Friday, October 14, 2005
"All-boards" meeting highlights accomplishments, challenges
On September 29, the Selectmen invited representatives of all town boards and committees to review the Selectmen's goals and provide feedback on their own goals and requirements. The result was a revealing overview of the workings of Carlisle town government.
Selectmen Chair Doug Stevenson presented his board's short-term goals. High priority items included:
• Five-year financial plan
• Cell towers
• Affordable housing
• New police chief
• Employee appreciation and feedback
• Recreation facility plan
• Leadership and communication.
Tim Hult spoke to the first goal, noting the need to plan for the high school. "The quality of the facility is dramatically below what's appropriate for the community we live in. We've got to do something, and we can't wait ten years to do it." Stevenson highlighted the need to move quickly on cell towers before they are installed "by court decree rather than by the consent of town boards and committees." Eleven short-term goals of lesser priority were also presented.
More volunteers needed in town government
As the podium turned over to board and committee heads, other concerns were heard. Terry Herndon of the Board of Appeals, Dave Trask of the Finance Committee, and JoAnn Driscoll of the Personnel Board spoke of the difficulty of accomplishing their mandates with inadequate personnel. Currently eight boards and committees are seeking applicants but have been unable to find volunteers (see sidebar.)
Town Hall computer users ask for tech assistance
Another oft-heard complaint was the lack of technical assistance and coordination. Jim Marchant of the Board of Assessors spoke of his woes with Dell Computers, and wished for a central information technology person "who was reliable and could coordinate networking." David Freedman of the Planning Board said the state of technology in Town Hall is "causing us to lose productivity, and affecting morale." He added, "I hope the Selectmen rate this as very high priority. The Planning Board can't wait much longer." The technology plan is currently number nine on the list of priorities.
Boards present priorities, needs
Each board noted specific goals and concerns as they head into the FY06 year.
Finance Committe: According to David Trask, "It seems there's going to be a lot of excitement in FY06" due to the unpredicted increases in fuel prices. The FinCom is looking to put aside some money as "the increase in debt service will be significant over the next five years" and predicted, "taxes will go up."
School Committee: David Dockterman, chair, noted teacher contracts are up for review this year. In addition, energy costs will have "a significant impact" on the budget. Other budget challenges include revamping programs to deal with a middle school bulge and finding budgetary room for programs in world languages currently funded by the CEF and CSA. Superintendent Marie Doyle offered to work with the town on a technology plan.
School Building Committee: Christy Barbee said the wastewater treatment plant is "well under way" and on schedule for completion in the spring. The Carlisle School is "very, very packed" in spite of leveling enrollment due to expanded programs. A consultant will be presenting a report October 19 on where enrollment is headed. Estimates for a generator at the school, earlier reported to be $100,000 to 150,000 are now thought to be higher. "It's going to be a big price tag."
Recreation Commission: No representative was in attendance, so Hult conveyed what he knew. "There is a gap between required fields and those available," and the RecCom is working on plans to present to Town Meeting. They are exploring three areas: Banta-Davis, Foss Farm, and the Benfield Land. It is hoped a plan for Banta-Davis will be ready by spring, and possibly a plan for Foss Farm "if we can get agreement from the responsible parties." He asked the School Building Committee to decide soon if they will be pursuing a new school on Banta-Davis, "The RecCom needs to know."
Board of Health: Martha Bedrosian, chair, noted the board is doing more outreach regarding Lyme disease and eastern equine encephalitis (EEE). The BOH had not discussed how to react to news that a horse in Concord had contracted EEE. The BOH is finalizing a public health plan as part of the town's emergency plan and is evaluating the benefits of a geographic information system (GIS). Other work includes review of one 40 B comprehensive permit, with two pending.
Conservation Commission: Tom Schultz, chair, reported the committee manages over 1,000 acres of town conservation land and has formed a "stewardship committee" to "understand and manage usage of town lands." The board is confronting how to deal with enforcement to prevent recurring code violations such as swimming pools and sports facilities constructed on restricted land.
Planning Board: David Freedman, chair, said there was a "small flurry" of development applications last year, including eight homes on the Benfield property and fifteen on Cross Street. The board is reviewing bylaws as part of the Affordable Housing Plan submitted to the state this summer. It is also looking at a plan to eliminate wires from the Town Common and hopes to have a proposal for Town Meeting. GIS is being looked at for identifying parcels and tracking conservation and other restrictions. It is hoped residents could access the system.
Housing Authority: Alan Lehotsky noted the committee is awaiting approval of the Affordable Housing Plan they submitted to the state in the summer so they can begin to implement it.
Zoning Board of Appeals: Terry Herndon said "The 40B threat is very onerous. There's a big change here and it's important." He spoke of the need for more committee members and more legal support. "Those organizations are large, know how to do it, and have done thousands of these (40Bs)." He wonders if he can require developers to provide facilities, such as common meeting areas, as they bring more residents into the community.
Gleason Library survey results
Library Trustees: Brooke Cragan presented the results of focus groups and a survey of Carlisle residents administered over the summer (see article).
Council on Aging: Ted Read said an anonymous donor has agreed to pay for a new bus "to replace our 11 1/2 year-old sad van." The COA has programs focusing on improving the quality of life of residents over sixty in the areas of housing, social interaction, medical, nutritional, transportation, and safety. A new monthly newsletter is being sent to nearly 500 residents.
Cultural Council: Elissa Abruzzo, chair, noted grants were given last year to support programs by the Gleason Library, Bicentennial Committee, Council on Aging, and others. A major initiative was the Chinese New Year at the Carlisle Public School. The Council expects $3,100 from the state this year, in addition to funds raised locally. Applications for 2006 grants are due October 17. Forms are at the library and Town Hall.
Historical Commission: Lawrence A. Sorli, chair, noted the commission will review its rules with an eye to rethinking "whether a 1960s building should be held to the same standards" as older buildings. He believes the current rules are "imposing (someone's) taste without understanding the history of architectural evolution." With the Community Preservation Act, the commission has a new role administering preservation restrictions.
Personnel Board: JoAnn Driscoll said personnel policies are being revised to allow job sharing.
Household Recycling: Rob Peary said ink cartridge recycling and a newsletter to new residents are in place. Recycling of electronic media such as CDs and VCRs is planned.
Some committees, including Pedestrian and Bike Safety, Youth, Trails, Scholarship and the Community Preservation Committee, were not in attendance. In accordance with the recommendation of the Civic Support Network, which hopes to attract town volunteers by encouraging shorter meetings, the all-boards meeting concluded at precisely 9 p.m.
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