Friday, November 2, 2001
Town groups explore return of Sleeper Room to community use
About twenty people attended the public portion of Monday night's meeting of the Carlisle Elderly Housing Association (CEHA) in order to discuss the change in use of the Sleeper Community Room. The Sleeper Room was built partly with funds from the greater Carlisle community and has been used as a meeting place by numerous town groups over the past 15 years. It is located within the elderly housing development known as Carlisle Village Court.
During the meeting several CEHA board members said they wanted to resume wider use of the Sleeper Room, and did not want an adversarial relationship with the community. CEHA president Tom Raftery said there were two problems that forced the board to limit use of the Sleeper Room to only Village Court residents.
Food regs have 'wiggle room'
First, the board learned that a food service permit is required by the town's board of health since the Sleeper Room includes a small kitchen, and food is served by some of the groups that used the facility. When CEHA site manager Charles Forsberg and Raftery started looking into the lengthy federal regulations referenced on the board of health's one-page food service permit, they concluded that qualifying for a food service permit would be extremely difficult. (See report from BOH meeting, below.)
Board of health (BOH) agent, Linda Fantasia, and town administrator, Madonna McKenzie were both present at the meeting. Fantasia said that the board of health must enforce the regulations, but wanted to work with groups to help them complete the paperwork and meet compliance. McKenzie explained that during 2000, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts adopted the federal regulations. She said the regulations grant local boards of health authority, and contain "wiggle room" to allow small community organizations to continue hosting food-related events.
Council on aging (COA) director Liz Jewell, also attended the meeting. Jewell said that the COA has worked with the board of health to complete a food service permit application. This application will be addressed by the BOH at its November 6 meeting. Jewell said she hoped if COA obtains a food permit, that the Carlisle Elderly Housing Association would then let COA resume holding its events for senior citizens at the Sleeper Room.
CEHA insurer sees rate hikes
The second problem Raftery mentioned was insurance. He said that when the CEHA's insurer was contacted about the issue of serving food in the Sleeper Room, the insurer felt their coverage should be increased. Raftery believed they might need to switch to a more expensive type of coverage package to cover a food service operation, which he estimated would cost an additional $5000 per year. This works out to about $23 per month per rental unit at the Carlisle Village Court, and residents in the audience asked whether the town could help shoulder this burden.
Alan Johnson, who represented the firm that handles CEHA's finances, explained that the insurer would approve the use of the Sleeper Room by outside organizations, as long as each event had a clear participation by, or benefit to, the Village Court residents. A flu shot clinic would be an example. He said that food preparation could also be done occasionally, but the insurer defined "occasional" as not more than once a month. COA chair Verna Gilbert said that COA-sponsored meals were formerly held at Sleeper an average of twice a month, though it varied throughout the year.
Town's insurance may cover
McKenzie disputed the risk assessment of the CEHA's insurer, and pointed out that the town's insurance includes a rider that specifically covers town-sponsored events on private property such as the COA's at the Sleeper Room. Raftery said that the CEHA insurer knew that, and still recommended additional insurance. A member of the audience pointed out that "risk is greatly in the eye of the underwriter" and suggested that if the CEHA got other bids from different insurers, that they might find a firm that judged the insurance risk differently.
McKenzie then suggested that the CEHA insurer talk to the town's insurer to find out what the town could add to its policy that would satisfy the CEHA insurer, and get the Sleeper Room available to the community once more. The CEHA board agreed, and audience members called out thanks to McKenzie for her suggestion. CEHA board member Marje Stickler also indicated she would check with other towns, to see how they deal with similar situations.
© 2001 The Carlisle Mosquito