Friday, November 13, 2009
Planning for community space
For decades we’ve heard that Carlisle needs public space. This consensus surfaces repeatedly in planning meetings and town surveys, and reflects in large part the scramble of organizations and clubs, especially those not serving children or the elderly, for the few public meeting rooms available (the Sleeper Room at Village Court, Hollis Room at the library, and church parish halls).
Happily, possible “community” spaces have appeared on town drawing boards this year. The board of Village Court senior housing has been exploring an expansion which might include a 3,000 square foot “community building” (“Village Court “willing to consider” expansion,” June 5, 2009), and the Benfield senior housing will include several hundred square feet of common area. But unfortunately neither of these proposals is likely to fill a need for program space soon. The common areas at Benfield will be reserved for use mostly by residents and Minuteman Home Services, and the Village Court proposal is reported to be on hold, pending resolution of “significant obstacles” that include well, septic and funding issues.
However, two other “community” spaces seem more likely to be realized. The Carlisle School renovation includes a 2,800-square-foot “multipurpose room” in the Robbins building, and the Highland Building Committee hopes that a second phase of renovation of the old school, soon to be “stabilized” with CPA funds, might yield as much as 6,000 square feet.
It is too soon in the process to compare the ultimate viability of these plans. First, we have only heard rough estimates of construction costs: $1 million for the school’s multipurpose room and $1.4 million for the Highland Building. More specific and detailed cost estimates are expected by early December (school) and spring (Highland).
As critical as total cost, and also unknown, is how much of the expense the state will share. We will not learn before January whether the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) will deem any of the multipurpose room’s costs eligible for the 40% reimbursement rate promised for the entire project. How much the town would ultimately pay towards the Highland renovation will depend on how much of the town’s Community Preservation Act (CPA) property tax surcharge the state will match. (This percentage, based on fees collected at the Registry of Deeds plus how many towns participate, varies yearly. A bill co-sponsored by Carlisle’s legislators but not yet approved would stabilize these matching funds in the future at a minimum of 75%.)
While we await data on net costs, however, there are further questions to explore. First, someone (Selectmen? the Community Preservation Committee?) should make sure both do not fall victim to cost-cutting, but also try to avoid duplication in planned uses (how many exercise rooms do we really need?). We also should have an idea about who will decide the schedule of users, who will manage programs or maintenance, and how program and operating expenses will be paid.
Most important, who will have access? Which users, what organizations? The Highland Future Use subcommittee is moving toward this goal, designing a broad survey about potential use by both town departments and community organizations. (See “Highland Building committees coordinate action plans,” October 30, 2009) According to building committee members, the school plans the multipurpose room for choral practice, smaller assemblies, and possibly CCTV production, with access for non-school groups, primarily the Council on Aging, mostly evenings and weekends.
The reuse of existing buildings in both proposals seems prudent, but most important is that how the rooms are used should in fact reflect the town’s priorities, and include as broad a range of users as practical. Of course we need flexibility to accommodate future needs, but at minimum broad policy principles about community use should be explicit before either plan is presented to voters.
Cooking for men
With no bar, diner, sports complex, or race track, what does Carlisle lack? Places for guys to hang out and socialize. And since we have a town whose institutions are focused almost entirely around children, health, nature, and niceness (basically a matriarchy; let’s face it), we have to create these places ourselves, in the only structures available: our homes.
So, here is my first (and if my editor has her way, the last) Mosquito Advice Column for Guys, “Cooking for Men – How to Organize, Prepare, and Run a Dinner Party for Guys.” Why just guys? Advantages to guy parties: unlike women, we do not compete via food offerings. Your Social StrataMeter will not budge up or down no matter what you bring, no guy will think the less of you. Also, no one sits you next to someone you’re supposed to talk with. No one reams you later for saying or eating the wrong thing. Telling jokes, laughing “too hard,” spilling your drink, and belching are all okay. No one accuses you of flirting if you had a good time.
All men really want to do is re-create those great parties from their 20s when they stood around goofing on each other, eating trash, and drinking. To begin: (1) email a bunch of guys you like inviting them to a potluck dinner. You can clean your house but that’s optional; guys do not notice or care. (2) As a potluck guest, it is time to grow up beyond chips and salsa. Go to Trader Joe’s and get some of those scrumptious frozen appetizers. Appetizers are Snickers bars for grown-ups; no party can have too many. Don’t bring vegetables. Someone else can bring a salad; it need not be you. Desserts: it is a truth universally acknowledged that making these from the sifter on up takes more skill than you possess. Bring a store-bought dessert, something simple and manly: chocolate chip cookies, hermits, or an apple pie. (3) The main dish, normally the host’s responsibility: here is where glib “you too can cook” breaks down in the arcane steps that the cookbooks don’t really make clear, like “heat the oil,” “cook until done,” “do not over-cook,” “do not allow to stick” and “baste as needed.” If you can’t cook a gigantic heavy meat-based dish competently, cajole someone who can. You know who I mean. If while cooking you begin to feel that the train has jumped the track, add butter. (4) Of course, you are not merely feeding the body; you are nurturing the soul. For this alcohol was invented. Note: with few exceptions you do not need to serve men fine wine, which would be a classic pearls-before-swine error. In fact, BYOB is much the better move since this permits your guests to drink what they actually like. (5) Running the event: there are no host responsibilities. None. Like the self-calming baby who has finally discovered her thumb, the guys do it themselves.
My man, you are ready.
© 2009 The