Friday, January 8, 2010
Carlisle weathers rough economy – a look back at 2009
Many who survived 2009 have the bumps and bruises to prove it. President Barak Obama took office as unemployment continued to rise, the Dow Jones Average gyrated, swine flu swept the country and wars stretched on in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In Carlisle, veterans were remembered and honored with a new memorial on the Town Common. Town officials searched for ways to slow the growth of taxes as planning continued for building projects at the Carlisle School and the regional high school. Another building project was completed successfully – after years of work, the Pedestrian and Bike Safety Committee finished a set of paved and chip-sealed pathways alongside the major roads radiating from the Town Center.
• Housing Authority begins working with Neighborhood for Affordable Housing (NOAH), the non-profit developer chosen to build senior affordable housing on the Benfield Land.
• In anticipation of a cut in state aid, the Finance Committee (FinCom) suggests town departments trim budgets by 2%.
• CCHS enrollment spikes. Due to a large temporary jump in Carlisle’s share of the high school enrollment, it is announced that Carlisle’s assessment may rise as much as $700,000 for the next three years.
• The Carlisle School Committee (CSC) announces that it is looking at forming a superintendency union between the Carlisle and Concord school districts in order to potentially reduce administrative costs. Unlike under full regionalization, Carlisle would continue to own the school property. Possible functions that would be centralized in Concord include superintendent and business offices, technology and facilities maintenance. On January 21 the topic is discussed with administrators, teachers, parents, town officials and other citizens.
• Reverend Keith Greer steps down as senior pastor at the Carlisle Congregational Church after serving the congregation since 1975.
Reverend Steven James Weibley is installed as pastor in February, after serving the church for 23 years as choir director and, since 1992, as associate pastor.
• Town surveys are mailed to residents to poll needs for services relating to transportation, housing, healthcare, town government, community activities and socialization.
• After concerns are raised about the safety and efficacy of the mosquito control program being proposed by the Board of Health (BOH), David Henley, Superintendent of the East Middlesex Mosquito Control Program is invited to a conservation coffee to discuss the program.
• The Carlisle School celebrates Chinese New Year with festivities including crafts, song and dance (see photo below.)
• Carlisle’s seventh grade performs Into the Woods, Jr., a compendium of “fractured” fairy tales, before appreciative audiences February 10 - 12.
• The bicentennial anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s birth is celebrated on February 13 with a program of music, lecture and performance at CCHS, sponsored by the Steinberg-Lalli Charitable Foundation and the Concord Historical Commission.
• The Planning Board reviews a new wind turbine bylaw proposal prepared by the town’s Alternative Energy Committee. The proposal would establish standards for locating and using wind turbines, dependent on special permits to be issued by the Zoning Board of Appeals. About 30 citizens attend a public hearing on the topic where questions are raised about noise, visual impact and the effect of private wind turbines on neighboring property values. A public hearing on proposed bylaw changes for solar power systems draws fewer questions. The proposal would add solar systems to the list of permitted uses.
• The Community Preservation Committee (CPC) receives four applications for funding under the Community Preservation Act (CPA).The CPC votes to defer consideration of repairs to the 103-year-old Cranberry Bog House until next year, given that the request for $130,000 by Land Stewardship Committee exceeds the available CPA funds. They recommend $775,000 for repairs to the Gleason Library, $445,000 for stabilization and fire protection upgrades for the Highland Building and $16,100 for the open space and recreation plan update.
• School Building Committee seeks $450,000 for schematic designs for the proposed project to replace the Spalding Building and renovate other parts of the Carlisle School campus.
• Real estate tax abatement requests are up 70% over last year. Of the 73 requests, 42 involve lots rather than houses.
• Dow Jones Industrial Average hits low of 6,440.
• Town Caucus on March 2 lacks nominations to fill one vacancy on the Board of Selectmen (BOS) and another on the Planning Board. The only contested position is Gleason Library Trustee, sought by both Larissa Shyjan and Jay Luby. Caucus moderator Tim Hult asks people to correct any mistakes he might make, explaining “my mind is a little numb from snow shoveling and stock watching.”
Attorney Peter Scavongelli later steps forward to run for the unopposed BOS vacancy and David Freedman decides to run for the Planning Board.
• CCHS students revisit issues surrounding the Vietnam War with a strong performance of the musical Miss Saigon.
• The Carlisle School Committee decides to hire a consultant to help investigate the pros and cons of forming a superintendency union with Concord. The firm chosen was the New England School Development Council (NESDEC).
At the state level, Carlisle’s State Representative Cory Atkins is a co-sponsor of an education bill (H412) that revises the law governing formation of a superintendency union and includes language to grant the state the authority to force consolidation of school districts when, in the judgment of the education commissioner, “such action would consolidate administrative functions and serve to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of educational programs.”
• The Board of Health (BOH) states in a letter to the Selectmen that “Although the Board continues to be concerned about the potential health risks from West Nile Virus and Eastern Equine Encephalitis, the Board does not believe that this is the best time to ask for the town’s attention to this matter, given the many overriding economic concerns facing the community.”Selectmen vote to remove the BOH-sponsored Warrant Article for May Town Meeting that would have Carlisle join the Eastern Middlesex Mosquito Control Project.
• Rachel Page Elliott, 96, passes away at her home at River Road Farm on March 20, after a 16-month battle with cancer. She moved with her husband, Dr. Mark Elliott, to Carlisle in 1946. She was a world authority on dog anatomy and joint movement. She also created over 1,500 wooden jigsaw puzzles, one of which raised $27,000 at a charity auction to support the Golden Retriever Club of America.
• Carlisle School Business Manager Heidi Zimmerman resigns. “I never would have been looking for a job but for what has been going on with the superintendency union,” she said. In October, Susan Pray is promoted from within the business office to the position of Acting Business Manager.
• Dairy farmer Mark Duffy says that after farming at Great Brook Farm State Park for 22 years he and his wife Tamma are working with state Division of Conservation and Recreation to build a new dairy barn to hold 120 cows and feature the state’s first robotic milking system. The present barn, which holds about 145 cows, will continue to be used. As of December, the barn is built, but funding for the robotic milking equipment has been delayed.
• The Planning Board asks the Selectmen not to move the alternative energy Warrant Article at Town Meeting in May. The board believes that the impact of wind turbines has not been adequately addressed. The Selectmen withdraw the Warrant Article.
• In preparation for Town Meeting, the Finance Committee (FinCom) votes against spending $445,000 in CPA funds to repair Highland, while the Carlisle School Committee votes to support the spending. The School Committee also votes unanimously to support Warrant Article 21, which would transfer control of the Highland Building to the Selectmen.
• Swine flu (H1N1 influenza) cases begin appearing in neighboring towns and some schools close temporarily. Cases do not appear in Carlisle schoolchildren until some time later, after schools are advised to remain open during the outbreak.
• Town Meeting supports all building projects, including $775,000 for Gleason repairs; $450,000 for schematic designs for Carlisle School renovations; $445,000 for stabilizing the Highland Building; and $750,000 for capital improvements at the high school.
Voters reject creation of a $300 fine for public consumption of marijuana. The fine had been proposed by the police department after state restrictions were weakened on marijuana use in 2008.
• Town Administrator Madonna McKenzie announces her retirement, effective September 30, after serving the town for nine years.
• Cellular communications antennas for Omnipoint/T-Mobile are installed in the steeple of the First Religious Society.
• At the Memorial Day observances, Maris Platais shares his experiences living as a boy in Europe during World War II and later emigrating with his family to the United States.
• CCHS cuts 4.75 full-time-equivalent faculty positions in response to unanticipated budget shortfall caused by cuts in state aid.
• Steve Bober retires after serving 32 years as an English teacher and literacy specialist at the Carlisle School. At CCHS, retirees include social studies teacher Andrei Joseph (31 years), physical education teacher Dick Kerr (34 years), guidance counselor Brad McGrath (28 years), special education teacher Kathy Pendergast (20 years) and health coordinator Kathy Bowen (10 years).
• The Carlisle School Committee hears from consultants that a proposed superintendency union with Concord would offer only limited savings and the committee decides to drop the plan and investigate alternatives.
• New Veterans Honor Roll Memorial is constructed on the Town Common. Over 300 attend the dedication ceremony on June 28.
• The Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) sends the town a written commitment to reimburse 40% of the design phase of the Carlisle School Building project.
• Several hundred species are counted in Carlisle on July 4 by local naturalists as part of a biodiversity event organized by Ken Harte.
• The cool wet weather hits tomatoes with “late blight,” the same pathogen which caused the Irish potato blight in the 1840s. Few organic treatment options are available and most affected plants die within a few days. “I think if you want to be organic and commercial, your goose is pretty much cooked if you get the blight,” says Carlisle resident John Lee, who runs Allendale Farm in Brookline.
• Multiple housebreaks occur during the month. (See related story, page 5.)
• Police interrupt underage drinking at three separate parties, charging a total of 26 youth. Charges will be dropped for those who complete the Restorative Justice program.
• Timothy Goddard is hired as Town Adminstrator, chosen out of a field of over 50 applicants. Goddard, a resident of Littleton, worked previously as Assistant Town Administrator in Framingham and as Town Administrator in Littleton.
• After decades in the making, the first section of the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail officially opens, linking Westford, Chelmsford and Lowell. The completed section ends near the Carlisle border at Route 225 by the intersection with Route 27. The next section, not yet funded for construction, is to include roughly 800-feet of trail in Carlisle.
• The Board of Health (BOH) plans H1N1 flu clinics, complicated by uncertainties and delays in state distribution of vaccine.
• The CSC votes to rehire NESDEC to investigate new options for restructuring and consolidating the school administration.
• Bomb threats at CCHS lead to cancellation of after-school activities for two afternoons and tight security during school on Friday, September 25. Security precautions include metal detectors and a bomb-sniffing dog. Later that day police arrest and charge Gregory Collison, an 18-year-old CCHS senior.
• The CCHS Facilities Master Plan Committee hires the architectural firm, The Office of Michael Rosenfeld (OMR), to develop a master plan for high school facility renovation. MSBA invites CCHS to enter the feasibility study phase for building projects eligible for possible state reimbursement. It is not immediately clear whether renovations other than repairs would be eligible for funding. Superintendent Diana Rigby said, “We’ve been invited to the dance, but we’re not sure what we’re doing yet.”
• CCHS radio station WIQH 88.3 FM, formerly limited by its 100 watt signal, is now heard world-wide via Internet simulcast at www.wiqh.org.
• In one of the shortest Town Meetings in years, on October 5, voters approve two budget bookkeeping Articles and adjourn within 17 minutes. The Articles adjust for changes in state Quinn Bill police incentive and MSBA school building assistance disbursements.
• Carlisle receives $114,381 from the state in a 34.8% match of funds raised locally through the Community Preservation Act (CPA) real estate tax surcharge. Since 2002, the town has received a total of $1.9 million in CPA matching grants from the state.
• Consultants to the Carlisle School Committee, NESDEC, report that the administrative restructuring option with the largest potential savings is to combine the roles of superintendent and principal, reducing the number of administrators from five to four.
• Minuteman Regional School District Superintendent Ed Bouquillon announced that MSBA has approved funding 40% of a feasibility study for “a potential limited addition and/or renovation to the existing building.” Since only 1.7% of the regional technical high school enrollment is from Carlisle, the town’s share of the estimated $1.1 million study is $12,287.
• Carlisle ends 150 years as a dry town as Ferns Country Store begins selling wine and beer in a newly expanded area of the store.
• Carlisle School weathers a momentous week. The school initiates a lock-down after a threatening message is found in a boys bathroom on November 18. Superintendent Marie Doyle says that the student responsible is identified by his handwriting. Two days later a second message appears, this time a bomb threat, and the school is evacuated. In the first case, a boy faces charges in Framingham Juvenile Court with “threats to commit a crime – causing disruption to a school.” The second investigation remains open. According to Inspector Andy Booth, “We do have a suspect, but we don’t have enough evidence to go forward with charges right now.” Chief John Sullivan explains that the police have been “unable to get a person through the State Police to assist with handwriting analysis.”
On November 18 the Carlisle School Committee reaches agreement with the Carlisle Teachers Association on a new three-year contract, five months after the previous contract expired. Superintendent Doyle announces her resignation, effective June 30. In spite of audience opposition, the School Committee votes to adopt a combined superintendent/principal administrative structure. Soon afterward, Wendell Sykes resigns from the School Committee.
• The national unemployment rate climbs to 10.0%. Carlisle is not immune and unemployment rises through the year from 3.8% to 6.7%. (Data supplied by Massachusetts Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development Division of Unemployment assistance: http://lmi2.detma.org/Lmi/town_comparison.asp.)
• The Selectmen form a Structural Financial Planning Committee to look for ways to achieve a roughly $250,000 long-term expense reduction in town government through regionalization or other restructuring. The FinCom looks for near-term savings and asks non-school departments to describe how a possible 10% cut in budgets might impact town services. Many departments say a 10% cut would result in reduced services and lay-offs.
• BOH holds its first H1N1 flu clinic, offering free vaccines for those at highest risk of complications from the disease. The flu pandemic is milder than had been feared. However, by year’s end, an estimated 10,000 people are killed by H1N1 worldwide.
• CCHS Varsity Boys Soccer team captures the MIAA Division 2 title with a 1-0 victory against Palmer and the CCHS Varsity Football team wins the DCL Small School Championship.
• Martha Coakley and Scott Brown are the favorites among the 1,155 Carlisle voters who turned out on December 8 for the special primary elections for the U.S. Senate seat left vacant by the death of Ted Kennedy.
• Selectmen hold a public hearing on the merits of adopting the optional “stretch” building code for energy efficient construction. Architects estimate the Stretch Code would add $23,000 to the cost of the Carlisle School building project.
• CSC hires NESDEC consultants to assist in a search for a new superintendent /principal, beginning with an internal search.
• CCHS becomes the first public high school to perform the two-act musical Falsettos. Performances run smoothly after opposition erupted on-line over the play’s depiction of homosexual relationships.
• Though still 26% below the 2007 peak, the Dow Jones Industrial average ends 2009 approximately 19% higher than a year ago. ∆
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