Friday, October 20, 2006
Selectmen hear ideas for Town Common makeover
Could the Town Common be more user-friendly? At the Board of Selectmen meeting on October 10, Tim Jensen, pastor of the First Religious Society, and Nicholas Reed, landscape architect, presented the Town Common Committee's (TCC) recommendations for improvements. Of particular interest to the selectmen was a proposal to move back the honor roll war memorial facing the rotary and to flatten the area around the flagpole so visitors could more easily gather on ceremonial occasions. The TCC plan was paid for by the Carlisle Garden Club and may result in a request for Community Preservation Act (CPA) or other funds at Spring Town Meeting.
Jensen said the goal of the plan is to improve the Common for current usages without significantly changing the look or adding to maintenance. Reed noted several concerns: upgrading landscaping, dealing with unsightly telephone poles and electric boxes, and improving the area for "events that might take place" by grading the area around the flagpole and moving the war memorial to a better location.
Reed said a tree-by-tree inventory was taken to see what should be kept, what should be removed immediately and what should be replaced in the future. The plan proposes replacing failing trees with "native species such as maples, elms, red oak, red bud and evergreens" over time. The goal would be to "keep the open feeling" and "stay away from fussy ground covers and perennials because of the maintenance." Core aeration and slice seeding of lawns is recommended to improve aesthetics and prevent further erosion.
Furniture and receptacles would be "very minimal impact . . . simple, durable, and few in number." Low lighting along the parking area is recommended. Reed sees "no need for paths or circulation" although he noted the Bike and Pedestrian Safety Committee might wish to integrate the Common with their pathways system.
Burying electric lines
Although initial estimates for burying telephone wires were very high, Jensen said the absolute size is secondary as there is a cap on how much Verizon can recover each year. He gave this a high priority, comparing the cost to "a cup of coffee per month on your utility bill." He suggested townspeople should not look at the expense as frivolous but as an investment in "a shared public space."
In a follow-uup e-mail, Jensen indicated the committee has not yet had definitive discussions with the utilities, "I can't give you authoritative information about how this works, except for what little I've learned by researching what other towns have done. The basic funding mechanism is apparently a 2% surcharge on a portion of your utility bill." The Town of Brookline's web site indicates a town-wide 2% levy is collected on all utility bills which funds depression of lines on a pay-as-you-collect basis. About $750,000 is collected each year in that town, and each mile of depressed line costs between $500,000 and $2 million.
Memorial needs space
The honor roll war memorial is now "a part of Concord Street, not the Common," said Reed. He would like to change that by pushing it back and erecting a low retaining wall behind it with an area in front for groups to gather. Names from the old honor roll, where salvageable, would be attached to a new structure, which could be similar to what currently exists. Behind the honor roll, evergreens and Memorial Day-flowering shrubs would be planted. Reed guessed that design and construction of the area would cost around $13,500.
Selectman Alan Carpenito questioned whether a bronze memorial would be more appropriate, and Doug Stevenson agreed that bronze or stone would make "a more formal and permanent monument." Reed said the committee decided "not to go off too far in a new direction" without the input of veterans and other interested town residents. "It's too important to families and survivors to jump into without more thought."
Stevenson endorsed most of the committee's recommendations, noting "I like the larger flatter area around the flagpole. Now it feels like you're falling down the hill." He also liked the idea of providing more space for the honor roll but suggested, "look at the monument piece a little more closely," because the existing wooden monument is "suffering from time and weather." He said former members of the Grange, which erected the honor roll, should be included in any discussions of a replacement.
CPA funds available
Carpenito suggested using CPA money, and it was generally agreed this could be an appropriate use of the historic preservation fund, which has been the least-used of the designated accounts. McKenzie said the town is also holding funds designated for parks and trees that could be applied.
A vote to accept the plan passed unanimously. Stevenson suggested a Veterans Memorial Group be formed to advise the TCC and bring "as broad a coalition as possible so everyone can feel good about this." The goal would be a vote at Annual Town Meeting in May to fund the memorial makeover using CPA funds, perhaps supplemented by fundraising.
© 2006 The