Friday, October 26, 2007
New committee to help with Highland Building
Over the next two weeks Selectmen Tim Hult and Doug Stevenson will set up a new committee to look into what to do about the deteriorating Highland Building on the Carlisle School campus. The decision to create the task force was made at the October 23 Board of Selectmen's (BOS) meeting.
The group will look at three options: renovating Highland, relocating it to another site or demolishing it. The Highland Committee will develop cost estimates for each option and explore possible uses of the building if it is renovated.
Five to seven members are needed to represent town, school and historic preservation interests, Selectmen agreed along with someone familiar with building construction, and an architect, if possible.
Saying it has become a core issue for the town, BOS Chair Tim Hult said there are many people with strong personal preferences on either side of the issue about the old school building.
"I feel it should be saved," Selectman Alan Carpenito said, explaining his view, "It's one of the only old buildings the town owns. I understand the school does not have a use for it for education, but I look at it from another perspective." Its current use as artist studios is excellent, he said, and the new committee can look at possibly expanding the use of the building. Carpenito suggested private music lessons or other uses. "I'd like to see it preserved there or somewhere else," he said, referring to the possibility of relocating the building. The other Selectmen agreed they would like to see the building's preservation presented as an option.
Hult acknowledged Highland is a fire hazard because of its close proximity to the school's Robbins Building and other buildings. "Our primary responsibility is safety," he pointed out. School Committee member Wendell Sykes said the old wood-frame building would be a "torch" in a fire. The town needs to add a new water cistern to improve safety in the center, he said.
When Selectmen asked for citizen comments, Ann Ballantine spoke up to preserve Highland, suggesting the building be removed from school authority. "It's a distraction for the school to manage a building that it doesn't use," she said, adding the building could be managed by another organization.
Sylvia Sillers of the Historical Commission brought up the possibility of using some of the Community Preservation Funds designated for historical use. She agreed with Ballantine, however, that the building should be removed from school authority.
Sorting through the issue of the land around Spalding, which the School Committee says it wants to retain for school use, will be a key issue for the Highland Committee. Though the School Committee controls the land where the building sits, the town itself also owns the school and land and has a say in its use, Hult pointed out.
Highland resurfaced as a hot-button issue in recent weeks after the School Committee decided not to continue with a new lease with the Emerson Umbrella artist cooperative after the school and the co-op could not reach an agreement for the group to repair the exterior of the building as part of its lease.
The school asked the Umbrella to repair the front porch decking, columns, and steps, and to repair the roof, some exterior windows with broken glass, inspect the fire alarm system, and inspect the fire escape and repair it if necessary. As the lease with the school has now expired, the Highland artists will leave the building over the next few months.
The Highland Committee is expected to look into all the options for the building, develop a report, and give a presentation on their findings to the town at next spring's Town Meeting.
© 2007 The