Friday, April 19, 2002
ConsCom prepares for potentially bruising Town Meeting
The Carlisle Conservation Commission (ConsCom), like all municipal departments, has had to digest a warning from town administrator Madonna McKenzie that failure of all the tax overrides at Town Meeting, or subsequently at the polls, would return Town Hall budgets to the levels of the present fiscal year. This would mean $100,000 less money available than originally expected, and the required level funding would mean no cost-of-living raises for Town Hall employees.
Cost-of-living raises threatened
Since ConsCom's original budget had come in within the finance committee's two-and-a-half percent guideline, they found themselves hard put to identify possible cuts at their April 11 meeting. However, the mention of level funding brought a request from their administrative assistant Francine Amari-Faulkner, who also serves as secretary to the historic district commission, to comment on the situation. She felt that people should be aware of a growing sense of bitterness among the town's non-contractual employees and suggested further that there is a perceived lack of administrative support for their welfare. "There's outrage here about the school budget figures versus those for the Town Hall," she declared, before thanking them for listening and walking back to her post to continue taking the minutes.
There was no argument from the commissioners, who could find only two budget items that might be eliminated should the crunch come. They could drop the contract for trash removal and discontinue mowing Towle Field for the coming fiscal year. That was about it.
Wetland article sets fees,
Talk of the budget quandary segued into a discussion of the commission's Warrant article that calls for amendments to the Carlisle Wetland Protection Bylaw which establishes fines and sets fees for applications to disturb wetland buffer zones at a lowly $25. This specific amount is critically below what is charged in surrounding towns. In spite of the board's feeling that this item should pass relatively easily, commissioner Roy Watson warned that many of his friends and neighbors were under the mistaken impression that this article, like the one submitted last spring, calls for expanded ConsCom jurisdiction. This misconception proves the need to inform the public immediately that the proposed amendment merely asks for a change in the town's wetland fee structure to bring its charges into line with the actual cost of processing Notices of Intent and Determinations of Applicability. The commission, as well as the selectmen, have no desire to subsidize development of the town's natural resources, particularly at a time when municipal finances are so tight.
CPA surcharge provides
Summarizing last week's meeting of the community preservation committee, member John Lee called for strong support for maintaining the two percent Community Preservation Act (CPA) surcharge, approved last year. He noted that this year the surcharge had netted $215,758, which when matched by the state, brought the total to $431,516. Several articles on the Town Warrant propose lowering the surcharge in order to decrease the overall tax burden. He emphasized that CPA should not be seen as just a conservation issue but as a tool for multi-use land acquisition. "These are 50-cent dollars for the town, that can be used to buy land for affordable housing, recreation, conservation, and/or historical preservation." Although official commission support appeared to be certain, it was decided they should wait for more information on how the three surcharge options (0.01, 1.0, or 1.5 percent) will be presented for action at the Town Meeting before making a definitive statement at their April 25 session.
'Perennial' or 'intermittent'?
Watson and conservation administrator Sylvia Willard reported on a department of environmental protection (DEP) workshop on determination of whether or not a stream should be classified as "perennial" or "intermittent." If a brook is dry for four consecutive days in a non-drought period, it should be considered intermittent. Otherwise it is perennial and is entitled to a 200-foot rather than a 100-foot zone of protection under the Rivers Act. Also if it appears as a solid blue line on a U.S. Geological Survey map, it is automatically classified as perennial.
Watson, who is an attorney, voiced concern that the wording of the proposed document inadvertently defines certain existing rivers out of existence. He was urged to submit a comment to that effect to the DEP.
© 2002 The Carlisle Mosquito