Friday, February 13, 2009
CPC reviews grant applications for town’s oldest buildings
On February 3, the Community Preservation Committee (CPC) continued its discussion of proposals for project funding. Proposals have been submitted by the Board of Selectmen for the base renovation of the Highland Building, by the Library Trustees for restoration of the façade on the Gleason Public Library, by the Conservation Commission (ConsCom) for repairs on the Cranberry Bog house and for completion of an Open Space and Recreation Report.
At a previous meeting, the CPC had reviewed the four submitted proposals to ensure that each was complete and complied with the legal requirements for Community Preservation Act (CPA) funding. At the February 3 meeting, three of the four applicant groups presented their proposals, highlighting areas of interest, and then answered questions from the committee.
Cranberry Bog House
Warren Lyman of the Carlisle Land Stewardship Committee (LSC) explained that the ConsCom and LSC were requesting $130,000 for repairs on the town-owned Cranberry Bog House. Lyman outlined three main reasons for the request: to preserve the 103-year-old building for historical reasons since the bog house is one of the oldest buildings owned by the town, to preserve Carlisle’s agricultural heritage since the bog house is actively used for agriculture and, finally, to comply with building and safety codes since the town-owned building includes residential rental space.
Lyman noted that the first and second floors are leased to Carlisle Cranberries, Inc. (Mark Duffy, president). The town is responsible for “maintenance, repair and upkeep of the cranberry bog house,” and Carlisle Cranberries pays rent “in-kind” by reconstructing, renovating and cultivating the agricultural area at the cranberry bog.
The third floor is covered by a separate lease with Carlisle Cranberries. When asked about the funding source for previous repairs to the building, ConsCom Administrator Sylvia Willard stated that she could not remember any maintenance or repair work that the town had done other than replacing the roof “years ago,” repairing part of a floor and testing for lead paint.
As committee members lamented the state of the bog house and another town-owned building, the Greenough barn, CSC member Tim Hult noted, “There are no special funds [for repair of the bog house]. When we buy these properties with old buildings, we have no money to support them.”
CPC member Mark Spears questioned the long-term cost of maintaining the building. ”Is the $130,000 only a band-aid? What is $130,000 going to buy us in terms of long-term use of the building? Will you be back in a few years for more money?” Lyman responded, “I can’t say when we will find another problem. It’s an old building.” Debbie Geltner, of the LSC, added, “It is in very poor condition. This historic building needs serious attention. You can actually put your finger through the sills.” Chair Kelly Guarino noted, “Either you preserve the building or you let it go.”
The CPC will tour the building, and check with the Historical Commission to determine its level of support for the proposal.
Alan Carpenito of the Board of Selectmen provided an overview on the status of the Highland Building. Carpenito served on the committee that studied the status of the Highland Building. “When we first went in, we were surprised by the structural integrity of the building. There were two civil engineers on the committee and they were amazed by the good structural condition.”
Carpenito stated that the committee’s recommendation was to renovate the building to a state where it was no longer a fire hazard. Renovations would provide basic functional operating systems and would bring the building to a point where the town could determine its appropriate long-term use. The full report and recommendations of the Highland Study Committee is available online at: www.carlislema.gov.
CSC member Julia Lavely expressed concern about the cost. “After we put $450,000 into it, what do we do then? I got nervous when I found out that making it into a community center could cost another million dollars.”
CSC member Mark Spears, representing the Recreation Commission expressed another viewpoint, “The concept of a community center is to use it for recreation after school and for other uses during the day. If we could put in another $1.5 million and get a community center it would be a very valuable asset for the town.” To which Hult added, “I think if we get a good plan that is well thought out we could get some donations.”
Guarino redirected the discussion, “What is before us is to preserve the building. It is difficult to sell when it is not part of a long-range plan.” Spears added, “I have a little bit of heartburn spending half a million dollars to stabilize a building when we can spend $1.5 million and have a useable building.
Carpenito reiterated, “Not one penny of the $450,000 would be wasted if we went on to the next step. Nothing would need to be undone.” He added, “There’s nothing more green than recycling a building.”
Open Space and Recreation Plan
ConsCom Administrator Sylvia Willard explained that the state requires each municipality to provide an open space and recreation plan (OS&R) every five years in order to be eligible for a variety of state funding opportunities. The next update is due in March of 2011 and Willard estimates that the work will take approximately 18 months to complete and will cost around $15,000. Willard noted that 150 new lots have been created in town since the last report was completed in 2004. New parcel maps for the report will cost about $6,000, and another $4,500 will be need for other maps.
CSC members discussed the value of the OS&R plan, acknowledging that it is an invaluable planning tool particularly because it ranks privately owned open space parcels so that the town can make quick decisions when land becomes available. “This document allows us to be proactive in terms of land acquisition,” Hult noted, “It has allowed us to preserve a number of priority parcels.”
The CSC will hear from representatives of the Gleason Library on March 3. By that time it is expected that the library will have cost estimates available. The CSC will meet again later in March when they will vote on which proposals to recommend to Town Meeting. ∆
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