Friday, May 14, 2004
Wastewater plant access road too steep for winter safety
Plans for the new Carlisle Public Schools wastewater treatment plant are proceeding smoothly except for one minor hitch. The access road to the facility, planned for the slope behind the school, is too steep as far as Fire Chief Dave Flannery is concerned. The 15% grade, as proposed by Hoyle, Tanner and Associates, designers of the facility, does not exceed Massachusetts Highway Department recommendations for maximum grade. However, Flannery, who attended the May 11 Board of Selectmen public hearing, would much prefer a more gentle grade of 10% or even 7% if possible. "Fifteen percent doesn't give you any chance in a skid on an icy roadway," warned Flannery, recalling an erstwhile skid on a similar roadway that sent him through a guardrail.
The Carlisle Planning Board originally flagged the access road incline, and Building Inspector Bob Koning rounded out the opposition by stating in no uncertain terms, "The proposed 15% grade is problematic as it creates a potential safety issue." The final decision was then placed in the hands of the Board of Selectmen, who were told that it was their call.
Road safety vs. busting
Paul Clinghan, vice president of Hoyle, Tanner and Associates, presented several alternatives to the 15% grade and provided an estimate of the additional costs involved. "The presently proposed 15% grade driveway off the school access road on Church Street is expected to cost $79,121 and is within the town-funded estimate," said Clinghan. An alternate 10% grade requires a longer roadway, more fill and some tree removal, which raises the cost to $195,633. The ultimate 7% grade becomes a major budget buster with estimates as high as $252,300. The issue before the Selectmen boiled down to (1) how dangerous is a 15% grade, and (2) who or what is endangered.
A maintenance person must inspect the wastewater treatment facility on a daily basis, summer and winter. According to Flannery, if this person is injured, or his vehicle skids off the road on an icy winter day, or if there is a fire in the treatment plant, a 15% grade precludes a safe access by ambulance or fire apparatus. Chair Tim Hult had no inclination to disagree with the Fire Chief, despite his dismay at possibly going over budget even before the project has started. Member Tony Allison held out hope for the lower cost 15% solution by aggressively keeping the roadway plowed and sanded and said, "What's the risk if the place catches on fire — the kids aren't in danger." John Ballantine wondered, "How much do we really mitigate the risk by going from 15% to 7%?"
Paul Morrison, chair of the School Building Committee, sensed the frustration of the Selectmen and requested a brief pause in the discussion to allow the committee to caucus outside the room. When they returned to the meeting, the building committee requested that they be allowed more time to study the design of an alternative 10% grade roadway. The Selectmen, with obvious relief, unanimously agreed to extend the public hearing.
Honorary first flush
School superintendent Davida Fox-Melanson took the opportunity to thank the Selectmen for their recent tribute in honor of her upcoming retirement. Chief Flannery, knowing the years of frustration endured by Fox-Melanson over the school sewage facility, offered her the privilege of the "first flush" when the wastewater treatment plant is finally completed.
© 2004 The