The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, June 6, 2008

Highland Committee in home stretch, seeks school input

The Highland Building Study Committee meeting on May 28 opened with Selectman Alan Carpenito’s announcement that the Board of Selectmen (BOS) would accept their advisory committee’s report in June or July. The committee agreed to try to finalize their report in two weeks’ time, for presentation to the Selectmen in writing by June 18 and then as an agenda item at a Selectmen’s meeting.

With that deadline in mind, committee member Ken Hoffman inquired how Carlisle School Superintendent Marie Doyle had responded to questions the committee had prepared for her. The School Committee has asked her not to respond, declaring that talking to the Highland Committee places Doyle in an untenable position, between the School Committee, “which has already made its decision regarding the Highland School and has nothing to add to it,” and the study committee, “which is still seeking options for the building, including school use.”

Committee member Bob Hilton remembered that, “not too long ago, just two to four years, I think,” the School Committee had considered using the building in the master plan, “perhaps as a library.” Bob Stone noted that “the School Committee has now voted in favor of not using the building in the school master plan, so the implication, although not the actual statement, was that the building would be torn down.”

At this, Hoffman expressed consternation. “They made that decision based on bad advice,” he said. “It is incorrect to believe that it would be more expensive to restore and use the Highland Building than to build something new. They are forcing us to be adversarial with them, not to listen to other advice. As a voter, I would stand up at Town Meeting and refuse to vote for a plan put together by people who have refused to look at all the options…We’re a town committee charged with researching an issue and Marie Doyle is the holder of [some of] the information [we need]. Should we address our questions to the School Committee? No, they don’t want to talk to us; they ‘have made their decision.’ I thought one of the things we would do tonight would be to digest the information we got from Marie. Now we have to report to the Selectmen without her [or the School Committee’s] advice to influence our report.”

Stone agreed, declaring, “We wanted to be working with the School Committee, not fighting it. We will have to go with our own recommendations and maybe the Selectmen will take it another step.”

Selectman liaison Alan Carpenito suggested the possibility of a non-binding referendum again asking the town its opinion on preserving the building, followed by a Warrant Article asking the town to consider using Community Preservation Act money to fund one of the options to be presented to the Selectmen. He also said he would talk to the new School Committee chair, Chad Koski, to see if he could open up communication.

Options and prices

Hoffman then provided the study committee with a detailed first-draft estimate of the costs of the approximately half-dozen possible dispositions of the building that the committee is considering. Based on 2008 prices and prevailing wages, these ranged from demolition of the building, for approximately $133,500, to about $333,000 to move the building, to about $1,770,000 for a “complete rehab of the existing building plus construction of a small rear addition; this would contain [a] stair and elevator to make the building fully useable and accessible for private business, town administrative or school use.” This cost study included itemized design and construction/demolition costs for each option.

The committee again expressed the hope of talking with the School Committee and Superintendent Doyle prior to completing its final report. In the days since this meeting, the Mosquito has learned that there will be a meeting with school authorities to glean information for this report, date and time to be announced.

© 2008 The Carlisle Mosquito