Sports: Johnson’s 368 yards, 5 TDs Leads Belmont by Boston Latin, 50-20

Photo: Belmont High’s Mekhai Johnson. 

Belmont High School senior Mekhai Johnson solidified his place as one of the premier running backs in the state with a career highlight performance of 368 yards and five rushing touchdowns to lead the Marauders to a 50-20 win over host Boston Latin at Boston’s White Stadium in Boston. 

Under the Friday night lights, Johnson tore through the Wolfpack defense for touchdown runs of 69, 8, 32, 22 and 24, to power Belmont to its third win of the season (3-5), matching the number of victories the Marauders had last season. 

Johnson’s rush total is likely a new school one-game record while his 106 points on 17 rushing touchdowns are second only to Plymouth North’s Myles Uva’s 22 TDs and 132 points. 

Johnson scored this first four TDs in between two Latin scores, to lead the Marauders to a 27-14 lead at halftime. Belmont kept the ball in Johnson’s hands and one the ground overall as the Marauders marched for 485 team rushing yards as junior QB Cal Christofori scored from a yard out to put the game out of reach. 

Belmont finished off the scoring with a Ben Jones 15-yard scamper and a 32-yard field goal from Aiden Codgan.

Next Friday, Belmont will travel to Somerville to take on the Highlanders, which coincidently lost its game 50-20 to Masconomet Regional.

Halloween Comes to HELLcrest Road. All Hail the Black Cat!

Photo: Spooky on Hillcrest Road.

For 364 days a year, the residents of Hillcrest Road live normal lives of jobs, school and community, like their fellow Belmont neighbors.

But for one night a year, beginning at sunset on October 31, the tranquil tree-lined neighborhood transforms into a path of the dead, as the street metamorphizes into “Hellcrest” Road. 


The skeletons of the dead arise from the ground and attics of the homes, to haunt all those who dare walk the street begging for treats. The remains of runners, soccer players, those who spent too much time in the sun and one superhero who spent a bit too much time around Kryptonite. There are ghosts and ghouls in the trees and big spiders on the ground.


And they all point to the master of them all, reigning over the dead from the house on top of the ridge: The monstrous black cat, with its mad grin, towers over us all for one night. Hail, evil black cat! We are all but Kibble™ to your malicious Halloween plans. 

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Belmont Yard Sales: Oct 31

Photo: Yard sale in Belmont.

Yard sales in the “Town of Homes.”

65 Bow St., Saturday, Oct. 31, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

85 Grove St., Saturday, Oct. 31, 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

285 Waverley St., Saturday, Oct. 31, 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Opinion: A Privately Funded Rink the Fiscally-Responsible Choice

By Ellen Schreiber

I’ve read several columns and postings about the new Belmont Youth Hockey skating rink proposal that are missing key information.

As a member of the Warrant Committee, charged with analyzing the town budget, I believe a new, privately funded rink is the only fiscally responsible choice for Belmont. (Note: The Warrant Committee has not reviewed the proposal. As an individual, I attended the School Committee discussion.)                                                        

Here is the information I heard at the rink presentation that is missing from the public debate. 

1. Privately Funded: Building a new rink would be entirely privately funded by generous citizens. No budget impact. No tax increase. This money is not available for other town projects and would not take away from other town priorities.

2. Rink failure: Engineering analysis confirmed that the only remaining compressor and piping are on the verge of failing. Systemic failure cannot be cheaply fixed and is at the bottom of the town’s capital spending priority list. 

3. Budget Impact: When the rink breaks, the school budget will incur more than $200,000 annually to rent ice time for Belmont High School hockey teams. Practically, there are no rinks in communities surrounding Belmont with available after school hours, so that $200,000 recurring budget item would likely yield practice times as late as 10 p.m.

4. Business Plan: Donors would loan the money to build the rink and absorb 100 percent of the risk, not the town. Rentals would fund loan repayment, which is well understood because Belmont Youth Hockey currently pays market rent for 75 percent of the ice time, which would continue.

5. Budget Savings: The Belmont budget would no longer be responsible for rink operations, maintenance or repairs; new rink operations will fund them.

6. Ownership: The rink is a school-owned facility, and the new site would remain school-owned property.

7. New High School: The rink would move to the western edge of school property. This removes a physical barrier in the middle of school land, which creates more options for BHS site planning.

8. Timing: This project could be completed in two years, long before a new high school could be built. It would not get in the way.

9. No Loss of Fields: The old rink site would be converted into new, better fields to replace the old softball and practice fields, with no net loss of fields. Community Preservation Act money could fund the field conversion. CPA funds must be used for recreation, open space, affordable housing or historic preservation and cannot be used for schools, libraries, or police stations.

10. BHS Hockey Teams: Rink failure would be devastating to the high school program – rental costs are high, rink time is scarce, and practices would be late-night. With a new rink, BHS teams would continue to get first-choice ice times for free.

11. Belmont Youth Hockey: BYHA is leading this project to create a modern, reliable rink to serve better the town. They would receive no financial consideration and would continue to pay market rates for rental.

I’ve done a lot of fundraising. I’ve led a lot of volunteer projects. This level of private contribution is rare. Belmont is lucky to have donors and volunteers willing to make this happen.

I believe that Belmont should move forward with this opportunity as soon as the necessary details can be worked out.

Ellen Schreiber is a Town Meeting Member, a member of the Warrant Committee, secretary of the Underwood Pool Building Committee, co-chair of the Joey’s Park rebuild and hockey mom.

‘The Final Countdown!’ Cushing Village Developers Must Close by Nov. 19

Photo: After more than two years after being approved to build the project, Cushing Village remains a concept, rather than a development site. 

After a more than two-year hold-up on building the largest commercial development in Belmont in decades, the end – one way or another – appears in sight as the partnership seeking to construct the long-delayed Cushing Village project have less than three weeks to take possession of a valuable town-owned parcel before a special permit expires on Thursday, Nov. 19.

Now 27 months since Bedford-based Smith Legacy Partners won approval from the town’s Planning Board to pursue a building permit for the 187,000 square foot retail/residential/parking complex situated at the corner of Trapelo Road and Common Street, at least one town official is expressing cautious optimism the developers – Smith Legacy joined with the Cambridge firm Urban Spaces this spring – will meet the new due date.

“There’s still some T’s being crossed, and I’s dotted, as long as there’re no further substantive changes, then [this can move forward],” said Sami Baghdady, chair of the Belmont Board of Selectmen at its meeting held Tuesday morning, Oct. 27.

Yet Baghdady made his statement after the board voted Tuesday to approve revisions to a parking management and easement agreements the board approved six weeks ago with the developers after demands by the project’s potential bankers “requesting changes to the language in the documents to protect lender’s rights,” said Baghdady.

Town officials said later the modifications did not alter the 50 parking spaces the town will receive in the Cushing Village complex.

Baghdady noted that in addition to the $850,000 payment the development team must make to Belmont for the parking lot, the developers are required to obtain a building permit and close on the property’s ownership by the 19th.

While saying the board has been “frustrated by the process,” Selectman Mark Paolillo said the more than two years of deferred action “is not this board or the town. Unfortunately, it’s the developers. Hopefully, this is the final delay.” 

The development team is seeking to construct a three-structure complex comprising 115 apartments, 36,000 square feet of retail/commercial space and a garage complex with 230 parking spaces.

Sports: Brams Finishes Home Career Undefeated as Girls’ X-C Goes 6-1

Photo: Senior Leah Brams finishing first, again, on her home course. 

She has been a familiar figure along Belmont’s Clay Pit Pond course during the cross country season over the past four years: the quick leg turnover and powerful stride of the harrier with the French braid who was always in front of the pack during the girls’ varsity race.

Since the day she stepped on the starter’s line as a freshman, Belmont High’s Leah Brams has been untouchable running the 3.1-mile (five kilometers) course, only rarely being tested by girls who tried – but never succeeded – to run her down in the tree-lined allée leading to the finish line. 

Brams ended her remarkable running career Monday going undefeated on her home course, and finishing first in the season’s final dual meet against Watertown on Tuesday, Oct. 26. 

Brams isn’t one to think nostalgically about the venue.


“It’s more of relief that I never have to run around the Pond again,” said Brams after the race, although saying later that it will be “kinda sad.” 

And while the senior was seeking to go out in style with a new course record, she just missed out on her goal finishing a solo run essentially in 19 minutes and 2 seconds, just four seconds from tying her PR.

Oh well, said Brams, she’ll just have to set her personal record at the Middlesex League meet on Monday, an event who won twice – as a freshman and sophomore – while finishing second last year.

In her four years, Brams has only lost one dual meet, in Woburn last year.

And this year’s league meet will see Belmont challenge Lexington – the only team to beat the Marauders in their 6-1 regular season – to earn the team’s first overall title in 15 years. 


“I think we can beat them. We didn’t have our best times when they came here,” said Brams.

The Watertown meet saw Belmont flex its muscles, winning 17-44, taking the first four places and 10 of the top dozen. 

Following Brams was junior (and Washington State transplant) Sara Naumann (2nd, 19:50), freshman Audrey Christo (3rd, 20:10), seniors Sophia Klimasmith (4th, 20:28) Meredith Hughes (7th, 21:10), sophomore Camilla Carere (8th, 21:25), freshman Eleanor Amer (9th21:26), and seniors Emma Chambers (10th, 21:32), Carly Tymm (11th, 22:21) and Diana Benea (12th, 22:39).

Sold in Belmont: Multi-families Setting the Sales Pace as Year Nears Close

Photo: 707 Pleasant Street.

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50 Bartlett Ave. Condominium (1927). Sold: $448,000.

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31-33 Cushing Ave. Multi-family (1939). Sold: $900,000.

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707 Pleasant St. Unique Colonial (1926). Sold: $800,000.

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5-7 Pearl St. Multi-family (1900). Sold: $770,000.

A weekly recap of residential properties sold in the past seven-plus days in the “Town of Homes.”

50 Bartlett Ave. Condominium (1927). Sold: $448,000. Listed at $425,000. Living area: 1,140 sq.-ft. 6 rooms, 2 bedrooms, 1 baths. On the market: 65 days.

31-33 Cushing Ave. Multi-family (1939). Sold: $900,000. Listed at $785,000. Living area: 2,728 sq.-ft. 12 rooms, 4 bedrooms, 3 baths. On the market: 57 days.

707 Pleasant St. Unique Colonial (1926). Sold: $800,000. Listed at $899,000. Living area: 1,551 sq.-ft. 7 rooms, 3 bedrooms, 1.5 baths. On the market: 110 days.

5-7 Pearl St. Multi-family (1900). Sold: $770,000. Listed at $799,000. Living area: 2,441 sq.-ft. 11 rooms, 5 bedrooms, 2 baths. On the market: 113 days.

Final Market Day in Belmont, Come Rain or Shine

Photo: Giving thanks.

Today, Thursday, Oct. 29, is the last Market Day of the Belmont Farmers Market 2015 season.
What started in the humid heat of June ends on a muggy, warm October afternoon in which the sun will set 15 minutes before the market closes.
As you stock up on storage veggies and visit with your favorite farmers, bakers, fish vendors, cheese makers, and cooks, take a minute to write down your thoughts about the market in the events tent. The market’s staff will display the messages and share them with the vendors.
Located in the municipal parking lot behind Belmont Center on Claflin Street, the market offers a variety of organic and conventionally produced food in a range of prices. 

Schedule of Events

2 p.m. to 6 p.m.: Share Your Thoughts and Talents
4 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.: Storytime

Weekly Vendors

Boston Smoked Fish Co., C&C Lobsters and Fish, Dick’s Market Garden Farm, Flats Mentor Farm, Foxboro Cheese Co., Gaouette Farm, Goodies Homemade, Hutchins Farm, Kimball Fruit Farm, Mamadou’s Artisan Bakery, Nicewicz Family Farm, Sfolia Baking Company, Stillman Quality Meats, Valicenti Pasta Farm

Monthly and Occasional Vendors

Couët Farm & Fromagerie, Fille de Ferme, Seta’s Mediterranean Food, Soup N’ Spoon.

SNAP Benefits Accepted

The Market accepts SNAP benefits (food stamps) and matches up to $25 for each SNAP shopper each week, thanks to generous donations to the Market. Benefits are processed quickly and easily at the blue Market tent. You can donate to this much needed community effort at

Selectmen Slam Williams for Contacting Investment Bank Without Board’s Knowledge

Photo: Jim Williams (left) making his presentation to the Board of Selectmen.

In a rare public scolding of a fellow board member, the colleagues of Belmont Selectman Jim Williams – Chairman Sami Baghdady and Mark Paolillo – pointedly rebuked the newly-elected member for initiating contact with a large St. Louis-based investment bank to underwrite millions of dollars in taxable bonds to pay off the town’s pension obligations without informing them or town officials.

“It was totally inappropriate for you to have gone out and represented the town to this … organization,” said Paolillo.

While he later admitted in a qualified apology that he may have jumped the gun in terms of approaching the bank, Williams – elected a little more than seven months ago – said the letter and a presentation he made earlier to the board outlining his strategy were the opening gambit in his and his supporters push to move forward with dramatic structural change in how the town will pay its future long-term obligations.

“The dam has burst,” said Williams after the meeting to the Belmontonian, indicating the long-anticipated debate on OPEB expenses – which he ran on in the April town election to an upset victory over incumbent Andy Rojas – has begun in earnest. 

While Williams is holding his cards close to his vest – he would only say that it is up to the Selectmen to approve a change in strategy and that nearly all the information the board needs to make an informed decision has been completed or will be produced in the near future – he did drop a tantalizing political tidbit of a long-term strategy to move the town in what he believes is the correct direction.

“There are elections coming,” Williams told the Belmontonian after the meeting. Up for re-election in April 2015 is Paolillo – who said last week that he is likely to run – and Town Treasurer Floyd Carman, a supporter and architect of the current OPEB policy. 

Williams had hoped a presentation he made to the board – a 13 screen page document that was not on the board’s official public agenda having been submitted to the Town Clerk at 4 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 23 – would spark debate on his “scenario” of paying off the town’s pension and other benefits commitments with the issuance of pension obligation bonds. 

But the selectman soon discovered the spotlight fell wholly on himself for what several people saw as a serious breach of protocol that could result in serious legal consequences.

“There is an appearance that you and some of your supporters are going out and making representations to people and investment bankers and companies without first having the proper process … among the three-person Board of Selectmen,” Baghdady told Williams. 

Reading from a letter sent to Williams from the investment bank Stifel Financial Corp., Baghdady said since speaking to Williams, the bank had “confirmed certain preliminary terms of our engagement to serve as lead managing underwriter” for the town as it sells up to $60 million in taxable bonds.

Stifel, which opened a public finance branch office in Boston two years ago, is a significant player in municipal financing, working with water and sewer agencies, large schools districts and parking and transit authorities.  

Furthermore, Stifel indicated that “[i]t is our understanding that you [Williams] have the authority to bind the town by contact with us,” with Williams’ signature at the end of the letter seeming to affirm Stifel’s assertion, said Baghdady still reading from the letter.

“It bothers me that one selectman, without having brought to discussion in advance, goes and represents to an investment banker … that [he has] the authority to be negotiating these things with them,” said Baghdady, contrary to the board’s current OPEB strategy, designed by the Town Treasurer Floyd Carman and approved by Town Meeting.

Paolillo later noted that only Carman as town treasurer can initiate contact with financial entities for such town business. Carman, who arrived at the meeting midway through Williams’ earlier presentation, 

Baghdady also expanded his personal concerns that newly-appointed members  – several with Williams’ endorsement – to non-statutory town committees such as Economic Development Advisory Committee, also called Stifel and other investment banks “and purport to communicate as though they have the authority to speak on behalf of the town about these major policy decisions that this board has not taken a position on” while pressuring members of the Warrant Committee – the town’s financial watchdog agency – and town officials to sign the Stifel letter. 

Paolillo reiterated Baghdady’s irritation that Williams shared the contents of the letter to political supporters who used it to push for its approval.

“With all due respect, to share what I believe would have been a confidential document with your former campaign manager and other supporters and then lobby us on why we were delaying signing this letter. I mean, are you kidding me?” said Paolillo. 

Baghdady said the “shock” of Williams’ action goes beyond the board; members of the Warrant Committee and other community leaders who asked “‘What is going on here’? Why isn’t the board as a whole deliberating?” 

After the meeting, Williams identified the residents “pressuring” the selectmen and Town Administrator David Kale to “sign the letter” as Erin Lubien and Julie Crockett, two of Williams’ supporters during his run for selectmen.

Williams told the board that “neither of them called me, and if they called me I would have explained to them not to call. I apologize for that.” 

Paolillo and Baghdady asked Williams to “work together and agree that this is a lesson learned?”

“Let’s discuss matters first and then present a direction on what we want to do,” Paolillo said.

A somewhat contrite Williams noted that when an employee at the former Swiss Bank Corp. was sent to the woodshed, it was called “having your head washed. And I’m OK with that.” 

Williams said his colleagues points of his actions “were well taken,” admitting that the process “has taken on a life of its own.” 

“What I want to say is that it’s not how it appears, and I wasn’t totally in the rogue because I wanted to find out for the board how do you go about” hiring a firm such as Stifel.

But Williams would not be pushed from his goal of moving forward addressing what he views is a pending financial crisis Belmont is facing from the current strategy. 

“We need to decide whether we are going to let the status quo continue, whether we try to extend the pension schedule or whether we are going to do the pension obligation bond or something different,” he said. 


Town Sells Woodfall Road Parcel for $1.75 Million

Photo: Woodfall Road.

Nearly a decade after it was first put up for sale, the town-owned land known as the Woodfall Road parcel was sold Friday, Oct. 23, to a three-person development team for $1.75 million. 

“It’s truly been a long process,” said Sami Baghdady, chair of the Belmont Board of Selectmen who announced the final sale during the Selectmen’s meeting at Town Hall on Tuesday, Oct. 27. 

Representatives of Dani Chedid of the Lexington’s Phoenix Construction Group, the lead developer of the group, signed the paperwork securing the deed and handed the town the check on Monday, Oct. 26.

The land, adjacent to the Belmont Country Club in the Hillcrest neighborhood on the west side of Belmont Hill, will soon be the site of four luxury residential homes, according to the team.

The sale comes five months after the team signed a purchase and sale agreement with the town to buy the land.

Under an existing agreement with Town Meeting, proceeds from the sale of town-owned property will be directed to the Capital Budget Committee, which has a backlog of requests from town departments for needed purchases. 

Nearly two years ago, the team offered $2.2 million of the site, outbidding Northland Residential of Burlington (which constructed the Woodlands at Belmont Hill) by approximately $1.5 million in December 2013 to begin working on the town on a final price tag for the property that will be home to four luxury single-family homes. 

Since then, Belmont – through Town Administrator David Kale’s office – and contractor have been negotiating a final price for the land after a long due diligence process that included environmental assessments, soil testing, monitoring wetland requirements and, at one point, discussions with the country club on the likelihood of golf balls flying onto the new homes.