The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, December 12, 2008

BOS postpones Special Town Meeting

The Special Town Meeting to vote on design funds for a Carlisle School building project, originally planned for January 12, has been postponed. On Tuesday, December 9, Lee Storrs, Chair of the School Building Committee (SBC) asked the Board of Selectmen (BOS) for the postponement to give his committee more time to define the project and communicate with voters. Although discussions with the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) have been very positive, with written confirmation of a 40% reimbursement rate received that day, disagreements regarding enrollment projections are still being worked out. It is expected the Special Town Meeting will be rescheduled to a date in late February or March.

The Special Town Meeting was to have voted on $450,000 to $500,000 for design and project management funds as a first step toward a $20 million project, of which $12 million would be funded by Carlisle taxpayers and $8 million by the state. But in their meeting on December 4, the SBC decided too many issues were still on the table. Even if they were quickly resolved, “it’s a tough time of year to get information out and have residents make an informed decision,” said Storrs.

In their meeting with the MSBA on Tuesday, the SBC was unable to come to an agreement on discrepancies between the enrollment projections Carlisle has been using and those of the MSBA consultant. Former Selectmen John Ballantine had predicted that Carlisle will need a 700-student school, while the MSBA originally saw a maximum 500 students in our future, since revised to a number in the 600s. Ballantine was able to point out some problems with the MSBA numbers, including an insufficient allowance for move-ins after kindergarten, as well as a short time horizon which did not allow for growth when the boomer’s kids have families. “I don’t think the voters and taxpayers want to be looking at another project in ten years,” said Storrs. The MSBA agreed to revisit the numbers and will get back to the SBC next week. In the worst case, they might ask for removal of a classroom or two from the plan, “We’re pretty nervous about that,” said Storrs.

Another point of disagreement was the need for a multi-purpose room in the new building. According to the state’s space guidelines, the school already has adequate accommodation for the arts. This does not reflect the reality that classes are now being cancelled because of competition for the auditorium, and elementary music classes for twenty students are being conducted in space designed for five to seven students.

Storrs noted the committee has received some feedback that it would be better to wait for a more positive economy before going forward. However, there will be about a year’s lead time between design approval and finalization of a project plan, and the project itself can always be delayed. If the project doesn’t go forward soon, investment will have to be made into roofing the Spalding building which is planned for demolition. “We’re nursing the building along until we can replace it,” said Storrs, but roof patching and boiler tweaks will not hold forever. In addition the current bidding environment is very positive for getting a good price on the project.

Doug Stevenson agreed with the timing, noting that the cost of financing the project would not kick in until about 2012, by which time the economy should be reviving. “Take the plunge,” he said. “I agree with that thinking very much,” interjected John Williams. He noted that the Obama stimulus plan may also provide funds for school projects.

Tim Hult congratulated the SBC, “You’ve come a long way. It’s really clear now.” He suggested devising some scenarios to show voters the repercussions of waiting or disapproving the project. The BOS closed the warrant and postponed the Town Meeting to a date TBD.

© 2008 The Carlisle Mosquito