Picking Up the Check: Pool Committee Hands $411K to Town for Underwood

Just three-and-a-half weeks ago, Anne Paulsen said she “went home crying” after a meeting with the Board of Selectmen when it appeared the new Underwood Pool may not be built. The board had challenged the pool’s Building Committee to find $400,000 in just over a month or possibly see the entire projected shelved due to a sudden shortfall in funds.

“It was fairly depressing,” said Paulsen, chair of the Underwood Pool Building Committee.

Boy, how four hundred grand can change Paulsen’s demeanor.

On Tuesday, Oct. 15, the Underwood Pool Building Committee – the volunteer group that oversees the design and construction of the new two pool complex to replace the historic 102-year-old facility – presented the Belmont Board of Selectmen $411,000 which was raised to bridge a funding gap which occurred when in late August a low bidder for the $4.1 million construction job suddenly dropped out leaving the committee needing to bridge a $388,000 breach to the next low bid.

Paulsen also announced that just before the meeting, the committee signed a letter of intent with New England Builders & Contractors Inc. of Methuen, the project’s new contractor.

If there is not a lot of snow this year, New England Builders believe it can save most of the 2015 summer swimming season, said Paulsen.

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Unlike the previous meeting with the Selectmen – where the board voiced its frustration at the lack of an “adequate” contingency amount in the pool’s budget – this will a day for happy as the town celebrated the achievement of raising the money in just over 25 days through the effort of residents with a boost from the town’s largest business.

Paulsen praised the efforts of fellow committee member Ellen Schreiber, who led the public fundraising effort, and former Belmont selectman Ralph Jones who, with his family, donated “a significant” amount to the cause in addition to flushing out donors.

Special acknowledgement was directed to the Belmont Savings Bank Foundation – the charitable wing of the Belmont Savings Bank – and the bank’s CEO and President Robert Mahoney who stepped in quickly to donate a $200,000 matching grant “that took what felt like an intimidating, possibly hopeless task and turned it into an exciting challenge,” said Schreiber.

“I had a sense that this was an important project … that it wasn’t just a physical asset but an emotional one,” Mahoney said.

“These were our three pieces of good luck,” said Paulsen.

Schreiber also acknowledged the town’s residents, from lifelong citizens to new families in Belmont for just a few years, who donated every amount from $10 to $25,000.

“People don’t give money for something they don’t care about,” noted Schreiber, who said in her years of fundraising, “I have never seen so much come in so quickly.”

Additional donations over the approximately $390,000 needed to fill the gap continue to come in, the money being placed in the project contingency fund.

“Congratulations to all of you. It was a daunting task at first,” said Selectman Chair Andy Rojas, thanking Mahoney for the bank’s challenge. “We’re happy to see the pool move forward and not miss a step.”

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