The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, March 27, 2009

CSC asked to vote on Highland prior to May Town Meeting

Town Meeting attendees will get a chance to voice their opinion on the future of the Highland School Building by voting on a Warrant Article to fund basic repairs to the century-old school building, Selectman Chair Doug Stevenson told the Carlisle School Committee (CSC) at their March 18 meeting.

The Community Preservation Committee (CPC) has voted to recommend making the repairs using $450,000 Community Preservation Act (CPA) funds, Stevenson said. He requested a vote from the school committee supporting the CPC plan.

The Selectmen formed the Highland Building Study Group in 2008, which recommended that the building be stabilized and renovated for future town use, and that control of the building be transferred from the school to the Board of Selectmen. Stevenson explained that the school committee would maintain control of the land under the building and only the Highland Building will be “out of the control of the school committee.”

“At some point at Town Meeting we would like the school committee to say that they support the transfer of the control,” said Stevenson.

Stevenson said the cost of heating and maintenance for the building, approximately $8,000 a year (see table below), will be borne by the Carlisle Public School for just one more year. “It’s in the FY10 budget,” he noted. “Past 2010, it would be town’s responsibility,” he said. “After 2010,” he said, “I would love to establish a true town building committee to manage town buildings.”

The Highland School sits at the top of School Street adjacent to the Carlisle Public School. It was used as a school facility as recently as 1988 and in 1994 the Emerson Umbrella, a non-profit artists’ organization, took over use of the building in exchange for upkeep and repairs. However, in 2007 the CSC requested repairs be made to the 6,900 square-foot structure, including the front steps and fire escape, and offered a one-year lease to the Emerson Umbrella due to the uncertainty of the school building project. The artistic organization did not accept the proposed lease and the artists moved out.

The repairs funded by the CPC would, Stevenson explained, bring the building back to “pre-Emerson Umbrella” condition but would also include the installation of fire sprinklers and a fire cistern. CSC member Wendell Sykes said fire safety was his main concern because the wooden building sits so close to the other school buildings.

The Highland Building Study Group identified a second level of restoration which would cost approximately an additional $1.3 million. That work would bring the building up to current standards for handicapped access and make it available for an undetermined community use, Stevenson said. He added that the Carlisle Recreation Department is “very interested” in the building. There are no current plans to move to that level at this time, he said.

Regarding having tenants in the building again, CSC Chair Chad Koski explained, “Our biggest issue has always been how much is it going to cost to repair the building, and the second equally important issue is the people who are there. If it is a group during the day, it has to be one that works with the school.” Selectman Alan Carpenito agreed. “That is what our intent is.” He said the building could be used for after school programs by Carlisle Recreation, “or some kind of drop-in center where kids are there instead of down at Ferns.” “If we can get that thing working and useful it would be great,” said Koski.

Koski thanked the Highland Study Group “for all their work.”

For a history of the Highland School, see the Mosquito article, “The Highland School reaches for the century mark,” January 13, 2006. The final report of the Highland Building Study Committee is available on-line at the town’s website: ∆

© 2009 The Carlisle Mosquito