The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, October 10, 2008

Opinions

An important decision lies ahead

As early as January, voters may be asked to give the green light to a Carlisle School building project, as the School Building Committee has requested the Selectmen hold a Special Town Meeting to fund preliminary designs. In the next few months the committee will refine the plans and line up a design firm. Their upcoming meetings provide a window of opportunity for the public to observe and participate in planning how to best meet the long-term needs of Carlisle’s school children.

The School Building Committee is looking to replace the 50-year old Spalding School Building and upgrade other facilities. Enrollment is declining, but the school buildings are aging and Carlisle has not had a major school building renovation in a decade.

Besides replacing the rooms in the 16,380 square-foot Spalding Building, state guidelines for new construction recommend larger classrooms and also call for additional spaces for engineering instruction and student support services such as special education. Another goal of the building committee is to include more space for the music program, including a multi-purpose room that might also be useful for after-school and community activities. The total size currently planned for the new building is about 35,000 square feet.

Project consultant Sean Fennell recently gave a cost estimate of $260 per square foot for new construction, not counting site work such as ledge removal. An additional $4.5 million is being considered for needed repairs and renovations to the other school buildings. The committee has been considering a cap of $20 million on the project.

While the town will give approval for the construction later, the vote to fund $300,000 to $500,000 for schematic designs is a significant commitment.

Town Treasurer Larry Barton has estimated that paying the bonds on a $20 million project with 40% state aid would add up to $700 to the average annual real estate tax. However, the impact would decline each year as the debt was paid. Without state aid, the project would add up to $1,250 per year to the average tax bill. The numbers are significant to a small town with only about 1700 households, particularly in the present economic climate.

It is important that residents accurately understand the school’s needs, and the benefits as well as the costs of the project. Anyone with suggestions, or who would like to learn more, should attend the School Building Committee meetings this fall as the project takes shape. The meetings are open to the public, with the next one scheduled for 7 p.m. on October 23 in the school library. ∆


This old house

We designed and built our dream house in 1992, the year we moved to Carlisle. Everything was shiny and new as we moved our young family into its cavernous expanses. Our previous home had been comfortable, but we couldn’t believe how the new place surpassed our expectations, and couldn’t imagine ever filling the cabinets, bookshelves or closets.

Our older son entered first grade that fall, and our younger son spent his mornings at the Red Balloon. But time passes. The first grader graduated from college last spring, and the little guy is now in his second year at the Naval Academy. The house is showing its age, too.

I don’t recall it happening, but the cabinets, bookshelves and closets have long been well and truly stuffed. Several years ago, the rod in one of the closets gave way under the weight we asked it to bear. It was a cry for help. I installed reinforcing beams and heavier hardware, which did the trick. Until last spring, that is, when even the reinforced arrangement gave way. Periodically, I attempt a comprehensive purge, carting bags and boxes of clutter to the Transfer Station (about half winds up in the Swap Shop and half in the compactor). But somehow more of the same finds its way into the house.

The ravages of time are not limited to the accumulation of detritus, however. Ever so gradually, little things start to go. The mixer valve in the shower won’t hold a fixed position. A light fixture, though still functional, is damaged. A lockset broke, and the replacement requires a different key. We’ve repainted most of the rooms, but two are the same as when we moved in. Some of the curtains are fading, if you are the sort of person who notices such things.

It is the noticing that seems to be the determinative factor. We’ve raised two boys in this old house, and in the process subjected it to a fair amount of living. But that living has occurred on a day-to-day basis (usually at a fairly brisk pace). There have been few occasions to step back and see the place as it has become. Much as the face I saw in the mirror this morning looked essentially the same as it did yesterday, it is a bit of a shock to look back over a span of time and confront the accumulated change.

We recently completed construction of another house, where we now spend many of our summer weekends. Seeing that shiny new edifice, and returning to our shopworn place in Carlisle, has provoked in us a heightened awareness of the latter’s condition. Truth be told, we no longer need the space of the Carlisle house. However, we can’t bear the thought of selling – quite apart from the state of the real estate market, the house holds too many memories, and this town is too central to our sense of place.

But we will probably change the curtains.

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