Town Forming United Front on Cushing Village’s Future

Photo: The proposed Cushing Village.

The meeting held Monday night, Feb. 22 in the Chenery Middle School’s teacher’s lounge took longer than expected. But what is an extra half hour when the subject under discussion is a troubled commercial project more than 900 days behind schedule?

In attendance at the executive session were the Board of Selectmen (which called the meeting), Chair Liz Allison and Barbara Fiacco of the Planning Board, Town Counsel George Hall, Treasurer Floyd Carman and Town Administrator David Kale with only one agenda item on the schedule: Cushing Village, the proposed 164,000 sq.-ft. residential/retail/parking complex at the corner of Common Street and Trapelo Road in the heart of Cushing Square.

While nothing was officially revealed at the closed doors conference, enough was evident from the people assembled, the time spent in conference as well as off-the-record comments from town officials; Belmont is preparing to move on the troubled Cushing Village project, with or without the currently designated developer, Smith Legacy Partner Series. 

This new united front will likely be unveiled tonight, Tuesday, Feb. 23 at 7 p.m. as the Planning Board will receive another “update” on the project from the development team, a requirement the board imposed on Smith Legacy after it failed to meet “three agreed to ‘milestones’ with the town” set the first week in December to begin the initial construction phase of the $63 million project with the purchase of the municipal parking lot adjacent to Trapelo Road. 

To keep its option to buy the municipal lot for $850,000, Smith Legacy has paid more than $600,000 in penalites to Belmont, with the knowledgment that half of that amount would be used towards the purchase of the parcel when financing is secured. 

The project, beset with endless delays and missed deadlines, has been in a development purgatory as the team – comprised of Smith Legacy and its partners Urban Space and the recently added NJ-based Micheals Development Company – has been unable to secure the myriad of financing sources required to construct the three-building complex with includes 115 residential units, 225 parking spaces and approximately 38,000 square feet of first floor retail space.

The apparent breaking point for the town came earlier this month when Starr announced respected industry leader Cornerstone Real Estate Advisers was no longer involved with the project to provide important mezzanine financing to the project. 

Yet, as one observer who is in banking said, the best case senario for Belmont is to push the developer towards giving up control of the parcel to either its lead lender, Wells Fargo, or sell the development rights to an established developer rather than simply declare the developer incapable of completing the project in a reasonable time.

“You don’t want to go through the [Planning Board] process again. You want a smooth transition,” she said. 

Live at Special Town Meeting: Minuteman Regional Agreement

Photo: Moderator Mike Widmer.

Hello, as the Town Meeting convenes for a special meeting to discuss and vote on a new Minuteman Regional Agreement,

7:11 p.m.: Moderator Mike Widmer begins the meeting as more than 100 members have arrived to reach a quorum. While the electronic voting was being checked, one of the members shouted out: “Slow it down!”

“Tough crowd,” said Jack Weis. Pct. 1.

7:18 p.m.: A remembrance of Dick Betts and a wonderful standing ovation for Becca Pizzi, the young woman who won the World Marathon Challenge.


7:28 p.m.: An update from School Committee Chair Laurie Slap and Superintendent John Phelan on the need for additional space for the schools.

7:34 p.m.: Slap will present Article 3 which will establish a building committee for the purpose of renovation and/or new construction of the high school.

All boards recommend favorable action.

Slap presents a brief presentation on the important dates coming forward during the beginning of the process of renovating the high school.

Marianne Scali is offering her amendment that would add a simple statement that would require the school building committee to take special attention of hazardous waste that may be in the soil where the renovation is taking place. The area was once a town dump.

The selectmen vote unfavorable action but Sami Baghdady, Selectmen chair, said the board is for doing all it can to make sure the development is safe when children attend the site.

Phelan said the state required a complete review of the soil as part of the process of renovating the site. He said the School Committee is committed to the safety of the students and staff.

Bob McLaughlin, Pct. 2, said while it is unnecessary, he voting for the amendment because he does not want to headlines that say Town Meeting is against safety issues. “It will help alleviate the enrollment problem,” said McLaughlin, with a hardy laugh.

7:52 p.m.: Baghdady said tinkering with the language at this early date could foul up the process with the state which only wants simple language establishing a building committee. The more appropriate time for this amendment is when the building committee is adequately staffed and financed.

David Kale, the town administrator, explains that the process will require testing, and if something is found to be unsafe, a more in-depth study will be required.

Members appear skeptical of just relying on the state process.

Mark Paolillo, Board of Selectmen, said have heard people concerns of possible safety issues, but there is nothing that can be done now as this measure precedes the time for environmental inspection.

Scali said she is withdrawing her amendment, having highlighted the issue and declares victory. 

Kevin Cunningham, Pct. 4, asked Widmer who will be put on the school building committee. Widmer said the committee, about 15 people, will be working for 10 years and wants people who can put the time and has some expertise in building, construction, education, neighbors and parents. 

A number of people have reached out to him and he is taking names: send those names to

He will have the committee completed in three weeks, have names into him by this Friday.  

The vote is taken and is adopted unanimously. 

8:12 p.m.: Now the Minuteman Regional Agreement:

“This is a close call,” said Paolillo who will speak along with McLaughlin and Weis.

Back in the 1970s, the facility was full with 1,200 students, now 650 with little more than half from the 16 member towns.

“It no longer serves the district,” said Paolillo, noting the enrollment is declining while non-member towns are sending more students.

“We’re subsidizing the non-member students especially when it comes to capital costs,” said Paolillo.

Paolillo goes over the history and the dysfunctional nature of the agreement, needing unanimous votes (16-0) to amend and leave the district. It was a shared frustration with other board of selectmen that led to the new revised regional agreement that includes a “Belmont” provision that requires out-of-district students to pay a capital “fee.” 

While a tough call, a reconstituted agreement is the best for Belmont students said, Paolillo. 

8:30 p.m.: Jack Weis talks about the major reasons for vote yes for the amended agreement. Weis is going step by step through the changes from the old agreement.  

You can see what Jack is talking about here.

9 p.m.: Bob McLaughlin, Pct. 2 so that wrote my job is to clear away the fog. “It’s bad policy” but it’s the best that they can do. 

Leaning on the lecturn as if he was talking to a jury, McLaughlin – an attorney – told the members in a 10 minute speech to rally around the revised amendment as the best of a bad situation, noting that at least approving the measure would allow the town to have a vote in June concerning the debt and it allows the school to secure $44 million in state funding.

9;26 p.m.: Vincent Stanton, Pct. 3, asks if the school district can educate inhouse the vocational students now being sent to Minuteman. That was beyond the scope of the measure.

Quickly, Don Mercier, Pct. 8, called the question. Only a single question was asked. The calling was seconded and the measure passes easily 171-8. 

See you in May for the annual Town Meeting. 

Five Things To Know About the Special Town Meeting (Minuteman Edition)

Photo: Special Town Meeting 

Tonight’s Belmont Special Town Meeting – being held Monday, Feb. 22 at the Chenery Middle School – will include a vote to establish a Building Committee for the Belmont High School renovation and whether to include a site evaluation of the soil for contaminants at the high school before construction begins (even though that will occur as part of the building process.)

But those votes are just appetizers for the main course which comprises of the future of the Minuteman Career and Technical High School in Lexington, the location where a little more than two dozen Belmont students are taught in a vocational-technical environment. Belmont’s assessment to Minuteman fluctuates yearly from $830,000 in fiscal ’16 to $750,000 in the coming fiscal year. 

What the Special Town Meeting will not explore is the education being provided the Belmont residents, but the building where they are being taught and who’s going to pay for a new High School. 

According to Jack McLaughlin, the representative from Belmont’s Warrant Committee who helped shaped the new regional contract, the proposal before Town Meeting “is a terrible agreement until you see the alternative.” 

  1. Here’s a brief history leading up to the special town meeting:
  • In July 2014, the Lexington Fire Department came close to condemning the building, built in 1972, for lots of reasons.
  • Minuteman’s administration begins the process of building a new school with an expected population of roughly 700 kids. 
  • Towns such as Belmont and Arlington wanted to put the brakes on this deal because 1. a high percentage of students come from municipalities outside the district (Waltham, Malden and Watertown that sends double the kids from Belmont) and 2. under the current agreement those towns don’t have to pay a red penny towards the debt to build the new facility even though the school’s current freshman class is nearly 50/50, district/non-district students. 
  • Belmont said “enough” to the planned school, saying if a new school is built, then it should be constructed for 400 kids, the number of students from members towns. The Minuteman administration, saying they need a big school to offer a greater number of courses to draw in students, virtually ignores the opponents and pushes forward with a new, larger school.
  • Belmont – led by Belmont’s Minuteman School Committee member Jack Weis, the Warrant Committee’s Jack McLaughlin and Selectman Mark Paolillo – and Arlington told Minuteman unless they have a new regional agreement, you can expect a big fat NO when it comes time to approve issuing debt for the school. That would cause all sort of delays and chaos for the administration. 
  • In a surprise move, the Minuteman administration agrees in December to put up a regional agreement before the 16 municipalities for a vote. It must be a unanimous vote from the town meetings for it to pass. 
  • On the same day in January that Belmont received the state go-head from the Massachusetts School Building Authority to start the process of renovating and construction of Belmont High School, Minuteman was approved to begin the undertaking of building its new school. It will need to come back to the state by June 30, to demonstrate how they will pay for it. (i.e.,, the communities).

      2. So, is tonight’s meeting about how much the town will have to pay for a new Minuteman High School?

No, that decision, to approve a $144 million new building, will come before June 30. Tonight’s vote is all about adopting a new regional agreement between the 16 towns and cities that are in the “district” including Belmont.

     3. What’s in this new agreement?

A lot, specifically for Belmont.

  1. The new agreement jettisons the school committee’s “one-town, one-vote” and moves to a proportional board where those towns that send the most kids to the school have a greater weighted vote. 
  2. It will be a bit easier to draw new towns into the club – it’s a buy-in incentive – giving them four years of gradual increasing capital payments before reaching their full assessment.
  3. Communities can withdraw much more quickly from the district, no longer needing all 16 other towns to agree. And seven of the 16 municipalities will be attempting to do just that if the agreement passes. Why? The towns – nearly all with only a handful of students – would not have to pay their part of the long-term debt. But by doing so, they would be prevented from returning to the district for four years. 
  4. Cities and towns of out-of-district students will also be paying for the new school as each student will be assessed “a capital facilities fee” equal to at least the average member- town cost. That fee will need to be approved by the state, but Belmont reps said officials from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education didn’t make much of a fuss when presented with a draft agreement.
  5. Then there is the issuance of debt. All 16 (or 9, if the smaller communities leave) town meetings will still need to approve the $144 million building plan. [With state grants, the final price tag will be $100 million] Under the new agreement, if a town meeting rejects the debt plan, it can withdraw from the district before a second vote is called by the Minuteman administration. This way a portion of the $100 million debt can not be “crammed down on Belmont.” 

      4. The new agreement looks like a very good deal for Belmont; what could go wrong?

Plenty. Here’s one: legal action by Watertown and other communities for the state to throw out the capital facilities fee placed on their students. Malden and Watertown have some powerful friends in the legislature.

Here’s another, the school remains oversized for the number of students from the district, and that will not change. Belmont would see an additional $350,000 (increasing the average real estate tax bill by $38) added to its annual assessment bringing the town’s total yearly charge to a million dollars while Arlington would pay $1.5 million. 

Also, it’s unlikely that the state will approve the new agreement before a vote will take by the 16 towns to support the debt. It appears that despite voting for a new regional agreement, Belmont and the other towns will be required to play by the “old rules” which doesn’t allow for an escape clause for towns that don’t agree with the size of the building or other aspects of the new school.

 5. So why not just vote down the whole complex proposal?

Yes, that is an option. Only that there are consequences, the first is losing the Mass School Building Authority’s $45 million grant to build the new school. And since Belmont is a member of the district and under the old agreement can not leave without the approval of the other 15 member towns, it will be required to repair the building. That cost: $176.5 million over 10 years. 


This Week: Special Town Meeting Monday, Screening ‘Selma’ Wednesday

Photo: Town Meeting.

On the government side of “This Week”:

  • Special Town Meeting convenes at 7 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 22 at the Chenery Middle School auditorium. 
  • The Belmont Board of Selectmen will meet at 5:30 p.m. Monday, Feb. 22, in the teacher’s cafe in the Chenery Middle School. They’ll meet in executive session to discuss Cushing Village and hear a fiscal 2017 budget update. 
  • The Belmont School Committee is meeting at 6:45 p.m. Monday, Feb. 22 at the Chenery Middle School to discuss what’s happening at the Special Town Meeting.
  • The Planning Board is meeting at Town Hall on Tuesday, Feb. 23 at 7 p.m. On the agenda will be an update on Cushing Village, changes to a subcommittee to review possible Airbnb regulations and proposed Zoning amendments for single residency C zoning.
  • The Belmont School Committee is meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 23 at the Chenery Middle School to discuss the fiscal 2017 budget  and an update on the fine arts department.
  • The Warrant Committee is meeting in joint session with the School Committee and Board of Selectmen at 7 p.m., Wednesday, Feb. 24 at the Chenery to hear the news on the fiscal 2017 budget for both town and schools.

• Music & Movement with Rubi, a movement and music program recommended for ages 3 to 5 (but 2-year-olds are welcome) will be held in the Belmont Public Library’s Flett Room on Monday, Feb. 22. There will be two sessions: 9:30 a.m. and 10:30 a.m.

• ESL Conversation Circle for beginners takes place on Monday, Feb. 22 from 10 a.m. to noon in the Belmont Public Library’s Flett Room.

• Girls Who Code will meet on Monday, Feb. 22 from 4:15 p.m. to 6:15 p.m. in the Assembly Room of the Belmont Public Library.

Belmont Storm Water Working Group is holding its monthly meeting on Monday, Feb. 22 at 7 p.m. in the Belmont Public Library’s Assembly Room. 

• Tuesday is story time at both of Belmont libraries.

  • Pre-School Story Time at the Benton Library, Belmont’s independent and volunteer-run library, at 10:30 a.m. Stories and crafts for children age 3 to 5. Parents or caregivers must attend. Siblings may visit with adults. Registration is not required. The Benton Library is at the intersection of Oakley and Old Middlesex.
  • The Belmont Public Library on Concord Avenue will have preschool story time at 9:30 a.m. 
  • Story Time for 2’s and 3’s is at 10:30 a.m.

• The Parent/Teacher Band will hold its first rehearsal in the Chenery Middle School auditorium on Tuesday, Feb. 23 at 6:30 p.m.

• Students in  Belmont’ four elementary school have an early release Wednesday, Feb. 24.

• The Belmont Public Library is holding a Crafternoon in which kids can make a Pinecone Critter on Wednesday, Feb 24 from 3:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. in the Assembly Room. Kids in grades K-4 can have fun turning pinecones into all kinds of animals!

• In honor of African American History Month, and in conjunction with the Council on Aging’s African American History Month Film Series, the Belmont Public Library invites the public to its premiere showing of the film, Selma,  at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Feb 24. The biopic follows Martin Luther King, Jr.’s legendary march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama during the height of the civil rights movement. Enjoy popcorn and refreshments on the library while you watch.

• The Chenery Middle School Art Department is holding its “Elective Collective” on Wednesday, Feb. 24 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. in the school’s auditorium.

• Storytime for 1’s – for walkers and toddlers under 24 months – will be held Thursday, Feb. 25, from 10:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. in the Belmont Public Library’s Flett Room. We’ll share simple stories, songs, and nursery rhymes, and end with time to play.

• It’s senior night for Belmont High Girls’ Basketball as the playoff-bound Marauders host 17th ranked Lexington (15-5) at the Wenner at 5:30 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 25.

• The Chenery Middle School Grade 6 Band, Chorus and Orchestra Concert will take place at the school’s auditorium from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 25.

• Jon Mattleman will present a talk, “50 Shades of Parenting” on Thursday, Feb. 25, from 7 p.m. to  9 p.m. at the  Belmont High School auditorium. A licensed social worker, Mattleman will teach parents the tools and strategies to immediately improve the emotional and mental health of your teen and your relationship with them. Join Mattlema as he presents approaches which have proven to be critical to building healthy relationships.

• The Friends of the Belmont Public Library present author David Updike as part of its Library Friends Author Series on Thursday, Feb. 25, 7:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. in the Assembly Room. Updike will speak about his father John Updike’s early life in a talk entitled Family Archeology: Pictures, Objects, Words .  David Updike combines family photographs with prose from John Updike’s stories and memoirs (in addition to excerpts from short stories written by John’s mother), to reveal important aspects of John Updike’s life.

• Literacy Playgroup is a parent and child group that supports child’s language and literacy development on Friday, Jan. 29, 10:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. in Flett Room of the Belmont Public Library. You’ll play, read, sing and take home new ideas. Presented by educators from the CFCE grant program; for children age 4 and under.

• The Belmont League of Women Voters Brown Bag Lunch program will discuss sexual harassment and sexual abuse in the schools, particularly in the high school. The free talk takes place Friday, Feb. 26, noon to 2 p.m. in the Flett Room.

Sgt. Daniel M. Clark, known as “The Singing Trooper” will be performing at the Beech Street Center on Friday, Feb. 26 at 1:15 p.m. During his 20-year tenure with the State Police, Clark performed at more than 2,500 Federal, State, Local, and Military functions. Clark is a Massachusetts icon and has performed with the Boston Pops as well as sung the National Anthem for the New England Patriots, the Boston Red Sox, the Boston Bruins, and the Boston Celtics. All are welcome to his long-awaited return performance at the Beech Street Center. This event is offered free of charge thanks to a partnership between Hammond Real Estate and the Beech Street Center.

• It’s OTAKUrabu at the Belmont Public Library. Watch anime, do a craft/activity, plan for future events and nibble on some Japanese snacks (while they last – they’ll go fast) on Friday, Feb. 26 from 2:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. in the Assembly Room. Provided free, thanks to the Friends of the Belmont Public Library. Just drop in, no registration required.

Sold In Belmont: Nothing This Week So Let’s Look at a Mansion for Sale (Already a Bargain!)

Photo: Talk about a full shot! 

Now, THIS is a mansion. With just more than 7,500 sq.-ft. of high-end interior construction (it’s a little more than 30 years old), the house at 224 Marsh St. – No, this is not Mitt and Ann Romney’s old house; that’s up the road at 171 Marsh – is a spectacular example of spending your hard-earned money the correct way. 

There’s nothing garish or brassy with the interior, just a solid – maybe even staid – but impeccable design. Forget the “open floor” trend or the need for a “great room” because architects are too indifferent (i.e., lazy) to differentiate the purpose for particular spaces within a house.

That’s not a problem here as walls and doors separate each room (what a concept!). There is a defined family room, off the foyer for casual encounters which leads to a more formal living room (25 x 24 feet) – with a bar – that is separate from the kitchen and breakfast area. The dining room is off the foyer and the kitchen as is by tradition. Every space in its place, functioning separate or/and in concert with the adjacent rooms. The molding in the rooms are elegantly understated – the fireplace mantelpiece is simple and gorgeous – as are other details, but what is this obsession with granite counter tops!

Upstairs are big bedrooms with the majority of the house’s five full and three half baths. There’s a neat feature in one bedroom; a spiral staircase to an attic office space. There’s a built out basement with a little sauna. If there are downsides to this house it’s that the building is heated entirely by electricity –Belmont Light must love this place – and a very tiny backyard (it does back up to conservation land, so the band of coyote/wolf mix breeds is your neighbors).

Being sold by the long time owner (I wonder if the creator of Reddit is related to them?), a real estate developer who spent nearly a decade trying to redevelop his commercial buildings on the East Boston waterfront into luxury residences. The current asking price: $2,879,000, and that’s a bargain if you know that it first went on the market in July 2014 with a $3,449,000 list price. By waiting, you’re more than a half a million dollars ahead of the game! 

My question to readers is how much lower will the list price go before it’s sold? My under/over is $2,629,000; it needs to lose another quarter million before its finds the right buyer. Belmont isn’t the Seaport, you know. 

Screen Shot 2016-02-21 at 4.24.20 PM Screen Shot 2016-02-21 at 4.24.32 PM Screen Shot 2016-02-21 at 4.24.47 PM Screen Shot 2016-02-21 at 4.25.01 PM Screen Shot 2016-02-21 at 4.25.38 PM Screen Shot 2016-02-21 at 4.26.01 PM Screen Shot 2016-02-21 at 4.26.21 PM Screen Shot 2016-02-21 at 4.26.55 PM Screen Shot 2016-02-21 at 4.31.30 PM Screen Shot 2016-02-21 at 4.31.45 PM Screen Shot 2016-02-21 at 4.32.01 PM Screen Shot 2016-02-21 at 4.32.18 PM Screen Shot 2016-02-21 at 4.32.45 PM

Sports: Kerans Breaks Belmont’s Boys’ Hoops All-Time Scoring Record

Photo: Matt Kerans driving against Lexington.

This spring, a new banner will be placed in the Wenner Field House with  Belmont High senior Matt Kerans’ name on it accompanied by a still-to-be-determined number.

While the amount remains in flux, the recognition was earned through persistence and excellence as the four-year varsity guard broke Steve Pollard’s 30-year-old all-time career scoring record of 1,294 in Belmont’s 58-48 victory over Lexington High School on Seniors Night/Afternoon, Thursday, Feb 18.


Belmont High Boys’ Hoops 2015-16 seniors with parents: (from left) Justin Wagner, Joe Shaughnessy, Yvrantzi Desravines, Luke Peterson, Kevork Hamparian, Cole Bartels, Damian Bitsikas, Lowell Haska, Matt Kerans.

Needing seven points to top Pollard’s record, Kerans wasted little time hitting a three on the team’s initial trip down the court and a bucket soon after before taking a pass on the right side and hitting his trademark fallaway three-point shot midway through the first quarter.

Despite the history-making moment – and after the buzzer signaling the event was ignored by the refs – play continued for a minute longer before a timeout occurred allowing Kerans to receive congratulations from his teammates.

The win over the Minutemen left Belmont with a 17-5 record, a league championship and predicted five seed in the upcoming MIAA Division 2 North sectionals, earning the Marauders, at least, one home playoff game. 

Despite a well-earned reputation for being a player who lets his outstanding play do most of his speaking, Kerans did say breaking the record “means a lot.”

“Ever since I was in middle school, I’ve been looking up at the banners, seeing the points and people have seen saying I could be up there,” said Kerans, who thanked his teammates over the past four seasons for their play which allowed him the opportunities to be an offensive force. 

“And I couldn’t have done it without coach [Adam] Pritchard’s support,” he said.

IMG_9888 IMG_9893 IMG_9897 IMG_9902 IMG_9906 IMG_9913 IMG_9918 IMG_9925 IMG_9929 IMG_9936 IMG_9955 IMG_9979 IMG_9997 IMG_0005 IMG_0021 IMG_0034 IMG_0039 IMG_0042 IMG_0043 IMG_0053 IMG_0062 IMG_0069 IMG_0085

Belmont Savings’ Net Income Shots Up 61% in ’15; Assets Reach $1.8B

Photo: One of Belmont Savings’ supermarket bank branches.

BSB Bancorp, the holding company for state-chartered Belmont Savings Bank reported Thursday net income for the year ending Dec. 31, 2015 rose to $6.9 million, compared to 2014’s $4.3 million, an increase of 61 percent.

“Through strong organic growth and expense control, we have achieved 10 consecutive quarters of earnings improvement. Credit quality remains good,” said Robert Mahoney, president and chief executive officer.

On the last day of 2015, BSB’s total assets reached $1.81 billion, an increase of $387 million or 27 percent from $1.43 billion on Dec. 31, 2014.

On Dec. 31, 2015, bank deposits totaled $1.27 billion, an increase of $285 million or 29 percent compared to $985 million reached the last day of ’14.

“Our deposit growth throughout 2015 was an important, cost-effective funding source for loans our strong asset growth,” said Hal Tovin, executive vice president and chief operating officer.

“We were very pleased with the fact that it came from building customer relationships in many business segments – most notably business banking, municipal banking and commercial real estate,” said Tovin

The bank experienced net loan growth of $356 million, or 30 percent, from Dec. 31, 2014, with increases across the board:

  • Residential 1-4 family real estate loans: $259 million.
  • commercial real estate loans: $54.2 million
  • construction loans: $29.3 million
  • home equity lines of credit $28.4 million.
  • commercial loans: $14 million.

Total stockholders’ equity increased by $9.2 million from $137 million as of Dec. 31, 2014 to $146.20 million as of Dec. 30, 2015. This increase is primarily the result of earnings of $6.9 million and a $2.2 million increase in additional paid-in capital related to stock-based compensation.

Town Election Update: Ballot All Set, Good Numbers for Town Meeting (Except for Pct. 7!), A Race to Support Housing

Photo: Paul Rickter and his buddy, Anne Mahon. 

The rain really started coming down as the clock struck 5 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 16, as Belmont Town Clerks shut the door as the deadline for passing in nomination papers passed with nearly everyone who took out papers returned them.

And after all the papers were examined and certified, a preliminary town ballot was announced at 6 p.m. by Town Clerk Ellen Cushman, in which voters will have four competitive races for town-wide elected offices at April’s Town Election. 

Board of Selectmen

Alexandra Ruban, a newcomer to town (arriving in 2013) and political novice with no known involvement in town governance – she is not a Town Meeting member – will be going against incumbent Mark Paolillo who is seeking his third – and final – term on the board. Ruban’s team is made up of people who managed Selectman Jim Williams’ upset victory over Andy Rojas.

School Committee

Three very attractive candidates will be seeking two-three years seats on the committee; a venture capitalist (Sabri Murat Bicer), a child care professional who was a finalist to fill a vacant committee seat in November 2014 (Kimberly O’Mahony) and an astrophysicist who is leading the charge to start the school day later (Andrea Prestwich).

Housing Authority

Usually a quiet spot on the ballot, this year there will be two competitive races in the category. The first, for the five-year seat, will see two well-known political entities, Matt Sullivan and Anne Mahon, duke it out while Tomi Olson, who created the Payson Park Music Festival, will meet Town Meeting member Paul Rickter for the three-year seat.

The draft ballot for Belmont Town Election; April 5, 2016

Moderator (vote for one, one year)

  • Mike Widmer, candidate for re-election, for one year.

Board of Selectmen (vote for one, three years)

  • Mark Paolillo, candidate for re-election, for three years.
  • Alexandra Ruban, for three years

Town Clerk (vote for one, three years)

  • Ellen O’Brien Cushman, candidate for re-election, for three years.

Board of Assessors (vote for one, three years)

  • Charles R. Laverty, III, candidate for re-election, for three years.

Board of Cemetery Commissioners (vote for one, three years)

  • William Chemelli, candidate for re-election, for three years.

Board of Health (vote for one, three years)

  • Julie LeMay, for three years.

Members of the Housing Authority (vote for one, five years; vote for one, three years)

  • Anne Barrington Mahon, for five years.
  • Matthew Sullivan, for five years.
  • Tommasina Anne Olson, for three years.
  • Paul Rickter, for three years.

Trustees of the Public Library (vote for two for three years)

  • Mark Carthy, candidate for re-election, for three years.
  • Mary Donahue Stearns, for three years.

Members of the School Committee (vote for two for three years, vote one for one year)

  • Sabri Murat Bicer, for three years.
  • Kimberly O’Mahony, for three years
  • Andrea Prestwich, for three years.
  • Elyse Shuster, for one year. 

To see who has qualified to run for Town Meeting in the eight precincts, head to the Town Clerk’s website.

Town Meeting member races throughout Belmont, except in Precinct 7

Residents can expect campaign flyers, lawn signs and candidates at their front doors as six of eight precincts will have competitive races to fill 12 three year terms and some partial terms. 

Screen Shot 2016-02-17 at 4.44.32 PM

In precinct 1 and 8, the ballot will be overflowing with candidates as 17 will be running for the 12 seats up for grabs in Precinct 1 and Precinct 3 while 18 residents will be battling it out for 12 in Precinct 8

There will be contested races in Precinct 2 (15 candidates for 12 seats), Precinct 4 or the “husband and wife precinct” as 6 of the 14 candidates are spouses (that will be an interesting election night) and Precinct 6 with 14 for 12. Even Precinct 5, which at some elections has seen fewer candidates than seats, has come through with 12 candidates for 12 seats so everyone running has already won.

Then there is Precinct 7. With a more transient population than most of Belmont, it is always a struggle to find people who want to run for the town’s legislative body. And the lack of interest is present in just nine candidates – only five for re-election and four taking out papers – are running for Town Meeting, leaving three seats that will remain empty, to be decided by write-ins. In addition, there was no interest what so ever for the three one-year partial seats.

Rickter hopes non-profit experience leads to Housing slot

Saying he wants to be an advocate for “safe, clean affordable housing for all,” Cross Street’s Paul Rickter hopes that his “25 years of experience on non-public boards” will help convince voters to place him to be a member of the Housing Authority.

Rickter’s time includes being on the national board of the Unitarian Universalist Association, “on small boards, on search committees, and lots of other boards,” he said, as he submitted his nomination papers with fellow candidate Anne Mahon by his side.

One area Rickter will focus on is the aging Belmont Village complex including using Community Preservation Committee funds to shore up the facility.

“Not everyone is excited about using money for it but it needs to be done. The key is to make sure we are serving that community,” said Rickter.

Students: Community Service Opportunities at Town Clerk’s Office


Middle and High school students who need or want community service credit (and with the Belmont Library swarming with volunteers) think about coming to the Belmont Town Clerk’s office on the first floor of Town Hall.

“We need some help filing papers and have work for up to six kids,” said Town Clerk Ellen Cushman.  

The best thing about this opportunity, there is no advance notice or call required. Just show up at the office from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., do the work and get the hours. As easy as that.

A Fairy Tale Wedding, From Cinderella’s Castle to Belmont’s Town Hall

Photo: Not only did Town Clerk Ellen Cushman conduct the ceremony, she took photos of the bride and groom.

For Kai Lin and Guang Shen, it felt like their love was fated.

Meeting online just about a year ago, Lin – a widow with an 11-year-old son – and Shen – divorced with an eight-year-old son –discovered their sons have the same name (11-year-old Brian and 8-year-old Bryan) and they shared an enduring love of Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom Park.

Lin, a Belmontian with a doctorate from Penn who works as a director at Watertown’s Enanta Pharmaceuticals, and Shen, a Winchester resident currently obtaining her masters in special education from Lesley, love the theme park “because it’s where everything is magical,” said Lin. 

And it was in Orlando, in front of Cinderella’s Castle, where Lin asked for Shen’s hand in marriage.

And like any good Disney love story, there was complication that needed to be over come by the hero.

“I wanted to propose on Christmas Day but the park was so full, we couldn’t get in. I had to ask her on Dec. 26,” said Lin.


While the engagement was in one of the most public of places, the couple decided the wedding would be a simple affair.

“We decided we wanted to get married as soon as possible so it would be small,” said Lin.

While searching online for a venue, he discovered that Belmont Town Clerk Ellen Cushman had officiated ceremonies on Valentine’s in the past. 

“We thought ‘what a great idea, to be married on Valentine’s Day’,” said Lin, who called Cushman who said despite the lateness of the request, she’d be happy to open Town Hall and perform the ceremony.

Lin and Shen are part of a growing trend in couples seeking to be married by the Belmont Town Clerk.  Though Cushman only performs a small portion of Belmont’s total number  of marriages, the number of couples who filed for marriage licenses in Belmont grew to 150 couples in 2015, up from what was a fairly static 115 annually for the past decade.                              

So on a “beautiful, sparkling day” – which happened to be the coldest day of the year – the happy couple, their boys and Lin’s parents ascended to the Selectmen’s Room on the second floor for their wedding. The groom looked sharp in a pressed suit while the bride wore a full-length silver embroidered gown that she got “off the rack” the day before.

Because of their shared affection for all things Disney, Cushman added a line from “Winnie the Pooh” in her message to the bride and groom.

“Piglet says, ‘Pooh, how do you spell ‘love’?’ and Pooh responds ‘You don’t spell it … you feel it’,” said Cushman.

With phone cameras recording the event and Lin’s mother making like an experienced paparazzi, the couple exchanged rings, vows and a few tears on their first day as a married couple.

After formal portraits and a banquet with family and friends, the couple and kids will settle into their Knowles Road home, as Cushman noted, “happily ever after, like a Disney movie.”

IMG_9768 IMG_9769 IMG_9771 IMG_9775 IMG_9780 IMG_9783 IMG_9784 IMG_9796 IMG_9797 IMG_9798 IMG_9809 IMG_9815 IMG_9816 IMG_9822 IMG_9823 IMG_9837 IMG_9841 IMG_9846 IMG_9859 IMG_9864 IMG_9865