Friday, December 19, 2008
Timing is everything
The new year promises to be a challenge for the town and its citizens. In the first few months of 2009, three significant initiatives will be racing against the clock – the school building project, mosquito control and the veterans memorial. For all three, timing and concerns over delays are major factors.
Proving that even Town Meeting dates can be shifted in response to changing conditions, the Board of Selectmen on December 9 complied with the request of Lee Storrs, chair of the School Building Committee (SBC), that the Selectmen postpone the January 12 Special Town Meeting. Storrs’ request was based on concerns of the SBC over key input from the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) on projected school populations and scope of the Carlisle project.
In addition, a few months’ delay would enable the SBC to more fully inform Town Meeting voters on details and costs of the project to replace the deteriorating Spalding Building and make repairs to other buildings on the school campus.
Added to these concerns is local economist John Ballantine’s warning that the economic crisis has created an inhospitable environment in which to ask Carlisle taxpayers for a significant financial commitment. After a short delay, it is hoped that the project would move forward, buoyed by a better economic climate. The justifications for postponing the Special Town Meeting are sound, and our town officials should be applauded for making a prudent decision.
Another town issue that will benefit from a longer study period is mosquito control. The Board of Health’s original intention was to bring a proposal advocating mosquito control to the January 12 Special Town Meeting, but in its December 9 meeting, the board postponed a town vote. Over the next months it will study the risks and benefits of various methods of mosquito control with the help of an expert.
The Honor Roll Committee is racing against the calendar, trying to get the new veterans memorial in place on the Town Common by Memorial Day 2009. Funds for this project were approved by Town Meeting voters in the 2008 Annual Meeting. In January or February, the committee will seek approval for its plan from the Parish Committee of the First Religious Society and the Carlisle Historical Commission. The bronze for the memorial plaque must be ordered by the end of January to meet the Memorial Day deadline. The clock is ticking.
Paramount in all this town government activity is the commitment of the volunteer boards to their work. Board members cope with frequent meetings, public hearings and reviews of plans and revisions, all while balancing family and work obligations. (Two days before Christmas the Selectmen will be holding their regular Tuesday meeting.)
Happy holidays to all – especially those who keep the lights burning late in Town Hall to make sure that Carlisle remains Carlisle amid inevitable change.
The spirit of community
As a new resident, living in the parsonage next to the First Religious Society, the local lore I heard on arrival centered on stories of isolation in the community. I was advised that people without children in school can find it difficult to meet Carlisle neighbors. Well, this is rarely a problem for a minister, who meets many people through church and community events. But I was concerned about whether I would find here a community, or just an aggregate of acreages. Contrary to the cautions, I have been impressed by the strong spirit of connection in Carlisle.
Concern for the well-being of all was at the heart of an idea that came from some residents who anticipate the impact of economic turmoil and recession on people in town. I received a call from people I had not met, asking Carlisle clergy to brainstorm with them ways to address needs which are certain to arise. The result was the Carlisle Neighbor Fund, announced in the most recent issue of the Mosquito.
I am struck by the generosity inherent in this project, from the initial expression of neighbor-to-neighbor concern, to the initiative taken to convene a meeting in the busy holiday season, through the donations which brought the concept immediately to reality. The Carlisle Neighbor Fund now complements the Caroline Hill Fund and the Friends of the Council on Aging funds. It is unique in that it exists in three locations -– in the three local congregations – and is for Carlisle residents regardless of whether they have a religious affiliation in town or elsewhere, or no affiliation at all.
The Carlisle Neighbor Fund is notable for its basis in trust. Clergy have been entrusted with the charge to seek out and respond to needs, and with the means to offer financial assistance when that can help. Many people are open and candid with clergy, trusting in our familiarity with the wide range of human circumstances, and our careful handling of confidential information.
The Fund is notable for its simplicity. Contact a clergy person and take it from there as a person-to-person request. We are accustomed to making discretionary decisions. We expect that this can meet needs for food, fuel or emergency expenses.
Will dilemmas arise? Those involved expect there will be a learning curve as we figure out how best to work cooperatively to respond, and trust that any dilemmas can be worked out and addressed with the spirit of goodwill. We all have various church discretionary funds in place already that are not restricted to Carlisle residents, and our ministries are certainly not confined to the borders of town. This new fund makes certain that we are equipped to help within this community, where needs might not be as obvious as elsewhere.
The initial donors have asked to be anonymous, because it is not about them, but rather about the spirit of generosity, respect and regard for one another. Additional donations are welcome. Anyone is welcome to join giving to the fund. Your gift will garner no public acclaim. Recipients will have no sense of obligation to individuals who provided the funds, but will feel instead the broad concern for everyone in town.
Just seeing this initiative take shape strengthens my newcomer’s sense that the spirit of community here is strong. This project has increased collaboration among the clergy as we work together in this way to care for the town as a whole.
The Christmas story tells that long ago three wise ones brought gifts to the newborn babe to honor the heralded birth. Seasonal traditions of giving continue in the spirit of love and delight, grounded in mutual regard and care.
To contribute or request assistance you may contact the author at the First Religious Society, Father Thomas Donohoe at St. Irene Church, Rev. Keith Greer or Rev. Steve Weibley at the Congregational Church.
© 2008 The