Friday, March 31, 2000
CSC and selectmen work towards compromise on Warrant articles
Having heard that the Carlisle School was upset that their request to place four articles on the Town Meeting Warrant had been denied, the selectmen took up the issue at their early morning meeting on March 24. In the end, they agreed to place the article to fund a study relative to future school expansion on the Warrant but will not decide whether to recommend it until the board receives additional information from the school. The selectmen also added the request for additional funds for the Robbins rooftop ventilation units.
On March 21, the Carlisle School Committee had expressed surprise and discontent when they heard that the Town Warrant would not include the requested four articles for the school. One article asked the town for $15,000 which the school felt was necessary for a feasibility study to address future school expansion options and the ramifications of an increased student population. Superintendent Davida Fox-Melanson said she felt it was really "short-sighted not to have the article for the feasibility study on the Warrant."
Committee member Paul Morrison commented, "The central areas of the school are choked enough right now. Some of the students are having lunch in the classrooms." He commented that the school needed to familiarize itself with modular classroom structures and possible locations for building on the Banta-Davis Land. Without the Warrant article, he said there is no opportunity for the school to present to the Town Meeting its need to address and prepare for the consequences of added enrollment. Business manager Eileen Riley explained, "Money right now is very tight and there is real concern not to increase costs to the town."
At the selectmen's meeting, members said the request had never been explained to them nor was it brought up at the long-term capital requirements hearing before the finance committee. Selectman Michael Fitgerald said, "We shouldn't put things on the Warrant without justification." Feeling they were lacking information, selectman Vivian Chaput asked repeatedly, "What is the purpose of the study?" Fitzgerald and selectman John Ballantine felt that to make the project work, they needed to know how many kids to expect to be there and a demographic study was necessary.
School committee member Harry Crowther appeared at the meeting and, although he conveyed a message of anxiety about growing enrollment and space constraints, he was unable to detail the goals and scope of the $15,000 study.
As a compromise, saying that school administrators had agreed that they would be willing to delay the purchase of $13,000 in new dining room furniture in order to fund the study, selectmen obliged. They deleted the furnishings from the capital expenditures and inserted an article for the study. However, noting the tight budget and efforts to hold the tax rate increase to six percent, they asked the school to return and explain what the town would get for the expenditure.
Rooftop ventilation units
Another of the school's proposed articles requested sufficient funding to cover the difference between the already funded costs and unforseen actual costs of the rooftop ventilation units to improve the air quality in the Robbins Building. Riley said she will ask architect Eric Klug A.I.A. for updated plans to bring to the selectmen.
At the selectmen's meeting, selectmen learned from Crowther that there was a shortfall in electrical capacity for the new units. Although the town had approved $153,700 for the units last year, an additional $20,000-30,000 would be necessary. The school is awaiting bids and the project should be eligible for some reimbursement from the state. The selectmen believed that since an amount had not been specified in the override ballot question for the units last year, an override for the additional sum would not be necessary this year. The selectmen inserted a Warrant article to cover the additional expense and Stevenson said he would get clarification from town counsel.
The town had agreed to fund a new school septic system on the Banta-Davis Land in 1998, but the repair cannot be initiated unless full funding is in place. While the school had originally requested a Warrant article for the balance in funding, Riley has since indicated that the legal hurdles presented by the abutters would probably not be cleared in the near future. At their meeting, the selectmen requested an update on the case which has stalled the project.
Riley also expressed hope there were adequate funds in the town's account so that its public buildings can be modified "in an orderly way," according to the master plan, to meet the standards required by the Americans with Disabilities Act. At the school, three handicapped-accessible lockers have been purchased and the ramp to the Brick Building has been installed. However, there is still the need to change the hardware on the entrances of the Spalding and Corey Buildings and to make some modifications on the school playgrounds. Fox-Melanson added, "The school finds it must make changes to accommodate individual student needs so that all buildings are accessible to everyone."
The selectmen said at their meeting that they were awaiting a recommendation from the town ADA town committee which handles such requests. Stevenson said there was some question about whether it was prudent to invest $10,000-$25,000 in the school's Brick Building which houses an art classroom.
Fox-Melanson told the school committee that it is critical for school committee members to attend the selectmen's meetings so that everyone in town will be informed about what is happening at the school.
© 2000 The Carlisle Mosquito