Belmont Fire Log: Sleep-Deprived Tenant Speaks His Mind to Firefighter

The illustration is a detail from a larger piece called “Sleep Deprivation” by a great young artist Adam Murphy.

Cooking too long

Nov. 23 – At half past noon, fire companies from headquarters were dispatched to a large brick apartment building on Trapelo Road in Cushing Square after smoke was reported in a 6th-floor unit. The crew from Engine 1 broke down the door and discovered that someone left their cooking unattended. The place was ventilated.

Out of date detector 

Nov. 23 – Just about 25 minutes after the incident on Trapelo, fire units were sent to School Street for a possible gas leak. Sure enough, the alarm was buzzing away but there was no odor of gas. A firefighter from the Ladder truck discovered the device was manufactured in 2000. Turns out the average life span for that device is roughly five to seven years. The home owner was advised to replace the carbon monoxide detector.

Nothing to learn here

Nov. 24 – At 20 minutes until 6 p.m.,  Engine 1 and the Ladder truck took off to a private school on Lexington Street to investigate, what else, the reported inside odor of natural gas. Along with National Grid personnel, the crews reported normal readings throughout the building.
Sleep-deprived tenant speaks his mind

Nov. 24 – Just after 11 p.m., crews were sent to investigate an automated alarm at a building on Trapelo Road in Central Square (the area at the corner of Beech Street) with a business on the ground floor and apartments on the second. Each floor has its own fire alarm system. So this is what happened: a tenant on the second floor was hearing this slight buzzing sound coming from a building alarm horn on his floor but which was connected to the ground-floor system. It’s 11 p.m. and since he had no way of stopping the damned-thing buzzing, he pro-actively removed the horn from the wall which then set off the fire alarm panel on the first floor and hence the alarm to the fire department. While firefighters told the tenant tampering with a fire alarm system is not permitted, the tenant gave them a piece of his mind (after putting back the horn).

“I attempted to educate the tenant on the dangers of tampering with a fire alarm system but the tenant felt that I was being unreasonable,” read the report.

The owner of the building was called and made aware of the situation and assured us an electrician would be called in the morning to evaluate system.

“Now where did I leave my keys?”

Nov. 26 – A bit after 1:30 p.m., firefighters were sent to Slade Street to get a person back into their house after they locked themselves out.

What does this say about the tenant’s cooking?

Nov. 28 (Black Friday) – At a quarter ’til 5 p.m., Belmont Fire companies and Watertown Engine 2 were sent to a reported kitchen fire in a two-family on Grove Street. The apartment dweller said she set the oven on self-cleaning (it was the day after Thanksgiving) when it began to smoke. The electrical and gas services leading to the oven were shut down and the kitchen was ventilated by use of a smoke ejector. While they were there, firefighters noticed that the smoke detectors on the first floor were covered over with plastic. The tenants told the crews the detectors would sound each time they would cook a meal and they covered them to prevent a false alarm. The commander at the scene informed them of the dangers of covering the detectors and not to do so in the future. The landlord said he would replace the oven and add another detector to the first floor back hallway.

Belmont Property Tax Rate Falls but the Average Bill Continues to Rise

The good news: The Belmont Board of Selectmen has cut the property tax rate in fiscal 2015 by nearly five percent.

The bad news: Your residential tax bill will in all likelihood be higher in the coming fiscal year.

That’s the analysis from the Board of Assessors which presented its recommendations to the Selectmen on Monday, Dec. 1.

The board’s recommendation, which the Selectmen approved unanimously, was that the fiscal 2015 tax rate to be set at $12.90 per $1,000 of the assessed value of the property. That is a 60 cent cut from last fiscal year’s rate of $13.50.

While normally a cut in a rate would be good news, it comes as the assessed value of Belmont properties increased by just under $500 million to $5.9 billion. That increase can be seen in the value of an “average,” or median, Belmont house which exploded to $847,900 from $782,600 last year.

For the “average” Belmont home, taxes next fiscal year will be $10,938, up $373 from last year’s average of $10,565.

“The decrease in the rate is a result of the increase in real property values with an increase in the tax levy capacity,” said Assessors Chairman Robert Reardon, who was accompanied to the meeting by his colleagues, Martin Millane, Jr. and Charles Laverty III.

For more information on just what is and how the tax levy is calculated, the Massachusetts Department of Revenue has a handy primer explaining the concept.

With the vote, Belmont will see an increase in property taxes in the coming fiscal year of $2.3 million (compared to $1.9 million last year) from a total amount collected of $76.6 million. That amount is the sum of the annual 2.5 percent increase allowed under state law and $654,000 in “new growth” which includes properties that have increased in assessed valuation since the prior year because of development or other changes and any new subdivisions and condo conversions.

As with past years, the assessors recommended and the selectmen agreed to a single tax classification for all properties and no real estate exemptions.

Reardon said Belmont does not have anywhere near the amount of commercial and industrial space needed to support separating the classes with their own tax rate.

“We are not raising more money by having a commercial rate, we are only shifting it” onto businesses while the savings for residential rate payers would be “negotiable,” said Reardon.

Under a senario where the commercial rate would be maximized by a factor of 1.5, residential tax payers would see their rate drop by 39 cents to $12.51/$1,000 of assessed value for an “average” savings of $330 per year while commercial rates would increase to $19.35/$1,000 to see an average increase of nearly $5,500 from last year.

“Every board strives to increase our commercial base … we really want to incentive them and you don’t do that by increasing the tax rate,” said Selectmen Chair Andy Rojas.

Belmont Hires Everett City Services Leader as New DPW Director

Not wasting any time to fill an important town position, the Belmont Board of Selectmen voted Monday night, Dec. 1, to appoint Jason Marcotte, the director of city services in Everett, to replace Peter Castanino as Director of the Belmont Department of Public Works.

“[Marcotte] has a great reputation and enthusiasm” in the public works arena, said David Kale, Belmont’s town administrator who was part of the search committee.

Kale noted that his experience in public works operations and fiscal and project management “has provided him with the opportunity to work effectively with elected and appointed officials, committees and boards at all government levels.”

“I have met [Marcotte] and what an impressive person he is,” said Selectmen’s Chair Andy Rojas.

“[I’m] pleased we attracted such a fine applicant [for the position],” said Rojas.

Marcotte was hired as an employee at will with a base annual salary of $120,000. He begins work on Jan. 5, 2015.

Marcotte, who goes by Jay, has been a young man on the move in the past few years. He was hired in Everett in July 2013 after spending a year and a month as Manager for the Village of Northfield, Vt. which recruited him from his job as assistant director of public works in charge of fleet, facilities and solid waste departments in Bryan, Texas, a neighboring city to College Station, the home of Texas A&M University.

“[Jay’s] innovative approaches and ability to think outside of the box resulted in significant fiscal savings for the Departments under his charge,” Alton Rogers, a fellow Bryan employee, wrote on Marcotte’s Linkin profile.

“If you wanted the words which best describes Jay, they would be integrity, honest, intellegent, innovative, perseverant and fair,” wrote Rogers.

Marcotte – who matriculated at Norwich University where he earned a BS (in biology) and MPA – also has work experience in the budget process and with large regional organizations as a member of the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority’s advisory board. 

He was also the chair for the Solid Waste Technical Committee for the American Public Works Association, a national organization of public works professionals with 30,000 members.

Marcotte should also garner the attention of the members of Sustainable Belmont as he published a paper on the workability of a cap and trade system for solid waste that was featured by the Sustainable City Network. He also presented a paper at the APWA annual conference in August titled “Boras, Sweden – A city free from fossil fuels.”

“His paper on cap and trade in the solid waste arena is cutting edge. The industry and government should stand up and take notice. I hope to see him published in the near future,” wrote fellow MPA recipient Erica Balk.

Marcotte lives with his wife and two children in Nottingham, NH which is close to the University of New Hampshire. He is on the town’s budget committee and ran unsuccessfully in March 2013 for the town’s three member board of selectmen, losing by seven votes out of approximately 700 cast.

Belmont Police Collecting Toys for Area Tots

The Belmont Police Department will once again be a collection point for the annual Toys For Tots campaign.

The Police’s HQ is located across Concord Avenue from Belmont Town Hall at 460 Trapelo Rd. at the corner of Pleasant Street.

The United Sates Marine Corps Reserves, which runs the program each year, is asking for new, unwrapped toys which are needed for children in Belmont and surrounding communities. 

(Here’s some trivia: The “Toys for Tots” logo was designed by Walt Disney.)

Donation bins are set up in the department’s main lobby and are accessible seven days a week, 24 hours a day. Donations made before Dec. 15 will be helpful to ensure the toys are distributed on time. Please call 617-993-2550 if you are in need of assistance or have any questions.

A Belmont Lions Share of Christmas Trees and Wreaths Now on Sale

Belmont residents Colleen Ford and Linda Garrity slowly made their way up and down the evergreens standing outside the Belmont Lions Club on Saturday, Nov. 29.

Like each year, they ventured down to Belmont Center looking for that “right” Christmas tree.

“You don’t want it too big because over time they fill out,” said Garrity.

Nor should it be too tall as the tree will be placed in the kitchen, explained Ford.

“We put it there because the window looks out over the access road [to Route 2],” she said.

“We think it’s nice for drivers to see, and it’s also a way to show off a little,” Ford said.

The pair were some of the first customers on the first day of the annual Belmont Lions Club Christmas tree and wreath sale which has transformed into its own holiday tradition for hundreds of families in Belmont and the surrounding communities for the past five decades.

“Our family does this each year,” said Kristen Lonero, who was back from attending Curry College to help her father get the right tree.

“We know the people so this is like a Belmont reunion,” said Lonero, who not so many years ago spent time with fellow athletes at the Club – one of the 46,000 local clubs worldwide with more than 1.35 million members in 200 countries – located under the Belmont station of the MBTA commuter rail line.

Lion’s President Kevin Vona said he and his 63 fellow members will spend from last Saturday until Christmas Eve selling approximately 2,800 trees and 2,000 wreaths, “but every year we sell out before the 24th.”

Supplemented by volunteers from the Belmont High School sports teams – Boys’ hockey and lacrosse were there to unload the first delivery of trees while softball created wreaths – “we all do our little part to make this a success,” said Vona.

Former Belmont resident Al Gledhill was placing trees on mini-van roofs with the expertise of someone who loves to volunteer.

“It’s the season,” said Al.

The sale’s proceeds go to help the Lions Internationals’ SightFirst programs that focus on its Childhood Blindness Project and other sight-related charities as well as fund a pair of scholarships at Belmont High School.

This year, change and donations placed in the “tip” jar will go to Belmont S.P.O.R.T. (Special Programs Organized for Recreation Time) which provides activities for individuals of all ages with special needs.
“People come here not just that it’s close, but they know the money they spend here is going to a worthy cause,” said Vona.

While the weekends can be busy, and the traffic traveling up Royal Road can cause everyone to do a “quick step” to avoid a collision, “I think everyone has a blast coming here. Our guys and the customers,” said Vona.

Jasyn Tandy and his daughter, Elise, were spying a couple of trees to select.

“She definitely has a voice in which one we select,” said Tandy of his toddler who was looking with a family friend.

With the selection made, Tandy decided to put the tree over his shoulder and head up Royal Road (he only lives three houses up the street.”

“My daddy’s strong,” said Elise.

New Belmont Property Tax Rate to be Released Monday

“Things as certain as Death and Taxes, can be more firmly believed,” wrote Daniel Defoe in “The Political History of the Devil.” 

Tonight, Monday, Dec. 1, the Belmont Board of Selectmen will be take on the certainty of taxes as it receives and will vote on how much residents and landowners will pay in property taxes.

The Board of Assessors will make its annual visit to the Selectmen’s Room to announce their recommendations on what is officially known as the “annual property classification/tax rate for fiscal year 2015.

A year ago this month, Belmont’s property tax rate was set at $13.50 per $1,000 of assessed property value. That was a 17 cent increase from the fiscal 2013 rate of $13.33/$1,000.

Last year’s tax rate broke a barrier in which half of Belmont property owners would pay $10,000 or more as the median Belmont residential property of $782,600 would result in a bill of $10,565.10.

This Week: Santa’s Here on Thursday! All-Night Shopping Tuesday, Flu Clinic Friday on the Beech

• On the government end of things, the Belmont Board of Selectmen are meeting on Monday, Dec. 1 at 7 p.m. in Town Hall while the Zoning Board of Appeals will hold court in the Belmont Gallery of Art at the same time and date. The Belmont Planning Board will meet on Tuesday at 7 p.m. at Town Hall while over at the Chenery Middle School, the Belmont School Committee will be in session beginning at 7:30 p.m.

• The Belmont Public Library’s 7th-8th Grade Book Club will discuss Fever, 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson on Monday, Dec. 1 at 7 p.m. in the Young Adults Room. Attendees will also choose January’s book and enjoy some snacks.

• Pre-School Storytime will be held at the Benton Library, Belmont’s independent and volunteer run library, on Tuesday, Nov. 24 at 10:30 a.m. Stories and crafts for children age 3 to 5. Parents or caregivers must attend. Siblings may attend with adults. Registration is not required. The Benton Library is located at the intersection of Oakley and Old Middlesex.

• Growing in popularity since beginning in 2010, Belmont Center’s fifth annual Midnight Madness will allow shoppers to buy locally from 21 stores which will stay open from 6 p.m. to midnight on Tuesday, Dec. 2. There will be snacks, drinks and each hour, customers can expect even deeper discounts. 

The Belmont Public Library is hosting a Homework & Hot Chocolate for Chenery students from 1:30 p.m. to 3 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 3. Stop by the Assembly Room, work on your homework, enjoy some hot chocolate, and try out an activity. Provided to you for free, thanks to the Friends of the Belmont Public Library.  Just drop in, no registration required.

• The extremely popular Art Classes resume for the year at the Beech Street Center with the first class taking place on Wednesday, Dec. 3, from 2 p.m. to 3:45 p.m. Catherine Tang, now a senior at Belmont High School, returns to teach – without charge – her popular art class on Wednesday afternoons. Catherine uses, and provides, a variety of media including colored pencil, water color, charcoal, etc. There is no cost to attend but you must sign up.

• Representatives from Belmont and Watertown that serve on the Logan Airport Community Advisory Committee are hosting a public meeting on airplane noise from Logan airport on Wednesday, Dec. 3, at 7 p.m. in Belmont’s Town Hall. 

• The Beech Street Center is holding hearing screenings on Wednesday, Dec. 3, from 12:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. Receive a free hearing test, and if needed your hearing aid battery replacement. Mass Audiology offers this service free of charge to Center participants. Sign up at the front desk or call 617-993-2970.

• It’s LEGO time at the Belmont Public Library from 3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 4. The library’s LEGO club is for kids in kindergarten through second grade who want to meet and create their own unique structures.  All LEGOs will be provided so just bring your imagination to the Assembly Room.

• Mrs. Claus joins Santa for the Belmont Center Business Association’s 24th annual “Turn on the Town” celebration on Thursday, Dec. 4 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Sponsored by Belmont Savings Bank, the holiday festivities will run along Leonard Street in Belmont Center.

• Rogers Pharmacy will conduct a flu immunization clinic at the Beech Street Center on Friday, Dec. 5 from 1 p.m. to 3:45 p.m. The flu shot is covered by Medicare, Part B and by most health insurance plans. Otherwise the cost is $25.99.