St. Joseph Hosting Forum on The Many Faces of Homelessness This Sunday

Photo: Everyone should have a home.

With three-quarters of Americans living paycheck-to-paycheck, with little to no emergency savings to draw on, the specter of homelessness is as close as losing a job, a medical emergency or some other unexpected event.

To raise awareness of the unprecedented growth in the number of homeless families and individuals in Massachusetts, the Tricommunity Coalition to End Homelessness is sponsoring “The Many Faces of Homelessness,” a forum to discuss homelessness in the communities of Belmont, Waltham and Watertown.

 The forum will be held on Sunday, April 26, from 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. at St. Joseph Parish Hall, 130 Common St.

Supported by local civic and religious organizations, the event focuses attention on the realities of the homeless populations in our towns. The founding members of the Tricommunity Coalition include New Roads Catholic Community (the parishes of St. Joseph and St. Luke) and the Advocacy Network to End Family Homelessness.

Doors will open at 1 pm for refreshments and an opportunity to meet with representatives from more than a dozen organizations that serve the homeless in our communities who will staff exhibits and provide information on their work. This will also offer an opportunity for individuals attending the forum to become involved in programs that assist homeless individuals and families.

Libby Hayes, Executive Director of Homes for Families and advocate for improving housing options, is the keynote speaker. Representatives from local social service, housing and public safety organizations will participate on a panel to discuss their programs’ impact on homeless families, individuals and youth. Panelists include:

  • Tori LaPon from Mary House, a family shelter in Waltham;  
  • Brian Costello, director of the Watertown Housing Authority;  
  • Sgt. Robert Scarpone, Waltham Area Homeless Assistance Coalition;  
  • Dick Rogers, Bristol Lodge Men’s and Women’s Shelter; 
  • Ann Copeman, Homeless Student representative, Waltham Public Schools
  • Julie Land, Waltham Day Center.

Individuals who have been homeless will share their experiences.

Local legislators State Sen. Will Brownsberger and State Reps. Dave Rogers, John Lawn, and Jonathan Hecht will offer their perspectives on pending legislation and respond to questions from attendees. 

It’s Official: Town Day Set for Saturday, May 16 in Belmont Center

Photo: Town Day in Belmont.

Town Day will take place on Saturday, May 16 in Belmont Center after the Belmont Board of Selectmen gave the annual event its blessing at its meeting on Tuesday, April 21. 

Hosted by the Belmont Center Business Association and sponsored by Belmont Savings Bank, kiddy rides, a petting zone sponsored by the Belmont Lions Club, food, and tables manned by organizations and businesses will be located along Leonard Street.

Any group, business or individual seeking to rent a table at Town Day can do so until May 1 at the BCBA web site.

The morning and afternoon event takes place the day after Belmont High School celebrates its prom. 

Belmont Rugby Knocked About by BC High for First Loss

Photo: Belmont Rugby.

Before the season began, Belmont High Rugby’s Head Coach Greg Bruce said he had heard rumblings that Boston College High School’s rugby club would be a challenger this year.

“BC High is coming into the season with high hopes,” said Bruce, noting that Belmont defeated BC High twice last season, including in last year’s playoff semifinals.

“But they’ve been really quiet about what they’re doing so that makes me wonder.” 

Bruce’s speculation of the Eagles’ aptitude was in evidence on a wind-swept field in Boston’s Columbia Point as Belmont came upon a highly physical BC High XV (for 15 players) that used its skill to win the ball after each tackle to take control of the match to defeat the visitors, 20-7, on Wednesday, April 15.

Belmont currently sports a 2-1 record against Division 1 teams, and 3-1 overall. 

After falling behind 5-0, Belmont’s senior captain Darren Chan faked out a defender and sped 25 meters for a five-point try (similar to scoring a touchdown) with Luke Gallagher kicking the two-point conversion to put Belmont out in front. 

But the host Eagles were able to take advantage of their superior skill at winning “breakouts” – the time after a tackle when players group over the ball to take possession of the ball – and not allowing Belmont to play its game of running its quick backs against its opponents.

While Belmont threatened BC through out the game, moving in close three times in the second half, BC High was able to make the stops they needed. A pair of late trys sealed the game in BC High’s advantage.

Belmont Rugby is currently on a week-long playing tour on the Algarve Coast of Portugal before meeting another historically-strong team, St. John’s Prep High School, on Wednesday, April 29, at 7 p.m. at Harris Field. 

Average Belmont Water, Sewer Bill Going Up About $40 Next Year

Photo: Belmont water and sewer rates.

Belmont households and businesses will see their water and sewer bill increase by a combined 2.6 percent beginning in July as the Belmont Board of Selectmen approved the recommendations from the Belmont Department of Public Works on Tuesday, April 21, at the Beech Street Center.

The average Belmont homeowner who uses 20 HCF (hundred cubic feet) of water each three-month will see their bill jump by $10.13 – from the current $389.77 to $399.90 – in their quarterly bill from the town, nearly topping $1,600 for the coming fiscal year, according to Jay Marcotte, the town’s DPW director.

Those households and businesses the DPW dubbed as “heavy users” will see their bill increase by $27 per quarter.

The increase set for fiscal year 2016 is a significant drop from last year’s 4.6 percent jump in the combined rate.

Marcotte said Belmont’s rate increases are greatly influenced by the assessment from the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority, which supplies the town with water and takes its sewage. And a significant percentage of the MWRA pricing – 63 percent in fiscal 2016 – is influenced by “the large amount of debt it holds.” now topping $400 million in debt in fiscal ’16.

And Marcotte said the MWRA’s assessment will spike upwards – specifically in 2017 and 2020 – due to large increases in scheduled debt payments.

The rate increases come as Belmont residents have steadily reduced their consumption of water usage over the past two decades. From a high of 1.05 billion gallons consumed in 1995, households and businesses have decreased their water usage to 767 million gallons in 2014.

But while households’ have become more efficient and consumption trends point downward, “rates will need to increase to maintain and serve the public,” said Marcotte as fixed costs of capital projects and operation costs continued to rise.

The largest capital reinvestment program – which began in 1995 – is to replace every water main installed before 1928 or about 38 miles of pipes. As of today, 24 miles – or 63 percent – of the work is complete. In addition, the town has replaced two sewage pump stations while moving forward with a new pump station in the Winn Brook area.

After Review, PGA Rejects Rock Meadow for Golf Tournament Parking

Photo: Rock Meadow Conservation Land. 

A plan to use town conservation land off upper Concord Avenue to park nearly 1,000 vehicles during an upcoming professional golf tournament at Belmont Country Club in June has been abandoned, according to an email from the town’s conservation agent to a resident.

“At this point in time, the Conservation Commission will not be using Rock Meadow as a parking area for the Constellation golf tournament,” Mary Trudeau, Belmont’s conservation officer, wrote to Jeff Miller today, Tuesday, April 21.

Trudeau did not return a call from the Belmontonian for comment. 

According to Belmont Town Administrator David Kale, the PGA decided after reviewing the anticipated traffic coming to and from Belmont and the “complications of the site” on the number of vehicles onto the site, to relocate the majority of the parking to another area nearby. 

“The PGA is always looking at alternatives and they found one that suits their needs a little bit better,” said Kale.

It is unknown where the parking will be situated. 

The change comes a week after the Belmont Conservation Commission narrowly approved a conditional agreement to allow the Professional Golf Association Tour (PGA) to use approximately 11 acres of Rock Meadow Conservation Land for up to 1,000 parking spaces to support crowds attending the Constellation Senior Players Championship, one of the five “major” tournaments of the PGA’s Champions Tour for players over 50 years old.

The tournament will take place from Thursday, June 11 to Sunday, June 14 at the Belmont Country Club. 

During the debate whether to approve the conditional agreement – any fees to use the meadow would be placed in the ConCom’s Victory Garden reserve account to pay for the biannual mowing – Trudeau said the town forces her “to go begging” for grants and other funding to maintain the land as Belmont does not provide monies to the ConCom.

After news of the agreement was made public, several residents questioned the vote to place upwards of 1,000 cars in three locations on the meadow.

The PGA’s decision was welcomed news to those who felt the number of vehicles could lead to pollution and damage to nearby wetlands. 

“For both public policy and environmental reasons, I’m pleased that the decision appears to have been reversed.  Now I’d like to see the town add a budget item for meadow maintenance, and I also encourage all users to donate to the Friends of Rock Meadow,” Miller, a Precinct 1 Town Meeting member, told the Belmontonian. 

Neither Wind Nor Hills Nor 26 Miles: Conroy is Belmont’s Swiftest Marathoner

Photo: Charlie Conroy at Heartbreak Hill. (Courtesy photo)

The unofficial motto of the US Postal Service is “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.”

In a slightly modified version of the postman’s code, Belmont resident Charlie Conroy didn’t allow the wind, rain, hills (both going up and down) and miles of asphalt prevent him from being the swiftest Belmontian participating in the 119th Boston Athletic Association Marathon.

On Monday afternoon, April 20, Conroy mastering the historic 26.2 mile route in three hours, two minutes and 40 seconds, in chilly conditions with a strong head wind and rain.

“I was very pleased with my race; I ran a Boston personal best this year. Again, given the poor weather, that was especially rewarding,” said the Channing Road resident, well known as a leader of Belmont Second Soccer.

Becca Pizzi was the first Belmont female resident to cross the finish line on Boylston Street in 3:28:11.

Conroy said he was spurred on by the race by seeing family and friends along the route.

“My family were watching at the top of Heartbreak Hill [in Newton], so that was all I could think about as I ran through the Newton Hills. It was great to see them and know that it was mostly downhill from there. I also saw several other friends from Belmont in Wellesley and Newton, so that was just great to hear their cheers of support,” he said.

“Given the terrible weather, the crowds were less than in prior years but we’re still very noisy in their support. They make this race so special. So I would like to thank all of the residents of Belmont, who were cheering along the course, they helped every runner through the hard patches along the route,” he said.

Conroy wanted to congratulate all those running on Monday as undertaking a marathon, “a huge achievement regardless of time.”

“I have equal admiration for the 2:10 Marathon champ and the 5:30 marathon competitor. Both were able to train for and run 26.2 miles,” said Conroy.

The Belmont finishers include:

  1. Charlie Conroy, 3:02:40
  2. John Carey, 3:05:20
  3. Damien Pinault, 3:14:55
  4. Becca Pizzi, 3:28:11
  5. Christina Pickering, 3:35:12
  6. Virginia Cox, 3:35:53
  7. Laurent Canneva, 3:36:42
  8. Glenn Imboywa, 3:37:50
  9. Carolyn Mehaffey, 3:50: 19
  10. Satomi Kato, 3:56:07
  11. Kelly Fanning, 4:01:18
  12. Kimberly Usseglio, 4:06:09
  13. Emily Seaver, 4:06:57
  14. Paul Firth, 4:08:09
  15. Cara Brickley, 4:14:09
  16. Peter Arsenault, 4:18:07
  17. Stefanie Baker, 4:36:28
  18. Apo Ashjian, 4:38:35
  19. Sarkis Chekijian, 4:38:36
  20. James Winter, 4:47:22
  21. Kaleigh Connors, 4:54:22
  22. Stephen Najarian, 5:04:06
  23. Carrie Palmer, 5:05:40
  24. Julie Holt, 5:27:03
  25. Richard Horgan, 5:28:26
  26. Kai Saukkonen, 5:30:59

This (Short) Week: Mega Meeting on Minuteman Tuesday, Earth Day Talk Wednesday

On the government side of “This Week”: 

  • The big four Belmont governmental bodies, the Board of Selectmen and the School, Capital Budget and Warrant committees, will conduct a joint meeting on Tuesday, April 21 at 7:30 p.m. at the Beech Street Center to discuss the latest update on the proposed building project for the Minuteman Regional Vocational High School in Lexington. 
  • The Belmont Board of Selectmen will hold a “quick” meeting before the Minuteman presentation on Tuesday, April 21 at 7 p.m. at the Beech Street Center to sign a proclamation on the centennial of the Armenian Genocide and approve water and sewer rates for the coming fiscal year. 
  • The Community Path Implementation Advisory Committee will meet on Thursday, April 23 at 6 p.m. in Town Hall to identify challenges facing each of the proposed path routes up for consideration. 

• There is no school this week due to Spring Recess. 

• US Rep. Katherine Clark will be holding office hours at noon on Tuesday, April 21 at the Beech Street Center. Her staff frequently bring coffee, so come by and chat.

• The Belmont Garden Club is holding a floral workshop on Wednesday, April 22, fro10 a.m. to noon in the Assembly Room of the Belmont Public Library. 

• Celebrate Earth Day by attending a talk by Environmental Toxicologist Dr. Emily Monosson on “Evolution and Environmental Toxins” presented by Science for the Public on Wednesday, April 22, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. in the Belmont Public Library’s Assembly Room. Monosson, an adjunct professor of Environmental Conservation at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, will speak on how the world is exposed to an unprecedented environmental challenge: try to adapt to countless toxins in air, water, soil and how environmental toxins affect evolutionary mechanisms.

Fossils and dinosaurs will be front and center during a wonderful children’s program at the Belmont Public Library’s Assembly Room on Thursday, April 23 from 2 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. 

• Robin Bromberg of the Alzheimer’s Association will speak at the Beech Street Center on Friday, April 24 at 1:15 p.m. to identify the 10 warning signs of Alzheimer’s Disease to help determine if it’s time to speak to your doctor for a diagnosis for yourself or someone you care about.

Belmont High Baseball Unbeaten at Break Thanks to Another Late Game Win

Photo: Cal Christofori pitching in relief in the 7th inning during Belmont’s 6-3 victory over Arlington, April 17. 

Like students who waits until the last minute to complete their work, the Belmont High School Baseball team has been biding their time until the late innings to eek out a pair of victories.

After Belmont snuck by Stoneham, 8-6, on Tuesday, April 14, the team scored four runs in the penultimate at-bat to defeat Arlington, 6-3, on Friday, April 17, at Grant Field in Belmont.

The wins, along with a blow out of Watertown in the season opener, sends the Marauders into the spring break undefeated, sporting a 3-0 record overall and in the Middlesex League and providing the players some needed confidence.

“The thing we preached in the beginning of the year was mental toughness and they are buying into it,” said Belmont Head Coach Jim Brown.

“They were losing a couple of games and it’s not phasing them and they are getting the bats going as well,” Brown said.

Friday’s heroics came the arm and the bat of Robbie Montanaro who threw two shutout innings in relief of starter Cole Bartels and stroked a two-out, two-run single to score Bartels and catcher Cal Christofori to push Belmont ahead, 5-4, after trailing by a run entering the bottom of the fifth.

Centerfielder Nick Riley’s double sent Montanaro home for the final run in the four-run fifth. 

Riley scored the first run in the second inning, scoring on Bryan Goodwin double.

Monanaro’s run scoring hit was part of the first-baseman/pitcher’s three-RBI day, having scored Bartels in the third with a single.

Christofori moved from catching pitches to throwing them to earn the save hurling a one-hit final inning.

It will be a busy time after the spring recess when Belmont plays on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of next week.

“We have four games the week we get back so they have to be focused like they’ve been so far,” said Brown.

Trash/Recycling Delayed A Day by Patriots’ Day Holiday

Photo: Collection delayed a day.

The scheduled curb-side pickup of trash and recycling in Belmont will be pushed back a day due to the Patriots’ Day holiday, Monday, April 20.

As a result, those households, apartments and businesses who have their garbage cans and recycling bins emptied on Monday of this week will need to wait until tomorrow, Tuesday, to drag it to the street.

Aftermath: One Store Gone, Others to Return after Belmont Street Blaze

Photo: The day after a fire destroyed Jimmy’s Food Mart.

The acrid smell from a fire that destroyed a Belmont Street convenient store Saturday night, April 18, remained in the air Sunday morning as an emergency services business was preparing to board up the burned out structure.

The interior of Jimmy’s Food Mart, at 297 Belmont St., was black and scorched, the food and fixtures burned, illuminated by the sunlight coming through the collapsed roof, the result of a three-alarm fire that began in the back of the store around 7:30 p.m. 

The blaze – which sent flames high into the air at the corner of Belmont and School streets – brought fire equipment in from Watertown, Cambridge and Waltham resulting in closing the major thoroughfare. 

While Jimmy’s is considered a loss, owners of the half dozen small businesses came by to enter their offices and stores to view how much damage they sustained. While the fire was substantial, the fast work by fire fighters and the structure of the building prevented an ever greater loss.

“It doesn’t appear that bad because of the fire wall and how quick the [fire departments] fought the fire,” said one business owner who did not want to be identified.

Many of the store fronts had front doors open to begin the process of airing out their businesses and discover how much water damage they had sustained. Owners were approached by cleaning and information recovery firms to help in the process.

When asked if his firm could be up and running after utilities are back, the owner said “Yes, that’s a possibility.”