Arlington-Belmont Chamber Chorus Performing ‘en francais’ At Payson Park Church; Sat. Dec. 3, 8 PM

Photo: Rue de Paris, temps de pluie (1877) by Gustave Caillebotte (1848–1894) (In the public domain)

The Arlington-Belmont Chamber Chorus will present an “A French Connection” concert at the Payson Park Church, 365 Belmont St., on Saturday, Dec. 3, at 8 p.m.

The program, conducted by Barry Singer and accompanied by pianist Amy Lee, features various French poems and texts. The music spans some 550 years, from the 1500s through the present day, and includes pieces by composers from France and elsewhere, including Jean-Phillippe Rameau, Camille Saint-Saëns, Gabriel Fauré, Claude Debussy, and Morten Lauridsen.

This will be a free concert; donations are gratefully accepted. The Sanctuary is wheelchair accessible.

We ask that our audience please wear a mask to attend this concert.

To watch our live-streamed concert, please visit our website on Saturday, Dec. 3, at www.psarlington.org  

Belmont’s Ellie Shea Heads To National XC Championships After Winning Northeast Regional

Photo: Ellie Shea (Credit: John Nepolian, New Balance National Indoor)

Last year, then-Belmont High sophomore Ellie Shea stepped off the course at the 2021 national high school cross country championship while racing with the lead pack. Something didn’t seem right, so Shea did the wise choice and decided to wait for another day.

That day comes in less than two weeks as Shea again toes the starting line at the Champs Sports Cross Country – formerly the Foot Locker Cross Country – Championships in San Diego after running away with the Northeast Regional title in historic Van Cortland Park in the Bronx on Nov. 26.

Finishing sixth in last year’s regional, Shea started with the lead pack before upping her tempo and dropping a stellar field by the two-mile mark, widening her lead over the five kilometer (3.1 miles) course before finishing in 17:10.7, a clear 100 meters over second place Karrilynn Baloga of New Windsor, NY who clocked in at 17:24.9.

With the victory, Shea returns to the championships in San Diego where she will meet the top harriers from across the country over the 5km course in Bilbao Park. The race will take place on Saturday, Dec. 10, starting at 9:15 a.m.

Watch the National Championship LIVE! on Facebook or Youtube or Twitter

A dual indoor (2022) and outdoor (2021) 5,000 meter high school national champion, Shea has been breaking records – from such stars as Olympian Lynn Jennings and Lesley Welch – from the mile to the 10K on the track and roads in the past six months. In June at Bentley University, Shea lowered her personal best in the 1500 meters to 4:14.35, a state and New England high school record which is the eighth fastest all-time mark in US high school history.

In October, she ran with professional runners in the Boston 10K for Women finishing ninth in 34:11, the 9th fastest 10km road performance in the world this year by women 20 years old and under and the fastest U20 10km in North America this year by nearly two minutes.

Help Wanted, Please! Belmont DPW Director Says Finding Workers Tougher Than Ever Before

Photo: Wanted to drive for the DPW?

Once, it was nearly every child’s dream job was to drive a big truck including a snow plow.

Today, Belmont and about every city and town across the country can’t find someone/anyone to drive a municipal truck. In fact, the Belmont DPW can’t get people to join the department, period.

The DPW is desperate to find someone, anyone, to drive its large trucks equipped to clear snow off the roadways this winter.

“We’ve been posting the jobs for a while but we are just getting candidates,” said DPW Director Jay Marcotte to the Belmont Select Board on Monday, Nov. 21.

Last year, when the DPW was down five workers, during both of the heavy snowstorms which required every town department and all the town’s contractors on the streets clearing snow, the DPW “had two trucks sitting in the garage … which means we have to hire more contractors and we pay a premium for those,” said Marcotte.

Currently, the town is seeking anyone – resident or nonresident – with a Commercial Driver’s License to apply.

“I want to avoid idle trucks at all costs,” Marcotte told the board.

But it’s not just drivers where the DPW is coming up short. As of mid-November, the department has ten open positions – two which were the result of cutbacks in last year’s the town budget – which the town just cannot seem to fill.

“Just a few years ago, you’d have a line out the door with applicants. It was considered a way to get your foot into working for the DPW,” said Marcotte after the meeting.

“We though about changing our prevailing wage but I don’t even think that would bring any additional applicants,” Town Administrator Patrice Garvin told the Belmontonian.

Garvin said Belmont is not the only town with a workers shortage. Head over to the Massachusetts Municipal Association jobs site and the list of open positions – for both professional staff and salaried workers – in city and town government is seemingly endless. Marcotte said he has talked to his fellow DPW directors and they are facing the same shortage.

What Belmont is facing is happening across the country: The US has, as the Economist reported, an unemployment problem. Not what we normally associate as too many unemployed; rather there’s not enough people out of work. As taught in Econ 101 (almost certainly using the text book Economics co-authored by Belmont resident Paul Samuelson), when there are too few workers in the market, the demand for them increases and those workers have their choice of who they work for.

Significant factors in this phenomenon was the Covid-19 pandemic that saw many older workers retire, younger people seek entrepreneurial careers and, in Massachusetts, a dip in the population level as the state suffered one of the highest rates of outmigration – 6th largest in the US – in 2020.

The results can be seen throughout the state: popular shops such as Starbucks and local restaurants are closing due to staffing issues, a lack of child care workers limits the number of children a site can take in, and workers are asked to add extra shifts due to the lack of employees.

Marcotte said the real world implications for Belmont of this national trend is residents will see delays in response times for service or less frequent action, while needed infrastructure repairs will be pushed to the side.

“They will feel the affects if we can’t find workers not just during the snow season but as we head into the spring,” said Marcotte.

New Library Borrowing, Leaf Blower Bylaw Highlights Special Town Meetings, Nov. 29-30

Photo: Town Moderator Mike Widmer will lead the Fall Special Town Meeting beginning Nov. 29

The Fall Special Town Meetings – yes, there will be two – will take over two nights, Tuesday, Nov. 29 and Wednesday, Nov. 30, each beginning at 6:30 p.m.

On the first night under Article 1, Select Board Chair Mark Paolillo will report on the Collins Center recommendations. Following his report, Town Moderator Mike Widmer will adjourn Special Town Meeting 1 and consider three financial housekeeping articles under Special Town Meeting 2. The “Special, Special” will then be dissolved and the body will resume STM 1 with a discussion of the leaf blower bylaw. That will end the first night.

The only business on night two, Wednesday, Nov. 30, will be the Belmont Library borrowing authorization. Voters on Nov. 8 approved a debt exclusion for a new library by a 1,800 vote margin. The latest estimate on the cost to build the structure is $39.5 million with supporter groups raising approximately $5 million in fundraising.

In June, Town Meeting voted overwhelmingly to continue with the three-minute speaking limit that was initially used at this most recent annual Town Meeting. “So that will now be the regular practice,” said Widmer in a discussion with Town Clerk Ellen Cushman.

Widmer also asked Town Meeting members “to continue our tradition of civil discourse at Town Meetings.”

“As Belmont’s legislative body, we have a responsibility to air our differences respectfully as we have consistently done in the past. I would also add that this respect should extend to our communications on social media. Our obligations as Town Meeting Members are not confined to Town Meeting itself,” said Widmer.

What’s Open (Coffee, CVS), Closed (Everything Else) In Belmont On Thanksgiving

Photo: Thanksgiving (c. 1935) by Doris Lee (1905–1983), Art Institute of Chicago

Thanksgiving is a national and state holiday – one of only ten recognized by the federal government – and while most businesses along with federal, state and town offices are closed shut. In Belmont, town offices and the library will also be closed on Black Friday. But there are a few places where you can get away from the hustle and bustle of the kitchen to pick up a coffee or hot chocolate or hit the drug store for whatever reason.

What’s open!

  • Starbucks in Cushing Square (Trapelo and Common) is open from 6 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Thanksgiving and 5 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Black Friday.
  • Dunkin’ at Trapelo Road and Beech Street will be operating under normal hours from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m. The location on Church Street (in Waverley Square) will be open from 5 a.m. to 2 p.m. The store at 350 Pleasant St. will be open from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m.
  • CVS at 264 Trapelo Rd. is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. while the pharmacy is open from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
  • CVS in Belmont Center on Leonard Street is operating from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The pharmacy is closed.
  • Star Market in Waverley Square is closed all day.

Belmont, Watertown, 100: Turkey Day Rivalry Is A Day Early As Centennial Clash Takes Place At Fenway Park

Photo: Belmont High School football captains

The Thanksgiving Day football rivalry between the Marauders of Belmont High School and the Raiders of Watertown High is being played a day early, on Wednesday, Nov. 23 and not at Belmont’s Harris Field as it was scheduled.

But that’s OK for players and fans considering where its being held: historic Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox. The change in plans have to do with the nature of the game; the teams are playing the centennial game in the long-storied competition. First meeting in 1921, Watertown leads the series 49-45-5. The game was cancelled twice, in 1940 due to a snowstorm, and in 2020 because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

This is not the first time a Belmont High squad played at Fenway as the ‘Polly’ Harris-managed baseball team won the state championship defeating Turner Falls in the spring of 1941.

The teams come into the game, the teams have been on losing streaks. After starting the season at 5-0, Watertown (6-4) have come home 1-4 having beaten the last opponent, Brighton High, 37-22. It should be mentioned that two of the losses were to teams – Stoneham and Wakefield – playing in state championships finals next week.

For Belmont (4-5), it’s been feast or famine: the Marauders have been a scoring juggernaut against teams of equal or lower ability but found it difficult to stop, and score against, the more polished squads. In its last game, the Marauders scored first but was shut out for the rest of the game to fall to Waltham, 21-7.

Because the match will be a “home” game, the Belmont High School Marching Band will perform the National Anthem and at half time.

Tickets are still on sale online – the only way to obtain tickets. Belmont Media Center will be broadcasting the game live on all BMC channels.

Belmont High Swimming/Diving Returns To Promenance With Strong Performances In League, States Meets

Photo: The smile you make when you qualify for sectionals

The first thing that hits you visiting the Higginbottom Pool in the bowels of the new Belmont High School is walking smack into the highest humidity this side of the Amazon jungle. Unlike the pool in the old school, which had doors leading outside the field house and large glazed windows, the new configuration is hermetically sealed to the outside world, where the water vapor is so concentrated that clothes become immediately uncomfortably moist and electronics come close to shorting out.

Now add to that 50 or 100 student-athletes all screaming and chanting at ear-splitting teenage levels for most of an hour, and you’d swear this is a circle that Dante would likely add to the Inferno.

And Belmont High Girls’ Swimming and Diving program would not have it any other way.

Like their cross country and volleyball breatharian, Belmont High swimming and diving were road warriors for the best part of three years. It meant training and competing in far-off Wellesley venues or less-than-ideal settings, such as a local country club whose pool was short on amenities and length.

Finally, this year, the girls could call the Higginbottom theirs. And they responded. More than forty swimmers and divers came together for a successful 2022 season, going 6-2 in dual meets and putting up times and numbers that spoke of the resurgence to swimming and diving prominence for a program that less than a decade ago finished second in three consecutive Division 2 state championships.

The team was led by top swimmer and chief cheerleader, senior co-capt Alique Stepanian, who stuck with the program during the lean times, and in her final high school campaign, was a loud presence in the water and on the deck. Stepanian was a freestyle specialist who came off an undefeated dual meet season in individual events while bringing her four years of varsity experience to a cadre of younger teammates.

Belmont senior co-captain Alique Stepanian getting the team ready for a dual meet

“It’s a unique experience being a captain of this team, especially as we are a varsity team,” said Stepanian, noting it’s a squad that includes all four grades. “We are one team, and we all practice together. So you got freshmen to seniors, which I get the chance to motivate and, sometimes, just listen. It was great being a freshman and having all those senior and upperclassmen mentors, and I’ve been really happy to pay it forward and mentor all the younger swimmers.”

After a strong league championship and a sixth place in the North Sectionals, Belmont was primed for its best on the big stage. In the state Division 2 finals held at MIT on Nov. 13, Stepanian achieved a personal goal of a podium finish at states capturing third in the 50-yard free, completing the sprint in 25.27 seconds. Stepanian would take fourth in the 100 free in 54.32, taking more than a second from her pre-finals best.

Belmont scored third in diving as Robyn Tonomura-MacDonald scored 398.350 points, one of only two sophomores in the top ten.

Stepanian joined juniors Rowan Dargon, Mia Murphy, and senior Clara Bhagwati to score a solid fourth in the meet’s finale, the 400-yard free relay, in 3:49.92. Swimming her fourth race of the afternoon, Stepanian anchored the team home in 56.01 to hold off the foursome from powerhouse Chelmsford.

Also scoring at states, the two Marauders’ Mia’s – juniors Murphy and Taylor – with Bhagwati and Dargon finished 10th in the 200 Medley; Mia Murphy was 11th in the 50 free, senior Heidi Zhang 12th in the 200 free; Bhagwati was also 12th in the 500 free, Dargon, Stepanian, and Mia Taylor teamed up with junior Abby Hill to finish 7th in the 200 free relay, while sophomore Katrina Chan (9th) and Taylor (11th) came home with points in the 100 breaststroke.

Belmont cracked the top five in the final team score finishing in fifth with 165 points, its best performance since 2017. 

Belmont Is The Gold Standard – For Solid Waste; Town Set To Vote On New Five-Year Trash Contract

Photo: Waste Management automated truck (credit: WM)

When the Belmont Solid Waste and Recycling Committee and representatives of the town’s Department of Public Works visited Waste Management’s Material Recycling Facility in Billerica in May – the place where your recycling goes – the group witnessed one of the bales of recycled material was audited for contaminates. That would demonstrate how careful Belmont households are in placing the proper materials in the 96-gallon barrels.

While most communities are in the 30 percent range – examples of contaminates from other towns include cider blocks, aluminum bats, and a boa constrictor thrown in recycling bins – Belmont is at seven percent. “We are one of the towns with the lowest contamination rates. Waste Management is very proud of that,” gushed Mahesh Jayakumar, the chair of the collection committee.

With Belmont being the ”gold standard” with its recyclables program and demonstrating a double-digit percentage reduction in trash collection in the past half-decade, “we are doing very well over the past five years,” Jay Marcotte, DPW director, told the Belmont Select Board during a presentation on the next five-year solid waste contract on Nov. 14.

It’s been since 2018 that the town signed its first contract with Waste Management – the largest US waste removal company with about a quarter the market – involving automated collection, with recyclables, are processed as a “single stream,” which allows residents to mix paper, cardboard, glass, and plastics.

Besides the automated collection of trash and recycling, the current contract includes picking up one “bulky” item a week, yard waste collection from April to December, Christmas tree removal for two week in January and a fee-based removal system for TVs and appliances.

Category Old Contract in FY ’18New Contract in FY ’22
Trash 7,326 tons or 1,465 lbs. per dwelling6,215 tons or 1,243 lbs. per dwelling
Recycling2,118 tones or 423 lbs. per dwelling 3,209 tons or 642 lbs. per dwelling
Credit: Belmont Department of Public Works

In the five years since the switch from manual to the automated collection, Belmont is a recycling juggernaut, increasing the amount it recycles by nearly 52 percent to about 642 lbs. per household – while other communities that also changed saw about half the gains. During the same time, the trash removed from Belmont dwellings has been reduced by 15 percent, double what other communities have seen. WM also removed an estimated 2,500 “ex”-Christmas trees and 3,200 “bulky” items.

Yet, while Belmont will receive a premium rate from WM for being a recycling-friendly community, the town can expect a steady increase in the price to remove trash in the coming five years. That’s because there is a Brave New World of recycling economics, so much so that “we have to pay for it, and it’s now more expensive than trash [removal],” said Marcotte.

The market changed radically in early 2018 when the Chinese government suddenly banned accepting recyclables from the rest of the world. Today, Belmont’s “recyclables are subject to market swings and commodity prices,” said Jayakumar. The recycling processing fee was affected the most, which increased from $45 per ton in fiscal year ’18 to $101 per ton in fiscal ’23. In the proposed contract extension, the processing fee will jump 36 percent to $137 per ton in fiscal ’25, with 3.5 percent increases in the remaining four years.

Belmont will also face two significant cost increases under the WM extension: a 23 percent jump in the prevailing wage for WM employees and annual inflation rates of eight-to-nine percent. To spread out expenses over the five years, the group has worked with WM on a plan which would see a 4.5 percent increase in the first year, fiscal ’24, with years two to five, increasing 3.6 percent annually.

In the proposed five-year WM contract, curbside collection expenses – which includes trash, recycling, and yard waste collection along with Christmas trees and bulky items – will increase from the current $2.449 million in fiscal ’23 to $2.948 million by fiscal ’28.

After reviewing the data, the committee recommended on Oct. 18 that the best option would be a five-year contract extension with WM. An extension will ensure no disruption in service for five years while providing a “reasonable rate” of increase given the expected elevated inflation.

While the Select Board decided to push back a vote on the recommendation to its Monday, Nov. 21 meeting, it appears ready to follow the advice of the Collection committee and DPW.

Performing Art Company’s ‘Love’s Labor Lost’ Thursday-Saturday In The Black Box Theater [Photos]

Photo:

The greatness of Shakespeare in the intimacy of the Black Box Theater will be treat for residents who attend “Loves Labor Lost”, the fall production of the Belmont High School Performing Arts Company.

The PAC Production features a send up of high school stereotypes, and mixes into the comedy some modern day slang, contemporary pop music and even some viral internet trends.

The show features a cast of 18 actors and the tech crew includes more than 40 students working on lighting, scenery, costumes, props, sound and stage management.

The production will take place Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Nov. 17, 18, 19 at 7 p.m. at the Belmont High School Black Box theater. 

TICKETS are:

  • Adults: $12 
  • BHS Students: $5 
  • Children: $7

Ticketing for the shows is all online, and advance purchase of tickets is strongly encouraged, as the Black Box has limited seating capacity. Tickets can be purchased at bhs-pac.org.

Breaking: Dash Will Not Seek Re-Election To Select Board In April Town Election

Photo: Adam Dash

Two term Belmont Select Board member Adam Dash announced he will not seek re-election to the three-member body in the upcoming Town Election this coming April 2023.

Dash made the statement in a press release on Thursday, Nov. 17.

“When I was first elected, I knew that I wanted to serve more than one term because three years was not enough time to accomplish my goals, but that I did not want to serve indefinitely because new people should get a chance to serve,” Dash said in his announcement.

“Today, I am comfortable with what we have done, and I am ready to turn over my seat to someone new.”

Dash’s decision creates an opening on the board that oversees Belmont’s town government as it begins the process of implementing recommendations from the Collins Center report on structural changes to town governance and as Belmont enters a period of fiscal uncertainity.

Known for his lawyerly demeanor – Dash is an attorney with a practice in Cambridge – and someone who argues points in a cordial manner, the Goden Street resident has created effective partnerships with each of his board colleagues.

Dash’s tenure will be known for his leadership during the Covid-19 pandemic which occupied most of his second term (Dash was re-elected in June 2020 when the election was pushed back by two months; he ran unopposed).

“Having been re-elected during the height of the COVID pandemic in 2020, I spent untold hours helping our dedicated team navigate the medical and financial crises, and I am proud to say that we adapted and continued to serve the community,” he said.

Dash was first elected in 2017, defeating Guy Carbone, 63 percent to 37 percent as Dash won seven of eight precincts. A member of the financial watchdog Warrant Committee since 2009, Dash’s profile rose to prominence in 2015 as the public face of the “Yes for Belmont” campaign, successfully arguing the need for a $4.5 million multi-year override.

Dash pointed to the board’s accomplishments in the past six years including, as a member of the now defunct Light Board, to bring Belmont Light to the brink of 100 percent green energy; increased the number of women and people of color on Town boards and committees; built a new High School; renovated and added onto the Police Station and DPW buildings.

In addition, there was the hiring of new Town Administrator, Police Chief, Fire Chief, Town Accountant and Belmont Light General Manager; chose a route for the Community Path; re-designed the Town’s health insurance plan; passed a Housing Production Plan and new liquor license regulations; banned plastic bags; while successfully maintaining Belmont’s “coveted AAA bond rating.”

“I want to thank everyone who put their trust in me. I also want to thank the Town’s dedicated employees who have worked through difficult times to continue making Belmont the town we love.  We would not have accomplished anything without them,” said Dash.