The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, May 16, 2008

Planning Board looks at year-end finances

Budget balancing may affect the Planning Board’s staffing level for the rest of the town’s fiscal year, and at the May 12 meeting the board was dismayed at having planning functions possibly curtailed. Town Administrator Madonna McKenzie has requested that the board’s Administrative Assistant Gretchen Caywood’s weekly hours be cut back to 15 from the present average of 19.4 for the remainder of the fiscal year, which ends June 30.

Chair Michael Epstein said that the board needs the degree of clerical support that it presently has in order to serve the amount of business before the board, including wireless bylaw special permits and the largest subdivision that the board has seen in 20 years (Hanover Hill), as well as the usual items that come before the board. A number of potential remedies were discussed, some more facetious than others: shutting down the Planning Board for several weeks, hiring Caywood as consultant for the necessary additional time.

Contacted later, Caywood explained the reason for the temporary reduction in hours, “It’s nothing I asked for. It’s to keep the budget on track. The job is budgeted at 18 hours per week for FY08. My average has been a little over and the thought was that I should work a little under for the rest of the [fiscal] year.”

Epstein requested that Planning Administrator George Mansfield look into the board’s options to exercise control over discretionary elements of the Planning Board’s budget in an effort to fund more staff hours.

Hiring a consultant

On a related topic, the board voted to assign $9,500 of its FY08 budget for planning. The money will be for legal services to Jon Witten, AIPC, Esq. “for assistance in revising the Carlisle Zoning Bylaws and the Board’s Rules and Regulations to establish a comprehensive set of regulations and/or land use and development bylaw.”

According to Mansfield, unused funds out of the planning and professional line item may be “encumbered” by the Town Accountant and used for a project that extends into FY09 as long as two conditions are met: the project must be under contract and work must be started before the end of FY08.

Witten submitted a proposal in April at the board’s request. Mansfield said that Witten is both a certified planner and an attorney, and has done similar work for several towns, including Sudbury. Contracts for this type of planning/legal service do not need to comply with competitive bidding procedures as long as the cost is under $25,000, Mansfield explained. He also noted that contracts for pure legal services are exempt from competitive bidding reqirements.

Witten had represented Epstein and other neighbors of the now defunct Coventry Woods 40B development. Epstein explained that he had no personal interest in hiring Witten because his Coventry Woods work has been completed.

In support of the proposal Vice Chair Greg Peterson said, “$9,500 of prevention is worth $200,000 of cure (potential legal fees).” ∆

© 2008 The Carlisle Mosquito