In Rematch, Belmont High Takes On Current Champ Boston Latin In ‘GBH’s High School Quiz Show Finals On Saturday

Photo: Here are your Belmont High team in the finals of the 12th season of High School Quiz Show

The Marauders will once again face off against the Wolfpack to earn the title of being really wicked smart.

After defeating Advanced Math and Science in last week’s semi-finals, Belmont High School will take on two-time defending champions Boston Latin School for the title of the 12th season of High School Quiz Show on Saturday, June 19 in a repeat of last year’s championship match.

The finals episode of the academic competition produced by Boston’s ‘GBH will premiere at 6 p.m. on GBH 2 and will also stream at the same time on the High School Quiz Show YouTube channel. 

High School Quiz Show is Boston public media producer GBH’s award-winning, fast-paced academic competition for Massachusetts high school students. Aside from Jeopardy!High School Quiz Show is the most popular academic quiz show on American television. 

For this year’s competition, the show was produced using a new, innovative hybrid model with students competing remotely and long-time host Billy Costa emceeing from GBH studios in Boston.

High School Quiz Show is endorsed by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary & Secondary Education and the Massachusetts PTA. Questions on the show are aligned with the Massachusetts high school curriculum standards in subjects that include literature, history, civics, science and math, as well as current events, and general knowledge.

Major funding for High School Quiz Show is provided by Safety Insurance. Additional funding is provided by the Museum of Science, Massachusetts Teachers Association, XFINITY from Comcast, Eastern Bank, Emerson College and Subaru of New England.

Biggest Moving Give Away Ever! Belmont High’s Surplus Furniture Up For Grabs July 2

Photo: It’s first come/first serve for surplus Belmont High furniture

The biggest moving give away ever in town history will occur on Friday, July 2 as Belmont residents will have the opportunity to take away surplus furniture from Belmont High School on a first come/first serve basis on Friday, July 2 from 9 a.m. to noon.

The give away will allow former students to retrieve their old desks for their apartments, designers who long for 1990-era furnishings to grab some vintage items or bargain hunters to stock up on hidden treasures.

And be prepared to take and carry: Items must be removed from the building during the give away, there is no holding of furniture, and there are no resources available to move the furniture so everyone must come ready to take the furniture by their own means.

The access area will be limited to spaces on the first floor of the high school; all other areas will be secured from access as the building is not be open for tours. Preliminary work on demolishing the circa-1970 building will begin in July to make way for the middle school portion of the new school and new playing fields.

AD Davis Joins 11 Educators And Staff Retiring from the Belmont School District

Photo: Belmont senior student-athletes (from left) Preston Jackson-Stephens, Ali Noorouzi and Brett Stievater present outgoing Athletic Director Jim Davis with a specialized Boston Red Sox uniform at his retirement.

For the past two decades, Belmont High Athletic Director Jim Davis could be found at every sort of field sports played on Harris Field (as well as games at the Wenner Field House and the Higgenbottom pool to name a few others) watching and cheering on Marauder squads from the sidelines.

On Wednesday, June 2, at halftime of the Marauders Boys’ Rugby match with St. John’s Prep, Davis was once again at Harris Field but this time to be recognized by student-athletes and coaches for his 19 years as Athletic Director and Head of Physical Education for the Belmont School District.

Davis joined 11 fellow educators and staff who were recognized for their more than 200 years of combined service to the district by the Belmont School Committee and the school district on their retirement.

Hosted by Belmont educator and athletic trainer Sarkis Asadoorian, the ceremony while short in time was heartfelt and touching as the presenters welcomed Davis back after he was away from Belmont due to illness.

“We definitely miss you all this year, on behalf of the student section, seeing you at our games, talking about scores throughout the school day. And, man, I’m just very happy to have you back on this field. You’re a great person,” said senior Preston Jackson-Stephens as he and student captains presented Davis with a plaque and a customized Boston Red Sox uniform with the number 19 and his last name.

”This is just a special place,” Davis said after the ceremony. “I’ve been blessed to be able to have the opportunity to serve the school district and the community at Belmont, having great teachers, great coaches, and the best students and community support that is just second to none.”

“Words can’t express my gratitude and appreciation for these past 19 years,” said Davis.

With spare time now on his hands, Davis is leaning towards learning how to fly aircraft, “but more importantly to spending quality time with my family before we – he and his wife, Carolyn – are empty-nesters, before the kids (daughters Allison and Kylie) are done with their college careers. And I also want to spend some quality time with my dad who’s in his early 90s who lives in New Hampshire.”

The school committee and the district presented their virtual accolades to the dozen leaving (or have already left) at the end of the school year. Along with Davis, the educators and staff include:

  • Heather Blake, school nurse at Burbank Elementary, 23 years.
  • Romario Castro, Chenery building custodian, 12 years.
  • Joan DiPace, kindergarten assistant at Wellington Elementary, 13 years.
  • Jennifer Duffy, Integrated Preschool Program, 15 years.
  • Cynthia Femino, administrative assistant at Belmont High School, 22 years.
  • Cathy Grant, executive administrative assistant to the superintendent, 21 years.
  • Robin Hines, library aide at Burbank Elementary, 15 years.
  • Dr. David Learner, school psychologist at the Chenery, 17 years.
  • Alice Melnikoff, Community Service Coordinator, 23 years.
  • Hester Murray, special education educator at Winn Brook Elementary, 24 years.
  • Patty Soliozy, maths director for grades 5-12, 14 years.

To read each of the extraordinary resolutions for the retirees, head over the the school committee’s web page.

Rec News: Underwood Pool To Open At 100% With Unlimited Residential Passes; Outdoor Movies At Town Field After July 4th

Photo: The Underwood Pool from 2019

Responding to the re-opening of public places as state COVID-19 restricts are being pulled back, the Belmont Recreation Commission unanimously voted on Thursday, June 10 to open the Underwood Pool to 100 percent capacity on Wednesday, June 23 with an unlimited number of family and individual passes (aka tags) for residents seeking to cool off this summer.

Residents interested in applying for a pass or more should go to the Recreation Department webpage.

Due to the lifting of the restrictions, patrons will no longer need to pre-register to attend the pool at specific two-hour blocks of time. According to Rec Department Director and Assistant Town Manager Jon Marshall, two green areas will be sectioned off and have spaces marked off “for people who are a little less comfortable can go to.”

As of Friday, June 11, any resident wanting a pass will receive one with the department limiting the number of non-residential passes to those on the waiting list.

So far this season, the Belmont Rec Department has issued 598 family, 104 individual and 62 senior passes – a total of 2,600 people – as the town had prepared to open the pool at 50 percent of capacity. It also has 110 non-residents on a waiting list, according to Brandon Fitts, rec department assistant director. In 2019, the town issued 1,050 tags.

Residents who purchased tags in the belief the pool would be at 50 percent and wish to cancel their passes will only have until June 21 to receive a full refund. Passes will also be sold at a reduced rate later in the season. The cost of passes are $305 for families; $110 for individuals and $50 for seniors.

Films on the Field

At Monday’s meeting, Fitts also announced a free summer-long movie series sponsored by the Rec Department and the Belmont Council of Aging. Using a generous donation from a Belmont couple, the Rec Department has purchased a projector/sound system and screen which will be set up at the Town Field baseball diamond on Thursday evenings.

“We worked really hard with a number of town departments to make this all a reality,” said Fitts, saying the department will screen seven family friendly movies. The events will take place from 6:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. running from July 8 to August 19.

It will be an opportunity for residents to come to the field and bring a picnic dinner [Remember: Town Field is a Carry In, Carry Out play area so bring a bag to remove any refuse]. The town will also hire a group to bring games, set up basketball hoops and “Gaga ball” pits for kids to play until the film begins at 8 p.m. Residents will also be able to use the restroom facilities at the adjacent Beech Street Center. One commissioner suggested “off the record” bringing food trucks to add some culinary choices to the night.

Fitts also said since the sound system will be owned by the Rec Department, there are opportunities to use the equipment for other events around town such as having music at the Underwood Pool, special events, and a possible “Rock the Rink” skating party at the “Skip” in which skaters circle the ice as high school bands perform.

The movies for this summer are the live version of “Aladdin,” the “Parent Trap” with Lindsay Lohan, “The Secret Life of Pets,” “Honey I Shrunk the Kids,” “Finding Nemo” and the movie version of “Grease.”

Second Belmont Pride Parade Sets Off On Saturday, June 12

Photo: Last year’s Belmont Pride Parade.

The Belmont Pride Parade returns for its second tour around Belmont on Saturday, June 12 at 1 p.m. The parade will begin at the Wellington Station Town Green next to the First Church at 404 Concord Ave. across from the underpass to Belmont Center.

The three-mile route will follow last year’s parade starting at the Town Green, continue through the underpass to Channing, Claflin, Alexander, through Belmont Center on Leonard, under bridge taking a right on Common, another right on Waverly, left on Beech, left on Trapelo, left on Common back to the Town Green.

The parade is cosponsored by:

  • Belmont LGBTQ+ Alliance,
  • Belmont Human Rights Commission,
  • First Church in Belmont, and
  • Black and Brown in Belmont.                         

For more information, contact:

Belmont High School Performing Arts Company Ends the School Year with TWO Shows On Friday Over The Weekend

Photo: Posters for both shows this weekend

As the days in the school year have entered single digits, the Belmont High School Performing Arts Company is ending it was a bang with two shows, one live and the other virtual.

  • Friday, June 11: A LIVE improv show outdoors
  • Saturday/Sunday, June 12-13: The Streaming Premiere of Some Enchanted Evening 

Details about both shows below and at


The PAC Improv Troupe is performing a full show of our favorite games and scenes. Fresh off the success of our May Show, we’ll be back at Clay Pit Pond – near the Veteran’s Memorial at the corner of Underwood – with more improvisers, more games and more laughs. Friday, June 11 at 6:30 p.m.

FREE for everyone, registration/sign up ahead of time requested. Sign up at


The PAC’s Spring Musical is a celebration of the Golden Age of Musical Theater.  A collection of songs and scenes from classic musicals, the production showcases the work of our talented student performers and crew.

This production honors great composers, iconic shows and groundbreaking work, including songs from shows that you aren’t likely to see full productions of on the PAC stage. We’re thrilled to give our students and audiences the opportunity to experience this material.

The show is free to watch, but donations are encouraged.

  • Watch on the PAC Website ( The show premieres online June 12 at 7 p.m.
  • The show will also air on Belmont Media Center TV (Comcast Ch 96/Verizon Ch 30) on Saturday, June 12, and Sunday, June 13 at 7 PM.

Town Meeting Votes To Move Forward On Community Path Review; A New Court Coming To Winn Brook

Photo: The easement along the north side of the MBTA commuter rail tracks adjacent the French/Mahoney property off of Brighton Street.

An attempt by a prominent Belmont resident to kill off funding for a next step review of the proposed community path was beaten back by Belmont Town Meeting on Monday, June 7 showing the at times controversial project continues to hold wide support in town.

The amendment submitted by Frank French to return $200,000 to the Community Preservation Committee was defeated handily, 64-192, coming after a wild debate that saw French’s attorney make what appeared to be not so subtle threat the town is likely to face millions in legal judgments if it pursued the path project. That was followed by Belmont’s long-time state senator Will Brownsberger informing Town Meeting that it was French who wasn’t holding up his end of a decades-old bargain with the state that allowed his family to build on an old railroad right of way.

In fact, according to town officials, the engineering firm working on the path submitted a revised plan Monday morning that no longer required any forced taking which French was opposing, rendering his amendment – which took nearly two hours to debate – effectively moot.

Monday’s meeting – the second of four nights in which members would debate budget and financial issues – followed the script of the first in which a single binding article dominated the nearly four hour session as the meeting took up four projects presented by the Community Preservation Committee. Two projects, transferring $250,000 to the Belmont Housing Trust to initiate affordable housing partnerships and $35,000 in design costs as part of the renovation of Payson Park, breezed through with little trouble.

It didn’t come as a surprise the $200,000 sought by the Community Path Project Committee to determine the right of way for phase one of the path – from the Clark Street bridge to the Cambridge line at Brighton Street as well as a pedestrian tunnel under the MBTA commuter rail tracks at Alexander Ave – was set to begin a lively discourse as French filed his amendment to put the brakes on the project placing the path’s future on hold and effectively in doubt.

A great primer of the community path project can be found here.

Russ Leino, the chair of the Project Committee, told the assembled members (attending over Zoom or viewing on community television) the funds would be used by Nitsch Engineering to prepare a detailed Right of Way (ROW) plan as part of the requirements to obtain federal Transportation Improvement Program money that will pay for the majority of the construction.

The work will determine if any private property will be impacted by the construction, most likely that will be temporary and minor such as access to the property to complete the design work, said Leino, although there could be permanent impacts such as repairing retaining walls and at pinch points “but will not actually run over the property.” Owners can “donate” that access to the town or have an appraisal done to determine a fair dollar compensation which will require another Community Preservation Committee request to fund. ROW work isn’t new to Belmont as the town did a similar project when the state renovated Belmont Street and Trapelo Road and the recent completed Welling Safe Routes to School project. The plan is critical as the federal government and state will not move forward funding without it.

Saying his committee – as well as the town and Select Board – are committed to minimizing impacts to private property, Leino noted a project of this magnitude will effect someone’s lands. “The funding by this appropriation really has to be completed in order to fully understand and quantify … those impacts for the Town Meeting to decide what you want to do with that information,” said Leino.

French, Precinct 2, said he and the Mahoney family that jointly owns the land at the corner of the Brighton and the commuter rail tracks and from where they run their businesses, have granted an easement to the path but are opposed to any permanent takings. French mentioned the long-stand complaint by those opposing the path that it should have been placed on the south side of the commuter tracks (more on that to come). Because there was the likelihood of an eminent domain taking, the families have “consulted” attorney and Belmont resident George McLaughlin.

McLaughlin initially came before Town Meeting not forwarding his client’s claim but his own experience of 37 years of successfully litigating Eminent Domain lawsuits winning millions for his clients. When McLaughlin returned to the amendment at hand, he spoke at length that in his opinion, Belmont has “vastly underestimated” the potential damages from this path to residential property along Channing Road.

This line of argument apparently was far afield from a pre-meeting agreement with Town Moderator Micheal Widmer on what would be discussed. That consensus quickly blew up as Widmer and McLaughlin took issue with how much leeway would be given in arguing the amendment.

”Mr. McLaughlin, as we’ve discussed before this meeting. Eminent Domain is beyond the scope so I’ll repeat, you need to talk about the path,” said Widmer.

“What I’m trying to inform the Town Meeting members is that if they go ahead with this plan, I think they are pursuing a plan that explore exposes the town to, you know, $4 million in damages,” claimed McLaughlin.

While saying that McLaughlin’s general point on eminent domain was “fine” to bring up, Widmer requested the attorney to “please adhere to my request that you stay with the scope of the discussion,” noting he had done so three times. The back and forth continued with both men saying they had grown frustrated with each others stance with McLaughlin claiming Widmer had “changed the rules” of the debate.

As Widmer attempted to wrangle McLaughlin in – with little success – Town Meeting members began bombarding Town Clerk Ellen Cushman with Point of Order claims noting McLaughlin was well outside the scope of the matter at hand. Widmer pointed out that a town meeting could not be run by those citing rules violations.

While French and McLaughlin spoke on the town taking a portion of the property, Leino presented an “11th hour” development in which Nitsch determined on the previous Friday that the latest design no longer required taking a permanent easement of the French/Mahoney property. “It can be done there on the existing easement. I was happy to see that as a positive development,” said Leino.

And Brownsberger turned French’s claims on their head by reviewing the context of how French’s secured the site in the first place. Brownsberger said in 2008, French – who Brownsberger called a friend who he respects – approached Brownsberger seeking his support in building his business office on the site knowing the right of way would bisect the property. French building sits on a historic railroad right of way, used as far back as the 1870s as the Fitchburg to Lowell connection until passenger service ended in 1927 and commercial rail halted in the 1980s. State statutes requires anyone attempting to build on a rail road right of way to first obtain a determination of inapplicability from the Department of Transportation.

In 2009, Brownsberger helped French get the process rolling to build but only if the Mass DOT which regulates rail right of ways would preserve the possibility of building a bike path from Brighton Street to Belmont Center and not give away the entire right of way which it did.

“So the point is that MASS DOT gave the ability for Mr. French to build … but retains the right to build a bike path through it,” said Brownsberger. While he was allowed to build up to the easement, French also crossed into it to install a stone sign, curbing and parking with the hope that a possible bike path would never be built.

“Now I was chagrined when I learned that Mr. French was upset about this process,” said Brownsberger. While acknowledging that previous design plans from Nitsch appeared to violate the decades old compromise between the state and French, Brownsberger “is very relieved that the discussion over the past week … that there is no need” for any additional land taking in the latest engineering blueprints.

With French’s concerns apparently addressed, “I look forward to continuing to support this path,” working with the state so to “keep solving problems and keep moving this fast forward,” said Brownsberger. “As an elected official, I am absolutely committed to making sure this works within the easement.”

Select Board Member Mark Paolillo next spoke in greater detail how town officials and representatives from Nitsch would keep the path within its prescribed easement. He also addressed the need for the route to travel along the northside of the commuter tracks as being due to the reluctance of the owner of an essential rail spur to negotiate with the town.

With debate open to the public, members sentiments ranged the gambit of why the French amendment was allowed to move forward if the “problem had been solved” to Stephen Rosales from Precinct 8 expressing his support for French via the lyrical talents of Kenny Rogers.

”You got to know when to hold them, know when to fold them, know when to walk away and know when to run,” Rosales said, not sung. Despite the Yeoman efforts by the town, “the time has come. Belmont can no longer hold them,” he said noting that the CPC will “ante up” $1.7 million in studies and engineering work without any guarantee of federal or state funding.

Mark Kagan, Precinct 8, said roadblocks such as the French amendment is the reason that popular infrastructure projects are delayed or killed off. Having lived in bike happy the Netherlands, Kagan said cycling is the wave of the future as it promotes safe, fast transportation that is climate friendly. “Let’s vote this down this amendment and move on Belmont, the greater Boston area and the United States into the future,” said Kagan.

The question was called and the subsequent vote on the Amendment was an overwhelming defeat for French. The debate on the $200,000 allocation for ROW costs was anticlimactic and speedy with the article passing, 200 to 50.

Tennis plus one at Winn Brook

Town Meeting voted to add a single tennis court to the existing facility adjacent to the Winn Brook Elementary School playground and the Joey’s Park Playground.

Jon Marshall, the assistant town manager and recreation director, said an additional court was suited to the site because 1. the town can always use more courts, and 2. an additional tennis court will make for a total of five which is needed to hold regular season and tournament contests by the Belmont High School tennis teams.

Opposition to the new court came from two camps: nearby residents and those who wish to see courts on the high school campus. Melissa McIntyre, Precinct 8, opposed the article, not so much the courts being placed in the neighborhood but the public process the Recreation Commission undertook in approving the location. McIntyre said the strip of green space between Joey’s Park and the courts which will be reduced is an important place that is a place to take a break from the hurly burly of the playground and sport fields. Kathleen “Fitze” Cowing, also Precinct 8, asking why unlike other park and recreation projects the tennis court didn’t go through a two-fpart approval process with a design phase followed by CPC construction funding.

But by 10:45 p.m., the meeting had little energy to go against the CPC’s recommendation and there will be a fifth court at the Winn Brook by the start of the varsity tennis season next April.

Belmont High Graduation 2021: A Sunny Conclusion To A Class That Endured Much [Photos]

Photo: The first act of the newly minted class of 2021.

It’s unlikely any future group of same-grade students will be dealt such a bad hand as the Belmont High School class of 2021. The classmates missed out by a single year attending classes in a brand new high school, playing fields were taken away by the construction as the new school was being built, and the COVID-19 global pandemic forced students to spend the majority of their senior year learning and socializing online rather than in the halls and grounds of the high school.

But under an unforgiving sun that pushed temperatures into the mid-90s, the vast majority of the 321 member class of 2021 attended their graduation celebration. Keeping with the trend of deviating from tradition, the graduation celebration was held on Harris Field rather than the Wenner Field House and taking place on the first Saturday of June instead of the Sunday. And while the vast majority of the class received at least one vaccination shot, the pandemic also saw graduates miss out on receiving their diplomas from the podium, instead of standing when their names were called. But two customs did carry on: beach balls flying in the student section and the post-graduation cigar.

In his welcoming remarks, Belmont High Principal Isaac Taylor spoke of the power of friendship in sustaining the community, especially during this school year.

“I think that we can all agree that people have needed one another as we faced chaos, loss and the uncertainty of the pandemic,” he said, noting the best friendships are based on openness and honesty. “Friendship is at the heart of any good relationship,” he said. With this generation facing a climate crisis, the likelihood of more pandemics and the rapid advancement in technology likely to leave a large number of people behind. But it is also a generation that can reshape society for the better and that depending on taking risks including taking a risk on friendship.

If there was a person who took center stage on Saturday it was Edward Lee, who performed triple duty, speaking as senior class president, being honored with one of the two School Committee awards for outstanding achievement in scholarship (and giving his second speech within 10 minutes of the other) and then reading 320 of the 321 names of each graduate.

In his opening remarks, Lee – who will be attending Harvard College in September – said as president he learned that the class didn’t have a single core identity – with the exception of transforming in feral beasts in the student parking lot at the end of each school day – as it was as diverse as each person, overflowing with interests, hobbies and experiences. Whether it was award-winning musicals, exhilarating sports events and impactful community service projects, his fellow student should “bring this same passion and energy where ever you may go. Stay true to your vision and don’t be afraid to nurture them,” Lee said.

Jason Tang, the second School Committee scholarship winner – and joining Lee at Harvard in the fall – recalled the “brazen fearlessness and an unshakable optimism” of his and his classmates younger selves, how on the first-ever days of school, surrounded by strangers and asked to study things no one had any experience with, “we dove right in.”

“We exhibit shameless curiosity, by pestering our teachers with question after question about anything that crossed our minds. We viewed everyone as potential friends and eagerly approached each other. We were unafraid to be vulnerable to explore unfamiliar concepts to experiment with innovative ideas,” said Tang.

And as each graduate will soon be asked to begin a new chapter of their life, “keep seeking out new opportunities, and don’t be afraid to try new things, dream big, and follow those dreams, live with the fear of a little kid, and combine it with the wisdom, you have accumulated the past 13 years. We are ready for anything that life may throw,” he said.

With an arrangement of “Send Me On My Way,” by the Senior A Cappella group and Lee reading each graduate’s name at a 12 per minute clip, the graduation ceremony took just over an hour to conclude. And with it, the class of 2021 had a final good memory to hold onto for years to come.

[Update] Early Release Monday, Tuesday As Heatwave Shortens School Day; Students: Bring Water, Sunscreen

Photo: Heatwave on tap for the beginning of the week

[Update] For a second day, schools will be dismissed early on Tuesday, June 8, due to the high heat conditions.

Given the current heatwave and concerns for students and staff, the Belmont School District will be dismissing school early Monday, June 7.

  • Belmont High will dismiss at 1:30 p.m.
  • Chenery Middle School will dismiss at 1:15 p.m.
  • Butler, Burbank and Wellington will dismiss at 1:40 p.m.
  • Winn Brook will dismiss at 1:50 p.m.

On Monday:

  • Lunch will be served in all schools.
  • Belmont High School will have morning MCAS as planned.
  • All after school care programs are cancelled.
  • All after school activities are cancelled.
  • Remote instruction will end at these times as well.

With Belmont in the midst of a multiday heatwave (+90 degree F high temperatures) beginning on Saturday, June 5 and lasting until Wednesday, June 9, the Belmont School District will monitor the temperatures inside schools and assess whether or not we may need to dismiss students and staff early from school, according to John P. Phelan,
Superintendent of Schools.

“Please know that if we do choose to shorten the school day next week for heat concerns, we will communicate any change via email and/or automated call,” said Phelan in an email to the school community.

With the heatwave occuring during a week schools are in session, the district reminds students and parents that it is important for students and staff to stay hydrated. School officials recommend everyone bring a water bottle that can be replenished at our fill stations, dress for the weather and wear sunscreen.

“Please see the nursing department’s bulletin sent on May 28 regarding Warm Weather Reminders,” said Phelan.

‘Extra Innings’: Belmont Town Meeting Reconvenes Wednesday With A BRAVE Act Taking Center Stage

Photo: Town meeting (non virtual)

When Betsy Vose asked her fellow Financial Task Force members Friday morning how the first night of the reconvened Town Meeting had gone Wednesday night, she was caught by surprise when she was told that after nearly four hours the meeting had voted on a total of two articles which included a non-binding resolution.

“So we’re already in extra innings!” said Vose, now expecting with most observers the three subsequent meetings in the next week will be going late into the night.

In the past decade, the budget/expenditure articles before Belmont’s annual Town Meeting are lumped together in what is called Segment B. And due to the near-automatic approval of nearly all the articles during that time, you wouldn’t be that far off to label the segment as B for boring.

But not this year as the 2021 Town Meeting made its return on Wednesday, June 2 (and will continue on Monday, June 7, and Wednesdays June 9 and 14) The second coming of the town’s legislative body – Segment A was completed last month – saw members absorbed in debating the articles in such detail and with a lack of urgency that it is almost preordained the remainder of the meeting is destined to slouch towards Bethlehem.

After an appetizer of the Department of Public Works/ Belmont Police Department Building Committee presenting a report and video of its successful renovation of the police headquarters and DPW building, the first of the main courses were presented in amendment 11, a non-binding resolution for Fossil Free New Construction sponsored by the Energy Committee. Marty Bitner, Precinct 8 and co-chair of said committee.

The article was originally scheduled to come before the 2020 Town Meeting but was pushed back from a year before due to the pandemic when the article was a bylaw change, following a similar change passed by Brookline in 2019 that required all new construction to be fueled by electricity, banning oil and natural gas as options. The Brookline bylaw was later found by the Massachusetts Attorney General to be illegal as the state has the only authority to alter the state’s building code.

Monday’s aspirational resolution seeks to change the state building code to mandate fossil-free construction, direct the state Department of Energy to create a zero net energy “stretch code” requiring buildings to have electrical fuel systems and revise the state gas law to give towns the authority to restrict future gas permits on new construction.

Bitner pointed out passing the article would have Belmont joining 18 other municipalities who are seeking fossil fuel mandates and it will demonstrate Town Meetings commitment to reaching both the town and state’s net-zero carbon emission by the self-imposed 2050 deadline. Opponents, such as Stephen Rosales, Precinct 8, said they want to have choices on what energy source to use, that non-binding resolution reduces Town Meeting to “student government – if you want a community discussion, organize a community forum” and non-binding resolutions can become “gospel” over time. The article passed 188-57 with 8 abstentions.

After the usual 9 p.m. break, Aaron Pikcilingis, Precinct 6, presented his citizens petition (Article 7) dubbed The Brave Act, made up of four provisions. First, town employees who are fulfilling military obligations would be paid to the same extent that state employees are eligible for such payments; second, the town will design and establish a voluntary property tax workout program for veterans; third, the town will provide tax credit and exemption eligibility for disabled veterans who live in and pay taxes on a home that is owned by a trust for their benefit; and fourth, the town will add a tax exemption for Gold Star parents and guardians who lost a child serving during war time.

While not having served in the US military, Pikcilingis felt compelled to submit the article after learning a Belmont employee was using his own vacation time to pay for his service creating infrastructure in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic while putting themselves and their families at increased risk.

“I believe we should do all we can to support them now and beyond the pandemic as they continue their service where it is needed,” he said.

The first provision would do two things. First. provide full town pay for up to 40 days of paid military service during which service members receive both their town pay and military pay. Currently, depending on the contract, Belmont doesn’t pay for any days or only 17 days if they are either police or fire personnel. Second, the new provision would add differential pay for military service. So, let’s say if an employee’s military pay is less than their town pay, Belmont will pay the difference for those unpaid military days. Currently, four employees would be impacted by the new provision, with the expected annual expense per employee between $4,500 to $18,000 or about $11,300 on average. So four employees would cost the town an extra $45,200 with the range being $18,000 to $72,000.

The other three provisions were straight forwards with the voluntary work program and home owned in a trust each with a very small cost while the Gold Star provision costing $10,000 to $16,000 with a total cost of between $28,000 to $88,000 a year. The act would be reviewed annual and can be ended by Town Meeting vote after three years.

While each provision received general approval, it was the Gold Star tax exemption that produced the most push back including a 3-12 vote by the Warrant Committee against favorable action. Some supporters of the entire article believed those who opposed the provision as it could attract parents who lost children in combat to move to the Town of Homes for “tax-free living for their lifetime” as tone-deaf.

Peg Callanan, of Precinct 7, said that while the town voters did defeat an attempted override in April,
“it is my strong belief that the service and sacrifice of our veterans … should never be measured against a sum of money” then quoted Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Miller who said, “let us never forget those who have given their tomorrow’s for our todays.”

The four provisions passed and the article was accepted.