Belmont Yard Sales: Aug. 12-13

Photo: Yard sales in Belmont.

Here are this weekend’s yard/moving/garage sales happening in the 02478 zip code:

• 65 Clark St., Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 12 and Aug. 13, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. 

• Lexington Street (at Riply Road), Saturday, Aug. 12, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. 

• 117 Maple St., Saturday, Aug. 12, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. 

• 70 Oxford Ave., Saturday, Aug. 12, 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. 

• 4 Worcester St. Apt. 1, Sunday, Aug. 13, 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. 

Belmont Fire Praised for Action At Waltham ‘Epic’ Fire

Photo: At the Waltham fire; Lt Gerry Benoit (E1), Asst Chief Wayne Haley (C2), and FF Brian O’Neill (E1 Hydrant). (Photo Credit – Lt Rob Wollner)

Belmont Fire Chief David Frizzell described the inferno his department help fight in Waltham last month was simply “epic.”

“You don’t see many of those during your career,” Frizzell said describing the 10-alarm fire on July 23  that ripped through a five building, a 260-unit luxury apartment complex under construction on Cooper Street. 

But in the past nine months, Belmont firefighters have now fought a pair of 10-alarm fires, the other occurring in December when a massive fire engulfed eight buildings in East Cambridge, destroying a city block.

“We joke about ‘over the river and through the woods’ because this fire was on the other side of the Charles River. We laid every stitch of hose we had on the truck, and we went over a bridge and through the woods to get to the back door,” said Frizzell.

An “alarm,” as in a “one alarm fire,” is different in each municipality said Frizzell; in Belmont, it would be two engines, a ladder truck, rescue team and the shift commander that make up a single alarm. In larger communities, it’s four to five engines, upwards to a pair of ladder trucks and fire rescue.

Belmont’s fast response and time spent at the fire was recognized this week by Waltham Mayor Jeannette McCarthy in a proclamation, noting Belmont Fire’s “quick response and quality decision making” was critical in “preventing the fire from spreading, and causing further damage and possible injuries or fatalities.” 

The Belmont personnel who responded included:

  • Asst. Chief Wayne Haley
  • Lt. Gerard Benoit 
  • FF Chris Drinan
  • FF Brian O’Neill
  • Chief David Frizzell
  • Lt. Michael Madruga
  • FF Ace Elefteriadis
  • FF Ryan Keene

On Thursday, Aug. 10, the fire was determined to be arson and a $100,000 reward is being offered by the property owner and contractor for information leading to the arrest of the person responsible.

Paving On Cross, School Streets To Make Friday’s Commutes A Pain

Photo: Road closing for paving.

On Friday, Aug. 11, paving contractor E.H. Perkins will begin work on the binder course on Cross Street between Brighton and Lake streets in the morning and the top course of asphalt on School Street between Temple and Washington streets in the afternoon, according to Belmont Police.

Road closures and delays are expected during construction hours between 6 a.m. and 8 p.m. on Cross Street and 4 p.m. and 9 p.m. on School Street.

On both Cross and School streets, vehicular access to homes in these sections will not be available, overnight parking on adjacent roads will be allowed. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause and thank you for your patience.

Residents and commuters are advised to seek alternate routes for both locations, the BPD suggests.

For any questions or concerns about the project, contact Ara Yogurtian, assistant director in the Office of Community Development, at 617-993-2665.

Cushing Square Fall Festival Slated for Sept. 23

Photo: Moonshine Hollar at last year’s festival.

Mark Saturday, Sept. 23 on your calendar when you can head over to the corner of Common Street, and Trapelo road as the Cushing Square Merchants Association holds its third Cushing Square Fall Festival.

“I think this will be really great for Cushing Square. I think it needs a boost,” Mary Westcott Thomajan, owner of two Westcott Mercantile stores in Belmont and president of the 25-member Merchant Association, told the Belmont Board of Selectmen which approved her application on Monday, Aug. 7.

For the past two years, a much smaller version of the festivities dubbed the “October Festival” took place in front of Thomajan’s store in the first weekend of October. But with the completion of the Trapelo/Belmont Corridor roadway reconstruction earlier in the year and the 167,000 square-foot Bradford development underway, “it’s time to promote the square and the businesses.”

On the 23rd from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Common Street will be closed from Trapelo to the crosswalk at Palfrey Road – Payson Road will stay open – and a small portion of one way Cushing Avenue adjacent to the UPS store. 

There will be approximately 25 table spaces for local stores and if there are any empty spaces to encourage businesses from outside the square to participate. Visitors can expect local eateries to dish out their specialties and stores to set up shop as well as bluegrass music and activities such as stilt walking classes. 

While there will be four or five of the same kiddy rides which take place in Belmont Center in May, “we are not trying to mimic [Town Day] but wants to keep it locally grown,” said Thomajan who has received help organizing the event from Gerry Dickhaut, owner of Champions Sports Goods in Belmont Center and chair of the Belmont Center Business Association which manages the annual Town Day celebration.

“To have a fall event and a May event in Belmont should work well,” she said.

“This sounds exciting,” said Selectman Adam Dash. “You guys have put up with so much with construction; this is the least we can do.”

Belmont High ‘Idol’ Awarded Full Scholarship to Berklee

Photo: Lea Grace Swinson (left) with Berklee alumna Courtney Harrell, an LA-based singer-songwriter and recent finalist on NBC’s The Voice. (Photo by Mike Spencer)                                                                                                                   
She was a Belmont High Idol as a freshman and was the definitive Matron “Mama” Morton in this year’s production of the spring musical “Chicago.” 
And next month, Lea Grace Swinson, Belmont High class of ’17, will attend the Berklee College of Music on a full ride as the 17-year-old Dorchester native was awarded a four-year, full-tuition scholarship presented to her at the Berklee Performance Center on Tuesday, Aug. 8. 
Swinson was one of five recipients of the 2017 Berklee City Music College Scholarship, part of the  school’s City Music Network which delivers high-quality contemporary music education instruction to youth from underserved communities at no or low cost. 
Speaking with Berklee alumna Courtney Harrell, an LA-based singer-songwriter and recent finalist on NBC’s The Voice, Swinson told the audience that music has helped her through many insecurities and has brought her “nothing but joy and healing.”
The Berklee City Music Network is an association of 46 community organizations that serves more than 46,000 students in the U.S. and Canada each year. Since its inception 20 years ago, Berklee City Music has awarded 251 four-year full-tuition scholarships totaling more than $2 million.
The scholarship presentation came at the conclusion of the Berklee Five-Week Summer Performance Program, where more than 100 teens were attending on City Music Summer Scholarships.

Belmont Joins Opposition To MBTA Wi-Fi Poles

Photo: MBTA commuter rail station at Waverley Square.

Belmont is joining a growing number communities in opposition to the installation of 320 75-foot tall mono-poles by the MBTA along commuter rail tracks including one slated for Thayer Road in Waverley Square.

Dubbing it a “silly idea,” Selectmen Chair Jim Williams joined his colleagues in voicing concerns to the regional transportation authority’s plan to construct the towers to improve Wi-Fi service to passengers riding the rails.

The pole in Belmont will be located adjacent to 33-39 Thayer Road on the Waltham side of the tracks, said Jefferey Wheeler of the Office of Community Development who attended a recent community meeting by the MBTA’s Fiscal and Management Control Board to discuss the $150 million project.

While the tracks are 20 feet below the street’s grade, the pole will still be as tall as a five-story tall building when installed.

The MBTA said the project – which is an underground fiber-optic cable which utilizes the pole to project the wireless network to the trains – will eliminate “dead spots” along the four commuter rail lines it services. 

Wheeler said the MBTA told the meeting it only needs the first 35 feet of the pole to send its signal while the remaining 40 feet is expected to the rented to mobile phone carriers to supply their service to trains and the surrounding neighborhoods.

The MBTA entered into an agreement in 2014 with a private company which will share revenue from sponsorships, infrastructure leasing, and a premium wireless service.

Selectman Adam Dash was critical of the lack of transparency from the MBTA stating the authority only sent the notification to the town of its intentions through the Belmont Historic District Commission and not the Selectmen or Town Administrator.

While the town can express its opposition to the project, the MBTA is exempt from local zoning bylaws restricting height and appearance as the structures are being constructed on the authority’s right of way along the tracks. Wheeler pointed out that cell phone carriers which will have the right to use the upper half off of the pole – up to three carriers will able to use that space – are likely to have extending “arms” and wires.

The selectmen are advising residents who are opposed to the project to contact the MBTA Fiscal and Management Control Board, Gov. Charlie Baker, Mass. Secretary of Transportation Stephanie Pollack, State Rep. Dave Roger, and State Sen. Will Brownsberger to share your concerns with this proposal.

Joseph Aiello, Chairman

Fiscal Management Control Board

State Transportation Building

10 Park Plaza

Boston, MA 02116

Governor Charlie Baker

Massachusetts State House
Office of the Governor
Room 280
Boston, MA 02133

To email Governor Baker’s Office use the link below:

Stephanie Pollack

Secretary and CEO Department of Transportation

Ten Park Plaza Suite 4160

Boston, Ma 02116

Telephone: 857-368-4636


State Rep. David M. Rogers

Massachusetts State House

24 Beacon St

Boston, MA 02133


State Sen. William N. Brownsberger

Massachusetts State House

24 Beacon St

Boston, MA 02133

Belmont Savings Streaks To 16th Consecutive Quarter of Growth

Photo: Bob Mahoney, president and CEO of BSB Bancorp, Inc.

Everyone can appreciate a good “streak.” The Yankee Clipper Joe DiMaggio is still remembered for hitting in 56 straight games while the Boston Celtics won eight consecutive world championships in the 1950s and 60s, a record unlikely to be broken.

And you can add another familiar name to those holding impressive streaks as the parent company of Belmont Savings Bank, BSB Bancorp, Inc., announced recently it had achieved 16 straight quarters of increased earnings.

At the end of the second quarter on June 30, the bank’s net income reached $4 million, a 36 percent increase over the same quarter last year as strong loan creation and deposits drove the results. Since the beginning of the year, the bank reported net income of $7.7 million as compared to $5.5 million for the six months, a 40 percent jump.

“The bank’s success is due to our focus,” said Robert Mahoney, BSB’s CEO and president who since he was hired in 2010 has led the 132-year-old bank from a sleepy $400 million mutual savings bank into a stock-ownership holding company with $2.37 billion in assets, placing it in the top 400 banks – 376th to be exact – in the US.

“We created a road map seven years ago that has worked successfully in a terrific community with dedicated customers,” said the Wellesley resident who helped build Citizens Bank into a regional powerhouse in the early 2000s.

Unlike the recent trend of building through rival acquisitions or relying heavily on technology, Belmont Saving’s formula powering its growth is, well, boring; over the past seven years it has concentrated on writing mortgages on lots of residential homes and lend to commercial real estate ventures that fall in the bank’s Goldilocks range – not too big and not too small.

“We’re not into selling wealth management services or insurance or other financial products,” he said. ‘We decided back in 2011 to have a narrow view of where our growth would come from. I like the notion of controlling our own destiny,” said Mahoney.

And the numbers show it. Total loans – 1 to 4 family homes and commercial properties – grew by 11 percent comparing the first half of this year with last year to $201.6 million while deposits increased in the first six months to $1.61 billion from $1.47 billion.

What that vanilla portfolio produces besides earnings is safety: The bank’s total nonperforming assets have dropped to $1.7 million, or about three-quarters of one percent of total assets while outright net charge offs was $32,000 in the first half of the year. 

The four years of steady growth has rewarded bank shareholders with its stock price breaking the $30 barrier recently as total stockholders’ equity increased by $8.9 million to $169.8 million as of June 30.

Mahoney said matching the recent record of double digit growth will be harder to achieve as the bank continues to grow ever bigger – there are only so many home mortgages a bank can write in the competitive Metrowest market  – “so all I can do is focus on earnings since can’t control the other parts of the economy.”

But streaks, whether on the playing field or in business, can end suddenly if the person or organization doesn’t recognize potential roadblocks before them. The big one is a change in the national economy. Mahoney said he sees headwinds on the horizon, noting that the current economic recovery is entering its seventh year which is the usual length of financial rallies while other signs such as rental rates, occupancy and equity values that are “overheated.”

“It looks a lot like 1999, 2003 and 2007,” said Mahoney, reeling off the years the most recent of the downturns began.

Yet Mahoney doesn’t believe a decline, when it does come, will be severe, especially in New England with the economy driven by strong sectors such as biotech, medicine, universities and specialized manufacturing, saying “we are on a better ship to weather the coming storm.”

While bankers have well-honed strategies to ride out a downturn, there is a new and potentially greater threat to Belmont Savings and the entire banking structure: technologic disruption.

Like many industries, the banking sector is seen as a prime target for new tech-based firms that are looking to nimbly take advantage of an industry that they see as underserving their customers. An article in Inc. magazine points to startups that are “debanking” customers with mobile financial services. 

While recognizing the push towards technology creating fundamental changes to the industry, Mahoney contends banks such as Belmont Savings are meeting that challenge with apps and online services that are making a trip to a branch or the main office unnecessary and putting its customers in control.

“Amazon can’t transfer funds any faster than we can. And we have free ATM transactions around the world,” said Mahoney. Nor does he think that large firms such as Apple or Google will want to venture into the banking due to the burden of regulatory demands.

“If [the tech companies] think that dealing with the [Securities and Exchange Commission] is rough, they will not want to see the federal and state regulations we have to meet. That’s why, I think, they haven’t entered the business,” said Mahoney.

After engineering the bank’s multi-year streak, Mahoney said he isn’t ready to take the accolades and retire, who, at 69, is the same age as Aerosmith’s frontman Steven Tyler who is about to go on tour.

“I failed at retirement twice before so why try it a third time?” Mahoney said.

Payson Park Will Host ‘Battle of the Bands’ Wednesday, Aug 9

Photo: Payson Park Music Festival’s 4th annual Battle of the Bands.

The Payson Park Music Festival will host the 4th annual Battle of the Bands concert featuring local youth rock bands. The show will be held Aug. 9 at 6:45 p.m. at Payson Park at the corner of Elm and Payson.

The Belmont Savings Bank once again is sponsoring this popular community event.
Bands will compete for first place which will be decided by an audience vote. So be sure to come out and support our local musicians. 
Participating Bands Include:
  • Circus Trees
  • Chesley Road
  • Fourshadow
  • Xhosa
  • Waltham Show Band
Check out videos of these bands on the Belmont Savings Bank Facebook page. The video with the most likes will win the Favorite on Facebook award at the concert.
Balloons, snacks, and beverages will be available.
The full Payson Park Summer Music Festival Schedule can be found here.

Selectmen Approve Three Traffic/Parking Changes

Photo: The new traffic restrictions on Concord Avenue.

The Belmont Board of Selectmen approved three recommendations from the town’s Traffic Advisory Committee which will free up parking, allow greater space for a school bus drop off and hamper cars from using side streets as cut throughs.

Community Development Director Glenn Clancy presented the proposals to the board at last Monday’s, July 31 Selectmen meeting.

• A request by the Belmont Board of Library Trustees that the five to six parking spaces before the entrance to the library’s parking lot on Concord Avenue be restricted to four hours of free parking was approved. The trustees and library staff noticed that at times the spaces are taken up for several hours, whether by residents visiting the Underwood Pool or used by commuters who walk the short distance to the commuter rail station. With space in the library’s parking lot usually filled, it is critical that parking spaces turn over during the day to allow patrons to visit the library.

• Parking is now prohibited during specific hours on the odd side of Sharpe Street adjacent to the Burbank Elementary School. The changes, requested by Burbank Principal Tricia Clifford and the school’s PTA Safe Routes to School Committee, were to accommodate a new bus route that will ease traffic and increase safety on School Street. In the past, the bus would stop on the busy School Street, while now the bus will discharge/pick up students at this new Sharpe Street turn-in.

The changes include:

  • Restricting parking on the odd side of Sharpe, Monday thru Friday, 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.;
  • Restrict parking on the odd side of the curve along 39 Sharpe, Monday thru Friday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.;
  • Restrict parking on the even side of the curve adjacent to 42 Sharpe, Monday thru Friday from  8 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.; and
  • Change the current sign in the new bus turn-in to read: “School Bus Access Only, No Parking, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.”

• Residents on Ernest Road had seen an increasing number of drivers who found a “short cut” using their street to avoid the long line of vehicles during the morning rush on Clifton Street. Either through trial and error or using the traffic and navigation internet app Waze, drivers were taking Prospect Street to Ernest before turning onto Stella Road that leads into Pleasant Street.

To discourage the action of drivers, a stop sign was placed at the intersection of Stella and Ernest, and a sign is up at Prospect and Ernest restricting access to the street from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. Monday thru Friday.

While discussing whether to approve the restriction, Clancy told the board that both signs are already up for several weeks.

‘Who’s in charge here?” Selectmen Chair Jim Williams in mocked horror.

Clancy said there had been a long history concerning the Selectmen and whether they need to know every sign Clancy and the Traffic Advisory Committee installs. In fact, the Ernest Road restrictions were only brought before the Selectmen because the Belmont Police said they would not enforce the new signs unless that the board approved their placement.

It was the majority opinion of the Selectmen that this iteration of the board would like to be informed of all signs and new regulations on town streets.


Belmont Purple Heart Recipients To Be Honored Monday

Photo: This year’s poster.

Belmont will observe its wounded veterans at the 2017 National Purple Heart Day Observance and Recognition Ceremony on Monday, Aug. 7, according to the town’s Veteran Service Officer, Bob Upton.

The ceremony will take place on the front steps of the Belmont Public Library, 336 Concord Ave.,  at 10 a.m. with guest speaker Belmont resident US Marine Corp Colonel Michael J. Callanan who served as an Operations Officer in Iraq as well as USMC Battalion Commander in Afghanistan.

The public is invited to attend this event and to join with us in honoring and showing our appreciation to our Purple Heart recipients on this important occasion.

The Purple Heart is awarded to members of the United States armed forces who are wounded by an enemy and posthumously to the next of kin in the name of those who are killed in action or die of wounds received in action.

Chartered by Congress in 1958, the Military Order of the Purple Heart is composed of military men and women who received the Purple Heart Medal for wounds suffered in combat. Although membership is restricted to the combat wounded, the organization supports all veterans and their families with a myriad of nation-wide programs by Chapters and National Service Officers.