Letter to the Editor: The Facts Eclipse Allegations on Town’s Trash Contract

Photo: Trash collection in Belmont.

To the editor:

“Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.” This bit of wisdom from Daniel Patrick Moynihan is important, particularly during town elections. Paul Roberts submitted a letter to the editor to The Belmontonian that is all opinion. No facts. Belmont residents deserve to know the facts.    

According to Paul, his candidate (Alexandra Ruban) was drawn into politics by the “… sneaking suspicion that something was amiss in the town’s relationship with its recycling contractor.”  Alexandra “ … discovered that Belmont this year simply renewed its contract without soliciting bids from competing firms and that the Town had been doing this for more than a decade!”  In other words, she suspects that Belmont has been wasting money because of malfeasance by town officials.

The head of the Department of Public Works negotiates all contracts. Therefore, this fabricated allegation is a slur on the reputation of two distinguished town employees: [current DPW chief] Jay Marcotte and his predecessor, Peter Castanino. 

I will not remain silent when the work of these good men is subject to baseless allegations. Castanino devoted two decades of honorable service to the citizens of Belmont. He is one of the finest civil servants ever to serve our town.    

Even in political campaigns, there is no room for this type of attack. I am reminded of a time when a Boston attorney challenged a politician with these words: “Have you no decency, sir?”

Let’s review the facts about this year’s contract extension. 

  • FACT:  the two-year bridge contract did not exist when Roberts wrote his letter to the editor. It was considered by the Selectmen on Monday evening, March 7, and Alexandra (who opposed it) did not attend the meeting.  
  • FACT: when looking for cost savings for our taxpayers, it often is easier to get those savings from an existing contractor.
  • FACT: the cost increase in this new contract was driven by a wage increase required by the State’s prevailing wage statute. The two-year extension is a good deal as a bridge to a new five-year contract. Doug Koplow, chair of the former Solid Waste/Recycling Committee testified on Monday night and concurred in this assessment.   

Let’s review the previous decade. We achieved substantial savings. Belmont has done an excellent job of controlling costs. There have been two five-year contracts. 

  • FACT: the cost of solid waste and recycling has increased by 1.6 percent per year from FY ’05 through FY ’15.  That is less than the annual increase in the town budget. That is good management for Belmont taxpayers.   
  • FACT: all contracts have been reviewed in public by the Warrant Committee and the Board of Selectmen.

Finally, citizens should understand that Alexandra knew most of these facts. Marcotte explained the history of solid waste and recycling contracts to her in a telephone conversation earlier this year. It appears that Alexandra ignored facts that did not fit her narrative. Governing requires an ability to listen and learn.

In an election year, facts matter. Civility matters. Character matters.

I urge you to re-elect Mark Paolillo as Selectman on April 5. 

Ralph Jones

Town Meeting Member, Precinct 3, former Chair of the School Committee, Warrant Committee, and Board of Selectmen

Assistant Principal Coplon-Newfield Leaving Chenery

Photo: Daniel Coplon-Newfield

A week after the Chenery Middle School’s principal announced she was stepping down in June, her second-in-charge told parents and staff Monday, March 7, he is also leaving the Belmont middle school at the end of the school year.

Daniel Coplon-Newfield, a long-time teacher and assistant principal for the Upper School since 2011, wrote in an email he leaving the Chenery to become Head of School at the Vassal Lane Upper School in Cambridge. One of five public schools for 6th-8th graders, Vassal Lane accepts students who have completed local Montessori schools.
“This represents a great opportunity for me as I continue to develop as a school leader and I am excited about this big next step,” wrote Coplon-Newfield, who first came to the school in 2005 as a Behavior Specialist; Special Education Teacher.
“I cannot overstate my respect for the tremendous teaching staff here at Chenery. They are, without a doubt, some of the best middle school educators in the country and I will miss working with them,” said Coplon-Newfield
Coplon-Newfield statement comes a week after Chenery Principal Kristin St. George announced she was stepping down from her role. The departures leave a large gap in experience and leadership to be filled before the last week in August when classes begin in the 2016-17 school year. 

Time Change: Belmont/Arlington Catholic Sectional Semis at 5:30 PM Tuesday

Photo: Belmont High Girls’ Basketball team.

Tipoff for today’s Division 2 North sectional semifinals Tuesday, March 8, between Belmont High and Arlington Catholic, has been moved up to 5:30 p.m. from 7 p.m. 

The matchup between the 10th-ranked Marauders (13-9) and the 3rd-seed (19-3) Cougars will take place at Billerica High School.

Belmont is the third Middlesex League team Arlington Catholic has met in the tourney, having beaten Wakefield (in overtime) last week and Melrose on Sunday. Belmont has upset its first two higher-seeded opponents, Marblehead and Newburyport, to reach the Division 2 North sectional semifinals for the third time in four years.

AC is led by seniors Demi Fogarty and Marie Gaffney – Fogarty had 22 points and wrapped up 15 rebounds in the Cougars’ latest win and Gaffney had 24 points against Wakefield – while freshman Erin Donlan is capable of hitting open threes.

Belmont uses a smothering defense to generate its offense which is led by sophomore guard and Middlesex all-star Carly Christofori. 

Two Months After the Fire, Il Casale Reopens Monday

Photo: The interior of il Casale which reopens for business on March 7. 

A smokey fire in an exhaust flue on Jan. 7 not only sent Belmont and Arlington fire departments to 50 Leonard St., it resulted in il Casale Belmont in Belmont Center being closed so owners Dante, Damian and Filippo de Magistristo could make the necessary repairs to the landmark restaurant.

Today, Monday, March 7 – two months to the day of the fire – the de Magistris’ are opening the doors to their eatery which did not undergo any major renovations aside from some minor aesthetic upgrades. 

“While the damage to the restaurant was minimal, it has been no small feat for us to re-open,” said Dante, who is il Casale’s chef.

“We are a small 100 percent family-run local business with 50 talented and dedicated employees who are eager to serve and awaiting the moment when guests fill our space with their convivial spirits,” he said.

The chefs have been busy setting up the line to cook il Casale’s tried and true favorite dishes and will be introducing some new menu items including roasted swordfish “chop” al livornese and roasted skate wing – oreganata with brown butter and celery spears

“We are so grateful for the support of our local community over the past seven years and appreciate all of their support in getting us back on track for many more,” said Dante.

Letter to the Editor: Ruban Has The Right Ideas For Belmont

Photo: Alexandra Ruban

Letter to the editor:

I will be voting for Alexandra Ruban to be Belmont’s next selectwoman. I encourage readers to join me. 
Alexandra is an accomplished professional and the mother of two children. She has a deep, personal investment in the continued excellence of our public schools. Alexandra wants to make Belmont’s government work better for residents: opening its opaque operations to the light and saving taxpayer money that can be invested in the services we care most about schools, roads, and public buildings. 
Like many in town, Alexandra was drawn into politics by curiosity, civic responsibility and the sneaking suspicion that something was amiss. In her case, the issue was the town’s relationship with its recycling contractor. 
She began asking questions of Town Hall and discovered that Belmont this year simply renewed its contract without soliciting bids from competing firms. More outrageous: the Town has been doing so for more than a decade! Alexandra knows Belmont can do better, saving money, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and putting the town back on track with its own Climate Action Plan in the process. 
A campaign was born.
Mark Paolillo is a good and gentle man from an esteemed family. I count him as a friend. But elections aren’t about demeanor or personal style. Elections are about your record in office and your job performance. 
On far too many issues: from the Town Center redesign debacle to the multi-million dollar deficits that have been a fixture of his tenure, Mark has voted with Sami Baghdady and other staunch conservatives on the Board. During that time, residents have seen fees rise, capital investments deferred and school and town services cut. 
Alexandra has the right ideas for Belmont and the courage of her convictions. I ask you to join me in voting for her in April.

Paul Roberts

Town Meeting Member, Precinct 8

Opinion: Mark Paolillo, The Leadership Belmont Needs

Photo: Mark Paolillo.

By Ellen Schreiber and Sara Masucci

Leadership, experience and vision matter on our Board of Selectman.

Last year, we led the override campaign to protect our town – to keep the schools strong; to fix our roads, sidewalks, and buildings; and to avoid encroaching on other town services we all depend on.

This work is not done. Belmont is now facing some of its most exciting and most daunting challenges ever.

These challenges require Mark Paolillo’s strong leadership, experience and vision.

Mark believes in a community where individuals make a difference. He is a parent who “put his money where his mouth is” to guarantee the excellence of our schools. With Mark, everyone has a voice, every perspective is important, and a consensus is a worthy goal.  In Mark’s Belmont, unique places like the Underwood Pool, the Viglirolo Skating Rink, Butler playground, Joey’s Park, the emerging Community Path, and the Senior Center define this “Town of Homes.” He fosters the vision that we become a community when we serve our neighbors and strive together to be better.

Mark’s priorities are our priorities, including:

  1. Shepherding the renovation/rebuild of Belmont High School,
  2. Relieving the budget pressure caused by skyrocketing school enrollment,
  3. Extending the positive impact of the Proposition 2 1/2 override,
  4. Leading the implementation of identified revenue opportunities and fiscal discipline,
  5. Achieving consensus on the community path,
  6. Navigating the murky waters of the Minuteman High School project,

Plus many more.

Mark is uniquely capable of accomplishing these tasks.

  • Mark was a key architect of the override. The Financial Task Force he led performed the analysis that created the override proposal, and he was a primary advocate for passage.
  • Mark has always been a strong supporter of the Belmont schools as a parent and town leader.
  • Mark has 12-years of experience analyzing and optimizing Belmont’s complex, $100-plus million budget.
  • During his tenure as Chair of the Board of Selectmen, Belmont benefitted from Mark’s skill in consensus building and negotiation. Time after time, he demonstrated his commitment to listen to all residents as a key part of his decision making.
  • Mark has experience with building projects, as selectman during the construction of the Wellington School and the Underwood Pool.

We believe the effectiveness of the Board of Selectmen would be compromised without Mark.

  • Mark has a unique skill set on the board as a CPA, who leads a global accounting practice.
  • Mark is the only selectman with 12-years of Belmont budget experience, compared to the other selectmen who have 1-2 years of experience.
  • Mark’s institutional knowledge is irreplaceable on the board; he is well versed on every important issue that Belmont has faced for the last 18 years.

This is not the time for “change for the sake of change.” 

Of course, there are always things we can do better. A government is a work in progress. And none of us are perfect. We believe Mark sincerely regrets the vote that led to the contentious atmosphere surrounding the Belmont Center project, and he was part of collaboration that achieved a compromise.

Mark’s leadership has helped Belmont take huge steps forward. We wouldn’t have the override without Mark. Or the Underwood Pool. Or the new Minuteman agreement. Or the Financial Task Force. Mark is the “go-to” selectman to resolve Belmont’s most thorny issues.

There is no one more committed to Belmont’s children and seniors, homeowners and renters, businesses and employees, than Mark Paolillo. He is dedicated to serving this community.

In these exciting and challenging times, Belmont is lucky that Mark Paolillo wants to continue to serve on the Board of Selectmen.

Letter to the Editor: Preserve the Architectural Integrity of the Plymouth Congregational


[Editor’s note: The Belmont Historic District Commission will hear from Glenn Herosian and Ron Creamer as the commission continues discussion of Plymouth Congregational Church on Tuesday, March 8 at 7 p.m. in Town Hall.]

To the editor:

The Plymouth Congregational Church is the single important and centrally-located building in Belmont’s Pleasant Street Historic District (BHDC). Its commanding steeple and symmetrical buildings are a visual focal point for the neighborhood and visitors passing through Belmont. The Church represents an important style piece that holds together and defines the diverse historic fabric of the district.

Fortunately, the church falls under the strict “Design Guidelines of the Belmont Historic District.” Despite these safeguards, the threat of losing this historic building remains a deep neighborhood concern after the unfortunate demolition of the Waverly Congregational Church. The town’s Demolition Delay Bylaw was enacted as a reaction to this emotional loss for the Waverly community. However, this bylaw will not be enough to keep the same fate from happening to the Plymouth Church should the congregation weaken or relocate in future years.

Our neighborhood group insists that the BHDC enforce its stringent guidelines and follow its documented policy of allowing only the use of original wood materials in all necessary changes to the church’s exterior.

We demand the immediate action by the church and the BHDC to maintain and preserve the building’s architecturally-important details with a strict interpretation of its design bylaws without compromise. As the heart of the Historic District and the gateway used by innumerable citizens to access many conservation areas and town center, the church and the BHDC has a responsibility to its citizens to preserve the historical integrity of this church and maintain the harmony of this community.

The Neighborhood Group Against the Plymouth Church Cell Phone Tower

Why I’m Running: Kim O’Mahony for School Committee

Photo: Kim O’Mahony

My name is Kim O’Mahony, and I am running School Committee.

My husband and I have lived in Belmont for 12 years. I have run a successful child care business in Waverley Square for the past eight years and we have three daughters attending the Butler School. I am excited to serve this town as I am deeply committed to it.  It would be a privilege to apply my experience to help Belmont move forward!

What is my experience?

I hold a BS in Accounting and worked professionally in systems analysis, auditing and business analysis. Currently, I own an early childhood education business. The combination of a business background and an expertise in education make me uniquely qualified to sit at the School Committee table. I understand zero-based budgeting and I am steeped in the developmental needs of children.  

There are many financial challenges facing the Schools, e.g., contract negotiations, ever- increasing enrollment, and the potential for a new/renovated high school. My experience positions me well to offer informed, balanced ideas that can help make a positive impact on solutions to these issues.  

While standing at the playground, on sidelines of soccer games, or attending Dolphin swim meets, I have listened to the concerns of fellow parents. What is clear to me is that the needs of our excellent school system must be balanced against the needs of the community as a whole. We are, after all, One Belmont.  

As a School Committee member, it would be my responsibility to represent my fellow community members and to bring the scope and depth of my fiscal and education experience to the table.  

I look forward to the opportunity of serving Belmont in this way.

Thank you for your consideration, and please be sure to vote on Tuesday, April 5!

Sold in Belmont: ‘Old Fashion’ Flip Pays Off on Trowbridge

Photo: Flippin’ old fashion single family on Trowbridge.

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18 Trowbridge St., “Old fashion” (1929). Sold: $811,000.

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438 Trapelo Rd., Unit 1, Ground-floor condo (1917). Sold: $400,000.

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38 Slade St., Unit 1, Condominium (1925). Sold: $450,000.

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

18 Trowbridge St., “Old fashion” (1929). Sold: $811,000. Listed at $699,000. Living area: 1,700 sq.-ft. 7 rooms, 4 bedrooms, 1.5 baths. On the market: 56 days.

438 Trapelo Rd., Unit 1, Ground floor condo (1917). Sold: $400,000. Listed at $419,000. Living area: 941 sq.-ft. 5 rooms, 2 bedrooms, 1 baths. On the market: 90 days.

38 Slade St., Unit 1, Condominium (1925). Sold: $450,000. Listed at $425,000. Living area: 1,097 sq.-ft. 6 rooms, 2 bedrooms, 1 baths. On the market: 61 days.

A Watertown firm brought back some sparkle to a beautiful but worn down “old fashion”-style house on Trowbridge Street. With a little rehab, maintenance and paint, the single-family was good as new.

But Foxhound Properties on Whitney Street – literally a baseball throw from Belmont – isn’t a contractor or renovation specialist hired by the homeowner. Foxhound “sniffs out” properties which owners who are looking, for a myriad of reasons, to sell fast and so will cut a deal. 

“If you are looking to sell your house quickly or if you have found yourself in a real estate dilemma and you are only looking for answers, we can help!” says the company’s Web site.

Once in its hands, the clock starts and the team has contractors it has at the ready to whip the property into shape and flip it asap. 

Take 18 Trowbridge – which stands side-by-side to one house that in 2011 burned to the ground (20) and the other severely damaged (16) by fire in 2008. The owner put the property, rated as a C- by town assessors, on the market in July 2015 for $669,000 then lowered it to $659,000 two weeks later. But no one was taking the bait. 

In October, Foxhound made a deal with the owner and bought the house for $525,000, below the town’s assessed value ($556,000) in a market where sales prices most always exceed that level.

And the clock starts. Foxhound likely assembles its usual crew to do basic maintenance such as paint the interior and exterior (I like the blue they used outside, reminds me of rural Maryland) and redo the hardwood floors. Other contractors came in and updated the baths and kitchen (which always means adding that horrid granite counter tops), ripped out the old heating system and added central air and make the deck pretty again.

Time is money, and the property was back on the market in January at $699,000. Offers come in because 18 looks nothing like it did before. The sale took place on March 4 for $811,000. 

So let’s say Foxhound’s construction expenses were $75,000 (I doubt that amount) and additional costs of $25,000, these guys made an “old fashion” profit of $185,000. That’s relatively good for a firm that is seeking to make money flipping homes. 

The result is that a uniquely styled house is given a new life, some family comes into Belmont to add yet more kids to the school system, and the former homeowner isn’t holding onto a property they wanted to be sold. Win, win, win? 

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Two-Vehicle Accident Sends Five to Area Hospitals [VIDEO]

Photo: Accident on Grove Street. 

A two-vehicle accident sent five people to area hospitals and closed down Grove Street to inbound traffic around noon on Sunday, March 6.

According to an initial police report, eyewitnesses and the driver of the second vehicle observed a white Nissan sedan with Delaware plates traveling on Grove Street away from Belmont Street when it made a “sudden and wild” turn onto Marion Road in an apparent attempt to make a U-turn to head back towards Belmont Street.

When the Nissan, carrying a driver and two passengers, crossed the roadway, it was hit board side by a silver Acura SUV on Grove Street.

The collision caused air bags to be deployed in both vehicles, sending the Nissan c into a driveway.

Belmont Fire arrived to stabilize the victims which included the three in the Nissan and a mother and her daughter in the SUV. They were all sent to area hospitals for observations. 

Belmont Police would not say if a citation will be given to either the Nissan or the Acura driver. 

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