The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, July 17, 2009

Opinions

How about a hike?

Anyone looking for outdoor walking activities close to home this summer need look no farther than the town’s twin system of pathways and network of trails.

During the past two weeks contractors have been busy applying the top surface to the pathways which skirt the main roads leading from Town Center. Many families are discovering the paths provide a wonderful opportunity for a leisurely walk to Kimballs or to one of many destinations near the center, such as the library, the post office, Ferns or the playground at the school.

For a quieter amble, try Carlisle’s extensive network of public trails. The Trails Committee publishes a booklet with descriptions and maps of conservation lands and over 35 miles of trails. The booklet is available at Town Hall for a small fee. Alternatively, one can download the information from the committee’s website at www.carlisletrails.pbworks.com/maps, or pick up a free 8.5 x 11 map at Town Hall showing all the public trails and pathways.

A fun activity one can enjoy while out walking in the woods is geocaching. Using latitude and longitude coordinates, clues and a GPS device geocachers try to find a hidden cache, often located near trails. There are thousands scattered worldwide and many geocaches in Carlisle – anyone can create a new one and add it to the free online database. For more information visit www.geocaching.com.

The Trails Committee created the Trekker challenge in 2007 to encourage residents to explore Carlisle’s trails and open spaces. How does it work? Travel the listed public trails and keep a log of each hike. Full instructions and a worksheet are available on the web site. There is no time limit and the program operates on the honor system. To complete the challenge, one must also volunteer to help at a Trails Committee workday held to build or maintain the trails.

Bring the completed log to a Trails Committee meeting to receive a Carlisle Trekker Award. What is the prize? Trekkers receive bragging rights, a patch, a numbered certificate and their name added to the list of award winners. Carlisle’s first Trekker Award winners include Mary Zoll, Kelly Guarino and Eric and Claire Brandhorst. Perhaps the biggest prize, though, is the time spent outdoors on the trails enjoying Carlisle’s open spaces. ∆

On being a little pregnant

When the 2% real estate tax surcharge for the Community Preservation Act was brought to Town Meeting in 2001, it passed by a vote of 477 to 412. I argued against its passage, believing we were already overburdened with taxes. I also believed it would insulate us from making tough decisions about spending and taxing. And, I was concerned that the state would discontinue matching our collections as more towns adopted the program.

Carlisle’s initial state match amounted to $238,618 in 2003. In the five years since then, our real estate tax collections increased by 55%, and the State matched us until last year. Due to budget constraints the State reduced the match in FY ’08, and has issued a bulletin estimating that the match will shrink to 29% this year. Going forward, we are planning on no matching State funds. For all practical purposes, our CPA funds have been totally committed and new projects will be funded without matching funds from the State.

The Library Restoration Project ($775,000) and the Highland School “Stabilization” Project ($445,000) put us over the top in this regard. The Library’s need seems genuine. The more controversial project was allocating $445,000 to “stabilize” the Highland Building. The Finance Committee strongly disagreed with this on the basis that we would have to spend much more to make the building ADA-compliant and “usable,” and this would require a vote for additional taxes at a future Town Meeting.

The Highland Building has no particular use planned for it. The Highland Committee Team proposed, and we voted, to spend $445,000 rather than spending around $100,000 to “mothball” it until the town could decide what to do with it and at what cost. This building will ultimately add 3,750 square feet of usable space for town needs at a cost of nearly $400 per square foot. Its use will also bring with it additional operating costs, further straining the Town Budget. The point is, we’ve made ourselves a “little pregnant” by agreeing to spend $445,000 to keep Highland as a placeholder for further significant investment.

The School Committee wanted to tear it down or move it; the Selectmen wanted to buy time, but at an extremely high cost; the FinCom wanted us to make a clean up-or-down decision before we spent another nickel. The availability of “pre-collected” CPA funds prevented us, as citizens, from making the hard decision. I strongly recommend that the Selectmen, although given permission to do so, refuse to spend any additional funds on the Highland Building until the Town can decide whether it’s worth spending over $400 per square foot to keep it. We’ve already waited years to decide it’s fate; a few more months won’t hurt us or the building. This will give the Committee time to come up with a “Use and Cost Plan” for the space, so that we can finally make a value judgment. Let’s make the hard choice we all need to make with all the facts on the table.

 

 

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