Like New: ‘Innovative’ Designs Upgrade Police HQ, DPW At Fraction Of Cost, Time

Photo: Police Chief Richard McLaughlin in the current crowded police headquarters.

Last fall, the first cost estimates to replace the outdated and dilapidated police department headquarters and crumbling Department of Public Works building came in at a staggering $50 million for both projects over 10 years.

But through the innovative work of a talented Cambridge architect and the cobbling together of a financing plan by town officials, the police and DPW can expect upgraded and improved facilities at a fraction of the initial price tag and with the work completed in a tenth of the time.

“The architect has done a fabulous job,” said Belmont Police Chief Richard McLaughlin of Ted Galante of The Galante Architecture Studio in Harvard Square whose design plan based on renovations, creative land use and additions has the project coming in at just under $9 million with both updated facilities operational by 2020.

A public presentation by Galante on the design of the Police Headquarters and DPW building will be given on Thursday, May 24 at 7 p.m. at the Beech Street Center. 

The current police headquarters across from Town Hall at Pleasant Street and Concord Avenue is nearing its ninth decade of use and shows it; space is at a premium, there is no safe transfer of prisoners into the lockup from the outside, female officers have no lockerroom facility, paperwork and supplies are stored willy-nilly throughout the building and the second floor lacks handicap access.

Last November, the Special Town Meeting approved a new committee, the DPW/BPD Building Committee, which in one of its first moves hired Galante to lead the design of the project. 

“He’s been very creative and very ingenious. Every week he came up with something new and [the committee] said ‘Wow!”, said Ann Marie Mahoney, chair of the committee. To the surprise of the group, Galante “found a way to achieve everything … in the current location in such a way that we no longer see a need for a new police station,” said Roy Epstein, chair of the Warrant Committee and member of the building committee.

“He’s taken this to another level because I really didn’t think it could be done. I said we need to have the facilities here to be able to support all our work and this design does that. He made believers out of me and other people,” said  McLaughlin.

Galante’s design is the functional equivalent of a new station, said Epstein. The plans call for a new second floor located in the rear of the station adjacent to the commuter rail tracks that will hold office space and a new elevator. There will be a three-vehicle garage that will increase parking. The current garage will be transformed into large locker rooms and showers for male and female officers. The building will have a new electrical system along with air conditioning, updated plumbing and other upgrades.

On the left side of the headquarters, a new interior sally port to facilitate the transfer of arrested individuals will be located. To the right of the port will be a two-story addition with storage on the first floor and new prisoner holding cells and a processing center.

With work scheduled for the back and the side closest to Pleasant Street will leave intact the historic Georgian-style front facade along Concord Avenue. The renovation and additions will be done in stages so not to require officers to be housed off-site. 

“We are anticipating that construction will be completed on the police station in the fall of 2020,” said Mahoney.

The upgrade at the Department of Public Works will use modular units, similar to those at town schools. In the front of the main building will be a small unit which will be dedicated to much-needed office space. In the rear of the building will be three connected “mods” housing men and women’s showers and locker rooms, training rooms and a rest area for workers who are plowing snow or fixing broken pipes round the clock.

There will also be washing machines and other areas for cleaning services “because if you’re out there working on a sanitary sewer all day, currently there is no facility to clean your clothes before going home,” said Epstein. In the interior of the building will be an expanded break/cafe area and more office space. If approved, the DPW fix can be done by the fall of 2019.

The total bill for both buildings will be $8.9 million ($6.7 million for the Police headquarters, $1.2 million for the DPW); $7.4 million requires a vote by Town Meeting to issue bonds with $1.5 million covered by reserves. Best yet, “by inspired work” by Town Treasurer Floyd Carman and Town Administrator Patrice Garvin, the total cost can be done without a need for a debt exclusion,” said Epstein. Carman said the town has “sufficient monies” in revenue coming from capital turnbacks, premium dollars and retiring debt “to cover the debt service of $440,000 for the next 30 years.”

Baby, It’s Cold Outside: Town Delays Cardboard Recycling One Week

Photo: Cardboard event postponed.

The cardboard recycling event scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 30 has been cancelled due to expected “extreme weather conditions,” according to the Belmont Department of Public Works.

Forecast for Saturday calls for temperatures in the high teens. 

The collection day has been rescheduled to Saturday, Jan. 6 from 9 a.m. to noon at the Town Yard off C Street. 

Selectmen OK Automated Trash Collection, Pay As You Throw Set Aside For Now

Photo: Kim Slack speaking before the Board of Selectmen, DPW Director Jay Marcotte looking on.

Belmont residents will soon have their curbside trash picked up by an automated trash collection truck requiring each household to use a 65-gallon wheeled barrel to place their garbage after the Belmont Board of Selectmen voted 2 to 1 to back the recommendation of the Department of Public Works Director Jay Marcotte to make a move towards mechanization.

The decision came after nearly four hours of presentations, discussion and debate before approximately 70 residents in the Town Hall auditorium on Monday, Sept. 25. Marcotte will now create a request for proposal (RFP) for a five-year contract by the end of October which will allow the winning bidder to purchase new equipment and acquire the nearly 10,000 bins that will go to each household in Belmont.

While “there is no panacea” when it comes to waste collection, Marcotte told the board the automated system – which is fast becoming the industry standard – strikes “a happy medium” regarding cost and the reduction of trash the town will collect.

He noted that using the barrels with the automated collection trucks – which has a mechanical arm that grabs the cans and flips them into a collection area – is the “right-sized for a majority of similar municipalities.” He pointed to the reduction in the trash in towns such as Burington (24 percent), Wilmington (26 percent), Dracut (19 percent) and  Dedham (35 percent) who have recently turned to automation.

According to Marcotte, Belmont’s new collection program – which will begin in 2018 – is similar to the one operated by the town of Wakefield which began its automated system in 2014.

Marcotte said data the department has gathered indicates the 65-gallon bins will meet the capacity needs of three of four Belmont households.

In a compromise to residents and board members, the DPW will accommodate residents who find using a 65-gallon barrel to be unwieldy, difficult to move, or more than they need by providing a 35-gallon barrel as an alternative.

Adam Dash voted against the motion because it did not have a provision to research the viability of using 35-gallon bins rather than the bulkier one.

While many of the current curbside services will remain in place in the next contract – the town will continue a separate recycling pickup and yard waste collection – large “bulky” items such as mattresses and furniture will now be limited to one free removal a week.                                                                                           

While selecting a traditional pickup and haul collection system, the selectmen said they had not abandoned the Pay-As-You-Throw method from future discussion. The PAYT approach was one of the most hotly debated of the items discussed. A presentation by Kim Slack of Sustainable Belmont focused on the dual benefits of reducing trash while cutting the town’s carbon footprint by undertaking this program. 

PAYT is just that, requiring households to purchase biodegradable bags for between $1 and $2 a bag for trash collection. Slack said that nearly 40 percent of Bay State communities have undertaken this system and have seen trash reduced from 25 percent to 50 percent. 

“Why not encourage more recycling,” quired Slack, noting that Belmont’s rate has not budged from the current 22 percent of total recycling, compared to Arlington’s 30 percent.

But several residents spoke against PAYT, calling it a hidden tax on residents, many who approved a 1990 override that paid for the current system of unlimited curbside collection. 

“I’m suggesting this is an underhanded way of an override,” said former Selectman Stephen Rosales who said recycling rates could be increased with more education, rather than a regressive “tax.” 

At the end of the meeting, the selectmen suggested discussing in the next two years whether to implement the PAYT method with the automated system.

Trash Talk: Picking Up on Belmont’s Garbage Options

Photo: DPW Director Jay Marcotte modeling the possible containers Belmont residents could be using to place their waste in 2018. 

The options how Belmont will gets rid of its garbage and recycling beginning in the summer of 2018 is increasing by the day.

Single or dual stream? Use only big plastic bags you have to buy? Automated or keep it the way it is?

Who knew trash could be so complicated?

That was the feeling for many of the three dozen residents who attended the first of two – or possibly three – public discussions sponsored by the Belmont Department of Public Works held Monday, June 26 in the Town Hall auditorium.

In the presentation before the Belmont Board of Selectmen which included a wide variety of plastic trash containers as examples of possible receptacles residents could be using next year, DPW Director Jay Marcotte along with the town’s recycling coordinator Mary Beth Calnan sought to give the public the town’s choices as it prepares to signs in early 2018 a new long-term trash collection and recycling contract to collect curbside waste at nearly 10,000 locations.

“It’s a balancing act, said Marcotte on determining which of the options will best meet the needs of all the town’s residents.

The town currently is in the second extension of its 2011 contract with Cambridge’s J.W. Russell which expires on June 30, 2018. The new contract will be put out to bid in the fall with a final contractor selected in mid-January, said Marcotte. 

The DPW is seeking “direction” from the Selectmen on what option the department should pursue, said Marcotte, much relying on balancing residents’ expectations and the town’s fiscal resources.

And there is an array of ways for the town’s trash and recycling to be collected. The town will need to decide if recycled material will be included with everyday trash – known as the single stream approach – versus a dual stream which recycables are picked up seperately. 

The first option is to continue what the town is doing. The current program is collected manually four days a week with an unlimited number of barrells, yard waste and bulky items. If you put out a dozen containers and a sofa or two on the curb, it’s all going to be picked up.

Recycling is collected once every two weeks and there are Recycling Days for items not collected such as rigid plastics, textiles and DVDs/CDs.

The current seperate recycling program is quite effective in Bemont; 95 percent of residents recycle and nearly three-quarters of recyclable items are recovered.

But the cost is pricy: fiscal year ’18 expense for collection, disposal and recycling is $2.5 million.

High on the DPW’s list of options is automated collection. One need only travel south to Watertown to see a single truck with a mechanical arm pick up wheeled-trash recepticles provided to residents being hoisted up and into the container. 

Marcotte said this method – which is increasingly becoming the industry standard throughout the country – is efficient, cuts labor costs and workmen compensation claims and is neater than the current system.

There is a signficiant upfront cost of between $250,000 to $450,000 for the new “carts” as well as the liklihood that an addtional recycling truck will be neeeded. And trash pick up is limited to what’s in the barrels; bulky items will need a seperate removal at an addtional cost. But the town will see yearly cost savings by the fourth year of upwards of $200,000 versus the manual method.

Another option is Pay-As-You-Throw or PAYT in which all garbage is required to be placed in a 35 gallon bag that costs a few dollars. If you put your garbage in any other bag – sorry, it’s not being picked up.

The pickup can be done within a manual or automated system, with a state grant avaliable to subsidize puchasing carts. The bags will be a distinctive color with the town’s seal on it.

Marcotte said PAYT will decrease the amount the town will pick up and it’s a great incentive to reduce, reuse and recycle. It would also be somewhat cheaper to run. But he noted “throw” systems come with its own issues: you have to purchase bags for all waste, collection is not as efficient, recycling is not as “clean”, and there has been increases in illegal dumping – or people throwing trash in other people’s bins – from those who just won’t pay for the bags. 

With so many options, some residents wondered why things need to change from the familiar system currently in use.

“I think the whole thing is nuts,” said Maryann Scali of Prospect Street, speaking for several long-time homeowners in the hall. “Why can’t we leave what we’re doing?” 

Several people believe the largest container at 65 gallons would prove too unwhelding for older residents and those living on slopped roadways especially in the winter. Others said that they would not need a large PAYT bag for their weekly curb-side offering.

“I would really like to see the emphasise here placed strongly on conveince and ease for the customer,” said John Gilman of Claflin Street 

Amanda Mujica of the Belmont PTA/PTO Green Alliance felt that it was wasteful for the 10,000 customers to throw out the their existing barrels and purchase new containers for a quarter of a million dollars. 

“I know that everyone is on this rally about automation but the trucks are going to take longer as they go up and down each street because they can only go up one side at a time,” she noted.

Pat Brusch of Radcliffe Road said she would be in favor of a “throw” system but only if it was accompanied by an article before Town Meeting to discuss and vote on “an underride.”

The opposite of an override which allows a community to permentaly exceed the annual 2.5 percent cap on the property tax increase, the underride Brusch is proposing would reimburse Belmont taxpayers the $2.1 million they approved in 1990 to create the current curbside trash and recycling system.

Several residents noted they were in favor of the PAYT option, including Taylor Road’s Kim Slack who brought a successful citizens petition at May’s Town Meeting to allow the Board of Selectmen to consider PAYT in future contracts. Slack told the board the “throw” option would not require an automated system which would result in more diesal fumes and would reduce the waste collected from residents “starting on day one.” 

Others, such as John O’Connor of Upland Road didn’t believe it was fair to ask homeowners – who will be facing in the next few years requests for higher taxes to pay for a new high school and other capital projects – to pay to place their rubbish in a bag when they paid for collection 27 years ago. 

A compromise between the existing system and the “throw” option which some selectmen appeared favorable with was voiced by Terese Hammerle of Adams Street who suggested that residents should be able to fill either a 35 gallon bag or container for free each week and then pay for any additional waste.

“That is a way to address the town having already paying for [collection],” she said. “You don’t want it to be unlimited then there is no incentive to reduce the garbage we produce.”

Cardboard Recycling At Town Yard Saturday AM

Photo: Cardboard, uncut but folded.

Belmont’s Department of Public Works’ cardboard recycling program was such a big hit after the winter holidays; the town decided to bring back the service for the summer. 

So once again, rather than spend time cutting up and wrapping them into bundles so it can be collected during the weekly trash/recycling collection, this Saturday, June 24, from 9 a.m. and noon, the Belmont’s Highway Department will accept uncut but folded cardboard packaging for recycling.

Cardboard will be the only item taken. And the DPW will accept as much as you can fit into your vehicle.

While Belmont’s trash and recycling contractor, Somerville-based FW  Russell and Son, accepts the heavy-duty paper, it must be cut into pieces no larger than 3 feet by 3 feet and tied or taped together to make a stack no more than nine inches high.

Winn Brook Tennis Courts Renovation Bid Under Budget

Photo: Winn Brook Tennis Courts.

The Community Preservation Committee will be receiving a chunk of change back into its coffers after the town accepted the lowest qualified bid for the renovation of the Winn Brook Tennis Courts. 

Century Paving and Construction of Fall River was awarded the contract to replace the four tennis courts adjacent to the Winn Brook School, according to Jay Marcotte, the town’s director of the Department of Public Works. It was the low bid of the 16 firms submitting proposals for the job; he told the Board of Selectmen on Monday, April 5.

The work will begin on April 17 with a completion date of mid-June.

The good news is Century’s estimated cost of $231,100 with a 10 percent contingency – totaling $289,000 – is below the $325,000 the CPC granted and Town Meeting approved last year to repair the courts. 

If the job is completed as expected, the $36,000 in savings will be transferred back into the CPC’s budget, said Marcotte.

Throw Out The Barrels: Belmont Eyeing Carry In, Carry Out Trash Policy


If the Belmont Department of Public Works has its way; the trash you make on town property will be equal to the trash you take out.

At a recent meeting before the Belmont Board of Selectmen, the DPW’s Highway Division proposed a town-wide initiative of removing all trash barrels in municipal parks and commercial business areas, according to DPW head Jay Marcotte.

Instead, the town will take a garbage in, garbage out approach to the problem of barrels overflowing with the gross stuff that people throw away.

The new system, dubbed Carry In Carry Out, is straightforward and direct: All trash and waste generated by a resident on town property will now be taken “out” by that same person.

Currently, the town empty barrels on Monday, Wednesday, and Fridays while the town’s trash removal contractor, FW Russell & Sons, removes waste from containers in Belmont’s business districts on the same days. From April to December, the DPW has a two-person crew going to the town’s fields and parks on Saturdays.

But Marcotte noted that with containers, “it’s the ‘Field of Dreams’ concept: If you build it, they will come. If you have trash barrels, trash will come.” 

What Highway crews have long discovered is people toss household trash into the containers. Also, industrial and contractor waste are found by the DPW. Other times, residents attempt to squeeze large boxes into a barrel, clogging it up. And when the containers are filled, people will place their trash along the side.

Rather than canisters and waste baskets, signs and notices would take their place requiring all participants in remove the waste generated to be put in home containers and recycling bins.

The DPW is moving forward with what appears to be counterintuitive to keeping parks and spaces clean due, in large part, to the almost daily abuse and neglect of the town’s barrels. Despite emptying the containers several times a week, many in popular areas are constantly filled to the brim.

The hope is that containerless town sites will promote residents to keep parks and recreation land clean and minimize illegal dumping. People using the sites will be more likely to use reusable containers and bottles and will be more willing to recycle items they bring home.

The policy of taking away the trash is gaining in popularity locally and around the country. Nearby Walden Pond in Concord, the Boston Harbour Islands, the National Park System and the municipalities of Gloucester, Reading, and Needham have joined the trend.

While the Health Department isn’t eager to see the barrels be removed, they are for the removal with a one-word response: vermin! Dr. David Alper, longtime chair of the Belmont Board of Health, said the most efficient method of reducing the number of rats, birds, wasps and squirrels is by removing their food source.

Only the most secure trash containers made of steel with small openings – which are quite expensive – would be as effective in preventing pest infestation as not having barrels at all, said Alper.

And after seeing photographic evidence of the abuse, some residents are heaped upon barrels and other containers, the Selectmen voiced their support for a change.

“I can’t believe this. It is disgusting … This is totally unacceptable,” said Selectmen Chair Mark Paolillo of a photo showing the aftermath of a men’s summer league championship at the Belmont High School softball field with the area surrounding a barrel marked with empty beer cans and sparkling wine bottles.

Paolillo said the Recreation Department should be issuing warnings to teams that abuse the sites and leaving garbage at town locations, “or we will revoke the league’s permit!”

Marcotte said his department would like to start the new policy in the spring and chronicle the impact. They are only waiting for the town’s Park Commissioners – which is made up of the Board of Selectmen – to give the OK.

DPW Accepting Holiday Cardboard Recycling Saturday, Jan. 7

Photo: Cardboard collection.

With all the holiday presents and gifts received, the one lasting memory most residents have from the holidays are the stacks and piles of cardboard boxes they came in.

But rather than spend time cutting up and wrapping them into bundles so they can be collected during the weekly trash/recycling collection, this weekend all you’ll need to do is take a drive to the Department of Public Works Town Yard at the end of C Street.

On Saturday, Jan. 7 between 9 a.m. and noon, the Belmont’s Highway Department will accept uncut but folded cardboard packaging for recycling. 

Residents will be able to drop off folded cardboard

While Belmont’s trash and recycling contractor collects cardboard, it must be cut into pieces no larger than 3 feet by 3 feet and tied or taped together to make a stack no more than nine inches high.

The new pilot program will take place one last time on Feb. 4. The DPW will then evaluate the scheme to determine if it will become an annual service. 

Residents Give Good Tidings (and Coffee) to Town Crews Working Christmas

Photo: Brighton Street on Christmas Eve.

It was already a cold and dank Christmas Eve afternoon as the sun was setting on two crews from Belmont Water Department’s Distribution and Maintenance services.

After spending hours digging up Brighton Street next to the Hill Estates seeking a major water main leak, the workers discovered the break was not in the 10-inch main but a six-inch pipe – bearing the date “1888” – on the other side of the street.

“It occasionally happens that our best guess is wrong,” said Mike Bishop, the Department of Public Works’ Water Division manager on Tuesday, Dec. 27. It would mean filling in the first trench and dig a new one in the dark hours before Christmas.

Around the same time, homeowners on Washington Street called the town to report a “geyser” of water was gushing out of a manhole cover directly across from the entry of the Chenery Middle School.

‘That turned out to be an eight-foot long slit in a 10-inch main,” said Bishop, likely caused by air in the system introduced into the pipe from recent work along Common Street.

“That pocket of air was just looking for a weak point in the system,” said Bishop.

Two major breaks at the same time which just happened to be on Dec. 24th.

“Unfortunately we can’t predict when these will happen. We just have to send the crews out and get the job done,” said Bishop.

As the employees began breaking up the street for the second time, word got out among those living on Pond Street, Hill Road and Brighton Street of those workers preparing for a long night to provide town services.

First one, then another and still more came by to drop off coffee, pastries, food and a “thank you” to the half-dozen or so digging for a pipe in the dark. The Brighton Street work was completed just before St. Nick flew into Belmont around midnight.

When the crews came to make the repairs on Washington in the late morning of Christmas Day, residents from around the site stopped to wish them Merry Christmas and leave off gifts of food and drinks.

For Bishop, the response of residents was gratifying.

“It was phenomenal,” he said of the gestures of good will.

“It’s the little things that go a long way for the crews,” said Bishop, who used social media to thank the town folks.

“Sometimes [the employees] don’t see how appreciated their work is. But this one time that [residents] just coming by did a lot of good.”

Holiday Cardboard Recycling Set for Saturday, Dec. 3


For the first time, Belmont’s Highway Department will accept uncut cardboard packaging for recycling. 

Residents will be able to drop off cardboard – which will need to be folded at the Department of Public Works Town Yard – on Saturday, Dec. 3 between 9 a.m. and noon.

While Belmont’s trash and recycling contractor accept cardboard, it must be cut into pieces no larger than 3 feet by 3 feet and tied or taped together to make a stack no more than nine inches high.

The new pilot program will take place on three Saturdays – the other dates are Jan. 7 and Feb. 4 – during the holiday season. The DPW will evaluate the scheme in February to determine if it will become an annual service.