen are again putting forth the proposal in order to eliminate the residency requirement and unify the operational components of town government. While both Article 18 and 19 clearly passed at Town Meeting, there was some opposition. Similar to last year's response, residents were concerned about losing the right to elect and putting too much power in the hands of the selectmen.

Question 3 asks residents to approve a $115,000 Proposition 2 1/2 override of which the majority, approximately $97,000, will benefit the Carlisle Public School. Without the funds, school officials have said they could lose the equivalent of one to two teaching positions and possibly other services. Town Meeting clearly supported this amount and more. (See article on page 6) Of the remainder, $9,400 would be allocated to the general government to fund legal costs, additional hours for the treasurer's clerk, and administrative costs. Almost $4,800 would be utilized by the police department, $957 for communications and $3,100 for the Gleason Library to maintain its current hours of operation. If the override passes it is expected to increase the tax rate by approximately $63 per $350,000 in real estate valuation.

Question 4 asks if voters will approve a debt exclusion to bond the purchase of a new ambulance. The fire chief requested the new vehicle to replace the current ten-year-old ambulance which no longer complies with regulations. With little discussion at Town Meeting, Article 15 passed unanimously. For a $350,000 home, the bond would mean a tax increase of approximately $13 for five years. A newly established revolving fund will enable officials to use fees from ambulance services to defray operating expenses.

The proposal for a recreation complex on Banta-Davis, one soccer field and jogging track, a baseball and a softball field, parking and irrigation, received the necessary two-thirds majority vote at Town Meeting. Now voters will have to answer Question 5 which would allow officials to bond an amount not to exceed $577,000 and to tax voters in excess of the limits imposed by Proposition 2-1/2 for the life of the bond. The tax impact for a $350,000 house has been estimated at $39 initially and then decreasing over the life of the 15-year bond. (see article on page ??)

Question 6 asks the voters to approve a one-time capital expenditure of $20,000 for the purchase of a sander and plow unit for the department of public works. The state will fund the purchase a new DPW truck, deemed necessary for road construction projects, but Chapter 90 funds cannot be used for the attachments. If approved, the purchase would be paid for in FY99 and would not increase the levy limit beyond the next fiscal year. Town Meeting unanimously approved acquisition of the equipment in Article 25.

All of the questions require a simple majority to uphold the approvals given at Town Meeting.