Town’s Financial ‘Watchdog’ Follows Selectmen Recommending ‘No’ On Minuteman

Photo: The interior of the new Minuteman Tech High School.

In a vote that was not unexpected, the town’s Warrant Committee voted Wednesday, April 27, to recommend next week’s Town Meeting rejects a $144 million funding plan for a new building to house the Minuteman Career and Technical High School.

The 8 to 6 vote came two days after the Belmont Board of Selectmen voted Monday, April 25, unanimously to recommend “unfavorable action” on the financing program that would have the 10 communities that now represent a newly reconstituted Minuteman school district – which Belmont Town Meeting Members overwhelmingly approved in February at a Special Town Meeting – picking up about $100 million in expenses as the state will reimburse $45 million in costs. 

Under the financing plan, each of the ten district communities Town Meetings must approve the building project. So far, most of the smaller towns such as Acton, Stowe and Boxborough have voted in favor of the plan. In an important decision just days before the two Belmont votes, Arlington’s financial committee which has the same role as Belmont’s Warrant Committee, recommended a “yes” vote to Arlington’s Town Meeting which convenes in mid-May.

As with the selectmen’s vote the previous night, a majority of the committee expressed that the building, designed to house 630 students, is too large for the ten member communities in the Minuteman School District who send about 340 high schoolers to the Lexington campus.

Belmont currently sends 26 students to the school, which is about the average number over the past decade. 

In addition, those opposing the plan contend there is no assurance other than recent favorable comments from officials from Everett and Watertown – two communities outside the district that pays a higher tuition per pupil to send them to Minuteman – that any of the out-of-district cities and towns that send students to Minuteman are willing to join the district and take on a sizable chunk of the capital expense of a new school, or are prepared to back a $8,400 per student surcharge the district is seeking to help defer the cost of the building. 

Finally, even if others would step up to the plate to subsidize the cost, Belmont would be saddled with an annual payment over 20 years of between $372,000 and $500,000 of its share of the construction costs. 

“We simply don’t have the money. It would require us to cut [town and school] programs to find the funds,” said Paolillo, saying the town would need to request a debt exclusion to pay for the building around the same time the town will approach residents seeking a possible $100 million debt exclusion for the renovation and new construction at Belmont High School.  

“We really have no other options,” said Paolillo, who believes a no vote – which will scuttle the plan – will require the Minuteman district to come up with a Plan B, which the district members can take a new look at the issues facing the school. 

Pleading the case for a new school building, Minuteman Superintendent Ed Bouquillon reiterated the hope that a new school building, sized to allow for the teaching a wide range of trades and areas of engineering studies in addition to greater interest nationwide among high school aged student in learning technical subjects.

Bouquillon also noted that a school built for 435 student – the smallest that the state will reimburse – would cost $120 million. While admitting that the $24 million difference “is significant,” it should be seen as an “incremental cost” when you understand the upside of having a school with greater potential of serving a wider population with a significant number of programs.

Supporters on the committee, including newly installed chair Roy Epstein, said despite the cost, “it was better off going forward than stopping and starting over” without the assurance that the new plan would be better for Belmont and its students.

But the majority decided a “rethink on this whole district” is needed, said committee member Bob McLaughlin.

Belmont High’ Smarties Battling Saturday for Semi-Finals in Channel 2’s ‘High School Quiz Show’

Photo: Belmont High’s High School Quiz Show team.

A quartet of smart kids from Belmont High School will take on their peers from Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High for the final place in the semi-finals of WGBH 2’s High School Quiz Show today, Saturday, April 30 at 6 p.m.

Lexington High School, Newton North High School and the Advanced Math and Science Academy have all advanced to the semi-finals.

High School Quiz Show is a 16-team tournament-style academic game show hosted by local TV and radio personality Billy Costa. The weekly show features four rounds of competition, with the question and answer sections varying by stage. Each high school chosen sends a team of four into the intellectual fracas, a single-elimination bracket that culminates in the state finals May 21.

Yard Sales Have Returned; Don’t Forget To File For Free Permit

Photo: Yard sales in Belmont.

With the return of yard sale season, the Belmont Town Clerk’s office reminds residents to file for on of your free yard sale permits by visiting the Town Clerk’s web page, before the start of your sale.

Click here to file for a private sale permit for free.

In order to hold a private sale – also known as garage sales, yard sales, tag sales, – in Belmont, you must first register for a free Private Sale Permit per new Belmont General Bylaw 60-900. To apply for your free Private Sale Permit you will need to fill out the online form and have the following information available: 

  • Your last name, first name, phone number and e-mail address.
  • The address in Belmont where the private sale will be held.
  • The starting and ending dates of the sale. Note that these dates must be on a Saturday and/or Sunday 
  • The starting and ending times for the sale

Please note that for Neighborhood Sales, each address must file for its own Private Sale Permit.*

You will receive the permit via email as soon as you submit the request for the specified date, time, and address. If you do not see an email from, check your Spam or Junk Mail folder.

If you do not have access to the internet or email, contact the Town Clerk’s office at (617) 993-2600 or visit us in person at Town Hall for assistance.

Private sales are limited to three per address per calendar year. If you have applied for a permit and the sale is canceled due to rain, contact the Town Clerk to have that permit restored to your annual allowance.

If the database indicates that three such sales have already occurred at the address, no additional permits will be issued for the current calendar year.

Not only do you fulfill the bylaw requirement and receive a bit of free advertising in exchange. Yard Sale hunters can easily search for Belmont sales as a list or on a map. Please visit, Enter Yard Sale in the search bar at the top of the website. 

Patriots Are Back For Boosters Fundraiser, May 16

The champs are back!
Members of the New England Patriots are returning to Belmont High School on Monday, May 16 as the Belmont Boosters Club will host the third annual New England Patriots Basketball Game, which pits members of the Belmont community against members of the 2014 Super Bowl winning football team.
Residents, school faculty members, students, business owners and other community members will “square off” against members of the 2014 Super Bowl winning football team at Belmont High School’s Wenner Field House. Doors open at 6:30 p.m.
Attendees will have autograph opportunities, as well as a chance to win a Pats autographed football.
Proceeds will benefit the Belmont Boosters, a 501(c)(3) organization, whose mission is to encourage participation in and provide financial support to the Belmont High School athletics programs.
For information on tickets and how you can play in the game, call 617-904-7542.

Thank You, Override: School Budget To End Fiscal Year In Balance

Photo: A school budget in the black? 

Last year this month, the Belmont School District and School Committee were scrambling to someway fill a $536,000 deficit by the end of fiscal year 2015 which loomed in two months.

In the end, the district with a cup in hand to ask for $285,000 from the Warrant Committee and drained the Special Ed Stabilization Fund of its $250,000.

As fiscal year 2016 is coming close to closing, the deficit facing the district is far more modest. In fact, if everything breaks its way, the district could arrive on June 30 living in the black.

That’s the hope coming from Belmont Public School Superintendent John Phelan and Tony DiCologero, the district’s finance and business and operations director, who presented a forecast of the total general fund. According to DiCologero, an analysis of the revenue and expense trends, the anticipated shortfall on June 30, the final day of the fiscal year, will be approximate $23,000.

Phelan said the improved fiscal condition of the schools was directly related to the passage in April 2015 of the $4.5 million Proposition 2 1/2 override allowing the district to manage the continuing high number of students entering the system which had created a financial

“We have to thank the taxpayers for passing the override to allow us to navigate the increase in enrollment that continues,” said Phelan. 

The projected loss is lower from the last time the school district calculated the deficit in December when the forecasted number was $58,000. Much of the reduction has to do with district-wide positive trends district including in salaries where savings have been seen from staff turnover where the new hires are coming in a much lower pay rate.

The district will be seeking, even more, savings when it places a halt on purchase invoices early next month. 

“If this works as we hope, we could end the year in the black,” said Phelan. 

Belmont Firefighters Agree To Drug/Alcohol Testing In New Contract

Photo: Belmont Fire in action.

Drug and alcohol testing policy is now part of firefighters job after the Belmont Board of Selectmen approved a three-year contract with the 54 members of the International Association of Firefighter Local 1637 at its Monday, April 25 meeting. 

“The firefighters really stepped up to the plate with the town” reaching an agreement after two years of negotiations, said Belmont Fire Department Chief David Frizzell. 

While the mandatory testing is new to the department, “it’s becoming the norm among the majority of top tier fire departments,” said Assistant Fire Chief Angus Davison.

The contract, which is retroactive to July 1, 2014, and runs through June 31, 2017, provides for an annual salary cost and living adjustment of two percent and while 13 personnel will see their yearly Advanced Life Savings stipend bumped up from $2,000 to $2,750. 

New employees will pay more for their health insurance contributions, from 20 to 25 percent, while seeing a 25 cent increase per hour in compensation. There are also changes in benefits for personnel who obtain associate’s and bachelor’s degrees in fire science. 

Stand-Up Campaign Hosting ‘Kindness, Decency and Civil Discourse’ Sunday, May 1st

Photo: The poster for The Stand-up Campaign event.

The Stand-up Campaign, a non-partisan, non-political initiative formed to promote civil discourse and community engagement, is hosting an interactive community conversation titled “Kindness, Decency and Civil Discourse” on Sunday, May 1 from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. in the Assembly Room at the Belmont Public Library, 336 Concord Ave. A social time will run from 1:30 p.m. to 2 p.m.

Adults, teens, educators and school officials, town administrators and elected officials, coaches and sports administrators, public health and safety officers from Belmont and surrounding communities are encouraged to attend and to share experiences and best practices.

“There is increasing polarity in our country, and we have heard from many in the community who are committed to bringing people of differing opinions together to find common ground,” said Donna Ruvolo, the Stand-Up Campaign’s spokesperson and co-founder. 

“This event will be an upbeat, ‘hands-on’ conversation on ideas and plans for future programming and events.”

The Stand-up Campaign has partnered with Belmont Against Racism and the Unitarian Universalist Social Action Committee for this event.

 For more information, please contact Donna Ruvolo at 617-489-5446.  

Citizen Petition Triggers Special Town Meeting Targeting Wireless Antennae at Plymouth Church

Photo: The Plymouth Congregational Church.

A group of residents, many who have led the effort to halt the installation of cellular antennae inside the steeple of Plymouth Congregational Church on Pleasant Street, have successfully filed a citizen’s petition that now requires the town to hold a Special Town Meeting in June aimed at placing a steep roadblock to the plans by the church and its telecommunication giant partner.

As the petitioners are pushing to add more stringent requirements on this and other future wireless projects, church leaders told the Belmontonian they are moving forward with a revised plan they anticipate will pass muster before a small governmental commission that is hearing the proposal.

The Special Town Meeting, which Belmont Town Clerk Ellen Cushman said will likely take place on June 8 during the budget session of the annual Town Meeting, will ask Members to change the town’s bylaw on the installation of internal wireless telecommunications facilities.

The language of the petition – signed by 242 residents – seeks to modify the town’s current zoning bylaws in which smaller cell installations are currently “allowed by right” – in which no town oversight is needed to obtain a building permit – to requiring property owners to get a “special permit” before commencing work, “giving interested Belmont residents an opportunity to provide input to the deliberations of the Zoning Board of Appeal.”

Precinct 4’s Judith Sarno – who with Karen Herosian, Danny Morris and Ron Creamer sponsored the petition – said the petition is a “modest amendment to bring the zoning for wireless telecommunications facilities into the 21st century and offer residents a voice,” and not an attempt to disallow these operations from operating in Belmont.

“[We] are simply asking Town Meeting to allow for more transparency and some notice to concerned neighbors, by simply changing [the bylaw] to a Special Permit,” said Sarno.

Under the special permit requirement, a property owner would be required to present its plan before the Zoning Board of Appeals to demonstrate that a cell tower would not place a burden on the neighboring community. The new requirement would also require notification of neighbors and allow for comments from residents before the ZBA.

In recent rulings, the ZBA has demonstrated a propensity to rule against commercial proposals, from some small day care operations to larger enterprises including a hotel, a Dunkin Donuts franchise and placing stringent restrictions on individual homeowners who put their properties on the popular Airbnb room sharing website.

There are nine existing wireless cell facilities in Belmont; in Belmont Center, a large tower adjacent to the new Highland Cemetery on Concord Avenue and on 125 Trapelo Rd. in Cushing Square, which handles four of the biggest cell providers: AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, and Sprint.

The suggested change to the zoning bylaws after the church finalized an agreement with the telecommunication giant Verizon, which is about to present a revised plan to the Historic District Commission, which must OK any exterior structural changes to the steeple before the major construction can take place.

“Verizon will be presenting a revised design plan to remove the air-conditioning compressors and to retain the wooden louvers, thus eliminating the noise concerns of neighbors and preserving the current appearance of the steeple, respectively,” said 

Verizon has begun preliminary work in the area in January after the Planning Board approved the design and site plan review to place the antenna inside the steeple.

“As of now the work is related solely to Verizon and does not require a building permit,” Glenn Clancy, director of the Office of Community Development, told the Belmontonian in February.

“The Verizon work is allowed as it would be for any private property owner” with the owner taking the “risk onto themselves” if the permit is ultimately not issued, said Clancy.

From the church’s view, a majority of town residents will benefit from better cell reception.

“Town officials and Town Meeting members should take the actions that are appropriate to providing better-quality and reliable cell service to improve the ability of all its residents, visitors and businesses, alike, to conduct business, education and social interactions,” said Chet Messer, chair of the Board of Trustees of Plymouth Church.

Sports: Belmont Remain Undefeated With Shutout Win Over Woburn

Photo: Belmont sophomore southpaw Nate Espeline.

Break up the Marauders!

After its 3-0 shutout win Monday afternoon, April 25 over Woburn behind another stellar outing from sophomore southpaw Nate Espelin (a two-hit, six strikeout workmanlike afternoon), Belmont High Baseball has been playing some of the best baseball in the state.

Monday’s victory at the Grant was Belmont’s sixth win in as many games this season and atop the Middlesex Liberty Division, a place Marauders head coach Jim Brown is happy to be in.

“You always want to be 6 and 0,” he said.

A little over a third of the way through the season, Belmont has found a little pop in its bats which serves an impressive pitching staff – sophomores Espelin and Max Meier, both 2-0, have complimented last year’s Middlesex MVP Cole Bartels who has a 0.00 ERA in his two wins, striking out an average of 13 batters per game.

In its six games, the pitching staff has given up just two earn runs. And this is with senior starter Joe Shaughnessy on the shelf with a tweaked shoulder.

“Our young pitchers are throwing strikes and not getting into trouble. That’s a nice thing to have,” said Brown.

Espelin got all the runs he needed with two outs in the first with the big blow coming from centerfielder Bryan Goodwin who singled in two runs, part of a four hit barrage started by catcher Cal Christofori’s double and followed by singles from Belmont’s big boys, first base Dennis Crowley (with the rbi) and DH Ryan Noone.

It was left up to the lefty to hold the lead. Espelin never faced more than four batters in the innings he pitched, giving up just a pair of singles.

Next up for the Marauders is Lexington, a team they have had difficulty beating in the last three years, at home on Wednesday, April 27 at 3:45 p.m.  The Minutemen will be matched up against Bartels.