The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, February 1, 2008


Highland Study Committee gathers data

The Highland Building Committee met on Wednesday night, January 23, to pursue its charge

Members of the Highland Building Study Committee tour the former school building on January 27. Pictured are (left to right) : Ken Hoffman, David Flannery, John Ballantine, Alan Carpenito, Wendell Sykes and Bob Hilton. (Photo by Mollie McPhee Ho)

to "conduct a thorough study of all possible dispositions of the Highland Building" by gathering information from two sources that have been intimately involved with the building's use over the years. Wendell Sykes was present to give a summary of the School Committee's dealings with and wishes for the disposition of the building. Sykes declared the building to be "a valuable asset for the town, and the School Committee would be happy to see it preserved." However, he said, "our attempt to use it as an artist's colony resulted in serious degradation to the building [through lack of maintenance and repair] and it is now seriously deteriorated."

School's viewpoint

Sykes reviewed the School Committee's observations of the building and their attempt to see it as possible classroom or office space to explain their conclusion that restoration of the building to the current standards for public schools would be too expensive to render it cost effective. The School Committee would like to see the building saved, he said, but "would like to separate its preservation from the budget for school housing." In addition to bringing the building up to current codes, he cited the special problems of security and water supply for firefighting. If the town were "to make the building ADA [Americans with Disabilities Act] compliant and to [address other code violations], the result would probably no longer look like the Highland Building."

Security becomes a particular concern if the building is used for a purpose other than one associated with the school while it stands on its present site. Sykes also said that the building does not address the current overcrowding problem at the school, and the School Committee would like to use the land it sits on and that surrounds it for recreation, while building more classroom space on another site on the school campus. "I would like," he said, "to see the building preserved somewhere else."

Committee member Bob Stone asked, "How far away from the school campus would the building have to be in order to be considered for an alternative use?" Sykes replied that he did not have an answer, and that the committee should consult the school superintendent and administration. He also stated that the entire report of HMFH Architects, Inc., the firm the School Committee consulted to obtain information on the building's feasibility of use, is available on the Town of Carlisle web site.

Highland Study Committee members reiterated the need for a personal tour of the building and for an accurate site plan, as well as for a history of discussions about possible uses of the building. Discussion ensued about the School Committee's and School Building Committee's plans for school expansion. Sykes noted that the school will be developing campus renovation plans over the coming months in coordination with the state.

Old records

At 8:30 p.m., David Flannery, who has dealt closely with the Highland Building in his capacities as Fire Chief, member of the ADA task force and communications co-director, joined the meeting and provided the committee with a file of all his dealings with the building. The file includes historical information, memoranda and proposals on maintenance and possible uses for the building from 1986 to the present; transactions with Emerson Umbrella (which, from 1994 to 2007, used the building for private artists' studios); HMFH Architects, Inc.'s accessibility survey and report on existing conditions at the Carlisle Public School; estimates for repairs to the Highland Building and Mosquito articles dating from 2005 to 2007

Sun washes across an old radiator in the Highland Building. (Photo by Mollie McPhee Ho)

on the town's most recent dealings with the building.

Flannery also answered questions about the Highland Building's energy, water, and security services. It has its own 200 amp overhead electric service and gas meter. Its water service is connected to the school's, and it is connected as well to the Waste Water Treatment Plant. Its telephone and fire alarm systems are independent, but the alarm is "addressable," as it is tied to the master system and control panel.

No original building plan has been found to date, but Flannery said that a plan was made (and is in the file he provided) in 1967 to comply with the state building inspector's requirements for repairs to the building. Since the building has never been tested for regulated substances or materials, such as asbestos, Flannery urged committee members to ask the Fire and Police Departments, as well as the Building Inspector, to tour the building and make reports.

After tour, to meet bi-weekly

The Highland Building Committee toured the building on Sunday, January 27, at noon, to make its own observations, and requested a scale plan of the school campus, which Flannery agreed to provide in time for the tour. Flannery also suggested consulting the town building commissioner for information on zoning. The committee agreed to meet every other Wednesday, to act "as a team, without a chair," and to rotate secretarial duties. Following the building tour, the committee will begin its work of formulating ideas for the possible disposition of the Highland Building.

2008 The Carlisle Mosquito