Friday, January 13, 2006
FinCom questions RecCom field priority
On Monday, January 9, the Recreation Commission (RecCom) presented a plan to the Finance Committee (FinCom) for Phase 2 of the development of playing fields at Banta-Davis. A plan for a three-phased development, passed at Town Meeting in the late '90s, has so far seen the completion of the first phase in the year 2000. The second phase would include two Little League fields, four tennis courts, a multi-purpose field, and additional parking. The RecCom cites a critical need for playing fields and has outlined a priority list for field development. That list includes 1) Banta-Davis; 2) Foss Farm; 3) the Benfield Land.
Reached by phone, FinCom member Dave Trask questioned the need for playing fields versus other recreational priorities. He conceded that Carlisle is in an "embarrassing situation" with Concord because we contribute one-eighth of the playing fields even though we have one-third of the students. However, he pointed to the limited facilities for yoga and exercise classes and said, "A community center should at least be discussed." He said the RecCom board is "athletically-oriented, not "recreation — oriented" and that the current plan "doesn't respond to the whole community's needs." He added the FinCom hopes to see a "big picture" view of the recreational needs of the town when the RecCom returns in late February.
RecCom member Maureen Tarca responded in a phone interview that there are three thousand users of Carlisle athletic fields, "I don't think that's a small number." She noted fields are used by a range of ages, "We never just think of the children. We think of the town," and added, "The need for fields is constant and consistent and is not going away." She says the school has confirmed they will not need the Banta-Davis land for at least ten years and if a school is built on the site the fields can be incorporated. Unlike a community center, which would be "orders of magnitude more expensive" and for which there is no immediate feasible location, the field problem "has an obvious solution — finish Banta-Davis."
At the FinTeam meeting on Tuesday, School Business Manager Steve Moore was asked to comment on the RecCom proposal. He had no specific comments, but noted that the school may someday need to use that site.
Tarca also noted the RecCom has "talked with the School Building Committee (SBC) for years" to ensure there will be community space in any new building plan. "They (the SBC) have done a phenomenal job listening and responding to community needs." She notes "a huge recreational facility" would carry on-going costs that would drive up fees for programs. "We would propose both" fields and a community center, but "we're just being realistic."
Tarca says the town showed its support for fields by voting for the Banta-Davis development at Town Meeting and for the design of the Benfield playing field. Phase 2 has already been put off for eight years, she notes, during which "we could have had more fields." Further delay will only add to an already existing problem. While no numbers have been generated for the cost of Phase 2, Tarca said, "Over ten years, it will not be a lot of money."
The RecCom also presented a FY07 budget of $86,000, $7,000 over the guideline of $79,000. The difference primarily reflects the cost of fuel for mowing and maintenance. Trask noted the RecCom will also overrun this year's FY06 budget for mowing by $5,000. While most RecCom expenses are covered through fees, Trask said, "because everybody uses the fields, maintenance is hard to charge back." He added, "We will have to take it (the $7,000 shortage) seriously and go find the money."
© 2006 The