The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, March 28, 2003


FinCom tells paths committee to take a (short) walk

On March 19, the Carlisle Bike/Pedestrian Safety Advisory Committee briefed the FinCom on an upcoming Warrant article that would provide funding for a network of pathways in Carlisle. A divided FinCom told the committee that there was support for a small pathway project, but that more work was required before the FinCom could recommend support.

All paths lead to Carlisle center

Committee member Art Milliken told the FinCom that the inspiration for pathways was the belief that every child should be able to walk to the library. Given the dramatic increase in traffic on Carlisle roads and the public support expressed in surveys for pathways, the committee was asked to develop a specific plan for pathways that the town can support. After extensive research into other towns' experiences, different types of path surfaces and meetings with abutters, the committee has developed a plan for 4-5 foot wide, crushed stone pathways along each of the major arteries leading into the center of Carlisle. Furthermore, by serving as the project manager and using the DPW to supplement an outside contractor, the committee believes that eight miles of paths can be developed at a significantly lower cost than through conventional constuction. At the meeting, members asked the FinCom for support of a ten-year, $150,000 financing plan for half of the total project.

FinCom Challenges Pathway Need

FinCom member Tony Allison engaged the committee in a discussion of town priorities. Allison stated that the town's top three priorities were schools, police and fire departments, and open space. "We've asked the schools to save money and then we spend on this?" he asked.

Milliken responded that pathways were a safety issue and provided for "passive recreation." Furthermore, he stated that the plan called for pathways along the major road so that most of the town's people and taxpayers would get the benefits from this investment. Allison reminded the members that the Wang-Coombs investment of $2.4 million was justified on the basis of passive recreation, and very few people actually walk around on this parcel.

Several other FinCom members challenged the value of pathways along certain roads. FinCom's sentiments were captured by John Nock: "Bedford Road to Banta-Davis is obvious. East Street is the test. Based on the use [of that section], we can determine the need for the rest of the pathways."

Funding plan needed

FinCom member Simon Platt reminded his colleagues that policy is the purview of the selectmen, Town Meeting and the ballot box; the purpose of the FinCom is to determine if the project makes financial sense. He questioned why the project was not structured on a "pay as you go" basis. Debra Belanger, who was present as a member of the paths committee having recused herself as a FinCom member for this portion of the meeting, stated that securing funding for a significant portion of the project would increase the negotiating position of the town with the contractors. She also stated that although $150,000 in funding was being sought, it would only be used as needed. Milliken acknowledged that a third reason was to ensure that the project actually moved ahead and became an ongoing town commitment. Platt's quick calculations suggested that the first year interest costs would be no more than "a couple thousand dollars," and that the maximum yearly interest would be about $7,000. After a technical discussion of funding options, both Belanger and Milliken indicated a willingness to work with the FinCom to develop an acceptable funding scenario.

Following the discussion, it was clear that the FinCom would support funding for pathways along Bedford Road to Banta-Davis (and maybe Kimball's). However, additional paths would need better justification to merit FinCom support. In addition, the paths committee said they would rework the funding proposal to accommodate FinCom comments.

2003 The Carlisle Mosquito