Friday, May 18, 2001
Spirited debates characterize two nights of TM
It took over six hours on two nights to slog through the 24 articles on the Warrant for the Annual Town Meeting this week. Complex, confusing, and costly appropriations under Article 5 (the FY02 operating budget) occupied most of Monday's session. The Warrant book was heavy on numbers and short on words and explanations, as were the presenters of the major budget items, especially the two school budgets whose requests require substantial overrides of Proposition 2-1/2 tax levy limits. An already perplexed public was frequently confused further by midstream procedural changes and "helpful" explanations from the moderator, selectmen and presenters. However, Carlisle's traditionally strong support for its schools prevailed, as the highest level budget passed by a slim margin. (See article on page 5).
Articles relating to the town's other major passionprotection of open space and environmental resourcesgenerated spirited debates. Mosquito control was defeated once again. Funds for a study to repair the Greenough Dam and preserve its pond were approved. The conservation commission's proposed amendment to the wetland bylaw generated a lengthy and frequently contentious discussion, before being narrowly defeated on a vote of 78 to 80 on Tuesday night (see story on page 1).
Article 1 - Town reports
A short update by the pedestrian and bicycle safety advisory committee discussed the status of the "school loop" pathway.
Suzanne Whitney Smith presented a brief review and update on the continuing issue of the failed septic system at the Carlisle Public School. The school committee, together with the selectmen, is still considering options for siting a wastewater treatment facility. The decision will impact plans for a possible new school.
Article 2 - Salaries
Funds for modest salaries paid to elected town officials were approved unanimously.
Article 3 - Transfers FY01
$84,982 was transferred from free cash to pay for FY01 expenses. $80,000 was for excess expenses associated with snow and ice removal last winter.
Article 4 - Water Supply
The final payment of $17,000 for completion of the O'Rourke water study, for possible well sites for a town water supply, was voted without comment.
Article 5 - Operating budget
By a margin of only 13 votes (143 to 130), Town Meeting attendees approved an operating budget of $16,540,062 for FY02, increasing the baseline budget for the town by 8.3% over FY01. Since this amount is over the Proposition 2-1/2 levy limit, an override of $300,057 (ballot question 1A) will have to be voted at the town elections next Tuesday to fully fund this article. The override will raise $150,000 over the levy limit for the Carlisle Public Schools and $150,057 for Concord-Carlisle High School.
Selectman Doug Stevenson pointed out that the total budget includes a decline of close to $200,000 in the town's debt payments, masking a "significantly larger" jump in the operating budget [reported by FinCom member David Ives as 10.9%]. He asked voters to remember not just the wealthier people moving into Carlisle, but also "people moving out of Carlisle because of excessive tax burdens."
(See related article on page 5.)
Article 6 - Capital equipment
This article for capital equipment passed unanimously. It authorized $180,300 for the purchase of replacement equipment for both police and fire departments, as well as funding for new and larger fire cisterns, computers for the school department and tiles for the Wilkins Building corridor were included in this article. There were a few question about the intended repairs at the Carlisle Castle playground, but the request for $9,000 was approved. Funding was also okayed for new computers and an uninterruptable power supply, and a new DPW compactor.
Article 7 - Town Audit
With no discussion voters approved this article, which authorizes funds to pay auditors to be sure the town's books are in order.
Article 9 - Stabilization Fund
Voters approved the transfer from the stabilization fund of $33,614 of the $320,000 in funds received from the state to subsidize the the Wang-Coombs land's continuing use for agriculture. This amount represents the annual payment for principal and interest for $320,000 of the total debt for purchase of the land, now known as the Hutchins and Robbins Fields.
Article 10 - Revolving fund
Voters reauthorized revolving funds to collect fees for various town activities.
Article 11 - NEMLEC
This article passed with a majority vote. It authorized the expenditure of $8,000 to enable the Carlisle Police Department to join a regional police network, the Northeast Middlesex Law Enforcement Council (NEMLEC), a mutual aid association that includes most of the surrounding towns.
Article 12 - ADA Compliance
Funds requested to relace doors at the Town Hall and the school, as well as several small improvements mandated by the Americans with Disabilities Act were approved.
Article 13 - Sander dump truck
Article 13 passed with the required 2/3 majority vote. It authorized the expenditure of $85,000 for a new sander dump truck to replace two older vehicles, which will be used for parts. The needed funds are dependent on passage of the override vote at the town elections on May 22.
Article 14 - Ladder truck
This article authorized $760,000 to purchase an aerial ladder truck for the fire department. It passed with the required 2/3 vote, but the availability of funds is dependent on passage of the overrride vote at the May 22 town elections.
Fire Chief Bob Koning, answering questions about the article, stated that Carlisle has had to rely on mutual aid from other towns that own aerial trucks, which have the ability to reach roofs of three and three-and-one-half story buildings, such as Carlisle's Town Hall. Since something the size of an aerial truck needs to be the first on the scene of a fire, waiting for one to arrive from another town has been a problem in the past.
Koning noted, in response to a question at the meeting, that there have been four-to-six calls a year needing this kind of equipment. He also stressed how important the use of this kind of truck would be to civilian and firefighter safety, aiding the rescue of firefighters who could become trapped in high structures.
Article 15 - Environmental remediation
The sum of $2,500 was approved to continue monitoring test wells at the police station .
Article 16 - Mosquito Control
"You move to Carlisle and you live with it! West Nile virus is part of living in Carlisle. It's not the $12,000 I am concerned with. We are not doing the right thing. We are going to find out that West Nile virus is here. Of course it's here. Why wouldn't it be here? We have more mosquitoes than anywhere else." Said town resident Dan Holzman in reply to the board of health Warrant article requesting $12,000 to join the Eastern Massachusetts Mosquito Control Project. Holzman's statement seemed to echo the town's resolve as the Town Meeting voted not to join this Mosquito control project.
Board member Martha Bedrosian's presentation and the ensuing discussion of mosquito control lasted over half an hour and was the highlight of Monday night's Town Meeting. The presentation was not sufficiently convincing and raised many questions from the audience.
Was the $12,000 fee a one time charge? No, fees like this would continue every year.
Why was the Finance Committee not supporting this article? The FinCom felt there were better ways to utilize the money, and had not had any detailed information on the plan prior to the Town Meeting.
What are the services provided by the $12,000? Joining the mosquito project would involve wetland surveying "to identify standing water" (laughter), trapping and identifying mosquitoes four times a year, at four chosen locations, with results sent to the state department of health. There are also educational programs.
Are there mosquito control projects in any of the surrounding towns? Yes, towns of Acton, Chelmsford, Bedford, Concord, Arlington, Billerica, and Burlington all are participating in programs. Basically we are surrounded.
What about killing of birds by spraying? The BOH had talked about spraying for adult mosquitoes should human there be evidence of transmission of WNV to humans, but had not decided on whether or when spraying would be initiated.
Pointing out that the board of health does not have a plan for responding to the collected data, Holtzman continued, "I'm far more concerned that the cure will kill me."
Article 17 - Veteran Agent
The sum of $1,402 was approved for the expenses of a Veteran Agent. The town gets reimbursed for this expenditure.
Article 18 - Greenough Dam
The Warrant article seeking $13,050 for engineering studies to determine what will be required to restore the integrity of the Greenough Dam passed (see article above).
Article 19 - Free cash transfer
$201,546 was transferred from the town's free cash to the FY02 budget.
Article 20 - Tot Lot
Ownership of playground equipment that had been purchased and installed through public and private donations was transferred to the town. The playground will be maintained and managed by the recreation commission.
Article 21 - Ch. 40 acceptance
The vote accepting Chapter 40 Section 22F permits town boards and commissions to set their own fees and penalties, except where specifically mandated by local or state laws.
Article 22 - Housing Plan
Housing Authority member Alan Lehotsky discussed the need for a comprehensive plan to bring affordable housing to Carlisle. Acceptance of the plan, said Lehotsky, will signify a consensus on what the authority hopes to accomplish in the next ten to fifteen years. Although there are no specific projects at this time, the authority proposes to build five to fifteen unit housing clusters in several locations in town. The motion carried, but not unanimously.
Article 23 - Wetland bylaw
A proposed amendment to Carlisle's wetland protection bylaw, which would substantially increase the conservation comissions authority to protect vernal poola sand other wetlands, was narrowly defeated after a long and sririted debate. (See article starting on page 1)
Article 24 - Wireless bylaw
Minor corrections (typos wording improvements) to the existing wireless bylaw were approved.
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