Shanah Tovah: Rosh Hashanah Begins Sunset Sunday

Photo: Happy Rosh Hashanah

The Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah, begins at sunset (at 6:30 p.m.), Sunday, Sept. 30 and lasts until Tuesday evening, Oct. 2.

Rosh Hashanah – which in Hebrew translates to “head of the year” – is a time of inner renewal and divine atonement. It begins the the High Holidays culminating with Yom Kippur on Tuesday evening, Oct. 8. It is a time for observant people to acknowledge their sins of the previous year and are judged for their transgressions by God.

The holiday will affect after-school activities and athletic events in Belmont’s public schools. Under current district rules, teachers should be aware of the holiday when assigning homework and tests as some students will be attending religious services. 

Meals include apples dipped in honey to symbolize a sweet new year and at least one brisket dinner. Other traditions include participating in tashlich, Hebrew for “casting off” in which people go to a nearby body of water – Clay Pit Pond is a popular site – and throw in pieces of bread, which signifies the washing away of sin.

Gallery Of Art Hosts Talk On Why Climate Change Is True On Sunday, Sept. 29 @ 2PM

Photo: David L. Marino

Join the Belmont Gallery of Art’s a special hour-long family friendly event with Science Communicator David L. Marino: “Climate Change: How We Know It’s True.”

The talk will take place at the Gallery on the third floor of the Homer Building (located off Moore Street in the Town Hall complex in Belmont Center on Sunday, Sept. 29 at 2 p.m.

Marino’s presentation will address the difference between weather and climate, how we know what we know, and possible solutions to the warming trend.

A principal of DLM Communications, Marino has written and produced presentations most recently for the Museum of Science, Harvard, MIT and the Union of Concerned Scientists among others.

The talk coincides with the gallery show: “Impact Climate Change: Contemporary tapestry from Tapestry Weavers West and Tapestry Weavers in New England.” The show continues until Oct. 13 than opening in San Francisco’s Mills Building on Dec. 16.

Students through adults are welcome. Light refreshments will be served. And it’s free.

Yard Sales In Belmont This First Weekend Of Fall

Photo: Belmont is the place to find yard sales.

Yard sales in the Town of Homes:

171 SCHOOL ST09/28 (Sat) 
& 09/29 (Sun)
155 CHILTON ST09/28 (Sat)9:00am3:00pm(none)
19 SHAW RD09/28 (Sat)9:00am1:00pm(none)
200 LEWIS RD09/28 (Sat)9:00am2:00pm(none)
35 SHAW RD09/28 (Sat)9:00am1:00pm(none)
16 UPLAND RD09/28 (Sat)9:00am12:00pm(none)

Phone Threat To Belmont High Result In Increased Police Presence

Photo: Belmont High School.

A threatening phone call to Belmont High School resulted in an increased police presence at the school on Thursday, Sept. 26.

According to an email to the greater Belmont High community, District Superintendent John Phelan said an unknown person stated “We are coming to get you” to a main office secretary.

“The Belmont Police were immediately informed, and are investigating the call. At no time during this process were our students and staff in danger,” wrote Phelan. As a precaution, officers were posted along with the School Resources Officer at the school throughout the day.

Phelan revealed in the past few days, officials several communities received threats to “shoot up” and plant bombs at their schools. The threats are being investigated by state public safety authorities although Belmont has not receive similar emails.

“Student and staff safety [is] our top priority, and we will continue to work with our partners in law enforcement to keep everyone safe,” said Phelan.

Residents, parents, and students with questions can call Phelan at 617-993-5401.

The FBE APPLE RUN Is Less Than Only Two Weeks Away

Photo: The race is underway.

The newly named Foundation for Belmont Education’s APPLE RUN 5K (3.1 miles) and 1 mile races will be held on Sunday, Oct. 6, at 9:30 am starting at the Belmont High School Track at Harris Field.

REGISTER NOW! Free race shirts for the first 500 registrants.

Join your friends, family, neighbors, classmates and teammates at this great community event! Run, walk, or stroll as an individual or register with a team.

Last year, more than 800 runners from Belmont and across the Bay State raised $25,000 to support education in Belmont, helping the Foundation for Belmont Education make a difference in the Belmont Public Schools.

And this race will include the FBE APPLE RUN SEGMENT CHALLENGE! Awards will be given for the fastest runners up Orchard Street ( and down Goden Street (

RUNNING NOT FOR YOU? Learn about volunteer opportunities and donation options at


We greatly appreciate the support of our event sponsors:

  • CitySide Subaru
  • Belmont Orthodontics
  • Didricks | Local Root Belmont
  • Dental Restorative Group

Unbeaten Belmont Field Hockey Enters Top 10 After Week Of Big Wins

Photo: Katie Guden turns to the attack.

Belmont High Field Hockey has been making news this past week.

After traveling to Winchester a week ago Monday and beating, 2-1, a squad ranked in the state and New England then continuing its unbeaten streak with shutout victories over Reading (3-0), Winchester (6-0) and Arlington (3-0), the Marauders (6-0-1) have secured a place in the rarified air on the Boston Globe’s Top 20 poll coming from outside the rankings to land at number 9.

Not bad for a team that was overlooked when the season began by apparently everyone who follows field hockey in the region.

But it shouldn’t have been that difficult to see the Marauders is a team you ignored at your peril. Belmont returned three Middlesex League All-Stars – co-captains Katie Guden, Emma Donahue and Meaghan Noone, each committed to Division 1 college programs – who have dominated the midfield and defensive ends whether going forward and protecting the net. And in net are a pair of keepers; veteran senior Molly Calkin and junior newbie Kendall Whalen, who have surrendered just single goal each.

The surprise this season has been the youngsters on the team, a quartet of sophomores in Molly Dacey, Ellie McLaughlin, Sajni Sheth-Voss and Mia Mueller who have become mainstays on the first 11 with McLaughlin becoming a scoring threat.

Add to that one of the leading scorers in the league in junior Emma O’Donovan along with juniors Olympia and Sophie Kalavantis and Ally Donahue in midfield roles and a bench in which each player can be slotted seamlessly into several positions on the field. All this gives head coach Jessica Smith a team that will do some damage in the D1North sectionals.

During a Saturday matinee match with Wilmington, O’Donovan scored four times while McLaughlin marshaled a pair while the defense allowed only two shots on goal.

Belmont is already looking towards the annual rivalry match with powerhouse Watertown. Last season, Belmont outplayed the Raiders (12 shots to 3, four times the number of penalty corners) yet came away empty handed losing 2-0.

Skating Rink Taken Off The Fast Track After Residents Questioned The Need For Speed

Photo: Jack Weis speaking before the Select Board and School Committee

The “fast track” the town and school committee had placed a proposed skating rink project is about to slow down considerably after the Belmont Select Board Monday night, Sept. 23 took to heart citizen’s complaints and will allow more time for the project to be vetted by potential development teams and residents.

The Select Board will now present a revised timeline and a new lease and request for proposal to the school committee at a joint meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 24 at 7 p.m. at the Chenery Middle School.

“My concern has been about the timeline,” said Board Member Adam Dash, referring to the quick five week bidding period and a four day turnover from accepting bids to selecting a winning team to build the rink located off of Concord Avenue. “I just don’t want to rush.”

Talk of a new rink goes back to 2015 as it became obvious the existing rink built as an outdoor facility in the early 1970s could fail at any time so the need to move quickly on a replacement is paramount.

In addition, the town and school committee wanted the project to go before Special Town Meeting in mid-November where the town’s legislative body would need to approve trading school department land for agreements in the 30-year lease guaranteeing access to the rink by high school teams, support recreational programs and other town needs.

But at a public meeting held last week on Sept. 16, several residents including Jack Weis, Bob McGaw, and Fred Paulsen – each town meeting members from precinct 1 – cautioned rink supporters that, in essence, haste makes waste.

“I do have a concern that in the rush to push this forward by November, are we going to crowd out [bidders] … who simply don’t have to time to respond,” said Weis. “Are we going to end up with an ill conceived and rushed proposals?”

“[By p]utting together a timeline that will allow us to feel confident, we will get robust and well thought through proposals which is better than trying to get this one bite of the apple accomplished in 60 days,” he said.

The argument to slow down the project caught the ears of the select board and town officials. While the board believes the RFP and lease are complete and ready to be released and be bid on, it agreed weeks will be added to the bidding process as well as to the school committee’s review period in selecting a winning team.

“I’m concerned that teams will not respond because they can’t [put together a bid package] in that time frame,” said Dash. “I want to get the maximum number of responses.”

The need for an extended period for teams is the town is asking for “a fair bit [of information] in the RFP,” said Board Chair Tom Caputo, including a financing plan, a response to a detailed traffic proposal and meeting the town’s demands for ice time and facility usage.

And if just two bidders are selected for review, asking the school committee to examine and decide on a winning bid in just four days is “a lot to process” in that short of time.

“I understand that this means that we may miss the fall town meeting,” said Dash. But if the tight time frame for both bidders and the town cause too few bids or the rushed selection of a winning team, “it could mean the rink dies this winter” which could doom a new building.

Just how the new time schedule will look will be revealed on Tuesday by the town. A suggestion by Board Member Roy Epstein to hold a special town meeting in February 2020 to approve the lease agreement and OK a new bylaw to allow a sports structure to be built, “is [hopeful at best]”

Police Department Adds Two New Officers To Force

Photo: Belmont Town Clerk Ellen Cushman swears in new Belmont Patrol officers Bitsikas and Trainor at Town Hall Monday.

The Belmont Police Department welcomed two new officers to its ranks as Daniel Trainor and Constantinos Bitsikas were sworn in on Monday, Sept. 23 by Town Clerk Ellen O’Brien Cushman in the Select Board Meeting Room.

Belmont Police Chief Richard McLaughlin and Town Administrator Patrice Garvin attended the swearing in ceremony.

Trainor and Bitsikas graduated after 21-weeks of an intensive academy program hosted by Northeastern University.

Volleyball Takes Lessons From Battles With State’s Top Programs

Photo: Belmont’s Nena Trifunovic breaks through the block of Melrose.

Let’s start with the “bad” news this past week: Belmont High’s volleyball team dropped its first two games this season. The “good” news: It can be competitive with a pair of the top programs in the state, “top” as in squads in the Boston Globe’s Top 20 poll.

After losing to perennial Middlesex League powerhouse Melrose (ranked 8th) 3-1, last Monday, Sept. 16 to drop from the unbeaten, the Marauders spent Friday in Winchester (3rd ranked) where they fought a spirited, but losing battle with the Sachems by an identical, 3-1, score.

“I came in knowing it was going to be a fight against both [teams],” said Jen Couture, Belmont’s head coach. “I was hoping that [the team] would rise to the challenge. And they did because what I saw was some of the best volleyball we’ve played.”

Belmont faced two teams that are some of the best in the state: Melrose was a sectional semifinalist last year and a state finalist in 2017 while Winchester has turned on the afterburners this season having pummeled Barnstable – a state finalist, state semifinalist and state champions in the past three years – 3-1 earlier in the year.

In each of its matches, the Marauders would take a rare set from both squads – only the second time that has happened this season to Winchester, winning 25-22 – while remaining competitive thought the games.

Leading Belmont were co-captains Mindee Lai, Sophia Estok and Nena Trifunovic who stepped up with outstanding service games, “the most consistent we’ve been serving wise this season,” Couture said after the Winchester game.

Belmont’s Katherine Bai (4) at the net vs. Melrose.

Adding to Belmont’s attack is rising star sophomore Katherine Bai who is second to Lai in kills with a kill ratio of 43 percent.

If there was one area that Belmont has some work to do setting up its blocking against opponents with taller frontline attackers. “We keep tweaking the lineup every game to adjust it based on the opponent. It keeps evolving,” Couture said.

Belmont would not leave the week empty handed defeating previously unbeaten Lexington at home on Wednesday in a match that was as exciting as it was close, 3 sets to 2, going to 15-12 in the final set.

After dispatching quickly of the Minutemen in the first set and a more competitive second, Lexington, behind its big hitter Taylor Salerno, took control in the third and fourth sets to extend the game into a final fifth set.

In the decider, Trifunovic produced three winners at the net and Lai’s pinpoint serving gave Belmont an early 6-1 lead. Lexington’s blocking along with Salerno’s playmaking brought the Minutemen back to a 10 all tie. But Belmont would take the next four points – with Estok serving an ace at 12-10 – to secure the win.

“A game like this gives the team a confidence boost,” said Trifunovic. “Lexington was undefeated coming here so now we know that we can play these intense five sets against very good teams.”

“But next time we’ll keep it to three sets,” Trifunovic said.

Arrays Away? Move To Delay Solar Panels From New HS Project As Critics Seek To Prevent $3M In Cuts

Photo: The Belmont Middle and High School Building Committee, residents and the design teams at the Sept. 20 meeting.

A move to eliminate the installation of solar arrays on the roof of the new high and middle school building currently under construction is gaining momentum as the Belmont Middle and High School Building Committee is making tough cuts to save $19.2 million in cost overruns at the $295 million project.

The Sept. 20 gathering of the Building Committee was the third of four meetings dedicated to value engineering in an attempt to trim about nine percent of the anticipated expenses in the project. And the team select to find those savings – made up of the project’s design and construction teams; general contractor Skanska, architects Perkins+Will, and project manager Daedalus – came up with $19.5 million in both recommended cuts ($17.6 million) and those savings that needed further discussion ($1.9 million) before being removed from the budget. In addition, the team has pointed to nearly $6.4 million in expenses that could be rebid for possible additional savings.

The reduction in expenses are coming from the building’s exterior and interior, the systems, the site and structure and phasing and logistics. Some examples of the 70 items selected range from reducing the number the granite curbs on the site to the entrances and drop off locations ($101,100), electrical system savings ($105,000), simplify floor finishing and construction ($77,500) and reducing from two to one wall of marker boards in classrooms ($157,200).

As the committee members were discussing the design team’s recommendations on the possible cuts, committee member Bob McLaughlin interrupted the process to question why one of the largest expenses was not on the chopping block.

At $2.9 million, the photo-voltaic panel system – the solar panels on the building’s roof – is easily the costliest of big-ticket items up for consideration, which the design team said could be re-bid with the expectations that a new price tag for the panels would likely be in the $2.3 million range.

But even a reduction of $600,000 leaves too much in the budget, said McLaughlin. “We should take it away now,” said McLaughlin of the arrays. In McLaughlin’s view, the school’s first-class building was being downgraded to a second rate structure, calling it “a death by a thousand cuts.”

With the school’s expected life span of 50 years, it is incumbent that as much of the systems and interior designs be kept, said McLaughlin. If they are take off at this stage “we’ll never get a chance to [do bring it back in the future.]”

“I want these items we are giving up tonight back in,” said McLaughlin, referring to such expenditures as skylights in the high and middle school wings ($208,000 total) and wall tiles in the locker rooms ($157,300).

McLaughlin said he is not opposed to solar panels in fact, he believes by waiting three to five years after the building is opened would be financially advantageous. While most aspects of construction have been increasing in price in the past two decades, solar panels are seen a steady decrease in cost, dropping more than 60 percent between 2008 and 2018.

McLaughlin said after the meeting that the cost of $1.5 million for panels purchased in the mid-2020s which the town could purchase with a bond offering.

“Let’s bite the bullet now. Let’s take [the panels] off,” he said, recognizing the possibility of a political backlash with its move.

McLaughlin’s comments would be been a one-off sound off but for who joined his view.

Belmont’s chief educational official, Superintendent John Phelan, said “at the risk of sounding controversial” while he will be proud of a “green” school “but there is a priority list in my head … such as whiteboards which are teachable school programs that [the committee] said we would prioritize.”

And while having low operating costs in energy is an advantageous goal, by substituting lesser materials – in such places as flooring or stairs – the committee is creating long-term maintenance issues.

“We made a commitment to the town to build a quality school that will last a few years. There’s a lot of layers to that,” he said, adding that it’s good to have the conversation on items just as important as solar panels which has sizable support.

“There are other items that don’t have a constituency that really aren’t highlighted. No one talks about tiles on the first day.

‘An Awful Lot Of Money’

Phelan was followed immediately by Steve Dorrance, the town’s facility manager, who said that “no one is going to look up at the roof and say ‘don’t those PV panels look wonderful.”

“What you will do is walk through the school in five years and ask, ‘Why does the school looks the way that it does?’” Dorrance said, adding when the certainty of funding the retrofitting of the building goes before the public, “it will be a striking uphill fight.”

“It’s an awful lot of money that we can save now by putting back the $30,000 or $20,000 items. We can do a lot of those items for $3 million,” said Dorrance.

A possible removal of the panels would be a reversal of what the committee acknowledged was one of three main goals in designing the school was to construct a Net Zero Energy facility. In fact, during an initial value engineering discussion in May, the committee faced a roomful of solar supporters who demand the arrays be a priority and protected from cuts.

A small number of observers from the town’s Energy Committee and members of Sustainable Belmont attending last week’s meeting said the savings to the town – $5 million over 30 years – is well worth the upfront expense. They also pointed to town meeting votes that repeated supported a climate action plan that promotes solar and alternative energy in municipal structures.

Energy Committee’s Jacob Knowles said solar is a core element to the new school. He said the savings in energy costs could be used to fund the necessary maintenance to the building to keep the systems up to date.

“[Solar] is the smartest financial choice of the whole project with the most net cash flow relative to the investment on anything on this building,” said Knowles.

But two additional comments from committee members appeared to give the opponents to hold back on fitting solar panels during the school’s construction stage.

Town Administrator Patrice Garvin said since the building will either have arrays or not, the ultimate question is what is the annual cost difference between the school’s projected energy costs with and without the solar panels. With modern building controls, the latest window designs and other energy systems such as geothermal, the cost difference between the two outcomes could well be negligible to the committee members.

In addition, Committee chairman Bill Lovallo said the Massachusetts School Building Authority, which is partnering with the town in constructing the school, has requested the building committee attend a review of the project expenses. “We are being sent to the principal’s office,’ said Lovallo, to explain the committee’s value engineering process.

Lovallo said the MSBA has a “hard and fast rule” that any expense reduction exercise at buildings under construction doesn’t compromise the schools educational program, a point reiterated by Phelan in his defense of discussing the delay of fitting the solar arrays on the school’s roof.

However the solar panel discussion is resolved, it will need to be concluded at the committee’s next meeting, tentatively scheduled for Thursday morning, Sept. 26, at 7:30 a.m. in the Homer Building.

“We have to make a decision on all these cuts [then],” said Lovallo.