Town Cuts the Ribbon On DPW Renovation/Addition But Says It Will Be Back Within A Decade For A New Facility

Photo: The ribbon cutting at the DPW renovation and addition with Highway Division Director Mike Santoro doing the honors

After decades of “inhuman working conditions,” the day finally came that employees at the Department of Public Work have a place worthy of their hard work as the town officially opened the newly renovated building and addition which has been in operation for a couple of months.

“I really want to thank my building committee, they were just awesome,” said Ann Marie Mahoney, chair of the Belmont Police Department/Department of Public Works Building Committee which oversaw the renovation work at both the DPW and police headquarters since Town Meet approved the appropriation back in 2016.

But before residents feel content with the $1.6 million spent on the current project, it remains only a temporary fix as a new DPW facility – with a price tag in the range of $25-$30 million – is less than a decade a way as a complete renovation of the entire plant is just not cost effective.

“Wonderful as this is, I do want to remind people that the clock is ticking,” said Mahoney. “When we started, we said 10 years for a permeant building … so put that on your calendars.”

Mahoney also called out architect Ted Galante of THE GALANTE ARCHITECTURE STUDIO in Cambridge as the “creative genius” behind this relatively inexpensive project as well as the recently wrapped up renovation of the Belmont Police Department headquarters.

“I think the biggest challenge for this project was how do you invest in a building wisely but do it in a cost effective way, to provide the DPW with their needs so that it can be a much better place while knowing it will be replaced in a relatively short time,” said Galante.

After the ribbon was cut by Highway Division Director and 40-year DPW veteran Mike Santoro, the committee took a tour of the building which featured segregated facilities for male and female workers to shower, change, and take a break, a conference room while new bays for repairs and maintenance of the department’s vehicles have been installed.

The chief improvements for those who work out of the building “is it brings a sense of dignity to the place,” said Mahoney.

“When I started here all we had was a small area with lockers but no showers and the bathroom facilities were inadequate. We would take a curtain meant to clean the trucks and use it for privacy,” said John Sheridan, a 12-year veteran of the department. “Now we have that privacy; nice locker rooms, a nice kitchen. As you can see, it’s a world of difference.”

Groundbreakings, Part 2; DPW On June 4 And Police July 9


In the past month, the Town of Homes has transformed into a Community of Groundbreakings. After last week’s ceremony for the Belmont Middle and High School, its now the opportunity for additional municipal projects to have their own ribbon cutting.

The Department of Public Works/Belmont Police Department Building Committee is inviting the public and residents to a pair of ceremonial groundbreaking events:

• The renovation of the Department of Public Works facility will take place on Tuesday, June 4, at 8 p.m. at the DPW yard which is at the end of C Street.

The new construction and renovation of the Belmont Police Headquarters will happen on Tuesday, July 9, also at 8 a.m. at the headquarters located on the corner of Pleasant Street and Concord Avenue across from Town Hall in Belmont Center.

With HQ Under Renovation, Belmont Police Is Seeking A Temporary Home

Photo: The current Belmont Police Headquarters

Got an extra room you can spare? How about a spacious backyard that’s available to rent?

Than call the Belmont Police because the force will need a place to crash beginning this summer as its nearly 90-year-old headquarters undergoes a comprehensive renovation.

That’s the latest from the police brass and the building committee overseeing the expansion and modernization of both the police headquarters on Concord Avenue and the Department of Public Works facilities off C Street as they came before the Belmont Board of Selectmen for an update on the projects on Monday, Feb. 4.

And while the groups have been in talks with several groups in town to find an acceptable interim site, Anne Marie Mahoney, chair of the DPW/BPD Building Committee, said “we are not ready to articulate our list” of possible stopgap locations, although later in the presentation, Town Hall was mentioned as a “possible” replacement site.

According to Mahoney, bids for both projects will go out in March with construction beginning in June. She also noted while estimates call for a 10 month construction schedule, “if you ever [renovated] a kitchen … you know what takes 10 months can quickly become a year to 15 months.”

Mahoney told the board the original plan to keep the 55 member department – of which 48 are sworn officers – in the structure at the corner of Concord and Pleasant Street was deemed “not a good idea” by all parties due to safety concerns of police personnel working in a construction area and the acknowledgement that renovating an empty building would allow a quicker and more extensive restoration.

The question now facing the police and town is where the force will be relocated. Police Chief Richard McLaughlin said operational and organizational analysis performed by assistant Chief James MacIsaac placed safety, parking, accessibility and public access high on the list of requirements for a temporary site, all the while doing so with the minimum of disruption while not taking up space.

One unit already knows where its going and it’s not far. Communications, which includes the 9-1-1 operations, will be housed in a trailer in the front of headquarters since all its equipment will remain in the building. 

McLaughlin told the board the biggest potential headache is how to deal with 25 “marked” police vehicles that will need to be parked close to the temporary headquarters.

“Where do they go?” he said. There are also issues with security for officers and civilian employees, those arrested, processed and detained (“our visitors”) and storage of evidence and paperwork.

“Every issue around town revolves around parking,” quipped Mahoney.

The committee and police will be back before the board in two weeks with more definitive plans.

Police Station Renovation Project Passes First Test With Funding Challenge Ahead

Photo: Architect Ted Galante before the Zoning Board of Appeals.

It was smooth sailing as the renovation of the nine decades old Belmont Police headquarters at the intersection of Concord Avenue and Pleasant Street got its first thumbs up as it begins meetings to clear regulatory hurdles and obtain the funding for the historic preservation of the project.

“Step one done,” said Ann Marie Mahoney, chair of the DPW/BPD Building Committee which is overseeing the renovation of the police building and the facilities at the Department of Public Works after receiving unanimous approval from the Belmont Zoning Board of Appeals on Monday, Dec. 3.

“And this [vote] was good and wonderful being unanimous,” she noted.

The committee was before the ZBA seeking approval of a pair of special permits which would allow the circa 1931 headquarters project to bypass town regulations and increase the structure’s height and adding an additional floor to a portion of the building. Architect Ted Galante of The Galante Architecture Studio in Cambridge told the board the additional space would improve the building’s function and allow for a sallyport and revamping of the unsafe holding cells. There will also be a need to reconfigure the entrance to the parking lot from the corner of the intersection to a new curb cut slightly up Pleasant Street. 

The changes will correct complaints of the safety of the cells and meet Americans with Disability Act regulations, said Galante, bringing the building into the 20th century. “We want a building and facility the town can be proud of,” said Belmont Police Chief Richard McLaughlin.

ZBA Chair Nicholas Iannuzzi quipped that as Belmont is a “Town of Homes,” it’s unlikely any of the residents will ever be spending time in the new cell block, only out-of-town “visitors,” to which McLaughlin agreed.

Next up for the project will be a presentation before the Planning Board in January 2019 which will review the project specifically the building’s larger floor area ratio and the landscaping in greater detail. 

Earlier in the day, the committee delivered its final request to the Community Preservation Committee for a $700,000 grant to preserve the historic features of the building. While the majority of the $7 million budget will be paid for via a long-term bond financed by existing town revenue, the brickwork and other repairs to the facade is critical to complete the job.

But the request seeking funding comes during the most competitive grant cycle in the CPC’s short history. Already approved in  the 2019 grant round is $400,000 for the design of an underpass on the commuter rail line at Alexander Avenue while the Board of Selectmen is seeking $1 million to design and conduct an engineering study of a community path from Belmont Center to Brighton Street. In addition, six other requests are pending. The total requested by the nine projects if funded would exceed the nearly $2 million the CPC has to provide. 

“And we really need that money this [cycle],” said Mahoney.

Opinion: Let’s Do The Right Thing; Vote ‘Yes’ On Town Meeting Article 23

Photo: Belmont Police Headquarters

Have you visited the Belmont police station lately? Or dropped recyclables off at the Department of Public Works yard? Have you noticed the condition of those buildings? Have you tried to climb the 21 stairs to meet with Police Chief Richard McLaughlin? Do you know that our plow drivers have no place to eat or rest after eighteen hours of plowing snow? Have you experienced a sewer back-up in your basement? Do you know that DPW workers have no place to shower or change clothes after wading through raw sewage? Do you know that the female police officers who work in our neighborhoods and schools have only tiny locker space crammed into a bathroom?

Many professional evaluations over the years have determined that the police station and DPW facility are in far worse condition than any other town buildings. The time is now to finally meet the urgent needs of our employees by providing safe, accessible, gender appropriate working space.

The November 2017 Special Town Meeting authorized a building committee to address both the police and DPW. The committee has been working all out since December to present schematic designs to Town Meeting on May 30th.

The proposed solution for the DPW facility has two-prongs. In the short-term, renovate a small section of the DPW main building and add modular units which will house locker rooms, shower and laundry space, room for training and quiet rest and a small amount of office space. Renovations to the existing space will provide a more suitable kitchen and break room space and additional restrooms. This first phase will provide greatly improved working conditions for about $1.2 million. Long-term, the Town must pledge to construct a totally new facility on the existing site within ten years.

The solution for the police station is a brilliant design to renovate and add to the existing building on Concord Avenue. This will meet the department’s needs indefinitely. This extraordinary proposal includes additional construction on the back of the station as well as a sally port on the Pleasant Street side. The completed addition and renovation will provide new locker room space for both genders, new holding cells, safe and secure entry and booking space for prisoners, an elevator and second stair, evidence storage, meeting space and more. The proposed design respects the historic features of the building, provides an accessible entrance and additional parking. The permanent solution can be accomplished for between $6.2 and $7.5 million, which is a quarter of the cost of a new facility.

This proposal can be paid for out of the operating budget and will not require a debt exclusion. The advantage of this funding approach is that the work can begin immediately and will not interfere with either the library or high school plans for debt exclusions. The plan is the result of tremendous creativity by the building committee, the architect and owner’s project manager, the Town Administrator, and the Town Treasurer as well as the enthusiastic support of police and DPW personnel.

This proposal is a significant step forward for the Police and DPW who have languished in substandard working conditions for decades. As a town, we depend on our police department to keep us safe. We depend on our DPW to plow the snow, keep clean water flowing to our homes, and maintain our playgrounds.

Please urge your Town Meeting Members to vote YES on Article 23. It is the right thing to do.

DPW/Belmont Police Department Building Committee
Kathleen Cowing, Secretary
Roy Epstein
Anthony Ferrante, Vice-Chair
Anne Marie Mahoney, Chair
Stephen Rosales
Judith Ananian Sarno, Treasurer
William Shea
Michael Smith

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.”