Friday, December 6, 2002
An immodest proposal
We have all heard the bad news. The state will be short $2 billion; rainy-day funds are depleted; "level funding" has been replaced by "levy limit" in the FinCom lexicon. So it seemed to be very poor timing for the Concord-Carlisle High School Space Utilization Committee to announce a $45 million all-or-nothing proposal to rebuild the high school. (See story on page 1.)
Recent history is not favorable to large capital projects, even for our schools, in which we take such pride. Two years ago, Concord defeated a $70 million master plan to rebuild all of its aging elementary and middle schools. Last year a proposal by the Carlisle School Building Committee to build a new K-2 school campus was not well received by the town and was put on hold pending additional studies on more modest plans.
While CCHS enrollments are rising slightly, they are not the primary driver. The space committee report states, "In the 2004-2005 school year the existing maximum high school capacity of 1,238 will be exceeded by 19 students." They also project, "After the peak year [2004-2005], enrollment will drop slightly through 2012."
No one disagrees that the CCHS plant needs renovation. It is old, deteriorating rapidly, and the 1960s facilities do not match current programs. There is a need to rearrange the space, enlarging some facilities and eliminating others. The question is, can this be accomplished in stages and at lower cost?
In 2000 a different CCHS space utilization committee worked with the same architectural firm and developed a plan to add eight classrooms and two resource areas, convert the outdated shop and home-ec space to arts, renovate other facilities, replace the roof, and add air conditioning. Two cost estimates quoted $11.6 million or $23.4 million, depending on whether the auditorium is renovated or replaced. School programs have not changed substantially since 2000, but the towns' resources and state reimbursements have.
The current space committee said that it did not consider cost as a factor in developing its proposal and would not consider rebuilding the campus in stages. Having "accepted" the $45 million plan, the regional school committee now needs to give serious thought to sorting out needs and wants and, yes, cost and timing must be a factor. Maybe the proposed plan is exactly what CCHS needs for the 21st. century, but we still have 98 years left.
Planning for community
by David Freedman
Despite the long history of planning in Carlisle, our most recent Master Plan, completed in 1995, has been deemed out-of-date by the state. Executive Order 418 requires communities to have a current Community Development Plan meeting specific requirements to remain eligible for a number of state-funded programs. Our Open Space and Recreation Plan of 2000 fulfills one requirement; the Town is applying for state funding to develop the additionally required components.
New to the Planning Board and new to the planning process, I recently attended a seminar entitled "Making Plans That Work," sponsored by the Massachusetts Citizen Planner Training Collaborative. I learned that meeting the requirements of E.O. 418 would be but a small step in the much more complex process of crafting a Master Plan. A Master Plan must be a continuously evolving, working document to be used effectively by town government in its decision-making. Actions must be taken to achieve goals which accurately reflect a community's shared vision of its future. Developing this shared vision demands the participation of the entire community, not just "town hall junkies."
But the most important thing I learned is that the interest groups involved in the so-called visioning process must be willing to subordinate their individual goals to the common one of making the town a good place for all of us. Similarly, a Master Plan is not merely a compilation of separate plans, one for open space, one for affordable housing, one for education, and so on. This is one reason why E.O. 418 compliance alone does not comprise a Master Plan. Planning must be about creating connections, finding common ground and building on agreement rather than trying to resolve conflicts. Nothing will be unanimous. There will be no perfect solutions. "Not in my back yard" won't fly. We will compromise. We will make mistakes and learn from them.
It has been suggested that some will find it difficult to focus on long-term planning in the crisis atmosphere created by the current economic situation. Alternatively, people may be less stressed if they know there is a Master Plan based on a shared vision to help guide us all through the difficult times. Planning is a way of setting expectations for the entire community, and having an agreed-upon vision and agreed-upon goals gives everyone something to measure each action against.
Currently there seems to be a siege mentality about every issue, from taxes to cell towers. Public meetings are filled with dire warnings about what will happen if a course of action is or is not taken. Or why it shouldn't be done here. Or there. Comments from the floor contain an underlying note of distrust, as if the groups framing an issue don't have our best interests at heart. More likely, the lack of coordination among the responsible parties limits their effectiveness.
Just as a collection of separate topical plans doesn't make a Master Plan, a collection of separate town boards, commissions, and committees doesn't make a town government. Wouldn't it be great if we could actually use the process of creating a plan that works to help us become a "community" in the true sense of the word, a group of people who live near one another, sharing common interests, working together to achieve common goals?
Middle schoolers, the last Friday Night Live of 2002 is tonight! Mike and Mike will be there to spin the discs and the gym will be open for hoops and ping pong. The doors open at 7:30 p.m.; pick-up is at 9:30 p.m. A reminder to those who have not yet attended a FNL bring a parent to fill out a permission form.
A $3 contribution collected at the door
allows the program to be self supporting. Pizza and soda are sold for
a small fee. Students leaving before 9:30 p.m. must be signed out by
a parent, and all others should be picked up by 9:30 sharp. Call Lynne
Carpenito (978-371-7508) with any questions.
© 2002 The Carlisle Mosquito