Photo: The location of the DPW tanks.
If you first don’t succeed, hold a public forum. That’s the approach town officials are taking as they prepare to host a first of possibly two public forums on the future of a pair of municipal fuel tanks located beneath the Department of Public Works Yard off C Street.
The forum will take place via Zoom at 7 p.m., Tuesday, August 3. Zoom information can be found on the Town’s calendar at WWW.BELMONT-MA.GOV
“This is such a big hot item that we felt it needed a night onto itself rather than being crammed into a meeting agenda. It needs the respect of having its own night,” said Select Board Chair Adam Dash at the board’s Monday night meeting.
Despite seeing a nearly $500,000 supplemental allocation – which was championed in 2020-1 by the Capital Budget Committee and the Select Board after numerous public meetings – to pay for the removal of the existing 35-year-old tanks with an above-ground model costing a total of $1,033,000 narrowly defeated by the June annual Town Meeting, the town is currently conducting a detailed analysis to answer any questions about the project and refute unsubstantiated claims by three abutters who brought a successful citizens petition to defeat the allocation.
Glenn Clancy, Belmont’s director of Community Development who is leading the analysis, said the first meeting will be a chance for the town to share its findings and information on a couple of items such as ensuring tanks that have passed by several years their useful life and likely Department of Environmental Protection environmental concerns.
“I’m going at this very methodically. I’m starting from the beginning myself but I also recognize that a lot of the work has already been done by town staff and so I’m piecing together information and I’m taking good information from them as they help me inform me on my work,” said Clancy.
Both the Town Administrator’s Office and the Select Board said they will make a final recommendation only after hearing from the public and providing a finished report. The town will bring its proposal to the Special Town Meeting tentatively scheduled for early/mid-November.
Already, possible opposition to the town’s findings is coming from a familiar source. In a note to members over social media, Citizens for a Fiscally Responsible Belmont – a financially conservative group that headed the successful drive to defeat the $6.7 million Proposition 2 1/2 override this past April – will press the town to defend the size of the tanks while demanding it produces cost analysis on the tanks and alternatives.
The only option the CFRB is opposed to is a head-scratcher now as it was when it first promoted it before the June Town Meeting: an abolition of above-ground tanks. Despite the town and outside consultants demonstrated above ground storage was far less costly in the long run than those located underground, it was reported the group abandoned its fiscal conservative credo to solidify greater political support.
For Clancy, the only thing he’s seeking is “validation from the residents that what I’m doing and how I’m going about this.”
“The worst-case tomorrow night is that I come away with a message that I need to be digging deeper or … looking a little closer at certain things, which is fine. You know at the end of the day, what I want is a recommendation that I can make to the board that has broad consensus in the community. So it’s important that the community and the residents feel good about what the town proposes,” said Clancy.