Friday, March 30, 2001
Selectmen review Warrant for May 14 Town Meeting
Money was the subject on March 20 as the selectmen revisited the Warrant for the May 14 Town Meeting, beginning with a review and discussion of capital expenditures to be included in Article 6, then moved on to warrant articles for police support services, a sander and a firetruck, and engineering work on the Greenough Dam. Two other potentially controversial warrant articles propose membership in a mosquito control project (Article 15) and new regulations to protect vernal pools (Article 20).
Playground expenditures controversial
Carlisle School business manager Eileen Riley was on hand in support of an Article 6 item for playground equipment and repairs of $9,000. The school needs to replace the "Mexican forge" play structure in front of the school, which was deemed unsafe bv the insurance company. Some repairs to the Carlisle Castle playground, which has been closed most of the year due to safety concerns, are also included. It is hoped these repairs would allow the Castle to be reopened. A replacement for the "Mexican forge" is necessary because the insurance company has restricted the Castle to children six years old and up. Many kindergartners are under age six.
"Don't go there," was the advice of FinCom member Simon Platt regarding the playground, but ignoring the warning, selectman Mike Fitzgerald disputed the item. Upset at what he saw as a lack of parental effort, Fitzgerald said, "The Castle was built by volunteers ten years ago. It's disappointing we can't rally the troops to recreate that.... People have grown to the expectation that you go to the town." Platt pointed out it takes significant time to organize a volunteer force. Given that the playground is closed, "This is an immediate response issue. You don't have two years to rally the troops." Lisa Harris, speaking on behalf of the playground committee, pointed out fundraising can't begin until a plan is in place. "This is a short-term solution so kids will have some place to play while we do what you want us to do."
Other capital items for the Carlisle School include classroom computers ($25,000) and floor tiles for the Wilkins Building ($26,000).
Outlays for town safety, trash compactor
Many Article 6 outlays relate to police and fire safety, including firefighting air bottles, clothing and pagers ($11,800) and an outfitted police cruiser ($25,000). A fire cistern, costing $35,000, was reported necessary for the Oak Knoll neighborhood where water for firefighting is currently unavailable. The amount also includes upgrading other cisterns to 20,000 gallons. An uninterruptable power supply costing $5,000 is needed at the school to allow communications with police and fire departments during electricity outages.
A fourth compactor for the transfer station was presented as more cost effective at $20,000, than fixing the existing third compactor to handle an increased load. Changes to town buildings to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) will cost $20,000 and computer equipment for Town Hall will also be $20,000.
NEMLEC provides police support
Article 11 provides $8,000 for Carlisle to join the Northeast Middlesex Law Enforcement Council (NEMLEC). NEMLEC is a 20-community police cooperative providing support for unusual circumstances requiring special expertise or extra personnel. According to John Sullivan from the police department, it includes search and rescue support, trained canines, drug, bomb, hostage, accident and crime expertise, and SWAT teams. The $8,000 provides officer training, and dues each year are $3,000.
It's $750,000, but it's beautiful
Article 12 for an $85,000 DPW sander/dump truck, and Article 13 for a $750,000 ladder truck for the fire department were deemed "significant investments" by Fitzgerald. The ladder truck is requested because some buildings in town (including Town Hall) are too tall to be reached with hoses. "It's a beautiful truck"' enthused FinCom member David Ives, as he passed around a picture of the ladder truck. On a practical note, Ives pointed out debt service has dropped off this year, with potential for new debt in the future. "This may be a logical place to do it." Concerns were expressed about the ladder truck's turning radius and ability to navigate narrow Carlisle streets. Selectman Chaput agreed to "pursue some unanswered questions" regarding the size and length of the vehicle.
ConsCom defends Greenough dam
An article to provide an engineering study of the Greenough Land dam was removed from the warrant at the March 13 selectmen's meeting. At the March 20 meeting, several members of the ConsCom and Robert Stevens, the chosen engineer, were on hand to defend the need for the study. The dam, originally built to form the Greenough Pond, supports the only road that provides access to the pond from Carlisle.
Selectman John Ballantine explained the selectmen's position. "We looked at $13,000 and thought 'Couldn't old yankee ingenuity deal with this?' " No, was the short answer from ConsCom member Jo-Rita Jordan. She explained state regulations require very specific studies for projects of this type. If the dam were to break, not only could a "popular area for fishing, canoeing, and bird watching" be impacted, but the state would require an expensive "decommissioning study" that could take years to complete. The ConsCom has tried dumping gravel where the culvert is overflowing, but "We've been told that's illegal, and it's not working either."
Stevens responded to Chaput's question, "Why does it cost so much?" with an analogy to a doctor's visit where you spend money to diagnose your system so as to avoid major surgery at a later date. Referring again to state mandates, he said "there's no way around it." Asked by Ballantine to estimate what construction costs on the dam might be, Stevens offered a range of $30,000 to $150,000, depending on what his study finds.
Convinced the work cannot be put off without endangering the dam, and that Chapter 90 funds would not be applicable (the road is not a public way), Fitzgerald wondered if Community Preservation Act funds could be applied if that act passes. Town counsel Paul DeRensis warned that passing the dam engineering article before the CPA goes into affect might make the project ineligible. Regardless, the selectmen agreed to add the article to the warrant when they reopen it.
Vernal pool bylaw amendments explained
The ConsCom is also putting forward an article to toughen bylaws to protect vernal pools. According to ConsCom member Christine Gaulden, there are an estimated 200 vernal pools in Carlisle. These are semi-permanent, containing water at least two months a year "during the growing season," and providing breeding areas and habitats for amphibians and reptiles. She added that vernal pools are not protected in the state Wetlands Act, and several towns have passed their own regulations.
The bylaw changes would prevent developers from filling vernal pools and protect the adjacent upland resource area (AURA), where pond animals live as adults. The AURA is defined as land within 100 feet of a vernal pool.
Selectman Doug Stevenson worried that "Joe Homeowner who wants to put a deck or pool on the back of his house will face a significantly greater level of regulation." Selectman Vivian Chaput added her concern that the town would be the target of litigation. "I think the concept of protecting vernal pools is appropriate, but I'm concerned about the constant battles this will engender." Gaulden countered that grandfathering clauses could be included in the regulations, and that the article was patterned after one in Sudbury. "Other towns have done this without problems." Conservation administrator Sylvia Willard added her support, pointing out that towns such as Bedford, Acton and Lexington have stronger controls than Carlisle, even though they typically are dealing with smaller lots with more setbacks.
Mosquito control to be addressed
The board of health will be invited to the next meeting to discuss Article 15 providing $4,000 to join the Eastern Middlesex Mosquito Control Project. This is a different project from the one rejected at Town Meeting last year.
Housing authority to present report
Marty Galligan of the Carlisle Housing Authority returned to the selectmen with a revised report for presentation at Town Meeting. Selectman John Ballantine had previously requested the inclusion of moderate-sized developments of 15-to-20 units, which would require a lower level of town subsidy than the 10-to-15 unit developments recommended by the housing authority, projected to cost approximately $150,000 per development. Galligan expressed his hope that if the Community Preservation Act passes, a large percentage of the CPA fund would be earmarked for these developments. Galligan presented the selectmen with a letter for their signatures endorsing the plan. Selectman Chaput, however, expressed discomfort, "I'm willing to accept the plan and indicate my support, but I'm not happy with the language of this letter," which she saw as endorsing the use of money from the town budget. As a result, the selectmen voted to recommend acceptance of the report at Town Meeting without signing the letter.
© 2001 The Carlisle Mosquito