Friday, December 4, 2009
RecCom looks at budget, fields
Town Treasurer Larry Barton spoke to the Recreation Commission (RecCom) on November 23 about the budget exercise put forth to all town departments. Each group has been asked to describe the changes that would be made if they had to implement a 10% budget cut. Chair Mark Spears responded his department would have to look at cutting services, quality of services, programs and personnel. He added they are down to one paid position so personnel would be the last to go.
Barton described the current budget process as a three-pronged approach. The first prong explores how to reduce expenses and/or increase revenue for FY10 to make up for a shortfall in state aid. The second prong is finding a 10% decrease in expenses (or increase in revenues) across all departments for FY11. Barton acknowledged that an evenly distributed 10% reduction across all town departments is not realistic – some departments can reduce by more, some by less and some will need budget increases, but it is a good exercise in finding opportunities.
The third prong is a six-member strategic long-term planning group. The purpose of this group is to look for structural changes to the services the town provides to its citizens. The group will look for opportunities to consolidate and outsource in order to make lasting cost-saving changes. They need to consider how Carlisle’s town government should look in the future. Barton stated that on average roughly 6% of Carlisle’s household income is spent on real estate taxes. If no change is made to the current structure of town government, that percent could go up as high as 8% in the future. Spears asked Commission member Rick Amodei to represent the Recreation Commission at the FinCom meeting on December 14.
Organic versus chemical
Several Carlisle citizens came to the meeting to express their concern about the possibility of switching from organic to chemical fertilizer for the town playing fields. Every RecCom member agreed the current process of organic fertilizer and aeration is working and the fields are currently in good condition. John Coppinger, who is in charge of designing and implementing the organic system, would like to see the town fertilize the fields four times a year instead of two, as well as increase the frequency of aeration, and provide more rest for the fields, particularly after seeding. However, he acknowledged given the current and future budget, the fields are in very good shape with the system he is now using.
The only reason the commission would consider switching back to chemical field maintenance is an approximately $5,000 in cost savings. However, several board members and guests pointed out hidden costs to chemical fertilizer.
Rick Amodei of Prospect Street questioned whether the fields could be sustained if the organic applications continue at the same rate or had to be cut back. Coppinger agreed that the fields would suffer if he cut back; the current approach is the bare minimum. Coppinger also pointed out that when a field is treated with chemical fertilizer, it becomes more vulnerable to problems such as insects and unwanted grasses. The response is to then treat with pesticides and herbicides. The organic approach makes the soil stronger so the pesticides are not necessary. The fields do have some crabgrass but not enough to warrant using an herbicide. If the crabgrass does become a problem, organic solutions are available.
John Bakewell of Rutland Street questioned the method of application, saying, “Carrot juice is good for you but a carrot is better. Why make a ‘tea’ application, when you could apply compost directly to the soil?” Coppinger explained that applying compost directly would be more expensive because it is much more labor intensive, also the tea concoction has more nutrients than plain compost.
The nitrogen runoff into the ground water was questioned. Susan Stamps, of Cross Street, commented, “In Carlisle ground water is the most important resource we have. Townspeople do not want chemical runoff in their well water.”
Susan Lehotsky of West Street urged the committee to consider the long-term dangers of chemical treatments, stating her belief in increased side effects such as increased asthma, blood disorders and Parkinson’s disease.
Dan Moseley, who mows the fields, added that he had to mow more frequently when the fields were treated chemically because the fertilizer caused a spike in growth. He does not see the same spike with organic treatments and he maintains a steady mowing system. Moseley added that he might be able to find a less costly way to aerate the fields. He will investigate and report back to the commission.
Board member Noreen Ma made a motion to continue with the organic approach to fertilizing for FY10. The committee unanimously voted in support of the motion with the plan to revisit the subject for FY11.
Tennis courts and ice rink
The nets on the tennis courts will be taken down early this month. The ice rink will be setup in the next few weeks. The committee agreed that this could be the last year they pay to support the rink because the liner has had to be replaced every year. In light of the tightening budget, a new liner would probably be one of the first expenses to be cut. Recreation Director Holly Hamilton will check with the installer to see if placing the old liner underneath the new liner will help protect the new one from damage.
• Benfield status. Spears stated, “We cannot afford not to pay attention to Benfield.” While it is not their first choice for a field location, Ma commented, “It doesn’t make sense to put a new field someplace else when there is already space at Banta-Davis.” Spears explained that there are funds for a field at Benfield from the Community Preservation Act (CPA). Spears urged a committee member to commit to attending the Benfield ZBA meetings to represent the commission’s interests. Amodei and Moreau agreed to share the responsibility. They will work with the ZBA to determine the best location within the property for a field.
Ma and Bloomfield agreed to share the job of representing RecCom on the Highland Building Committee. The RecCom is interested in using the Highland Building to house programs for the community.
Hamilton reported this year the Recreation Department will offer transportation from the Carlisle Kids House to select programs, thus enabling children in after-school care to take advantage of RecCom classes. This option will be available with the winter classes. There will be a nominal charge of $3 for each trip.
Bloomfield asked to evaluate the program fees as a possible source of increased revenue. Hamilton reported that the fees have already gone up because 18% of the course fee has to go back to the town’s general fund. The percentage has increased from 11% in 2007 and 14% in 2008. According to Hamilton, Carlisle’s classes are generally five to ten dollars more than similar classes in Bedford and Concord. ∆
© 2009 The