Highland Committee reviews data

by Karina Coombs

The Highland Committee met on January 4 to review its initial report to the Board of Selectmen (BOS), presented on December 18. Acknowledging that the board was no longer interested in pursuing the Highland property as a housing option, the group continued to focus on the site’s potential as a community cultural center or Department of Developmental Services (DDS) adult day center facility.

The committee also met with Carlisle School Buildings and Grounds Supervisor and Fire Department Chief David Flannery to gauge his concerns in regards to safety in and around the Highland property and to see how the committee’s preliminary site plan fit with the Carlisle School emergency evacuation plan. The committee planned to meet again on January 10 to begin drafting its final report to the Selectmen.

Selectmen review

The committee discussed its meeting with the BOS and agreed that funding seemed to be the board’s main concern with the community cultural center option outlined. (See “Selectmen still searching for optimal Highland use,” December 19, 2012.) The group discussed how it could get core groups within town to publicly express interest in such a facility and to commit funding for annual operational costs, estimated at $45K, which includes a salary for a part-time manager. Committee member and Gleason Library Trustee Priscilla Stevens noted that some groups had shown interest in using space in the Highland Building, but it waned when they discovered there would be a fee. Attending the meeting was Barbara Lewis of the Carlisle Artisans who expressed the group’s interest in the community cultural center proposal, but was not prepared to discuss funding of artist or gallery space, if an option. Says Stevens, “We need organizations to say they need this. We need to have groups willing to say they are interested and interested in funding.”

In terms of raising the funds needed for the renovation of Highland, estimated at between $1.5 and $2 million, Stevens explained how the library raised private funds to support its renovation in 2000. She said that Gleason could serve as a model for the project both in terms of fundraising and oversight, with some key budgeting differences in that one is a town department with an annual budget. Hamor suggested that if the project was for the town and controlled by the town, the town should pay for it.

Committee member and BOS Chair Peter Scavongelli reported that the board was no longer interested in pursuing a housing option given the recent events in Newtown, Connecticut, joining the Carlisle School Committee’s earlier position on such development. Highland Committee and Housing Authority member Randy Brown mentioned that he had positive discussions with DDS and was looking forward to touring the property with them on January 8. The Highland Committee agreed it would have a better sense of final development options once DDS has taken a look at the Highland Building and determined whether or not it would meet its requirements.

Revised emergency evacuation plan

Chief Flannery met with the committee and went over its preliminary site plan along with a recently revised emergency evacuation plan for the Carlisle School. The evacuation plan denotes larger spaces needed for students to gather in the event of an emergency. Hamor explained that the resulting loss of space in certain spots on the site plan might change the number of parking spaces he initially estimated. He also expressed concern about using an area for parking that contained an 80,000-gallon cistern. Overall, Hamor said that the general plan would still work conceptually.

Brown asked Flannery about the presence of physical barriers separating the Highland Building from the rest of the campus, stating that interested parties see a “strong need for a physical barrier.” Flannery explained that the Fire Department and school would need access to the buildings and there could not be a gate unless it has a safety release. Additionally, any gate would have to be at least ten feet wide to accommodate emergency vehicles or construction equipment. Flannery also explained that the Highland Building would have to relocate the rear staircase to bring it up to code.

Asked about his concerns for the development of the building, Flannery stated that he would want to make sure that Highland was set up for fire sprinklers, that the tenants were low-hazard users in terms of fire safety and that any development plans were coordinated with the school’s evacuation plan. ∆