Friday, October 6, 2000
ConsCom: "Begging and borrowing" can't maintain town lands
A convergence of maintenance problems at the Greenough Land stimulated a spirited discussion of a major responsibility of the Conservation Commission, management of the town's conservation lands, at their September 28 meeting.
Bringing the Greenough issues to the fore was the fact that a winter/late-spring Request for Proposals (RFP) that sought bids for an in-kind lease of the farmhouse, barn and four acres of farm land brought in no sufficiently responsive bidders. Meanwhile the dam needs repair, there have been reports of unauthorized activities, public access has sometimes been problematic, and various types of overgrowth require attention.
"What we need is a short-term SWAT team."
Summing up the situation, chair Carolyn Kiely concluded, "This property needs some special attention." As a start she recommended formation of a subcommittee to reevaluate needs there and come up with a prioritized list. She made it clear that she was not suggesting a prolonged study. "What we need is a short-term SWAT team," she said.
Maintenance requires a budget
Kiely pulled no punches, advising the commission that where serious work is required, as at Greenough, it must be budgeted for. She reminded her colleagues that for a long time the commission has put fiscal restraint ahead of the need for upkeep, not only at Greenough, but on all municipal properties not farmed by lessors.
What has been done, she maintained, has been accomplished in part through hours of overtime for which devoted employees receive no pay. She concluded that "begging and borrowing" to keep up with minimum management needs is "doing the town a disfavor in the long run." As custodians of the land the commission should let the town know the real cost of proper maintenance. Commissioner Jo Rita Jordan took up the theme, comparing the present situation to "a homeowner who pays a large sum for a home and then does nothing to keep it up."
With commissioner Tom Brownrigg's subsequent assessment that a strong case could be made before the finance committee and at Town Meeting for funding maintenance, a concrete plan of action took shape. Each member will take responsibility for one of the properties, assess and prioritize its needs and be prepared to defend their findings at public sessions. The commission should then draw up a budget based on these needs and, if necessary, take those plans to spring Town Meeting.
As for the more immediate concerns at Greenough, one or more commissioners will participate in the proposed SWAT team, while volunteers are recruited from the public to encourage new thinking about a long standing problem. Any "concerned and creative" citizens who wish to be involved are encouraged to contact the conservation administrator at Town Hall, 369-0336.
© 2000 The Carlisle Mosquito