The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, November 30, 2001


Town Meeting funds new school siting study and septic design

A near-capacity crowd filled the Corey Auditorium at 7 p.m. on Tuesday evening for the Special Town Meeting, drawn by the provocative possibilities of a new school on the Banta-Davis Land and affordable housing in the Town Forest.

It was clear that most residents were unaware that Articles 7 and 8, dealing with the use of the Town Forest parcel, would be withdrawn. (See related article this page). The remaining six Warrant articles passed easily, including the potentially contentious Article 5, which requested funds for design of a wastewater treatment facility for the Carlisle Public School, and Article 6, which asked the town to fund another engineering study analyzing potential sites for school expansion.

Article 1. O'Rourke Land funds

Selectman Doug Stevenson introduced Article 1 which provides for $115,783, due to be received from the U.S. government, to be put into the stabilization fund. This is a final payment for the O'Rourke Land which was sold to the federal government to be added to the Great Meadows National Wildlife Refuge. A piece of land had been withheld from the sale pending a decision of the town's water quality subcommittee as to whether it might be used as a source for town water. The subcommittee has determined there is no future need for the land. The stabilization fund provides savings for future town expenses, and a two-thirds vote at Town Meeting is required to remove money from the fund. The selectmen supported the article, and Tony Allison expressed the position of the finance committee, "We support any article that puts money into the town coffers without having to tax the townspeople."

The article, which required a two-thirds vote, passed with no discussion.

Article 2. Tall Pines roads

A unanimous show of hands on Article 2 accepted Hutchins Road, Kimball Road and Barnes Place in the Tall Pines subdivision as town roads. This was the end of a long process for the residents of the subdivision, who had sparred with town boards over stone walls and other major obstacles in the town's right-of-way. In addition, residents had also endured negative commentary on the scale of their homes and the "mansionization" of Carlisle. Chair of the board of selectmen John Ballantine used the opportunity to "welcome the residents officially into the community."

Article 3. Bicycle law

Although voters easily passed Article 3, which enables town police to ticket bicycle operators $20 for road infractions, several residents raised questions about details of the new law, making this the longest discussion of the evening.

Steve Opolski of Concord Street requested a list of citable offenses. Carlisle Police Chief David Galvin, who had initiated the request for the law, responded that it covered the cyclists' "rules of the road," specifically citing refusing to yield and riding two abreast as the most typical offenses. Until now, Galvin said his officers have been unable to cite violators for these issues that cause real safety concerns. He noted that the focus would be on bicycle groups that tour and occasionally take over the local roads. He also emphasized that children must wear helmets up to the age of 12 and that infants must use special bicycle seats.

Vance Smith of Heald Road questioned whether police resources might be better spent on things other than monitoring bicycles. Galvin explained that monitoring bicycle traffic would not require additional manpower and would be part of "routine patrol or addressing citizen complaints." Town moderator Sarah Brophy added, "No bicycle traps!"

Galvin received a round of applause for his response to a Fiske Street resident who asked whether the police can teach children the laws of bicycle safety. The chief replied, "We rely on parents to educate their children." Galvin also noted that the police hold an annual bicycle safety day and that officers educate scout groups at their request. The lobby of police headquarters offers free printed information on bicycle safety.

The use of the term "bicycle lanes" in the text of the article prompted a question about the need for bicycle pathways in town. "No," bluntly responded town counsel Paul DeRensis. He then re-emphasized, "There is nothing in the law that requires the installation, construction, or maintenance of bike paths."

Article 4. Two-thirds vote

Article 4 provides an amendment to town bylaws allowing the moderator at Town Meeting to declare a two-thirds vote without a count. If the outcome is challenged by seven voters, the count would have to be taken. Citing an ethical conflict, town moderator Sarah Brophy excused herself from overseeing the vote, and Wayne Davis took over. The selectmen supported the article and the finance committee abstained, citing "no financial impact." One speaker from the floor, calling this the "slippery slope article," expressing confidence in Brophy, but questioning the possibility a future moderator might misuse his/her power. DeRensis pointed out that many towns have adopted a bylaw similar to Article 1 "and there are no known problems with it." The article passed easily.

Article 5. Wastewater Facility

Under Article 5 the school building committee requested funds for the planning stages of a wastewater treatment facility to be built on the Banta-Davis town land. The money would be used for engineering designs and permitting.

Former selectman Michael Fitzgerald reviewed the history of the failed school septic system. The present system has been in technical failure under Title 5 regulations for several years and is pumped out monthly at a cost of $1,000 per month. Due to increased enrollments, and consequently increased flow rates, the school now needs a wastewater treatment facility rather than a septic system.

A septic system was originally planned for the Banta-Davis Land in 1996 but construction was successfully challenged by abutters in a lawsuit. The Rivers Protection Act was cited in the suit because Pages Brook, a year-round stream located on Church Street, needs to be crossed by a sewerage pipe running from the school down to the lower Banta-Davis Land. At the request of town officials, engineers have done soil tests on dozens of sites near the school over the last several months to find an alternative to the Banta-Davis Land, but no other suitable location was available. At this time, said Fitzgerald the building committee needs to move forward with a new wastewater treatment facility designed to meet the needs of the existing school as well as a possible second school built at a later date.

One resident expressed concern about previous legal issues with the location for the wastewater treatment facility. Walter O'Keefe of Kimball Road said that he believed going ahead with the wastewater treatment facility was "a little premature." He suggested that the issue be addressed again at a later time adding that $1,000 a month to pump out the current septic system was little to spend in the meantime.

Board of Health chair Steve Opolski reminded residents that the school has lived with a failed septic system for five years. "This can't go on indefinitely," he said. Most residents seemed to agree that the wastewater issues at the school need to be resolved and the article passed by a large majority.

Article 6. School feasibility study

Paul Morrisson, chair of the school building committee, briefly summarized the need for school expansion. The student population is growing and will exceed the capacity of the current school campus at 900 students. Even now, at a school census of 850, many of the common areas such a the auditorium, cafeteria, and playgrounds are overcrowded.

An initial feasibility study completed by HKT Architects in June recommended the construction of a new pre-K to Grade 2 school on the Banta-Davis Land. Currently, as the state and the country face a recession and town resources are stretched, the school building committee recognized that a better understanding of the range of options and their relative costs is needed.

Article 6 requested $20,000 for a further study that will assess three possible sites including: the Banta-Davis Land, the sloping hillside next to the school on Church street and the Spalding playing fields at the bottom of the hill. The study will also look into expanding the existing campus to add more classroom space and enlarge common areas such as the cafeteria, outdoor play plaza and gym.

Morrison emphasized that the engineering firm will also consider the feasibility, costs, and programmatic implications of expanding the school capacity in phases rather than as a single large project. In addition, he said, the costs of temporary facilities during a construction project will be reviewed.

The Fincom supported the article, saying they were more interested in operating cost than construction costs.

The article passed unaimously with little discussion.

Mosquito staff that contributed to this article include Anne Marie Brako, Darlene D'Amour, Maya Liteplo, Cecile Sandwen and Susan Yanofsky.

2001 The Carlisle Mosquito