Flu, COVID-19 Vaccines Available In Belmont: Registration for Oct. 4 Now Open

Photo: Dates for Fall Vaccine Clinics have been announced

With infection rates for both COVID-19 and the flu outpacing last year’s numbers, the Belmont Health Department has announced its 2023 Vaccine Clinic schedule.

The clinics will take place at the Beth El Temple Center, 2 Concord Ave. with vaccines for COVID, Flu, Pneumonia, RSV, Shingles, and Tetanus.

The first clinic will be held on Wednesday, Oct. 4, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Registration is now open for the Wednesday, Oct. 4 date. Click here to register.

If anyone has trouble registering or isn’t comfortable going online, they are welcome to call the Health Department at 617-993-2720, and we can register them over the phone. At this clinic, we will most likely only have Pfizer available for COVID-19 boosters, but if Moderna becomes available, it will also be offered as a choice at the time of the clinic.

Other clinic dates include:

  • Wednesday, Oct. 11: 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.
  • Wednesday, Oct. 18: 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.
  • Wednesday, Nov. 1: 10 a.m – 2 p.m.
  • Wednesday, Nov. 8: 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.

Is The Town Budget Baffling? Residents Can Have Their Say At Public Input Session, Thurs., Sept. 28

Photo: The poster for the public input session

At times it seems like the annual budget process can a bit overwhelming and at times baffling: What’s the difference between one-time and recurring revenue? What is a structural deficit? How could fiscal constraints affect schools and other critical town services?

The Belmont Select Board invites residents to a meeting focused on the short- and long-term forecast for the town budget.

“FY25 and Beyond: Understanding the Town Budget” will take place on Thursday, Sept. 28 at 7 p.m. in the Select Board Meeting Room at Town Hall. Residents can also participate virtually via Zoom by going to the link: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/84775397948

Members of the public will hear brief presentations about critical factors related to the town’s revenue and expenses and have an opportunity to ask questions, provide input, and share ideas.

Bittersweet Victory As Injuries Dampen Belmont Girls’ Win Over Watertown On Soccer Night

Photo: Belmont High School Girls Soccer captains Hannah Glavin and Anna Santos hold the Phoenix Cup after the team won Soccer Night in Belmont vs Watertown

Belmont High Girls’ Soccer Head Coach Jemmy Cange should have been celebrating his team’s 2-0 victory over Watertown as the Marauders defended the Phoenix Cup as winners of Soccer Night In Belmont on Saturday, Sept. 23.

But in the drenching rain, as his team reveled in the win, Cange began tallying the players who didn’t finish the game. Belmont’s most consistent scoring threats, senior captain Lena Marinell – back on the team after more than a year off the pitch due to injury and who scored a hat trick in Belmont’s previous game – and sophomore attacker Danica Zicha were forced to leave the game. In the game’s final minute, a Belmont player was struck by a Watertown clearing shot that required her to be taken off the field.

“It doesn’t look good right now,” Cange said for a quick return of the players. “We will have to wait to really know.”

Belmont held most of the possession and scoring chances in the first half of the match, played under an unceasing drizzle. But the sure hands of Watertown’s senior goalie Sarah Morrissey and the steady performance from senior defender Lily Lambo.

Belmont High School junior Lucy Hynds (No. 25) celebrates scoring her first varsity goal in the Marauders’ 2-0 win over Watertown at Soccer Night In Belmont.

The breakthrough finally came early in the second half from junior Lucy Hynds, who was in the right place at the right time to one-time the corner kick into the upper netting for her initial varsity goal.

“It was really exciting to score my first high school goal,” she said, returning from her own year-long injury.

“We had a lot of opportunities. We were just a little unlucky for a while … but towards the end, it started to get better, and we started to come together,” said Hynds, who was named Soccer Night’s Player of the Match.

Belmont’s senior captain Anna Santos finished the scoring by redirecting a shot from the right side in the match’s final stages.

Belmont upped its record to 4-2. But now, in the heart of the demanding Middlesex League schedule, Cange will need to unpack a new way of scoring.

“No one’s going to replace Nena and the talent that she has. But we have a really good team,” Cange said.

“I told them during the whole season injuries are going to happen, so we have to prepare and everyone has to step up. And today was a good example of that. When Nena and Danica went out, Anna and Lucy came through,” he said.

Hynds said the best approach the team can have going forward is to “just keep the momentum up and get excited for every game.”

Garvin Receives High Praise From Select Board In Annual Review, 3% Merit Pay Increase (And Told To Take A Vaca!)

Photo: Belmont Town Administrator Patrice Garvin

It’s not usual in an annual job review that the person is told to take a vacation. But that was Elizabeth Dionne’s recommendation to Belmont Town Administrator Patrice Garvin during the Select Board’s annual performance assessment on Monday, Sept. 25.

“Take more vacation time!” wrote Dionne in her evaluation of Garvin, who is nearing six years as the town’s chief administrative officer. “I am very concerned about burnout [as Belmont has] been in crisis mode for a long time and Patrice has provided a steady hand at the tiller.”

Being scolded for not taking more off was as harsh a criticism the town administrator received as Garvin’s Select Board bosses gave her high marks for the work she performed over the past fiscal year.

“I have the highest regard for Patrice,” said Board Chair Roy Epstein. “Not everyone in Belmont realizes the demands put upon the town administrator, and how difficult it is to be successful in this role.”

The board was in sync ranking Garvin with nearly identical evaluations of her performance for the past year. Garvin received the top mark of five on a scale ranging from 0 to 5 in five of eight categories – personal character characteristics, professionalism, Select Board support and relations, organizational leadership and personal management, and financial management. Her lowest ranking was in public relations with an average of 4. Her overall score was 4.79/5.

The board’s written evaluations were equally united in their plaudits for Garvin’s execution of her job.

“She is extraordinarily devoted and tireless in her efforts to make the town run well for the residents and employees. I observe this every day and believe she is one of the foremost practitioners in her field,” said Epstein.

“She continues to provide highly effective and dedicated support to members of the Select Board,” said Mark Paolillo. “She has built a strong financial team and has strong financial skills that resulted in a balanced fiscal year 2024 budget that addressed many of the service gaps and needs within our town. areas of improvement.”

“[Garvin] is not afraid of change,” said the Board Vice Chair Dionne. “She is not threatened by strong people around her, and she is tough and resilient. You can learn a lot about someone from the people she hires. Patrice obviously has solid and well-deserved calm self-confidence. As a result, she has surrounded herself by smart and capable people, creating a truly impressive leadership team.”

Dionne said she personally feels Patrice, as “a strong female leader,” receives “criticism from employees, unions, and certain members of the public that might not be leveled against a male in the same role. The Select Board must be more active in providing her with visible support and political cover.”

Garvin thanked the board for their continued support for her leadership in running the town’s daily operations. “The fact that you scored me similarly tells me that I’m doing the same thing for each of you, which is I couldn’t be more proud of that I serve you as the board,” told the board Garvin at Monday’s meeting. Garvin praised the team she has built in her six years.

“I can’t tell you the work that we’ve been able to do in a short time. It’s been amazing,” she said. “I continue to look at ways to improve the town, departments, and the staff. I really enjoy working in Belmont, and I hope to continue.”

The review was followed by the board approving a three percent merit increase, with Garvin’s annual salary increased to $212,384 effective at the start of the 2024 fiscal year on July 1. Epstein said Garvin’s salary is slightly lower than the average of comparative towns and cities in the region.

Garvin’s contract expires in January 2027.

Belmont Police To Obtain Service Dog Through Largess Of The Allisons.

Photo: The Labrador Retriever is coming to the Belmont Police Department

Elisabeth and Graham Allison have been benefactors to the town of Belmont and its residents for many years, giving of their time and funds. And in the latest example of their largess, the Belmont Police Department will soon be the home of its first service dog.

At a recent meeting of the Select Board, the Allisons donated $9,525 for the purchase and training of a service animal. Unlike the department’s canine that goes on patrol with an officer, the service dog “will create a less stressful and more welcoming environment,” said Elisabeth Allison.

Elisabeth Allison told the board the donation will allow Belmont Police Chief James MacIsaac to follow a trend begun by Middlesex District Attorney and Belmont resident Marion Ryan and that other police departments – including Reading, Maynard, and Tewksbury – have adopted.

“They are praising this program … I did some research, we put together a proposal, and I presented it [the Allisons] and they fully supported it,” said MacIsaac.

The service dog will venture outside the police station “to create a bond with the Belmont Police community, improve our public/police relations, and comfort the community during times of high stress,” said MacIsaac, noting the times a young person or someone in trauma or anxiety have been in the police headquarters for hours, “and it would be very beneficial to have a comfort dog present.”

The support from the board for the new addition to the police force was unanimous. “I’ve really seen how a dog can improve stressful and mental health situations,” said Elizabeth Dionne.

The dog will be arriving in December. And the bred? Why, the Labrador Retriever. Elisabeth Allison – a noted dog lover – said the Lab is often regarded as “the world’s best all-round dog who is ideal for this service.”

‘Final’ Belmont Library Fall Book Sale Set For Saturday/Sunday, Sept. 24 and 25

Photo: The book sale of the Friends of the Belmont Public Library

This weekend, the Friends of the Belmont Public Library is hosting the “final” Book Sale in the current library building.

The sale hours are:

  • Saturday, Sept. 23: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Sunday, Sept. 24: 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Buy a geat number of great, new to you books and media while supporting the Friends who support the library in so many ways!

Major Shakeup As Office of Community Development Transforms into Office of Planning And Building As Town Eyes Succession Plan

Photo: Belmont’s new Town Planner, Chris Ryan

While not as thrilling (or funny) as “Succession,” the Netflix series that detailed a family fight for control of a global media and entertainment conglomerate, a major change in the structure of an important town department has as much to do with

At its Monday, Sept. 18, meeting, Belmont Select Board heard Town Engineer Glen Clancy detail the recent reorganization of the Office of Community Development as it transforms into the newly-formed Office of Planning and Building (OPB) and an Engineering Division has been created within the Department of Public Works.

A major part of the reorganization is hiring Christopher Ryan, a 30-year veteran of municipal planning, as the OPB’s first director and Belmont’s new town planner. The reorganization was effective on Sept. 5, Ryan’s first day on the job.

Clancy will continue as town engineer within the DPW while his assistant, Ara Yogurtian, will hold onto his post as Inspector of Buildings while being liasion to the Planning Board and the Zoning Board of Appeals.

The changes will allow the town to prepare for some “big” retirements in the near future, according to Town Administrator Patrice Garvin. While Clancy said he and Yogurtian “are not going anywhere, anytime soon,” the changes prevent the town from being “caught short” with sudden departures and leave the town scrambling to find experienced replacements.

“Succession planning is two-fold,” said Garvin. “It’s really to get people into to learn a lot from the people that are already here, and that will be moving on eventually.”

Speaking to the Board, Clancy said the reorganization was prompted by “vacancies across the spectrum” of the OCD – including the critical town planner position – that were nearly impossible to fill in the current low unemployment job environment. As a result of the unfilled openings, he and Yogurtian were saddled with multiple tasks.

Including being town engineer, Clancy was director of the Office of Community Development, inspector of buildings, and zoning enforcement officer while Yogurtian was juggling the assistant director post, field engineering, inspecting buildings and street work, board work, and supervising the local building inspector.

“It was getting too difficult to cover all the bases effectively and efficiently, so that’s another reason why it was time to do this,” said Clancy.

Select Board Vice Chair Elizabeth Dionne reiterated Monday that important departments have been woefully understaffed for years, noting the Planning Department will be integral in the planned revamping of the town’s zoning bylaws.

“I looked at those two positions and said, ‘How are we going to fill these two positions should they become vacant?'” said Clancy. “And I didn’t have a good answer.”

With no in-house personnel with the skill set ready to step into either his or Yogurtain’s positions, Clancy and Garvin created a succession plan by “reconstituting the Office of Community Development into something that was sensible and recognizable to the public.”

The first step was combining the planning and building functions under one roof “as they made sense together,” said Clancy. He said that making the hard-to-hire town planner post as the new department director made the position more attractive in the job market, as Ryan was soon hired for the critical post.

“The proof is in the pudding, the fact that we were not able to fill this position of the town planner and then finally (after the restructuring) to find someone who is highly capable of the position,” said Clancy.

Engineering functions would be housed with the DPW, which most communities have it located.

As critical as having an efficient departmental structure, there will be opportunities to mentor employees and new hires for future positions. The new Engineering Department will hire a resident engineer, “an immediate need,” who will be overseeing permitting, evacuation, and pavement restoration, as well as becoming the town’s stormwater coordinator.

“This is someone who could act as my assistant and maybe even be a successor as the town engineer down the road,” said Clancy.

‘Coach Mac’ Earns 200th Win As She Starts Her 20th Year Coaching Belmont High Field Hockey

Photo: Belmont High School Field Hockey Coach Jess Smith after winning her 200th win as she starts her 20th season.

Jess Smith never really thought about the number of wins she’s accumilated as she’s entered her 20th campaign helming the Belmont High School Field Hockey team.

“I probably think more about the losses,” said Smith, affectionally known as “Coach Mac” by her players and the hundred of alums who played on Harris Field.

“Coach Mac”

Over those two decades, Smith has only twice missed the MIAA tournament, reaching the Division 2 North championship game also twice. During those years, she has helped send more players off to Division 1 programs and college squads than any other team in Belmont High.

Curiosity around the athletic department on just how many victories Smith had pocketed in her 19 years started last year. After going to the MIAA website and through microfilm in the Belmont Public Library, the number of victories in the regular season and playoffs tallied 199.

Smith’s first chance at hitting 200 wins would be the season opener at Stoneham on Wednesday, Sept. 6. But last week’s heat wave forced a postponement with the Spartans, and the first game of the year would be the home opener on Friday, Sept. 8 vs. Melrose.

On Friday, Belmont got off to a quick start, scoring four times in the first quarter, led by sophomore midfielder MacKenzie Clarke, who bagged the first of her hattrick after three minutes.

Belmont High Sophomore Midfielder MacKenzie Clarke

“It’s a great way to start the season, especially knowing how tough the league always is,” said Clarke, who had a six-point afternoon with three assists. Senior co-captain Carly Gaziano had a brace, while senior Gretchen Hanley and junior Brynn Connolly each tallied.

But it was when the on-field horn marked the end of a 7-0 victory that the team surprised Smith with the news she entered the circle of coaches with a double century of victories.

“I had no idea [it was the 200th]. I really haven’t thought of it,” said Smith after the game. “When the kids told me it was the 200th, I told them I didn’t score one of the goals that got us the 200 wins. But it has been awesome being on the sidelines for the 200 wins, I’ll tell you that.”

Just 15 hours after the first game, Belmont was in Stoneham for the rare Middlesex League game on grass. And for nearly the first half, the ground-up turf was winning as the Marauders were finding the grass and the heat and humidity a bit taxing.

But Belmont finally broke through twice in the final four minutes, first from Connolly with the second coming from senior captain Lola Rocci on a penalty corner with no time left on the clock to go up 2-0 at the break. A goal early in the second half, followed by two in the fourth quarter, ended with Smith’s 201st victory, a 5-0 shutout.

Belmont High Senior Forward Lola Rocci

Rocci joined Clark with a hat trick on Saturday, while senior goaltender Julia Herlihy starts the season with a pair of clean sheets.

Belmont now heads into the cauldron of its season with three away games, starting with powerhouse Watertown on Monday, Sept. 11, followed by Winchester on Wednesday, and finally away to Westford Academy before coming home to meet Reading on Wednesday, Sept. 20.

School Week: A Decade Of Work Ends With A Ribbon Cutting Opening Belmont’s New Middle And High School [Video]

Photo: (In no particular order: Superintendent Dr. Jill Geiser; Jim McDonald, MSBA; School Committee Chair Meghan Moriarty; retired Superintendent John Phelan; Building Committee Chair Bill Lovallo; and BMHS students Charlie and Ellie Shea, Jane and Allison Caputo, Maybe Thurston, Elizabeth Zuccarello, and Sarah Lovallo cutting the ribbon opening the new Belmont Middle and High School on Sept. 6, 2023)

Under a blazing hot summer sun, a decade of planning, financing, and construction culminated in the ceremony cutting of the ribbon opening Belmont’s newest school, the Middle and High School, held on the opening day of the 2023-24 school year, Wednesday, Sept. 6.

“This is your building now. Congratulations,” Bill Lovallo, the Middle and High School Building Committee chair, told the assembled students and teachers. Lovallo, along with vice chair Pat Brusch, led the team that shepherded the project after 3/4 of town voters approved a $212 million debt exclusion in November 2018. Construction started in June 2019.

“Your vote made an impactful statement to Belmont and the surrounding communities, approving at the time one of the largest public school projects in the state,” said Lovallo. “Why? Because this community is committed to investing in our future, particularly the future involving our children.”

Costing $295 million to construct, the 450,000-square-foot building will house more than 2,300 students in grades 7-12. Including the hundreds of geothermal wells that will heat and cool the building, more than 2,000 solar panels will be a major electrical power source when its installation is completed at the beginning of 2024.

While the project – designed by Perkins+Will and constructed by Skanska USA – came in “on time and on budget,” according to the building committee, there currently is projected a $1.9 million deficit as a result of a reduction in the $83 million initially promised by the Massachusetts School Building Authority. The shortfall – due to a dispute on what areas of construction are deemed reimbursable – will be resolved in the next 18 months.

Yet that is a future concern as Wednesday saw town and school department officials, employees, and dozens of middle and high school students celebrate the opening of the school year and the completed school held outside of the high school’s dining area overlooking Clay Pit Pond.

“It’s easy for us to see, looking at this building, that the physical spaces of teaching and learning have changed education,” said Meghan Moriarty, chair of the School Committee. “In the coming year, on behalf of the School Committee, we want to help the Belmont community to see how teaching and learning has changed to meet the needs of all of our Belmont students. And how this innovative space and our educators are catalysts in that change.”

In the end, seven Middle and High School students, along with officials, took scissors to ribbon and welcomed the newest school to the Belmont district.

On a side note, 12 years nearly to the day as a kindergartener helping cut the ribbon to open the new Wellington Elementary School in 2011, Sarah Lovallo joined six of her fellow schoolmates in the ribbon cutting for another new school.

The current members of the Belmont Middle and High School Building Committee are:

Amy ZuccarelloSchool Committee Member
Patricia BruschCommittee Vice Chair, Permanent Building Committee Chair, Capital Budget Committee
Thomas CaputoSelect Board Member, CMS parent
Joseph DeStefanoPlanning Board, construction experience, CMS and BHS parent
David BlazonDirector of Facilities
Patrice GarvinTown Administrator, MCPPO Certified
Bill LovalloCommittee Chair, Permanent Building Committee, engineering experience, CMS parent
Michael McAllisterPrincipal, Chenery Middle School
Robert McLaughlinPermanent Building Committee, Warrant Committee
Christopher MesserCommittee Secretary, operations and real estate experience, BHS parent
Diane MillerArchitecture experience, CMS and BHS parent
Joel MooneyPermanent Building Committee, engineering experience
Jill GeiserSuperintendent of Schools
Ellen SchreiberWarrant Committee Member, CMS Parent
Jamie SheaFoundation for Belmont Education, BHS teacher, Burbank, CMS, and BHS parent
Emma ThurstonCommittee Treasurer, business experience, BHS Parent

Breaking: With High Usage Predicted, Belmont Light Asking Consumers To Power Down Thursday Afternoon

Photo: High electrical usage expected Thursday

With high temperatures forecast on Thursday to reach the mid-90s, Belmont Light is asking customers to power down their electrical appliances tomorrow afternoon.

“With hot temperatures returning to the area and more residents home from summer vacations, we are predicting that Thursday, September 7 will be a day of peak energy usage in Belmont,” said the utility’s press release sent on Sept. 6.

With that in mind, Belmont Light requests residents to reduce their electricity usage from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 7 as much as possible to keep costs lower and our energy supply cleaner.

There are simple, concrete things that you can do at home to help keep Belmont Light’s demand peak low, including:

  • Turn the target temperature on thermostats and window unit air conditioners slightly higher. Even a two-degree change in room temperature can make a massive change for you and Belmont Light while not being noticeable to you and your family.
  • Do not do laundry during the peak demand time period. Shift your use of your clothes washer and dryer to before 5 p.m. or after 7 p.m.
  • Cook dinner on the grill instead of using your oven and other appliances. Using your kitchen’s oven also has the negative effect of raising your home’s overall temperature.
  • Turn off and unplug non-essential electronic devices, especially ones not in use. Examples like televisions, computers, and video game consoles, even when not in use, may still draw electricity.

In the release, Belmont Light shows how reducing consumption at this time is a net benefit to customers’ wallets and the environment:

Peak energy usage costs more for Belmont Light and you. When demand for electricity on the New England grid rises above levels that are not typically available, ISO-NE must call on “peaker plants” to go online to provide backup generation. These plants charge a higher rate than typical generators, with a premium placed on their availability during these peak times. Additionally, utilities like Belmont Light are charged by ISO-NE for the highest amount of demand that they have during these peak times, known as the coincident peak. Belmont Light and other utilities must pay year-round for the potential of reaching this coincident peak.

Peak energy generation tends to be from fossil fuel sources, like gas and oil. In situations of peak demand, the peaker plants that ISO-NE calls on for emergency generation must be ready to fire up on short notice.