McLean To Propose Schools Building, Future R&D In Zone 4 Overlay District

Photo: The current Arlington School (Arlington School Facebook)

McLean Hospital will submit a proposal to build two buildings totaling 150,000 sq.ft. in the McLean District Zone 4 Overlay District to house an school building and research and development space.

The 11.58 acre development will be presented before the Select Board on Wednesday, June 26, and comes the day a Special Town Meeting vote to alter a traffic management and mitigation agreement the hosptial has with the town for a residential development in the district’s Zone 3.

This project would complete the build out of the 238 acres McLean set aside for development in a 1999 Memorandum of Agreement between the hosptial and Belmont.

“I have to admit I haven’t seen anything updated,” said Town Engineer Glen Clancy before a June 17 public meeting with the Select Board on changes to a traffic mitigation plan in a neighboring zone. “There may very well be something that I’m not aware of, [but] conceptually, this is pretty close.”

The proposal will see the hospital build two structures: a 90,000 sq.-ft. facility to house a relocated Arlington School, a college preparatory high school founded in 1961, and Pathways Academy, an off-site school aimed at helping students with autism spectrum disorders. In addition, a future 60,000 sq.-ft. research and development facility will join the schools, but which it has yet to attract a partner.

Clancy said McLean will seek site plan approval to develop within Zone 4 in advance of an application to the Planning Board in July. 

According to Stephen Kidder, an attorney representing McLean, the project will be a taxable development.

If the proposal sounds familiar, the hospital presented a nearly identical plan before a joint meeting of the Select and Planning boards in March 2020, within weeks of regular activity being shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The original plan has yet to receive a formal vote by town officials.

The current four-year delay was due to the hospital’s determination to move forward with the school project using philanthropic funding, which was time-consuming.”McLean is now at a point where it can go forward.”

According to Kidder, while the hospital has been interested in finding a developer for the R&D for the past two decades, despite a single inquiry in 2008, “there’s essentially been no further interest articulated.”

After 20 years of frustration attracting a research and development partner for the site, the hospital decided in 2020 to “establish a child and adolescent program on the site to deal with the incredible rise in mental health issues that are faced by children and adolescents these days,” said Hitter, a partner at Hemenway & Barnes.

Kidder noted that the town will tax both facilities as commercial property due to existing agreements between the town and the hospital.

“It’s clear any development on zones three and four is a taxable development. So even though the use would be an otherwise charitable use, and under Massachusetts state law would qualify for a tax exemption, this would be a fully taxable use because that’s the agreement that the claim made with the tenant,” said Kidder.

With the announcement made during a meeting to review changes to a traffic plan affecting Zone 3, Kidder noted, “The primary generator of traffic under this proposal for Zone 4 is the Arlington School. And that’s traffic that is already coming to the area.” With the transfer of the schools to their new site, traffic that currently takes Mill Street “will be shifted to Pleasant Street … but it is not new traffic being generated in the area.”

Belmont Opens Cooling Centers To Help Alleviate Midweek Heat Wave

Photo: Cooling center opened for all residents

With temperatures during a midweek heat wave expected to reach the mid-90s to over 100 degrees, Belmont is providing a pair of cooling centers to help all residents stay comfortable and safe during the peak of the hot weather.

The Beech Street Center, 266 Beech St., will be open on Tuesday and Thursday from 8 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. and Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Center will be closed on Wednesday, June 19, as part of the Juneteenth holiday.

The Belmont Media Center, at 9 Lexington St., will be open Tuesday through Friday from 11 a.m. until 7 p.m. Water will be provided at both locations.

Sweet 6! Belmont Girls’ Rugby Romps To Sixth Consecutive State Title Over Weymouth

Photo: Co-Capt. Mia Taylor lifts the state championship trophy after Belmont won its sixth consecutive title, defeating Weymouth, 80-0, on Saturday, June 15, at Curry College.

In a near flawless performance of top-flight rugby, Belmont High School Girls Rugby secured its sixth consecutive MIAA Division 1 state title, romping past a young, scrappy Weymouth squad, 80-0, at Curry College on Saturday, June 15.

The victory continues Belmont’s dominance in the tournament. The Marauders have won every championship game since 2017, when Belmont scored 17 unanswered points to defeat Algonquin Regional High School 17-14 in a true nailbiter.

Belmont HIgh School, the 2024 Div. 1 Girls’ Rugby State Champions

According to Kate McCabe, who started the varsity team a decade ago and has led the squad to each of its half dozen championship victories, it has been “a privilege” to coach what she and her players have created both this season and as a program.

“No one’s showing up because I’m so much fun to hang out with,” said McCabe. “It’s the players that made a family and a system that people feel empowered to be a part of even when they come in knowing nothing about rugby,” she said.

For senior outside center and co-captain Mia Taylor, the victory culminates in a personal three-peat of state championships.

”This team is just incredible. Every day, I’m excited to go to practice. I love these girls so much,” said Taylor, who will soon be off to UC San Diego, where she will continue playing rugby.

Belmont senior Mia Taylor on her way to a hat trick.

While Belmont came into the game unbeaten in 2024, having defeated Weymouth 26-12 in the first match of the season, the Marauders have had its handful with the Wildcats. In its past two encounters, Weymouth kept the matches close until late, including holding the lead early in the 2023 state semi-finals.

Belmont was anything but dominant in the first five minutes, losing its first four possessions on a series of miscues and nerves. But McCabe allowed the team seniors to take care of adjustments on the pitch.

“The coaches didn’t talk to you,” McCabe told her team after the game. “Nobody stepped onto the field. We let you lead, and you played off each other that whole time. Your voices were heard, and they were repeated together, supporting one another. We could not be more proud.”

Belmont’s stellar backline defending shut out Weymouth

Belmont dominated the defensive side of the ball. The front eight prevented Weymouth from putting in a positive phase, with the Wildcats inside Belmont’s 22 meters just once in the first 35 minutes. Belmont’s backs – led by senior wing Ally Caputo and junior Robyn Tonomura-MacDonald – never allowed Weymouth’s swift wings and full-back to break free turning the corners.

Senior lock Sally Amer secured her brace, scoring in the 15th and 23rd minutes, with the first a 10-meter run when she ran over two defenders before lunging into a try. Her second was more impressive: stealing a Weymouth scrum and moments later taking a straight line to try for the five points.

It didn’t take long for Belmont to right the ship, with Taylor grabbing her first try on a run around the right side after nine minutes. It was left up for Belmont’s senior fly half and kicking specialist Lucy “Buzz” Kabrhel to nail the two-point conversion from the most acute angle for the 7-0 lead.

Belmont senior wing Ally Caputo on her way for the team’s fourth try against Weymouth

Moments after receiving the kick, Caputo discovered a crease in Weymouth’s front line and streaked 60 meters for Belmont’s fourth try of the half. Three minutes later, Kabrhel found herself with a meadow of space and slalomed into try. With her conversion, Belmont would enter halftime with a 33-0 lead.

Despite being up by five tries, a rugby advantage is never secure as the scoring team receives the ball after a try and can dictate the game. But Belmont would allow the Wildcats just a single drive close to its try line before senior prop Olivia “Liv” Mann propelled herself to try after Belmont ran a master class in bringing the ball down the pitch. Taylor would throw down a brace within six minutes to complete her hat trick, and the rout was on. Mann, senior lock Abby Hill, junior “Number 8” Sadie Taylor, and Becca Michaud finished the scoring.

With Kabrhel’s 11th of 13 conversion kicks sailing through the uprights, the referee blew his whistle, and Belmont would celebrate its most dominating performance of the five previous state finals.

“It’s a long game, and over the course of the playoff run, we tell them, ‘You play the very best that you have. Give it your all, put it all on the field.’ And today, you can see people were just running as hard as they possibly could, and it was really beautiful to see,” said McCabe.

When Taylor was presented with the state championship trophy, she immediately started jumping up and down, her smile as bright as the sparkling late spring sunshine, expressing everything she and the team were feeling.

“My senior year meant so much to finish it here with every one of my teammates. I’m going to miss this so much,” Taylor said as she carried the trophy off the pitch.

Skating Rink Heading To Town Meeting To Fill $4.3 Million Budget Shortfall

Photo: Mark Haley, chair of the Municipal Skating Rink Building Committee, at Wednesday’s meeting

In a stunning admission, the Municipal Skating Rink Building Committee revealed on Wednesday, April 24, that the proposed skating rink/community center located on Concord Avenue is approximately $4.3 million over its $30 million budget, according to committee members, jeopardizing the project’s future.

The news comes just over a year after voters passed a $29.9 million debt exclusion to build a replacement for the dilapidated ‘Skip’ Viglirolo Skating Rink that stood for nearly 50 years at the same site as the new rink.

While the committee, construction contractor Skanska USA, and the owner’s project manager CHA are scrambling to make significant cuts to the project in an attempt to siphon off the red ink threatening the new rink, it appears the committee will come before the annual Town Meeting in late May seeking an infusion of dollars to bridge the shortfall.

“The long and short of it is we have to make some drastic cuts and get that number as close to $30 million as we can,” said Mark Haley, chair of the Municipal Skating Rink Building Committee.

The day before Wednesday’s meeting, Haley and representatives from Stanska and CHA met with town officials, including Town Administrator Patrice Garvin, Select Board Chair Roy Epstein, and Town Moderator Mike Widmer, on the rink’s future. While most of what was discussed remains under wraps, Haley revealed that Epstein – whose board would submit an article before Town Meeting – told him he would not bring a request before members greater than $2 million.

“If we need more money, we have to do it quickly,” said Haley, as the Select Board will need a final number in early May to have a Town Meeting vote later that month. “If we stay at the [current cost], we’re being told there is no project.”

At the end of the first night of value engineering, the committee reduced the deficit to $33.0 million, but only after major reductions to the building’s interior and exterior. This immediately sounded alarms that a reduced building is not what voters – specifically supporters – cast their ballots for.

Location of the proposed municipal skating rink off Concord Avenue

But when the members reconvened on Thursday morning, April 25, the building team was in better spirits. They believed a compromise solution that secured more reductions without challenging the programming was doable despite giving themselves only four working days before revealing a major budget rewrite on Wednesday, May 1.

The story behind the more than 10 percent cost acceleration in the past year is familiar to any construction project. Haley revealed that due to shortages and supply chain delays, nearly every construction cost has spiked since voters approved the project. Examples included concrete costs up by more than half a million dollars, masonry $400,000, the site package $704,000, and plumbing $306,000. Add inflation to other costs, and the total price tag is currently pegged at $34.3 million.

When Haley asked if there were any questions after revealing the deficit, the Select Board Room turned eerily silent as those in the room – many hearing the amount for the first time – took in the enormity of the shortfall.

When the shock wore off, the brutal reality came into focus. If you want a rink, cutting your way to that goal will be ugly, from fairly insignificant expenses facing the chopping block to ripping out the front lobby and possibly reducing the number of locker rooms from the site.

“I was a big proponent of many of these items and not cutting them, and I’d hate to see some of them go,” said Dante Muzzioli of the Building Committee. “But if it comes down to having a project or not having a project, I’m here to make some tough decisions” during the value engineering process.

Value engineering analyzes building features, systems, equipment, and material selections to achieve essential functions and enhance results while reducing costs.

While Building Committee member Ann Marie Mahoney voiced harsh skepticism of the process -“how you can value engineer $5 million out of $35 million … without so destroying the project that it’ll makes it meaningless.” – Patricia Brusch of the Permanent Building Committee told the room value engineering is not necessarily “a really bad thing. It can make a project much better … and force you to make decisions that gets what you want.”

With 40 years of experience overseeing the construction/redesign of nearly every school in town, as well as the renovation of Town Hall and the building of the Beech Street Senior Center, Brusch said the building committee needs to be diligent in designating what in the project is a “need” (a required element), a “want” (nearly a need that is something that you’d like), or a “nice to have.”

“Everything goes on the table that can go on the table,” she said. “Everybody’s idea is an OK idea to throw on the table, no matter if it’s a sacred cow.”

“It might not be black,” stated Brusch of what the committee was about to start, saying there might be “a little gray” when working with creative people. Listen to what they say and collaborate so the committee can “still salvage what you want. In the end, you’ll have a fabulous sheet of ice in a building that the town is dying to use.”

The meeting of the Municipal Skating Rink Building Committee on Wednesday afternoon

Intending to reduce the project by $4 million, the committee, architect Ted Galante, and reps from the contractor and project manager spent nearly two hours Wednesday reviewing about two dozen budget items to determine how removing them would impact the project and it bottom line. While many of the reductions were in the five figures, the most significant cut was deferring the installation of the PV solar panels to a future date, thus reducing expenses by $1,305,000. One item surviving the process was a series of large windows along the east and west walls.

However, as the total reductions remained far removed from the $4 million target, the suggested reductions became more consequential, such as removing the building’s lobby, thus radically altering the building’s appearance to where it will represent a “gray aluminum box.” Some discussions were advanced to just order the pre-engineered building and “plop” it on the site, only to be rejected.

“There is no design, there is no aesthetic, and there is nothing that the community voted for here except the ice,” said Mahoney. Committee member Tom Caputo reiterated Mahoney’s observation, saying the cuts could be so drastic that they reduce or eliminate programs – such as using the building for summer recreation or the expected locker rooms for high school sports teams – alienating rink supporters.

When a proposal to reduce the three-season locker rooms from four to two was presented, Muzzioli said, “[t]hat is not what we promised the school department or anyone else. We took the White Field House down and said we would provide locker space.”

Committee member Anthony Ferrante said the package should be presented to the public once the recommended reductions are finalized.

“We have to go back to the town and say, ‘This is what we’re planning.’ ‘This is how we got here,” Ferrante said.

When the meeting reconvened on Thursday morning, overnight alterations by Skanska’s designers, including lowering the roof element, revisioning the lobby and building front, and repositioning the rink closer to Concord Avenue to reduce the building’s footprint and volume, gave the group added momentum on finding the right combination of cuts and alterations.

“I do think a few ideas have been tossed out [Thursday] that don’t compromise the program and in some way represent cost savings that preserve or bring back [elements] that last night we were talking about disappearing,” said Caputo.

Given their marching orders, the committee will meet on Wednesday, May 1, at 7:30 a.m., with a complete list of cuts and their savings. Haley said he and Mahoney would meet early next week with town officials “to discuss finding more money.” One possible funding source a member threw out during the meeting is the town account created from the Kendall School fire settlement funds.

Town Election: Yes On Override; Wins For Taylor, Widmer, Moriarty And Kraft; Assessors Question Too Close To Call

Photo: Warden Robert McKie reads out the preliminary results from precinct 2 on Tuesday night

Belmont voters approved a record $8.4 million Proposition 2 1/2 override by a comfortable 1,000-plus vote margin at the annual Town Election held on Tuesday, April 2.

The final tally was 5,120 in the yes column and 4,050 nos as voters accepted the positive argument from the “yes” campaigners to preserve public services and safety and protect Belmont schools from losing educators and maintain its outstanding reputation.

“I think it’s that people love their community,” said Erin Rowland, the campaign manager for Invest In Belmont, the “yes” campaign, when asked the compelling reason voters where willing to increase the property tax just three years after rejecting a smaller override request.

”We want the to see the town thrive and continue to be successful, and that’s the reason people came together. What was so heartwarming about working on the campaign was the outpouring of support from a wide range of residents,” she said in a crowded second floor lobby in Town Hall where candidates, observers and many candidates came after the polls closed at 8 p.m.

Invest in Belmont Chair David Lind said the town has “been through a hard few years and we were in a tough spot financially. I believe that [the override] gets us back onto a better track so we can all work together and keep Belmont as the town that we all know land love.”

Rowland, who was a winner in her race to be selected to Town Meeting from Precinct 6, said she fully understood that Tuesday’s results will be difficult for many residents, especially senior on fixed incomes.

”We are one community and we want to do everything we can to see Belmont implement senior [property] tax relief. We understand that need and it’s very real and we’ll do everything that we can to promote that,” she said.

In the night’s nail biter, voters approved making the Board of Assessors an appointed body by a mere eight votes, 4,218 to 4,210. With 50 ballots – from residents overseas and in the military as well as provisional ballots – yet to be counted, the race is too close to be called.

Final results will be released by the Town Clerk’s office by Friday or Saturday. Unofficial results as of Tuesday at 10 p.m. can be seen here.

In the race to replace Mark Paolillo on the Select Board, Matt Taylor defeated his Warrant Committee colleague Geoff Lubien by 600 votes, 3,851 to 3,248, with newcomer Alex Howard taking home 659 votes.

“I began [this campaign] genuinely wanting to connect with people and doing that in a deeply personal way,” said Taylor after feeling “so separated from our local government and our residents coming out of the pandemic. So I knocked on nearly 1,700 doors. I had a lot of one-on-one conversations. It was very grassroots.”

”I have a lot of hope and I’m ready to work because this is a level where you get to make a real positive difference about the people around you,” said Taylor. “We have to reach out to residents and invite them in to have a broader two-way discussion. It brings us together. This is an “us” thing.”

Voters acknowledged incumbent Meg Moriarty’s successful tenure as the two-term chair of the School Committee by returning her to the board. Moriarty topped the three-person field for the two available three-year seats garnering 5,354 votes.

“[Winning] means I get to keep talking about all of our great students and it’s all about doing best for every single student in our schools,” Moriarty said at Town Hall Tuesday night after the results were read by Belmont Town Clerk Ellen Cushman.

With her return to the School Committee, Moriarty will provide a continuity on the six member body “that helps tremendously” as it “helps keeps the momentum moving forward” on several of initiatives that Superintendent Jill Geiser has proposed.

Joining her on the committee will be first-time candidate Matt Kraft. The Brown University professor took home 5,176 votes, while recent Belmont High School graduate, current Emerson College student and Town Meeting member Angus Abercrombie collected 2,792 votes.

“I hope to take the opportunity to listen and learn both from my fellow school committee members and Belmont residents about our priorities and build on the three year strategic plan that the district is developing,” said Kraft who arrived to Town Hall with his wife and two kids after enjoying Taco Tuesday.

Speaking as the new body on the committee, “I think part of the hard work is to work collaboratively and collectively. And I look forward to those conversations that I know some will be difficult. But that’s the job. We all have a shared commitment towards strengthening our schools for all the students and in building towards, frankly, a brighter future.”

”People understood that experience is really important, and that running Town Meeting is very demanding. I’ve done it for all these years and voters felt that I had done well in the position,” said Widmer who announced earlier in the year that this term would be his final one as moderator.

Sweet 16 Shocker: Belmont Girls’ Hockey Upset Three-Seed Lincoln/Sudbury In Quarters, 4-1, As Costa Stops 44 Shots

Photo: Belmont/Watertown goalie Jil Costa readies to pounce on a loose puck during her team’s game vs. Lincoln/Sudbury

It was a nightmare start for Belmont/Watertown Girls’ hockey goalie Jil Costa against heavy favorites Lincoln/Sudbury Regional High in the MIAA Division 1 state championship quarterfinals.

In its first rush up the ice, Lincoln/Sudbury’s junior Ally Quinn split the defenders and sent a wrist shot to Costa’s glove side, handcuffing the sophomore netminder. The puck sneaked by and rolled on its side into the back of the net.

1-0, Warriors, after 50 seconds.

After this goal, Belmont’s Jil Costa stopped the next 44 in the 4-1 upset of Lincoln/Sudbury

“Once it went in I was a little confused, to be honest,” said Costa, one of the standout goaltenders in the state allowing less than a goal a game – 16 goals in 20 games – this season.

But rather than replay the goal in her mind, “I immediately just got it out of my head. I ignored it as if it didn’t happen and I just had to focus on the next shot,” she said.

And from that point onward, it was lights out as Costa would stop all 44 shots she faced while her teammates scored three goals in the final four minutes of the first period propelling 14th-ranked Belmont to a thrilling upset over third-seed Lincoln/Sudbury, 4-1, in the Sweet 16 contest on a rainy Saturday night, March 2, in West Concord.

Belmont Senior Mia Taylor scored the game winning goal in the first period

“We played our game, relying on [Costa] to keep it close and help her out by scoring just enough to win,” said first-year head coach Brendan Kelleher.

Belmont (15-2-3) will next meet fellow upstarts Archbishop Williams (11-10-2) from Braintree in an Elite Eight matchup on Thursday, March 7 at 7:30 p.m., 53 miles from Belmont in far-flung Kingston (which is basically west Duxbury). The 11th-seed “Archies” sent sixth-ranked Methuen packing, 2-1, on a late goal Saturday.

Saturday’s game was decided in the initial 15 minutes as Belmont withstood a continuous onslaught from the quick Warrior forwards. But it was Belmont’s approach to Lincoln/Sudbury’s overtly-aggressive game plan that proved to be the Warriors’ undoing.

Belmont’s first goal came courtesy of senior co-Capt. Lola Rocci on the power play as she slotted a Gigi Mastrangelo pass by L/S eighth grade goalie Lauren Kennedy to level the score at one.

Belmont’s Lola Rocci circling the L/S net during the team’s 4-1 upset victory

With less than 90 seconds remaining in the period, Belmont struck for a pair. Despite defending a Belmont power play, the Warriors kept pushing players into the Belmont end. But when the Warriors lost the puck in the neutral zone, second line seniors Mia Taylor and Ruby Jones jumped to create a two-on-one counter with Taylor capping the break with the game winner.

“it was just keeping that intensity up no matter who’s on the ice … and always go for it and that created the goal” said Taylor.

And it wouldn’t be a Belmont game without an outstanding solo rush and goal by Marauders’ leading scorer, senior center Maddie Driscoll, who hit the back of the net while shorthanded in the dying seconds of the opening frame to leave the ice leading 3-1.

Up by two with a half hour to play, Lincoln/Sudbury kept the pressured on Belmont’s back line and Costa yet the Marauder defensive pairs – with a great deal of assistance from the forwards – withstood each Warrior rush without surrendering ice in front of the Belmont goal and pushing Warrior forwards outside the slot so shots were taken from a safe distance.

“We were told ahead of time they had an aggressive forecheck,” said senior co-Capt. Aislin Devaney. “Our defense did a really good job blocking shots, getting the puck out, and keeping bodies on them which made it easy for [Costa] to make saves.”

Through it all, Costa was as cold as the ice surface making save after save, leaving Lincoln Sudbury players slamming their sticks onto the ice in frustration or looking to the heavens for Divine Intervention that never came.

“A lot of practice just [having a] laser focus on the puck and … just make the save,” said Costa.

Belmont’s Evie Long (second from right) scoring the fourth goal of the game late in the third

It was left up to sophomore Evie Long to put a ribbon on the upset. After receiving a pinpoint drop pass from Driscoll, the winger scooped up her own rebound and backhanded Belmont’s fourth tally high into the net with four minutes left in the game.

“We’re keeping the rink open,” said assistant coach Josh Gilonna, borrowing a phrase used by Belmont Boys’ Hockey during a recent deep run in the tournament. “We’re going to play again.”

Belmont Declares Snow Emergency Parking Ban; Town Offices, Schools Closed Tuesday; Trash Pickup Delayed A Day

Photo: Tuesday will be a snow day

Due to the approaching winter storm, the Town Hall and Belmont Public Schools will be closed on Tuesday, Feb. 13.

A snow emergency parking ban on all roadways, as well as in municipal lots and Belmont Public School parking lots, effective at 11:45 p.m. and continuing until further notice. All vehicles parked in violation of the ban will be towed at the owner’s expense.

Trash, recycling, bulk pickups, scheduled cart repairs, and appliance pickups will be delayed a day due to the storm. The town is asking residents to remove carts, appliances, and bulky items from the public way on Tuesday to allow the plows to clear the roadways.

The last day for candidates to submit papers for town office remains Tuesday. Candidates must deliver their nomination papers to the Belmont Police Station, 460 Concord Ave., instead of Town Hall. Those picking up blank nomination forms may collect them from the Police Department. The deadline to submit all signed nomination papers is 5 p.m. Feb. 13.

The Town’s residential snow removal bylaw requires sidewalks along residential property to be cleared of snow and ice by 8 p.m. the day after the storm ends. Snow and ice should be cleared or treated from sidewalks to a width of at least 36 inches. We appreciate your attention to this very important public safety matter.

Please refer to the Town’s website for further information regarding winter weather, trash removal, and the Town’s snow removal bylaw.

Be Prepared For Tuesday’s Nor’easter With Important Belmont Safety Numbers

Photo: Get ready for a parking ban on Tuesday.

If you thought you wouldn’t need to use the snow shovel or salt on the sidewalk this warmer-than-usual winter, you would be in for a rude surprise on Tuesday morning as an old-fashioned nor’easter will slam into Massachusetts, according to the National Weather Service, which has issued a Winter Storm Warning for most of the region.

For Belmont residents, Tuesday will be about parking restrictions and having town resources close at hand.

“A significant winter storm will continue impacting the Southern Rockies and High Plains today before turning northeast and aiming for the Northern Mid-Atlantic, New York, and New England early this week,” said an NWS press release sent out at 3 a.m. Sunday, Feb 11.

“Heavy snow is possible. Total snow accumulations of 4 to 8 inches are possible. Winds could gust as high as 40 mph,” predicts the NWS on Sunday. The storm will start late Monday night and last through late Tuesday night. The hazardous conditions could impact the morning or evening commute.

Residents should expect the Belmont Police to issue a Snow Emergency Parking Ban just before the storm arrives. During the ban, vehicles parked on town roadways, and in municipal and Belmont Public School parking lots will be towed at the owner’s expense.

Residents should visit the town’s website for information on winter weather and the snow removal bylaw.

With high winds expected, there is a possibility power to residences will be impacted. Residents should contact Belmont Light to report outages – do not call 911 unless it is a true emergency.

  • Call Belmont Light at 617-993-2800 to report an outage.
  • To text an outage report, message your information to 617-993-6006 (message and data rates may apply) with your name, address, and outage information. 

Select Board Sends $8.4M Override To Voters With A Compact In Tow

Photo: The Select Board voting to present a $8.4 million override to voters at the town’s annual Election in April

After Belmont’s Select Board voted unanimously on Tuesday morning, Jan. 30 to place an $8.4 million override on the ballot at the annual Town Election, Board Chair Roy Epstein believed their decision will be seen by the town’s voters as the necessary course to take.

“We’re relying basically on our experiences what might work,” said Epstein after the vote. “Some people have indicated they would like it to be smaller [amount]. Others said they would like it to be larger. So I’m hoping that means we landed at the right place.”

After nearly six months of meetings, public events, and the decision to pegging how much the “ask” of residents came down to two competing figures: a $7.5 million override that would protect the current level of full-time positions in the town and schools, and $8.4 million, which will allow the town and schools to invest in specific area. In the end, the Select Board settled on what they consider is necessary to carry the town over the next three years.

“We appreciate the concerns that some residents have expressed to me,” said Mark Paolillo, who will be retiring from the board at the April election. “But I think [the override] is absolutely needed in order for us to continue to serve the residents and provide services that they expect.”

“This is not an irresponsible number,” said Elizabeth Dionne to the half dozen residents attending the Town Hall meeting. “It is a painful number.”

According to Jennifer Hewitt, the town’s financial director and assistant town administrator, with the town committed to the override, the town and school district can now release their fiscal year 2025 budgets, on Friday, Feb. 2. The Select Board, School and Warrant Committee will meet Thursday, Feb. 8 at 7 p.m. at Town Hall for the fourth Budget Summit at which time the fiscal ’25 budget will be presented.

The expected override is by no means a surprise, as the town has been struggling for more than a decade with a structural budget deficit created by ever-increasing expenses and a difficulty to raise sufficient revenue with annual property tax increases capped at 2 1/2 percent. Add to that, the board has inherited a number of costly such as a large and growing pension fund liability.

With a $6 million cliff facing the town in fiscal ’25, even a “level” budget that seeks to keep personnel and services at the previous year’s proportions would require a significant increase in funding.

While the funds will fill the budget deficit in the next three years, the board views the largest override in Belmont’s history in terms of an investment that in the long run will benefit both the town and schools. Epstein noted “a potential for restructuring certain activities to free up monies to deploy them more effectively.” Case in point: School Superintendent Jill Geiser plans to use the extra funding to lay a foundation with added Special Education staffing and planning with the goal to reduce the number of students being placed “out-of-district” for their schooling, which Dionne said is the greatest financial burdens facing future school budgets.

Agreeing to the larger override amount “is the starting point of making that investment with potential long-term benefits,” said Warrant Committee Chair Geoff Lubien.

“That’s why I believe the $8.4 million is necessary to make that even a possibility,” said Epstein.

The alternative to the override would be cataclysmic to all municipal and educational functions in Belmont. A forecasting exercise on the impact of a “no” vote would force painful cuts in staffing and programs in public safety, public works, library and all other town services while the schools would see significant reduction in staff as students will be without extra curriculum activities, the elimination of popular classes and higher students-to-teacher ratios.

“It’s really easy to destroy institutions, it’s very difficult to rebuild,” said Dionne. “If we don’t have a successful override, we will lose a cadre of talent we cannot replace easily. It will cost us far more to rebuild and to maintain.”

Acknowledging the large “ask” of residents, the Select Board will attempt to placate voters anxiety voting for the override by “hammering out” what is being called a compact with the community. Under this informal agreement, the board, school committee and other town entities will work together to implement policies – such as revamping zoning bylaws to facilitate business creation – and initiatives to manage expenses in an attempt to “bend the curve” of ever rising costs all the while look for ways to maximize revenues.

“What we [as a town] have to be … is faster, better, smarter,” said Dionne.

Under the compact, the Select Board will commit funds to specific public concerns. One discussed Tuesday is appropriating override dollars to repair and replace the town’s threadbare and increasingly unsafe sidewalks, which have been a lament among residents for nearly two decades.

The compact will also “force us to be more fiscally disciplined” using one-time funds such as free cash and from out-of-town sources such as government grants, according to Lubien.

Belmont Police Issues Snow Emergency Parking Ban Beginning Late Saturday As Winter Storm Watch Is Declared

Photo: Parking ban begins 11:45 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 6.

In an attempt to get ahead of the first nor’easter of the winter, the Belmont Police Department has announced a Snow Emergency Parking Ban on all town roadways, as well as in municipal parking lots and Belmont Public School parking lots, effective Saturday Jan. 6, at 11:45 p.m. and continuing until further notice. Any vehicle parked in violation of the ban will be towed at the owner’s expense.

The ban comes as the Boston office of the National Weather Service issued a Winter Storm Watch from Saturday afternoon through late Sunday night for eastern Massachusetts including Belmont.

“Heavy snow possible. Total snow accumulations of 3 to 8 inches possible. Winds could gust as high as 35 mph,” according to the NWS which released the warning at 4:34 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 5.

Town officials are reminding residents the town’s residential snow removal bylaw requires sidewalks along residential property to be cleared of snow and ice by 8 p.m. the day after a storm ends. Snow and ice should be cleared or treated from sidewalks to a width of at least 36 inches.

Residents should go to the town’s web site for further information regarding winter weather and the town’s snow removal bylaw .