Friday, May 8, 1998
by Dave Ives
Article 9 represented the ninth inning for the Carlisle Recreation Commission and they rewarded home town fans with a come-from-behind winning effort. Voters at the Town Meeting agreed with the RecCom team that there will never be a better time than now to expand the Banta-Davis Land into a modern, active recreation complex and voted 289 to 62 in favor of the project.
RecCom chair Eva Herndon introduced each member of the commission and thanked them for their team effort. She then presented a brief summary of the proposed project and recalled the four years of work leading up to the present plan. Herndon assured the large turn-out, many of whom were there specifically to vote on Article 9, that Banta-Davis is the best location for expansion and the time to act is now.
Member Carol Peters continued the presentation by justifying the choice of Banta-Davis over such locations as the Bisbee Land or Foss Farm. She stated, "Banta-Davis is well suited for fields, centrally located, and able to handle the traffic." Although there are no plans for school expansion, Peters stressed that ballfield site preparation benefits any such future project. "A 500-student school building fits on one soccer field," according to Peters.
RecCom member Mark Spears, assisted by members Bob Fidler and Mike Coscia, presented an overview of the three-phase project. Spears stressed that only Phase One, at an estimated cost of $549,000, is presently under consideration. Spears displayed a site map and explained that Phase One consists of site work, two diamonds, a soccer field surrounded by a running track, driveway, parking for 96 cars, and irrigation. Site preparation at $145,000, and driveway and parking at $170,000 represent the major costs. Member Carol Peters added, "Phase One stands by itself—money voted tonight does not require Phase Two or Three."
Spears compared the surrounding towns of Concord, Littleton, and Lincoln, which have 92, 84, and 67 students per field, to Carlisle, which sports a bulging 180 students per field. He stressed, "One drawback of this is that RecCom cannot sponsor new programs such as lacrosse, field hockey, touch football, adult baseball or softball and basketball." Spears also pointed out that rental of the new fields to adult groups, especially for baseball and softball, could help offset some of the future expenses.
At the completion of the RecCom presentation, Lenny Johnson of the long-term capital requirements committee rose to state that the group recommends approval of this project. Nancy Pierce, chair of the finance committee sent a buzz through the audience when she stated that FinCom also voted to recommend the project. This was unexpected, as earlier indications had suggested the opposite, and Pierce later indicated that this was FinCom's recommendation, not hers. (The vote was 5 to 1.) Selectman Vivian Chaput put the final blessing on RecCom's proposal by adding a recommendation from the municipal land committee as "an appropriate location and use of the land."
When Andy Ostrom of Ledgeways Road inquired as to when phase one might be completed, Spears replied, "One year—sometime next spring." Bob Hambleton of Russell Street was concerned about annual maintenance cost, supervision, and liability issues. Maintenance costs were estimated at $10K per year by Spears, while supervision "would be no different than the present level," which is why they abandoned thoughts of lighting for the phase two basketball court. Liability protection would be "the same as Spalding."
Westford Street resident Hal Sauer asked if the ballfields would limit expansion of the Green Cemetery. Selectman Mike Fitzgerald said that they expect 40-50 more years of use with the existing cemetery space. Reed Richard of Westford Street asked for more details of the financial impact to each taxpayer. Spears estimated that the annual tax impact of a 15-year bond for $549,000 would be $39 for the average homeowner.
Momentum had been gradually rising in favor of the RecCom project during discussion on the floor. Now a succession of people walked to the microphone to announce their support. Ralph Anderson of Baldwin Road said, "It's not a question of if, but when." Ed LeClair, also of Baldwin Road, stated that even though he has no children in school "now and forever," this is an excellent investment. "I've been listening to plans for 22 years. My compliments to RecCom and you have my support." Ed Sonn of Woodland Road summed it up by saying, "This is money well spent. It's a shame to have this valuable asset [Banta Davis] and not use it."
Sonn suggested, based on his experience with the new Town Hall, that RecCom add a five percent contingency factor to cover any unexpected costs. This was accepted by the voters and the final appropriation was raised to $577,000. Discussion was finally exhausted and the vote exceeded a necessary two-thirds majority by a wide margin. There is one more hurdle before the RecCom—Question 5 must be approved by the voters at town election on May 11, which will allow officials to bond the project.