The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, August 28, 2009

Selectmen set goals for challenging year

Just as football coaches are finalizing their own strategies, the Carlisle Board of Selectmen have reviewed their goals and approaches for what promises to be a year of continuing challenges and opportunities. Financial concerns continue to shape planning, on and off the field.

In July the board reviewed the past year’s goals and objectives and rated the status, importance and progress made during the past year. The list of eight broad goals is similar to those of previous years: finances; education, town services, public utilities/energy efficiency, recreation and community activities, affordable housing, conservation land and open space, and safety and security.

On a scale of 1 to 5, the Selectmen rated all the areas as medium or high priority. Town finances were considered the highest priority for the coming year, followed closely by education and public safety and security. Next highest in priority were affordable housing and conservation land and open space, which received equal ranks. Following closely behind were town services, utilities and energy, and recreation and community activities.

For each goal, the Selectmen noted ongoing issues or ideas for the future. After discussion, two Selectmen signed up to follow each item during the next year.

Finances. The Selectmen concurred that they had put a high emphasis on the topic for the past year, and all gave the highest importance for the coming year. Hult reiterated that the increased Carlisle enrollment at the high school coupled with the need for repairs at the high school would, despite other efforts, inevitably increase the tax rate by as much as 4% which he called “a huge number” in the current economy. Stevenson noted that the board needed to be more aggressive in pursuing cost-saving methods into the coming year. Tice suggested forming a long-term building committee to improve strategic planning for the town. Williams will remain assigned to this area for the coming fiscal year and Hult will join him.

Education. The Selectmen believed that the town had put a high emphasis on educating the town’s children. They concurred about the high importance to the issue in the coming year, but felt there was much work ahead with the Carlisle Public School building project and repairs needed at the high school. Both Stevenson and Tice praised the programs and results at the schools. Williams flagged the serious structural issues ahead.

Stevenson identified consolidation of special education services between Concord and Carlisle as a possible area of financial savings, and said, “We should be able to consolidate special education costs. It’s one of those tough topics. We’re going to have to bite that bullet.” Stevenson and Tice will both continue as the liaison team responsible for this area for the Selectmen.

Security and Safety. The board placed the town’s current status as high in this area, particularly in the areas of the police and fire departments, and reiterated its importance for the coming year. Both Hult and Stevenson felt this area had not received enough attention in the past year, however, and the Selectmen wondered on ways to better support DPW efforts, and the struggles that the department goes through in keeping everyone in town happy despite reduced funding and resources. Tice emphasized that the group needed to look at bicycle safety in the coming year. Scavongelli and Stevenson will take over the item.

Affordable Housing. The board rated that status and importance as medium, however, felt the town really needed to address this topic in the coming year. Williams re-emphasized the need to complete the Benfield effort. Stevenson wondered if Banta-Davis land had to be reserved for school expansion or if this could possibly be considered for future affordable housing. The board briefly discussed tying the wastewater treatment plant in with the library and village court. Williams and Hult will address this area for the Selectmen.

Conservation Land and Open Space. Three Selectmen – Hult , Williams, and Tice--felt the town currently put this item at the highest level, but Scavongelli put it at fair, and only he believed it should continue to have the highest importance in the coming year. The Selectmen seemed to concur that the town’s high achievement in this area was due to previous long-term efforts. Hult praised the work done by various town boards in the implementation of conservation restrictions by land owners, particularly citing the Valentine family for their contribution, and encouraged town efforts with resident owners of large parcels in the future. Stevenson flagged the Greenough barn as still needing resolution. The board also added the Cranberry Bog House to the list. Scavongelli will work with Williams on this topic.

Town Services. The Selectmen rated the town services as fair, and while important for the next year, did not emphasize the area. McKenzie disagreed and rated the status, importance, and progress of the topic as low for the Selectmen, and explained that due to funding decreases, there were not enough people staffing the various town services, particularly the DPW. She added that “when people are unhappy, my office seems to be the one they find.” The board discussed asking the various boards for input, and being open to considering regionalization in new areas. Tice will continue to follow the topic, and Stevenson will join him.

Public Utilities/Energy Efficiency. Hult, Williams, and Tice felt the issue was important, but Williams and Tice slightly downgraded it for the coming year. The group felt there was work to be done, however. Hult expressed frustration about the amount of time spent working on wind power but continued uncertainty on whether it would be feasible in town. Stevenson also noted, “We have yet to figure out how to get revenue through the wireless process.” Tice and Stevenson stepped up to work on this item.

Recreation and Community Activities. The Selectmen rated the status and importance of the issue as high, but felt the area needed more attention in this year, particularly with the Gleason Library and the Highland Building construction projects ahead. The board added Pathways extensions and Bog House as items to address. Stevenson praised Larry Bearfield for championing community events in the town center. Hult and Scavongelli agreed to cover this area.

Chair sets tenor of meetings

Every year the Board of Selectmen changes its chairman. The yearly change of chairman, like a head coach, does affect the demeanor of meetings. Tim Hult has taken on the helm again as the chairman of the board, a role he has filled previously in five of the nine years he has served as a Selectman, often alternating with Selectman Doug Stevenson in the position over that time.

“Doug is better from an operational standpoint,” says Hult, contrasting their styles “I tend to be look at the big picture. He probably has a better day-to-day view of things.” He added, “Doug is also more conservative. I tend to be more liberal.” But, at the end of the day, Hult noted that the two tend to agree more on things than disagree.

Selectman John Williams has watched both Stevenson and Hult in the role of chairman, and has stepped forward to shoulder the position in 2010-2011. Hult applauded this initiative. “I would like to see that everyone gets to be chair at some point,” he says. “It’s good to always have a fresh look at things, and perhaps take another approach.” ∆

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