Collaboration is needed in facilities planning
Carlisle has begun moving toward a more integrated approach to managing the town’s buildings. Toward this end, over the past couple of years the Selectmen created the Municipal Facilities Committee (MFC) and hired a part-time facilities manager. The MFC can help prioritize projects across departments, suggest ideas for improvements and encourage solutions that lower the town’s carbon footprint. The committee has a lot to do as it tackles a backlog of deferred maintenance projects in town buildings. Its budget for the coming fiscal year is about $254K.
The advantages of a centralized approach to facilities management are many. Over time, the committee can learn about the buildings and help develop long-term plans and maintenance schedules. The group has the recommendations of consultants as an excellent starting point, and can also draw on committee volunteers with expertise in construction and engineering.
This approach can also free various departments from the need to bone up on heating systems or roofing techniques and allow them to focus on their main areas of business. This makes particular sense for groups like the library and Town Hall. However, it may be different for others, such as the Police, Fire and DPW, where personnel rely on specialized equipment and facilities when performing their jobs to protect the lives of Carlisle’s residents. For that reason, those responsible for public safety need to participate fully in the decision-making process for changes to their facilities.
The MFC would not be expected to know more about the requirements for a secure sally port than the police, for instance. Likewise, the Fire Department has knowledge about how the proximity of a refueling station can affect emergency response time, and the DPW might have a preference for what facility upgrades are needed most urgently. Does it make sense for the MFC to invite a representative from these groups to attend meetings whenever their buildings will be discussed? The MFC will need to work as equal partners with the subject matter experts—the public safety personnel who work in these departments.
Communication with department heads is vital to designing the projects that best meet the needs of the town. The office trailer idea is a case in point. The town approved a trailer for the Fire Department a couple of years ago, but it was delayed. The MFC now plans to get a trailer for the DPW, though DPW Superintendent Gary Davis has noted that a new salt shed is a top priority since, as the photo on page 5 shows, the current shed is falling apart. Would more coordination between the departments, the MFC and the Finance Committee have changed the schedule for these projects? And what about the Police? One suspects that they may need the temporary office trailer more than anyone—because once the Police Station renovation gets underway, the noise and disruption will make it a very difficult place in which to work.
In the future, the role of the MFC may expand to work with the school, or it may evolve in other ways as it gains experience seeing projects through from design to completion. With a collaborative approach, working hand-in-hand with the town’s departments, the MFC will be a valuable addition to town government. ∆