Proposed Ice Rink Gets Guideposts Along With A ‘Fast And Furious’ Timeline

Photo: Town officials speaking on guidelines/time frame for a new ice skating rink in Belmont; (from left) Jon Marshall, Jeffrey Wheeler, Patrice Garvin, Tom Caputo.

During its final meeting until September, the Belmont School Committee voted on Tuesday, June 18 to approve a list of “guiding principles” for a Request for Proposal for a new ice skating rink that will ensure the school district and town will have a significant say in future of the public/private venture.

The list of suggestions that includes size, uses and oversight of the new rink, will provide “potential applicant the freedom to explore a variety of different [design] options,” said Tom Caputo, chair of the Board of Selectmen.

In addition to the guideline, the town presented a very tight timeline going from the release of a draft RFP in early September to finalizing a public/private lease with a selected development team in late November.

“The calendar is critical and that everybody buys into it,” insisted Jeffrey Wheeler, the town’s senior planner who will be working over the next two months with the Town Administrator’s Office and a working group of school committee members creating the RFP.

An anticipated vote on a location of the rink was delayed until after a traffic study is conducted with the aim of determining the best place for the “curb cut” from Concord Avenue.

“We felt that until that was determined, we really couldn’t figure out the place to site the rink,” said Patrice Garvin, Belmont Town Administrator who was joined by Jon Marshall. the assistant town manager who will lead the effort in writing the RFP.

The school committee guidelines include:

• A rink with one and a half sheets of ice is “acceptable” but developers can submit a plan for a single ice sheet.

• developer should minimize the building’s footprint to accomodate three playing fields for high school sports.

• The rink will include between 70 to 90 parking spaces within the site design; the spaces will be available for student parking at the new Middle and High School.

• The need for locker rooms to accommodate the high school teams and can be used for fall and spring sports.

• Ice time will be allocated to the high school teams and reduced rates for Recreation Department programs.

• The developer must submit a financial model to demonstrate financial viability.

• The creation of an oversight committee to secure the terms of the lease are being fulfilled.

While the town will be performing the heavy lifting of creating the proposal with many moving parts, the real challenge is a fast and furious timeline imposed by the town that calls for the approve the RFP, selecting a developer, OKing a lease and then signing a comprehensive public/private agreement all within a tiddy three months.

According to Wheeler, the accelerated timeline starts the day after Labor Day (Sept. 3) with a draft RFP sent to school committee members and the Select Board for edits and review.

It will be followed over the next two weeks by a pair of public meetings (Sept. 10 and 17) for residents input before a final RFP is approved on Sept. 24. A day later, the RFP is out before potential developers who will have a shortened five-week interval to submit a bid to the community development office by Oct. 30.

Just six days later on Nov. 5, the Select Board and the School Committee will select the best proposal followed eight days later on Nov. 13 with Special Town Meeting voting to approve leasing town/school land to a private developer.

Finally, two days before Thanksgiving (Nov. 26), the Select Board and School Committee will award a contract to the winning proposal on Nov. 26.

Construction Underway At New Middle and High School

Photo: The first heavy equipment on site at Belmont High School.

A friend of Belmont Middle and High School Building Committee member Pat Brusch called shortly after 7 a.m. on Tuesday, June 18 to tell her that she could hear from her home the cacophony of beeping warning sounds from trailers bringing bulldozers and other equipment to the field adjacent Belmont High School.

For Building Committee Chair Bill Lovallo, who relayed the story to the committee on Wednesday, June 19, it was nice to hear that the $295 million school building project was getting underway “right on time.”

The first day of the summer recess for Belmont Schools on Tuesday morning coincides with the start of four-plus years of construction to build the new Belmont Middle and High School.

While the demolition of the brick gateway and sidewalk leading to the now decommissioned Brendan Grant Field along Concord Avenue is the most visible demonstration of work being done on the site, the most significant workout is occurring inside the Wenner Field House where the second floor – the location of the small gym – is being ripped out and reconfigured to include temporary locker rooms. Major work related to the Higginbottom Pool has also started.

Lovallo thanked Belmont Superintendent John Phelan along with interim High School Principal John Brow, Steve Dorrance, director of facilities, Athletic Director Jim Davis and the town’s Department of Public Works for “prepping” the field house and the former playing fields so construction could take place on day one, “all while students were still in the building.”

In other news

The committee approved W. L. French Excavating Corp. of North Billerica to perform all the pile foundation work with the first piles driven in the ground outside the field house in August with an ending date in late October.

The building committee also approved hiring a contractor to record precondition of the exterior of approximately 70 homes within 500 feet of the construction site. Those residents will begin receiving notifications in the next few weeks.

“We just want to make sure we have it documented, not that we are expecting any issues,” said Lovallo.

Town Issues Cushing Sq. Starbucks Occupancy Permit

Photo: The location of the new Starbucks in town.

The Belmont Office of Community Development issued a certificate of occupancy to Starbucks Coffee Company on Tuesday, June 19, to allow its cafe at 110 Trapelo Rd. to open for business, said Glenn Clancy, the town’s director of community development.

“It will be opening up any day now,” Clancy told the Belmontonian at the School Committee meeting at the Chenery Middle School.

The cafe is located on the ground floor of the Winslow building in the Bradford development which occupies the block surrounding Common Street, Trapelo Road, Belmont Street, and Williston Road. The apartment/retail/parking project is being built by Toll Brothers Apartment Living.

The 42 seat store staffed with 25 to 35 employees will have approximately 20 off-street parking spaces adjacent to the location.

While the store will be open daily from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m., the company will likely ask the town to approve a closing time of 10 p.m. which was permitted in the special permit approved by the Zoning Board of Appeals.

Summer Recess Begins Monday At Belmont Public Schools

Photo: Final walk out of the Wellington.

The unofficial start of summer begins today, Monday, June 17 as Belmont marks the final day of the 2018-19 public school year.

Students won’t be spending the entire day in class as it is an early release for all grades.

Belmont High School: 10:30 a.m.

Chenery Middle School: 11 a.m.

Burbank, Butler and Wellington elementary schools: 11:40 a.m.

Winn Brook: 11:50 a.m.

Some of the elementary schools will have a final walk out of school of the 4th grade students who will be heading to the Chenery Middle School in the fall.

While school is officially “out” for summer recess, there is one final student event taking place: On Saturday, June 22, Belmont High’s boys’ and girls’ rugby squads will complete in the MIAA Division 1 state championships at Curry College in Milton.

And for parents anxious for a return to normalcy, the 2019-2020 school year for 1-12 grades will begin on Wednesday, Sept. 4, with a half day. Kindergarten students will be starting either on Sept. 5 or 6 for a half day.

Chenery Students Are Champions of Pangolin’s Plight

Photo: A pangolin.

When you think of trafficking animals, the first that come to mind are likely rhinos, tigers, ocean turtles and lions.

But it turns out that one in every four mammals taken from their home in the wild by humans is a slow-moving, cute fellow known as the pangolin or, as some will know them, the scaly anteater.

This wonderful prehistoric creature which lived when dinosaurs ruled the roost 80 million years ago is the only animal that has protective keratin scales resembling a pine cone covering their skin. Part anteater and armadillo, the pangolin will curl up into a tight ball when threatened, frustrating predators which have no way of penetrating the armor. There are several videos of lions left baffled while encountering the native to large parts of mid-sub Saharan Africa, India and Southeast China.

But its existence is threatened by its only true predator, man.

In the past decade, nearly one million pangolins were stolen from their native habitat to be sold for its meat in markets in China, Southeast Asia and Africa. In China, its scales are used as folk remedies despite the fact the scales are similar to fingernails.

The dire condition of this mostly nocturnal animial became the cause of four fifth-grade classmates at Belmont’s Chenery Middle School who have declared it their business to bring the plight of the pangolin to the attention of the world.

“My friends and I heard about pangolins when our teacher gave a homework assignment about them,” said Reno Ragar who is joined by his classmates Maxwell Abouzeid, Jonah Litman and Michelle Lin.

While there are many animals, insects, flora, and birds that are endangered, the fifth graders decided to promote the pangolin’s predicament because “the fact that it is a relatively obscure animal, and since it is the most trafficked mammal in the world,” he said, having seen a pangolin at the Brookfield Zoo in Chicago.

The team ultimately decided to create a comprehensive website dedicated to learning all about the pangolins and the real threat of extinction it faces.

“I selected this form of raising awareness because I am very familiar with computers and Google Sites that is the software we used to make the site,” said Reno

“I think our efforts have educated some people about pangolins, but more publicity is needed,” he said.

It is just that sort of connection with others that promoted the team to write a request to best selling middle school author Stuart Gibbs(Spy School and FunJungle series) to highlight pangolins in some future book.

Gibbs replied to the Chenery team noting his next book was going to be on animal trafficking and he will “mention pangolins at one point … and will probably devote more room in my author note in the back of the book to them.”

With the web page and Gibbs mention in his future book as examples, “I hope that our efforts will inspire other people to educate others about pangolins and this horrible crime,” said Reno.

Belmont High’s Firth Wins NE Pole Vault Championship With PR Effort [Video]

Photo: Belmont sophomore and New England Champion Sarah Firth.

This year, Sarah Firth has been seeking new heights to climb … and to fall from as the Belmont High student has been turning heads as the one-time pole vaulting neophyte added not just inches to her best mark but by feet.

And at the biggest meet of the year, the sophomore defeated a slew of the region’s best pole vaulters to win the crown at the New England High School Track and Field Championship Meet in Saco, Maine, on Saturday, June 8.

Firth’s winning vault, 11 feet, 9 inches, was a 3-inch personal best from her 11’6″ effort that captured the MIAA All-State meet held a week earlier where she defeated 2017 All-State champion senior Haley Lightbody of Reading.

“This is the first time I have won either All-States or New Englands,” said Firth. “The help of all my coaches is really what made my win possible. Without their support, I wouldn’t have been able to relax and just go for it.”

A former gymnast who credits her bar training with giving her a familiarity with the turning and flipping nature of pole vaulting, it was Firth’s mother who suggested taking up the sport as a ninth grader.

Training at Harvard and at a club in Westborough, it took Firth time to master the skill of sprinting as fast as you can down a 30-meter runway, sticking a long, heavy fiberglass pole in a metal box which launches you high in the air as you attempt to twist and turn your body while upside down over a bar and then fall backwards from the height of a second-story window. At the end of her freshman year, Firth had vaulted a modest 8 feet.

It was during the indoor season this year that Firth said she finally began to understand the technique required to allow the pole to do the work and her improvement was eye-opening. She finished second with a 10’6″ in the MIAA State Division 2 championships, trailing only Lightbody. At All States, Firth improved her vault by a foot to defeat Lightbody by 6 inches.

At Saco, Firth, ranked the number 1 seed (her 11’6″ was the best of all the state championship marks from the week before), faced several champions and outstanding vaulters with higher personal bests; Austin Prep junior Emily Hickey (11’7”), Lightbody (11’6”), and Connecticut juniors Paige Martin (12’0”) and Elise Russell (11’6”).

Since a pole vault meet can take hours to complete, Firth was out on the track early Saturday along with 34 competitors. “My first few [practice] jumps were not like the greatest, but it was OK,” said Firth. But once she made her first vault at 9’9″, “everything felt right.”

The meet came down to Firth, Hickey and Martin each making 11’3″. But since Firth had attempted more jumps to clear the height, she would finish third if everyone missed their final vaults.

Austin Prep junior Emily Hickey (left) and Belmont’s Sarah Firth.

“[Third place] would still be good but my goal was to jump a personal best,” said Firth, who stayed relax between jumps talking to the other athletes “because we all know each other.”

“I knew that I could [make 11’9″] if everything fell into place, if I could get my run right and do it like I had in practice,” said Firth.

Despite feeling a little fatigued jumping in sunny warm weather, everything fell in place with Firth clearing the bar and came down a champion.

The one disappointment was Firth missed an invitation to the New Balance Outdoor Nationals by a mere three inches.

“Hopefully next year I can qualify for both Indoor and Outdoor Nationals,” she said.

BEA Scholarship Awarded To Student Who Recognizes HS Educator As Inspiration

Photo: Belmont High’s Ciara Lally (left) will major in Elementary Education at Merrimack College this fall.

The Belmont Education Association awarded its annual scholarship to Ciara Lally at Belmont High’s Senior Awards Assembly in May.

The scholarship was created to support a graduating senior who has been inspired to pursue a career in education by one of his or her Belmont Public Schools educators. Donations from BEA members help to sustain the scholarship.

Lally was motivated by Belmont High teacher Erin McCarthy to pursue a career in education.

“I met Ms. McCarthy freshman year of high school; she has been with me for all four years of my high school career. Being a teacher has always been a thought in my head since I was a little kid. I’m very grateful for everyone that has helped me along the years and it has made me want to help kids that are struggling. I want to be able to show them they are capable of,” said Lally who will attend Merrimack College this fall majoring in Elementary Education.

“With her help, I learned to be a determined student and what I was actually capable of. I want to be an elementary school teacher because I love to work with children and I want to help them to be the best they can,” said Lally.

“One day I hope I can help my students to achieve their goals like I have achieved mine.”  

BHS PAC’s ‘Little Shop’ Takes Home Two Honors At State School Musical Awards

Photo: Sammy Haines (middle) with cast mates at the MET Musical Theater Awards on Monday, June 10.

The Belmont High School Performing Arts Company production of Little Shop of Horrors took home two awards at the Massachusetts Educational Theatre Guild’s annual MET Musical Theater Awards held on Monday, June 10.

Best Lead Actor: Sammy Haines as Seymour Krelborn. Haines also performed at the ceremony as one of the top finalists for this year’s Massachusetts “Jimmy” Awards.

Best Choral Ensemble

“Both of these awards, and the nominations are an honor and a credit to the hard work of the Performing Arts Company students and staff,” said Ezra Flam, Belmont High School Theater Specialist and Performing Arts Company Producer/Director

In addition to the awards, the PAC was recognized as a nominee in the categories of Lighting Design, Scenic Design, Sound Design, Student Pit Orchestra, Dance Ensemble and Technical Crew.

School Committee OKs Exploring Private/Public Rink Partnership

Photo: Select Board Chair Tom Caputo and Assistant Town Administrator Jon Marshall.

After the Belmont School Committee voted unanimously Tuesday, June 4 to move forward with a private/public partnership to build a new town skating rink, Select Board Chair Tom Caputo said the vote was the “easy part.”

The hard part, he noted, is coming in two weeks.

With the Select Board likely following the School Committee’s lead supporting the partnership at its Wednesday meeting, Caputo said the next step for the School Committee to providing Town Administrator Patrice Garvin’s office “some guidance” on the size and location of the rink when the town creates a “request for proposal” that developers will bid on.

“Are there some specific things that folks would like to see or hear or investigate in the time that between now and then that would help inform that conversation,” Caputo asked the committee members after voting to explore a public/partner arrangement.

What is going to make this phase of the committee’s work difficult is due to an extremely tight timeline to get all their concerns and suggestions to the town.

“We don’t have a lot of time,” said Caputo, since the work identifying the major issues that need to be resolved to satisfy the committee members that the partnership is doable must be completed in just two weeks when the School Committee meets for the final time until the new school year in September.

Jon Marshall, assistant town administrator noted to the committee, representatives from his office and the Office of Community Development will require at least the summer to write an RFP has the dual challenges of writing a financial worthy project while encapsulating the advice from the School Committee.

“I think that the challenge that we will have, as a group, as we go through this process is putting on the table the hopes and expectations that we have in the RFP and prioritizing them as to non-negotiable to flexible items, and then finding out what we are at the end and then to avoid that area,” said John Phelan, Belmont Superintendent.

At Tuesday’s meeting, the committee members raised several prominent issues they wanted to be investigated, a major one being whether the project requires a regular sized rink with an adjacent half rink to be financially viable.

Another concern the committee wants to place in an RFP is a requirement that the project doesn’t reduce the three playing fields that will abut the new project. Committee member Tara Donner said there should be some effort either in the RFP or during the that supports a rink with ice sheets two levels to reduce the building’s footprint.

Belmont School Committee member Tara Donner

Marshal said it’s likely that the RFP can be written in such a way that bidders will be encouraged to tackle the space of the building and how it impacts the number of fields.

Other issues were the availability of parking, traffic pattern changes with a new structure, and hours of operation needed to support the business plan.

While a number of residents at a public meeting a week previous voiced a myriad of issues with a prink – including pay the rink’s estimated $8 to $10 million price tag – the School Committee was fairly unified in its support to at least thoroughly investigate the private/public proposal over other options.

“[W]e need to at least explore the possibility of this low-cost option,” said Micheal Crowley who said residents have taken on the financial burden of a new school and the likelihood of an override next spring.

While echoing Crowley’s statement, fellow member Andrea Prestwich said her support is conditional with the knowledge that if the proposals do not satisfy the board’s direction and specific worries, “we have the right to say ‘no’.”

Solid Pitching, Timely Hitting Propels Belmont Baseball Past Masco in Playoff Opener

Photo: David Pergamo (front) and Martin Marintchev score on Mike Brown’s single in the first inning.

With solid defense and riding the steady right arm of senior Martin Marintchev, Belmont High School secured a 7-1 victory over Masconomet Regional in the first round of the MIAA Division 2 North sectional playoffs on Thursday, June 6.

Marintchev held the Chieftains (11-10) to six singles and one earned run while striking out four as he went the distance for the complete game victory. Marintchev helped his own cause by driving in a pair of runs, joining teammates junior DH Mike Brown and third base Dave Pergamo who totaled two RBIs each.

Belmont High’s Martin Marintchev.

Belmont, the tournament’s 7th seed, will next play second seed St. Mary’s School of Lynn on Monday, June 10, at 4 p.m. at Fraser Field in Lynn.

“We got out on front early and that made a great deal of difference,” said long-time Belmont Head Coach Jim Brown. “That let our pitcher throw strikes and when [Masco] started hitting, our fielders did a great job.”

Evidence of Belmont’s defensive prowess started early in the top half of the first when a base on balls and a bloop single resulted in Chieftains on second and third and no outs. But Masco couldn’t push a run across the plate as first shortstop Joe Carey and then second base Matt Brody cut down runners at the plate before third base Pergamo got the final out on a long throw from third to first.

For its part, Belmont did not waste its first opportunity, putting two up in the bottom of the inning. A walk to Pergamo followed by a deep double from Marintchev set up Brown who whacked a two-run single to give the Marauders the early lead.

After the fast start, the pitchers took over for the next four innings. And while Masco was hitting the ball, Marintchev was forcing the Chieftains to lift the ball, keeping center fielder Joe LaFaudi and right fielder Joe Destefano busy during that stretch.

Belmont finally got the insurance runs it had been barking about since the first inning in the bottom of the sixth, coming from the bottom of the lineup. With one out, number 6 batter catcher Mike Giangregorio was hit by a pitch followed by left fielder Justin Rocha lacing a single down the third base line.

It was here Brown relied on “small ball” tactics with a bunt laid down by LaFauci scoring Giangregorio. A second bunt by Destefano loaded the bases after an attempted putout at third saw Rocha scrambling back to the bag. A pair of singles from Pergamo and Marintchev scored a pair each and that was the game as Belmont ran off to a 7-0 lead.

Brown said St. Mary’s which had a bye in the opening round, has all star pitcher Lee Pacheco waiting in the wings while Belmont will likely send out its top dog, Mike Brown.

“We’ll have to have a similar game in the field, with no errors, to stay in the game,” said Brown.