Letter to the Editor: Bicer’s Financial Expertise An Asset to Committee

Photo: Murat Bicer
To the editor:
I would like to encourage the residents of Belmont to vote for Murat Bicer for School Committee on April 5. He has a strong understanding of the problems that face our town’s schools and a clear sense of how to help solve them.
My family moved to Belmont several years ago. Like many, we were drawn to the community because of its excellent schools. As our eldest daughter entered the brand new Wellington School, we were impressed by the excellent teachers and staff, as well as by the highly engaged, welcoming group of parents and children. However, as evidenced by the recent override, our school system faces tremendous pressure on resources. We face ballooning enrollment and state mandated, but unfunded, programs. On top of these pressures, we need to continue to innovate the way we educate and engage our children.
As we face the challenges ahead, it is my firm belief that Murat Bicer’s extensive professional experience in financial management and strategic planning makes him an excellent candidate for the school committee. He has served on the boards of both non-profit and for-profit companies. Most importantly, Murat is the father to two young children, who will be entering the public school system in the next few years. He and his wife, Katherine, are very strong proponents of public schools and the role they play in our communities. The challenges ahead are daunting but I believe Murat Bicer offers the kind of leadership necessary to overcome them.
Sara Townsend
Clark Street

Here Come [More] Sun: Solar Installation Exceeds Year Goal in Three Months

Photo: The logo and challenge of Belmont Goes Solar.

For supporters of solar power in Belmont, the past six months has been heady times as the popularity of the alternative energy source has gone through the roof.

Or, more appropriately, going ONTO the roofs of Belmont homeowners.

Since the implementation of a solar power policy for homeowners and small commercial businesses on Sept. 30, 2015 and the efforts of a newly-established volunteers group, the number of homes that have and are in the process of installing solar arrays has increased fivefold, according to Roger Colton, the co-chair of the town’s Energy Committee, told the Light Board on Monday, March 14.

The Light Board, which oversees the town’s electrical utility, is made up of the Board of Selectmen.

Capitalizing on a 30 percent federal investment tax credit, a discount from installer Direct Energy Solar, the establishment of a stable tariff that provided solar companies “a level of financial certainty” and the efforts of the two-month-old Belmont Goes Solar campaign, the number of homes with solar panels has shot up from 25 on Oct. 1, to 125 qualified and ready for solar installation, already exceeding the goal of 100 homes for 2016 in just 10 weeks.

“Demand is going up, day after day,” said Colton, who heads the Belmont Goes Solar Initiative.

Producing a map of installations, Colton, said the homes with solar power panels is literally everywhere in Belmont, and, which Colton said in the parlance of young people, “that’s ‘very cool’.” 

The Goes Solar campaign is supported by Belmont Light, the Belmont Public Schools, the Board of Selectmen, Sustainable Belmont, and the local chapter of Mothers Out Front. 

“It shows that when the community works together, programs to improve the community work,” said Colton. 

Since it reached its goal of 100 households going solar, Direct Energy Solar is donating $25,000 to the town towards a solar system on a Belmont school or a municipal building.

Due to the rapid number of residents seeking to install solar arrays, the Light Board – with a nod of approval from the town’s electrical utility, Belmont Light, and the Temporary Net Metering Working Group that created Belmont’s solar policy – has lifted the 1,000 kW ceiling on capacity as Belmont residents have already exceeded the amount.

While supportive of suspending the cap, Roy Epstein, the working group’s chair, said he wanted a date specific in the fall when to revisit establishing a new limit.

Colton encourages Belmont residents to sign-up for a free solar evaluation of their home. More than 70 percent of the homes that have signed-up for an assessment thus far, he notes, “qualified” for the installation of solar panels. 

The next opportunity for residents to meet and talk personally with Belmont Goes Solar volunteers and Direct Energy Solar staff will be Saturday, April 2 from 2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. at a “Meet the Installer” event at the Beech Street Center, 266 Beech St. The presentation will also address the particular circumstances of condo owners. 

Belmont homeowners can sign-up for a free solar assessment here

This Day, March 16: Tech Advisory Meeting, Book Clubs,

Photo: The Door by Magda Szabo

Wednesday, March 16

• If you attended or viewed the broadcast of Monday’s meeting of the Belmont Board of Selectmen, you will remember the members of the Belmont Informational Technology Advisory Committee as they told the board what the group is advocating. You can see the committee in action tonight at 7:30 p.m. at Town Hall as it holds its monthly meeting to review technology initiatives from the town, schools, Light Department, Police and Library.

• The Belmont Council on Aging and the town’s Recreation Department are teaming up to offer free intergenerational activities after lunch at 12:25 p.m. at the Beech Street Center, 266 Beech St. Today’s activity will by handprint crafts. Belmont residents and surrounding towns, age 60+, are eligible for lunch at the Center, and are welcome to bring guests of any age with them. Please call 617-993-2970 to reserve lunch.

• The Belmont Book Discussion Group will review the novel The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant, in conjunction with One Book One Belmont at the library’s Flett Room from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. Everyone is welcome to attend. Copies of the book can be requested through the library catalog or call the library Reference staff at 617-993-2870.

• The Belmont Special Education Advisory Council (SEPAC) is holding a parent information session on the topic “Children and Anxiety” at the Winn Brook Cafeteria, from 6:30 p.m. to 8:45 p.m.

International Fiction Book Club meets tonight at 7 p.m. in the library’s Flett Room to discuss The Door by Magda Szabo. The International Fiction Book Club meets monthly on the third Wednesday. The group eats snacks and talk about books by international authors. All are welcome to join. For information contact Kylie Sparks at ksparks@minlib.net

Ohlin’s Owners Declare ‘We’ll Be Back’ After Flash Fire, Explosion Closes Shop

Photo: The rear of Ohlin’s Bakery that suffered the most damage.

The flash fire that rocked Ohlin’s Bakery early Tuesday morning, March 15, sent the family who’ve owned the store since the 1960s reeling.

“We are still in shock,” said Marybeth Klemm, who with her husband owns and runs the century old Belmont institution in the heart of Cushing Square.

But even as they start the difficult work of getting back on their feet, the Klemm’s have been the recipients of a steady stream of support from their loyal customers.

“It warms our hearts to know the community is rallying behind us,” Marybeth told the Belmontonian Tuesday afternoon, March 15.

Belmont has been following closely the news of the early morning explosion that knocked down both Klemm and his assistant that came from an oven that was turned on to start a long morning of baking the store’s award-winning baked goods including its famous donuts.

“I’m extremely grateful that Paul and Nouri [Hessasta] were not hurt! They have angels watching over them!” said Marybeth.

David Frizzell, Belmont Fire Chief, told the Belmontonian dispatchers received a call at 2:47 a.m. for an explosion and a fire at Ohlin’s at 456 Common St. near the intersection of Trapelo Road.


“When the fire companies arrived, the fire was out,” said Frizzell. Fire personnel found two people at the scene, one, the owner Paul Klemm, had been “engulfed” in the flash fire that followed the explosion. While singed by the flames, both he and Hessasta declined medical attention.

Frizzell said his crews found the back of the operation, where the baking takes place “suffered significant structural damage” with a portion of the roof and a part of the back wall collapsed.

“Right now it’s unsafe to be in that portion of the building so the owner needs to get an engineer in there to do a structural analysis of that section to find out what repairs need to be done,” said Frizzell.

In addition, the front window of Jerry’s Barber Shop next to the bakery was blown out.


While first indications point to natural gas as the culprit, Frizzell said the incident remains under investigation. As a precaution, gas and electrical service were shut off to surrounding businesses so town inspectors could inspect the infrastructure.

Glenn Clancy, director of the Office of Community Development which includes the Building Department which handles inspections, said initial inspection determined the back space of the bakery is “unsafe for occupancy.”

It will be up to the landlord to pull building permits to begin repairs. Clancy’s office will need to inspect the work while other town departments, such as health, will be involved as the business readies to open.

Clancy said he could not say how long the work will take but the retail portion of the building will remain closed until the bakery section is approved for occupancy.

Marybeth said the family is moving forward in reopening the business, although it will be later than sooner before the business opens once again.

“We are in the process of talking with the insurance company. There was a lot of structural damage; so we are not sure how long it will take to fix,” she said.

Marybeth wanted the public to know; “We will try and be back in business as soon as possible! Thanks for your support!”

Selectmen Set March 22 As D-Day for Cushing Village Developer to Move on Project

Photo: Cushing Village.

The Belmont Board of Selectmen Monday warned the developer of Cushing Village that unless it sees “significant progress” towards construction of the three building, residential/retail/parking project at its March 22 meeting, it would be unlikely to extend a purchase and sale agreement for a critical parcel of town-owned land that expires March 28.

“It would be very difficult for us to approve an extension … unless the developer comes back with something new, something that gives us absolute security that [the] project will proceed and go forward and not lag for years and months,” said Selectmen Chair Sami Baghdady of the 167,000 square foot project approved by the Planning Board when he was chair back in July 2013. 

After cancelling a scheduled meeting to update Belmont elected officials on the status of its long-troubled development at its Monday, March 14 meeting, the board pointed to its next public meeting, on March 22, as the final opportunity for Chris Starr, the managing partner of Smith Legacy Partners which owns two parcels and is seeking to purchase the municipal parking lot adjacent to Trapelo Road and abuts the Starbucks cafe in Cushing Square.

Starr told the town he will attend next Tuesday night’s meeting to be held at Town Hall where he will “make a presentation,” said Baghdady.

“Something has to be done by March 28,” said Baghdady

Under a long-standing agreement, Smith Legacy was to gain title to the lot for $850,000, but only when it secured a complete financing deal. It has been the inability to nail down the money needed to begin construction that has delayed the project for the past 958 days.  

Baghdady said if Starr does not convince the board the project is moving forward, it is likely the board will revoke the purchase and sale agreement and retain ownership of the parcel. It would be unlikely that the expired P&S agreement could be revived unless that town issues a new request for proposal for the municipal parking lot and with it the Special Permit – which took 18 months to craft – would also expire.

On March 29, Starr would only have ownership to two small parcels – the former CVS building at Common and Belmont and the building at the intersection of Trapelo and Common that once housed the S.S. Pierce store, “and that could be potentially two more moderately-sized projects.” 

With the P&S taken off the table, the town will keep nearly $700,000 in penalties that Starr has been paying the town over the past two years in option payments. 

“I want to reassure everybody that Belmont is being protected. While we want to see development in Cushing Square, we want to support the local businesses, we know what the residents have gone through, its been a roller coaster ride. But we need to protect the town.” said Baghdady.

Run With A Champion on April 10 At Inaugural Becca Pizzi 5K

Photo: Becca Pizzi.
In four weeks, you’ll get the chance to run with a world champion, and you won’t have to leave Belmont.
On Sunday, April 10, the inaugural Becca Pizzi Family Fun Run will take place over the same route as the Brendon Home Run. Sponsored by Belmont Savings Bank, the Family Fun Run is the newest road race in Belmont, celebrating Pizzi winning the 2016 World Marathon Challenge in which she ran – and won! – seven marathons in seven days on seven continents.
The race will also act as a special send-off celebration for Pizzi and all Boston Marathon runners who will run the historic 26.2 mile BAA event eight days later.Speaking before the Board of Selectmen at its meeting Monday, March 14, Pizzi said the race is her way of giving back to the community that supported her during the Marathon Challenge. 
Race proceeds will benefit the Becca Pizzi Scholarship Foundation, which will help high school students as they head to college, just as she was a recipient of a scholarship also.
The 5K (3.1 miles) race will start and finish at Belmont High School’s Harris Field track at 9 a.m. with a one-mile kid’s race will take place at 9:05 a.m.The race will include a 5K run. It will also include a 1-mile run for kids around the Belmont High School track.T-shirts will be available for the first 200 5K registrantsStick around after the race for awards and fun activities!
Registration:Register here on Racewire.com. Registration fee is $25 for 5K runners and $10 for kids running in the 1-mile race.
Route:The 5K will begin and end on the Belmont High School track. See the route map below.
Screen Shot 2016-03-15 at 11.24.04 AM

Town Names 15 Member Belmont High School Building Committee

Photo: Site of the new high school.

A mix of professionals and residents, officials and those experienced in constructing large projects were appointed to the newly-formed Belmont High School Building Committee, announced at the Board of Selectmen’s meeting on Monday, March 14.

Town Moderator Michael Widmar, who called the renovation “one of the most important and largest building projects in the town’s history,” selected the committee who were asked to dedicate a decade to the task.

“It’s a huge commitment on the part of these 15 people, and I want to publically on behalf of Belmont thank them for making that [decision],” said Widmer.

The members are:


  • Phillip Ruggiero
  • Jamie Shea
  • Robert (Bob) McLaughlin
  • Diane Miller
  • Joel Mooney
  • Pat Brusch
  • Joe DeStefano
  • William Lovallo
  • Chris Messer

Elected Officials

  • Sami Baghdady, Board of Selectmen
  • Thomas Caputo, School Committee

Town/School Staff

  • David Kale, Town Administrator
  • John Phelan, School Superintendent
  • Gerald Boyle, Belmont’s Director of Facilities
  • Dan Richards, Principal, Belmont High School

Widmer said Brusch, a member of the Permanent Building Committee would soon convene the newly-structured board where they would elected a chair and vice chair.

Widmer said Brusch, Mooney and Lovallo bring expertise as members of the Permanent Building Committee which will be important with the size of the project; McLaughlin is an attorney who is a member of the Warrant Committee while DeStefano and Ruggiero have backgrounds in construction and engineering.

Messer works for a large professional services firm and Shea and Miller both have graduated degrees from Harvard’s School of Education and volunteer their time, Shea as chair of the Foundation for Belmont Education and Miller with Joey’s Park. 

Also, many have children who are students in the district. 

The goal of the committee is to work in conjunction with the Massachusetts School Building Authority – which will provide between 30 to 35 percent of the construction cost of the estimated $100 million project – to bring to the town a proposal for a renovated high school facility which will include new construction. It will also be tasked with facilitating the development of the operational and educational components of the new building.

The MSBA selected the Belmont School District on Jan. 27 to begin the process that will result in the complete renovation of Belmont High School and the construct of a new science wing at the Concord Avenue campus.

Baghdady observed that the selection process was “a very inclusive selection process” with many hours Widmer spent speaking to officials and residents to find the right mix of residents and professionals.

This Day, The Ides of March: Planning Board, Story Time, A Housing Lottery


Today is March 15, the day in 44 BC that the emperor Julius Caesar was assassinated after being warned by a soothsayer: “Cave Idus, Idus Martiis!” 

Caesar: Who is it in the press that calls on me? I hear a tongue shriller than all the music that cry “Caesar!” Speak, Caesar is turn’d to hear.

Soothsayer: Beware the ides of March. (Shakespeeare’s Julius Caesar I,ii,15-19)

It’s a day to celebrate the fall of dictators and a day for those in the political arena to remember that your “friends” may yet be the cause of your downfall.

• The Planning Board is meeting at 7 p.m. in Town Hall to discuss amendments to the Single Residence C Zoning District and architectural guidelines for general residence districts.

• 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 Bel Aires, Belmont’s senior singing club, will be singing songs of Ireland at the Beech Street Center at 1:30 p.m. Led by Larry Martin and pianist Anne Donovan, the group sings classic favorites, seasonal, and patriotic tunes. Newcomers are always welcome. Cost: $2 donation.

Teen Board Games will take place from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. in the Belmont Public Library’s 
Assembly Room.

• The Movie Matinee at the Beech Street Center at 4 p.m. is “Shrek” on DVD. Enjoy this 2001 film again or for the first time. Adults and children alike can enjoy the impressive computer animation, music, and story that references many classic fairy tales with humor and surprising twists. Rated PG, this 93-minute film will be shown with English subtitles.

• The lottery for the 60 affordable housing units at Acorn Park, better known as the Belmont Uplands, will take place beginning at 6 p.m. in the Belmont Public Library’s Flett Room.

Update on Belmont/Trapelo Corridor Project Set for Tuesday, March 15

Photo: The project.

Wonder why all the new street signs along Belmont Steet and Trapelo Road so big? When is the MBTA going to return electric buses on Route 73? And when will the final paving start along the main corridor through Belmont between Cambridge and Waltham?

These and other questions, along with a chance for the public to give its two cents on the state-financed Belmont/Trapelo corridor project, will be answered as State Sen. Will Brownsberger will  be hosting an update meeting on the project, Tuesday, March 15 at 6:30 p.m. in the Belmont Art Gallery on the third floor of the Homer Municipal Building, next to Belmont Town Hall in Belmont Center.

Residents can get the latest on the project’s status here.

Letter to the Editor: Prestwich Will Bring Balance to School Committee

Photo: Andrea Prestwich.

To the editor:

I express my support for Dr. Andrea Prestwich, candidate for School Committee. Andrea has two children who currently attend Chenery Middle School. She leads small ministry groups at the First Church, Belmont, and is an avid member of the choir. At work, Andrea is an internationally respected astrophysicist who oversees projects and manages a multi-million dollar budget for the Chandra X-ray Observatory.

As a parent and former reporter covering the School Committee, I have attended countless School Committee meetings. I can attest that Prestwich has the requisite background and experience to lead our schools. She understands the budgeting process and can make difficult decisions. She appreciates the district’s recent focus on social and emotional learning and its impact on students’ development. Most importantly, she is a critical thinker who has the skills to negotiate and work through complex policy implications.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the National Education Association have called for later middle and high school start times (8:30 a.m. or later) so that students can get adequate amounts of sleep. Andrea formed the Belmont chapter of the national nonprofit, Start Schools Later, and has held local talks on the issue. Andrea is committed to reviewing the district’s policies around school start times to determine what is appropriate for Belmont.

Yes, financial leadership is a key issue for all of our town committees. But we also need to have a balance of diverse members on our committees. I admire Andrea’s dedication and passion to serve our children and community. I urge you all to join me in voting for Andrea Prestwich for School Committee on April 5.

Melissa Irion

Town Meeting Member Precinct 8