Coffeehouse Hits Right Chord Helping Stock Youth Homeless Shelter

Photo: Acts at “Coffeehouse for a Cause”

It was great music for a good cause as Belmont High School’s Working to Help the Homeless Club – WTHH – brought together talented classmates with a large audience on Thursday, March 10 at its annual “Coffeehouse for a Cause” fundraiser as it worked towards the goal of stocking the food pantry at a new youth shelter in Cambridge, Y2Y Harvard Square.

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Approximately $1,700 was raised at the end of the night which was added to nearly $2,000 of food and $300 in cash collected by WTHH at Belmont’s Star Market on Saturday, Feb. 28. Twenty-nine boxes and twenty-five bags were filled to help create meals for the 22 homeless young adults who sleep at the shelter every night. 

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Working to Help the Homeless Officers (from left) John Mahon and Barry Eom, along with WTHH members Sophia Windemuth and Ann Pan, as well as Star Market Manager Janet Cunningham (at right) at Star Market on Feb. 28.

Last year, WTHH donated nearly $1,600 to the shelter while it was still in the planning phase. The shelter opened in December 2015 and is only the second (and largest) shelter for young adults in the Boston area. The good news is that there is now a total of 34 beds between the two shelters; the bad news is that the area needs them.

“Over the past year, our club has gotten much more active in our affiliation with Y2Y. I hope that Y2Y and WTHH can continue building a good relationship, growing together as we all help tackle homelessness in the greater Boston area,” said Barry Eom, WTHH co-president.

If you would like to donate to Y2K through BHS, please send a check, payable to Y2Y Harvard Square, to Alice Melnikoff, Belmont High School, 221 Concord Ave., Belmont, MA  02478.

Why Wait? Vote Now for Town Election Via Absentee Ballot

Photo: Absentee voting starts … now!

Don’t miss out voting in the annual Town Election – just 15 days away! – since Tuesday’s are “date” night or because you can’t find a sitter for your pet beagle.

Absentee voting for the April 5 election is now available in the Town Clerk’s Office, located on the ground floor of Town Hall. Anyone wishing to vote absentee should visit the Clerk’s office during regular business hours (8 a.m. to 4 p.m.) up until noon on Monday, April 4.

Questions? Contact the Town Clerk at 617-993-2600 or e-mail

Marathon Challenge Champ Pizzi Speaking at Library at 7 PM Monday

Photo: Becca Pizzi, champion.

You’ve heard about her, seen photos of her running and cheered at her homecoming parade.

Now you can hear Belmont’s own Becca Pizzi share stories from her amazing journey to become the first American woman to complete and win the World Marathon Challenge, running seven marathons, in seven continents, in seven days averaging less than four hours for each 26.2 mile distance.

Pizzi will give insight on the races and what it took for a single mom with two jobs to succeed in achieving her around-the-world adventure tonight, Monday, March 21 at 7 p.m. in the Assembly Room of the Belmont Public Library. Stick around until the end when Becca will answer questions and sign autographs.

belmontsavingsbankSponsored by the Belmont Savings Bank.

Sold in Belmont: Math Says Hurd Road Colonial Goes for Seven Figures

Photo: A million no matter how you count it. 

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54 Hurd Rd., Colonial (1926). Sold: $1,000,000.

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35 Radcliffe Rd., Ranch (1975). Sold: $701,000.

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329 Mill St., Ranch (1955). Sold: $714,000.

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

• 35 Radcliffe Rd., Ranch (1975). Sold: $701,000. Listed at $679,000. Living area: 1,557 sq.-ft. 7 rooms, 3 bedrooms, 2 baths. On the market: 67 days. 

• 329 Mill St., Ranch (1955). Sold: $714,000. Listed at $747,900. Living area: 2,092 sq.-ft. 7 rooms, 3 bedrooms, 2.5 baths. On the market: 131 days.

• 54 Hurd Rd., Colonial (1926). Sold: $1,000,000. Listed at $995,000. Living area: 2,644 sq.-ft. 10 rooms, 4 bedrooms, 2.5 baths. On the market: 70 days. 

The quintessential Belmont Colonial; on a side street (Hurd Road, with its tumbling elevation change) on a “squat” lot (6,400 sq.-ft.) with lots of room for kids and just general living. So how much is the oh-to-typical Belmont house is going for? 

The sellers did know how to crunch the numbers: one a prominent math professor – he has a well-known theorem in number theory named after him! – while his spouse is a mathematician, computer expert and biologist. Don’t have to worry about how much to tip or split a check when you’re out with this Belmontian couple. When the wife was named this summer to a big-time position in San Diego, the house purchased exactly 30 years ago for $259,000 was placed into a market in which family homes are at a premium. 

What a boom for the homeowners: The typical 30-year mortgage is paid off, the sale is pure profit, and they got great use from a wonderful house. Win, win, win.

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And what a nice well-cared for house with an up-to-date kitchen. It’s also in that zone of homes that are within “walkable” distance for elementary, middle and high schools, so you don’t have to drive the kids every morning (“I don’t care if it’s a snow day, you’re still walking to school.”)

And for the past three years, the assessed value has shot up $130,000. 

  • 2014: $776,000
  • 2015: $832,000
  • 2016: $906,000

And the sum of it all: a cool million for the homeowners.

But still, a million for a 90-year-old house in a neighborhood that isn’t the first place people will look for a seven-figure house is a bit much to swallow. But this is Belmont, 2016. I will not be surprised if the Board of Assessors come to the Selectmen in December with its property tax rate recommendation with the data showing the median home in Belmont tops $1,000,000. 

Let’s do the time warp again

The house on Radcliffe is likely one of the last ranch-style homes built in town, in 1975 when they were seen as out-dated (townhouses where the “cool” structures being built.)

I just want to show the photos of the interior – which is all original as the couple who built the house sold it – which is like opening an interior designers book from the mid-1960s. Wow, The vibrant pink bathroom, patterned wallpaper, the iron railings. And the kitchen: words can’t express this look into this time tunnel: much like Howard Carter’s experience opening King Tut’s tomb. 

But you can’t be that critical of the owners choice: it’s of its time when it was furnished, an age that’s best remembered in photos.

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Letter to the Editor: Housing Authority Could Use Rickter’s Non-Profit Expertise


Letter to the Editor:

I’m writing to endorse Paul Rickter for the Belmont Housing Authority. 

For more than ten years, I worked as Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Belmont Housing Trust, a non-profit affordable housing developer serving Belmont.  Through that work, I got to know both the mission of the Housing Authority and the ins-and-outs of the Belmont Housing Authority quite well. 

The skills needed to succeed as a member of the Housing Authority do not lie in the arena of building and financing affordable housing. Instead, the Housing Authority acts as the owner/manager of hundreds of units of rental housing in Belmont. Indeed, the Housing Authority is Belmont’s largest landlord.  

The Housing Authority is stressed by decreasing state assistance. The Housing Authority must meet the immediate needs of tenants and plan for the future needs of maintaining the physical infrastructure where people can live and thrive. What is needed, therefore, is a person who brings not merely an interest in the Housing Authority, but exceptional professional skills in management and innovation.

Paul brings 25 years of experience and skills in nonprofit management. Budgeting, strategic planning, people management. Paul brings precisely those skills that the Housing Authority needs today to meet the current and future needs of the BHA residents and, by extension, of the larger Belmont community.

I ask you to join me on April 5 in voting for Paul Rickter for Belmont Housing Authority.  

Roger Colton

Warwick Road

Selectmen QW: Belmont’s OPEB Policy and Issuing Pension Obligation Bonds



Through the efforts of Selectman Williams, the town is moving forward with a study of recommendations towards addressing the town’s long-term OPEB (Other post-employment benefits) but many – town officials and the majority of the Board – are reluctant to follow Williams’ call for the issuance of up to $60 million in Pension Obligation Bonds (POBs). Question: Where do you stand on the town’s OPEB policy and would you currently consider the town issuing POBs?

Mark Paolillo 

Pensions and Other Post-Employment Benefits (OPEB) are two different issues and must be viewed separately.  

State law establishes Belmont’s retiree pension obligations.  Belmont’s Retirement Board is authorized to determine how to fund our retirement obligations and to manage investments designed to fund them.  In 2015, the Warrant Committee issued a Pension report analyzing different options for funding our pension liability; the Selectmen have and should continue to discuss this with the Retirement Board.  

  • Extending the amortization period from 2027 to some later date could reduce the contribution pension impact on annual budgets.  
  • Pension Obligation Bonds (POBs) are a bet that pension investments will exceed the cost of borrowing.  Moody’s has indicated that POBs typically create additional risks, including budgetary and default risk.  GFOA recommends that local governments not issue POBs.  I would not subject taxpayers’ money to risks of this type.  

OPEB consists primarily of retiree health care, a benefit provided to Belmont’s retirees.  To date, payments for retiree health care have been manageable because we adopted healthcare reforms allowing us to effectively control health insurance costs — under one percent growth annually for the last three years.  

Working with the Treasurer, the Selectmen adopted an OPEB Funding policy that Moody’s reviewed favorably. It created an OPEB Irrevocable Trust Fund and ensured that a fixed percentage of free cash is deposited in that Fund every year.  

In 2015, the Selectmen established the OPEB Funding Advisory Group.  On Feb. 7, it reported that the actuarial estimate of Belmont’s unfunded liability is likely overstated.  The group was asked to: (1) continue its work and provide us with a more accurate estimate of our unfunded liability based on key cost data; and (2) analyze options to control this liability. This additional information will help the Selectmen to determine the most prudent course of action. 

Alexandra Ruban

Selectman Williams deserves credit for encouraging the town’s government to take a hard look at our unfunded pension obligations. These issues, if left unaddressed, will only get worse. I commend him for insisting that Belmont’s leadership investigate creative solutions for addressing our pension and other postemployment benefits (OPEB) obligations. 

However, Belmont is hardly alone; 254 of the 351 municipalities in Massachusetts have more than $26 billion in unfunded health care liabilities for public retirees and billions more in unfunded pension liabilities. Nineteen cities and towns have unfunded pension liabilities that top $300 million. Belmont’s roughly $59 million in unfunded pensions and $60 million in OPEB liabilities ($4,825 per capita) is in the middle of the pack.  

Mr. Williams’s support for a bond is one solution, but there are other options that would not require a substantial increase in property taxes. 

A decade ago Belmont’s Board of Selectmen adopted an accelerated schedule for meeting the town’s unpaid pension liabilities. We will be paid up ten years earlier than the state requires – with no clear benefit. These payments have been growing slowly but are now set to balloon, rising at a compounded rate of 7 percent annually until 2027. By simply amortizing our payments over the full period permitted by the state and paying off our pension obligations before 2040, the town would substantially decrease the strain on its budget at no cost to taxpayers or risk to its AAA credit rating. 

The town has started examining alternative options to preserve promised benefits while reducing the cost to taxpayers – one example, by working with its employee unions. Should bonding emerge as the most prudent course forward, I’m confident that the Board and the voters will pursue that course, but we should look at all available options before committing ourselves to any course of action. 

School Committee QW: Integrating English As Second Language Students Into Schools

Photo: The candidates for School Committee: (from left) O’Mahony, Prestwich and Bicer.

Here is the Question of the Week (QW) for the School Committee candidates:

The number of students coming into the Belmont school system from outside the US or who speak a language other than English is growing as is the demand for educators to teach ELL students. With the understanding that the committee is a policy-making body, do you have any plans/programs that you believe will help integrate students more efficiently into our schools. 

Kimberly O’Mahony

I am in awe when I think about how diverse our community is; it’s wonderful! This does make it hard, though, for educators to keep all of the children learning at the same pace due to the challenges facing those whose first language is not English. It would be most productive to consider the pressures regarding this issue, prioritize by impact and ability to alleviate, and identify ways to improve the high-risk areas while keeping the best interest of the children and faculty in mind as well as the budget constraints.  

I am not running for School Committee with an agenda, nor am I armed with an arsenal of answers.  Rather, I am running with a vision of working collaboratively with the School Committee and other committees/town departments to identify the best solutions to the problems we are facing with a thoughtful and fiscally-aware approach. Along with that, always keeping in mind that the main driver is to sustain, support, and enhance the high quality of our education system that the faculty and support staff produces in Belmont each and every day.

Andrea Prestwich

The number of students who do not speak English as their native language (English Language Learners or ELL) has increased from 95 to 261 in Belmont over the last six years. These children face unique challenges. The percentage of ELL or kids who were once ELL who graduate from high school is dramatically lower than for native English speakers.  Early intervention to mitigate the disadvantages they face is, therefore, crucial.

My understanding is that Sheltered English Instruction (SEI) is regarded by education professionals as the most effective way to teach ELL. The term “sheltered” dates back to the 1980s when ELL was taught in separate classrooms. Today, SEI refers to teaching techniques that are used to make content accessible to ELLs in a mainstream classroom.  The dual goal is to teach ELL grade-level content while increasing their English proficiency. Strategies include allowing students extra time to formulate answers, simplifying teaching language and using visuals to reinforce the main points of the lesson.  

Implementing SEI in Belmont classrooms requires clustering  ELL into groups or teams.  Another key requirement is to have Belmont teachers become proficient in SEI techniques. It will be necessary for increasing numbers of Belmont teachers to become SEI certified to support these children. As part of the RETELL (Rethinking Equity and Teaching for English Language Learners) initiative, Massachusetts requires that all teachers who have one or more ELL in their classroom attend an SEI Endorsement Course within one year of being assigned the student.

Murat Bicer

Integrating ELL students into our community and schools is important because integration and language mastery often go hand in hand.  If we are able to move students to proficiency more quickly there is less cost to the district and less chance for the student to fall behind academically.

Integration for school-aged children must begin with and include their families. ELL families face challenges everywhere from figuring out how to register for school, to understanding school procedures, to knowing how to participate in Second Soccer. Belmont is fortunate to have an active and engaged parent population, and we can use this resource through the organization of the PTO to establish integration opportunities. For instance, we could work to match new ELL families with English-proficient families of the same first language, giving the newcomers a sympathetic place to ask questions and learn about the workings of the town. Let’s also look to the Recreation Department to target outreach to ELL families. Sports, free play, and other out-of-school activities are fertile times to learn English.

Finally, let’s not overlook the enormous leaps forward in translation technologies. Many are available at little to no cost and could be utilized both in the classroom and with families. Translation services represent a significant portion of the district’s ELL budget. New technologies may allow us gain some savings while at the same time increasing the amount of translated material we are able to produce.


Why I’m Running: Mark Paolillo for Board of Selectmen

Photo: Mark Paolillo

With a sense of purpose and a continued desire to serve Belmont, I am seeking re-election to the Board of Selectmen. Six years ago, I ran on a platform of “we can do better.” The record shows that we have. But, there is still unfinished business.

As Selectman, I drove the creation of the Financial Task Force which developed a multi-year financial plan that will serve as our blueprint for building a sound financial future. It set the stage for the first successful override in 13 years. The override provided financial stability for our school and town budgets and increased our capital budget to help finance our capital improvement needs. During my tenure, we established a more effective and collaborative annual budget process. We improved Town infrastructure by approving the construction of a new Electric Light Substation that will meet peak electricity demand well into the future. The historic 100-year old Underwood Pool was replaced with a beautiful new pool. Lastly, we dramatically improved our communication and transparency by directing town employees to be responsive to all resident inquiries and by redesigning our town website to make it easier for residents to find information such as budgets, policies, and meeting minutes.

Yet there is still more to do. We must complete the excellent work of the Financial Task Force and implement key recommendations, including maximizing non-tax revenue and exploring regionalization with neighboring communities. We have major building projects to address, including the Belmont High School, the Police Station, the Library, the DPW Facility and the Skating Rink.  Finally, we must address the need for a Community Path.

I love this town. I have been honored to serve as your Selectman. I ask for your vote on Tuesday, April 5th.  Please feel free to contact me at 617-489-6517,, or

Opening night at Belmont World Film Monday with NE Premiere of ‘Parisienne’

Photo: Still from the movie Parisienne which has its New England premiere at the Belmont World Film at the Studio Cinema.

Opening night at Belmont World Film features the New England premiere of Parisienne on Monday, March 21, at 7:30 p.m. at the Studio Cinema, 376 Trapelo Rd.

Set during the 1990’s and based in part on director Danielle Arbid’s (director of Beirut Hotel shown at the festival in 2012) experience as a young émigré in Paris, the film follows 19-year-old Lina, who moves in with her aunt and uncle in order to attend a university. Alone and naive, Lina is looking for the freedom she has never found in her home country of Lebanon.

Parisienne is the first film in Belmont World Film’s 15th annual International Film Series, “To Have and Have Not,” which sheds light on the growing inequalities of wealth, class, race, and gender that affect society and on how such disparities are portrayed in art and popular culture in different parts of the world.

“In an industry that is currently under fire for lacking in female diversity, we are proud that a third of our films this year are directed by women, including this opening night film,” says Belmont World Film Executive Director Ellen Gitelman.

“Now that immigration plays such a large part of today’s political debate, opening with this film could not be more timely.”

Screenings take place mostly on Mondays at 7:30 p.m. at the Studio Cinema, except two screenings at the West Newton Cinema, 1296 Washington St., on April 11 and 18, and two Sunday screenings on April 17 and May 15. The series is funded in large part by a $5,000 grant from Mass Humanities, which uses scholarly disciplines to enhance and improve civic life in Massachusetts. 

Tickets are $11 general admission and $9 for students and seniors in advance online and $12 and $10, respectively, at the door. The Belmont World Film “Passport” includes eight admissions for $75 and can be shared with one other person. Tickets for films, passports, and receptions are available online and passports are available for purchase in person for cash on the day of show starting 30 minutes prior to each screening.

For more information, visit the series’ web page, call 617-484-3980, like us on Facebook or follow us @BelmntWorldFilm.

First Day of Spring Snow Storm to Impact Monday Morning Commute

Photo: You remember the drill.

Spring officially begins in Belmont on March 20, at 12:30 a.m. Twenty-four hours later, you’d believe it was last winter as a First-Day-Of-Spring Winter Storm Watch is in effect from Sunday afternoon to the Monday morning commute according to the National Weather Service in Taunton. 

While exact accumulation amounts are still up in the air, the best estimate is between four to eight inches of heavy wet snow will be dumped in eastern Massachusetts including Belmont.

The most substantial rate of precipitation will occur just after sunset on Sunday before tapering by Monday morning.