Belmont Fire Holds Open House Wed. Oct. 9

Photo: Belmont Fire Open House on Wednesday, Oct. 9.

The Belmont Fire Department is holding a free Open House, 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 9, at the BFD’s headquarters, 299 Trapelo Rd. Sponsored by the Dedham-based pizza chain Papa Gino’s, the open house is aimed at teaching families fire safety and prevention practices.

“This event allows us to reach out to the community and arm local families with fire safety tips and procedures,” said BFD Chief David Frizzell. “Our open house allows families to get together and better prepares them to react if a fire does start.”

Commemorating October being National Fire Safety Month, attendees will receive safety tips such as “stop, drop and roll,” learn how to plan escape routes and how to crawl safely through a smoke-filled room. In addition, Papa Gino’s will provide free pizza and children’s fire safety activity sheets.

2019 Belmont Serves Up New Afternoon Volunteering Opportunities

Photo: A lot to be done during Belmont Serves

Belmont Serves has expanded the opportunities for residents to help their community.

Now in its 11th year, the annual volunteering event to make the town a better place for all will expand into two shifts: 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. and noon to 4 p.m. held on Monday, Oct. 14, the Columbus Day holiday.

The event is piloting a second shift after hearing from some residents that mornings are filled with family responsibilities, said Jennifer Hoyda, president of the Belmont Religious Council which sponsors the event.

Individuals and families will be able to select a project at the start of the day, complete the entire project, “and then come together for some pizza and ice cream to celebrate a job well done,” she told the Belmont Select Board on Monday, Oct. 7 which endorsed this year’s day of giving.

“What’s really special about this day is it’s super family-friendly so young kids can sort food or do some gardening work,” she said.

The event will be headquartered at First Church Unitarian Universalist, 404 Concord Ave. Typically between 200 to 300 residents will participate with middle and high schoolers receiving community service hours, said Hoyda.

Individuals and families will be able to select a project at the start of the day, complete the entire project in one morning of work, and then come together for some pizza and ice cream.

For all projects (including advance distribution of grocery bags), residents should use the on-line registration form to register and select a preferred project.

This year the sponsors will be distributing 7,000 brown paper bags to households around town to fill with groceries and sundries for the Belmont Food Pantry.

“You can help make a real difference in our town, have some fun, and meet others who share a willingness to serve the community,”

Service Projects

This year’s projects are still being finalized, but will likely include:

  • Door-to-door food drive for the Food Pantry
  • Conservation projects at town properties like Rock Meadow and Lone Tree Hill on former McLean property.
  • Clay Pit Pond clean-up and improvements
  • Elementary School gardening projects

More projects will be added, and are suitable for a wide range of ages and skill levels.

Schedule of Events

  • 8:30 am – All volunteers sign-in at First Church UU and enjoy some light breakfast. (Donations to cover food costs are appreciated.)
  • 9:00 am – Service projects begin
  • noon – Service projects end, return to First Church UU for pizza and ice cream celebration.
  • 1:00 p.m. – AfternoonService projects begin; once completed, you can head directly home.

Project Descriptions

Door-to-door collection for the Food Pantry— Teams of volunteers will be assigned to specific routes, collecting bags of groceries left at doorsteps for delivery to the Food Pantry. These grocery bags are distributed door-to-door throughout the town during the week before Belmont Serves day. This project in the past has yielded between 1,500-2,000 of groceries. This year we hope to do even better!

Conservation projects at town properties like Rock Meadow and Lone Tree Hill (former McLean property): Volunteers will help clean trails and brush. Dress accordingly and bring gloves, rakes and shovels with your name on them if you have them.

Claypit Pond clean-up: Volunteers will work on pruning existing shrubs, cutting/removing invasives, and picking up trash and debris.

Elementary School grounds: Help with gardening, and distributing wood chips in garden areas. If you can bring shovels and gardening tools, that would be helpful. Be sure to put your name on the tools you bring.Sign up today!

WHAT TO WEAR: Clothing suitable for outdoor activities. Wear long pants and long-sleeve shirts, with jackets and/or sweatshirts if it gets cold. On the conservation and planting/weeding projects, expect to get dirty and possibly encounter poison ivy. On the painting project, you will most likely get paint on your clothes, so dress appropriately.

WHAT TO BRING: A refillable water bottle. Work gloves (for all outdoor work projects).

We need a few metal rakes, pruning shears, loppers (including those with extendable arms, for cutting off high branches), shovels and gardening trowels. PLEASE MAKE SURE TO PUT YOUR NAME ON ANY TOOLS THAT YOU BRING.

Tzom Kal: Yom Kippur Begins Tuesday at Sunset

Photo: The painting is a detail of “Jews Praying in the Synagogue on Yom Kippur” by the 22-year-old Maurycy Gottlieb c. 1878.

Yom Kippur, also known as Day of Atonement, is the holiest day of the year for the Jews.

Yom Kippur begins at sundown on Tuesday, Oct. 8.

The day’s central themes are atonement and repentance. Jews traditionally observe this holy day with a 24-hour period of fasting and intensive prayer, often spending most of the day in synagogue services. Yom Kippur completes the annual period known in Judaism as the High Holy Days or sometimes the Days of Awe.

Belmont schools have advised teachers to should be aware of the holiday when assigning homework and tests as students will be attending religious services. In addition, Belmont High athletics joins many school districts in suspending games for the two days of the holiday’s observance.

Field Hockey Can’t Get By Watertown (Again) As Team Prepares For Two Critical Matches

Photo: Emma O’Donovan is fouled by the Watertown goalie resulting in a penalty stroke goal by Emma Donahue for Belmont’s goal.

You could hear the sharp “thud” of the ball struck by Belmont High midfielder Emma Donahue off a penalty corner hit the back of the Watertown net across the entirety of Victory Field. It was just the start Belmont had dreamed of against the perennial Div. 2 state finalists: Five minutes into the game played during a downpour and the Marauders on the front foot in its match with the Raiders.

But rather than a celebration (or disappointment from the Raiders’ perspective), players, officials, coaches and just about everyone just … stopped. The ball had immediately ricocheted out into the field and for that second, it appeared everyone questioned what happened. A goal? Maybe?

When the officials made no indication one way or the other, the Raiders took the ball down the field and the game continued as if the entire sequence had been washed away in the rain. (The officials said they believed the ball had hit the right post.) What should have been the momentum Belmont needed to defeat Watertown for the first time in over a decade was not to be as the Marauders would fall to the Raiders, 3-1, on Wednesday, Oct. 2.

For Belmont Head Coach Jess Smith, the game came down to little advantages that Watertown had over the Marauders.

“I felt like they moved the ball a little bit better than we did today and a better sense of where the next pass should go,” said Smith.

The weather played havoc and resulted in the Raiders’ first goal as Belmont’s all-star defender Meaghan Noone lost her stick during a check which allowed Watertown to outman Belmont in front of the net and allowed for a scoop shot for a goal in close. The Raiders would double its margin off a penalty corner.

Donahue – who is a niece of Watertown’s Hall of Fame Coach Donahue – would get her goal on a penalty stroke after a foul by the Watertown goalie on Belmont’s top scorer Emma O’Donovan to bring Belmont within one, 2-1, four minutes into the second half. And the Marauders were a touch of a stick from knotting up the match a minute later when a screamer squeaked by the Raiders’ goalpost.

But that flurry would the best Belmont could muster as Watertown put nearly everything in its defensive coverage while taking advantage of overlapping the player with the ball.

The final Raider tally came from a penalty corner midway through the half.

Smith said especially in the second half her team wasn’t playing its typical game that relays on moving the ball upfield with medium to short passes and long solo runs. “We were trying to beat the other players with our sticks rather than passing it.”

Belmont would recover nicely the next day, Thursday, Oct. 3 when a rejuvenated Wakefield squad arrived at Harris for a game under the lights. Coming into the tussle on a seven-game winning streak, the Warriors had the first shot on net in the opening minutes.

MVP Candidate Katie Guden

Then Belmont reverted back to the crisp passing, dominating defense squad with senior co-captain Katie Guden showing why she is a candidate for Middlesex League MVP by dominating the pitch. Three goals in the first 13 minutes that included a pair by Guden iwth one an end to end solo rush that ended with a goal from more than 10 meters on the run.

It was a game that role players made their mark on the field including senior Ilana Gut who scored her first goal of the season while Ellie McLaughlin got back on the scoring sheet, joining her fellow sophomore Molly Dacey who tallied a brace.

Belmont won 6-0 for its seventh shut out in 10 games, as goalies Molly Calkin and Kendall Whalen shared the victory.

After a match with Burlington on Monday, Oct. 7, the Marauders will have back-to-back matches with squads at the top of the Middlesex Liberty league table with a trip to Lexington (9-2-1) on Friday, Oct. 11 at 3:30 p.m. then an early (10 a.m.) morning contest on the Monday Holiday with Winchester (8-2-0) at Harris.

It’s a second meeting with both opponents – Belmont battled the Minutemen to a 1-1 tie and beat the Sachems, 2-1, in a comeback win at Winny – with a league title on the line with a pair of victories securing a banner (or what will hang in the Wenner Field House once the construction is sorted out.)

Winter Town Meeting Likely Put On Ice As Skating Rink Pushed Up Against Party Primaries

Photo: Jack Weiss speaking to the Select Board on slowing down the process of approving a new skating rink.

The prospects of Town Meeting Members putting on their heavy coats and boots early in 2020 to attend a rare winter Special Town Meeting to approve two important requirements for a new town skating rink appears to have been put in the deep freeze.

The “special” scheduled for Monday, Feb. 24, 2020 to approve a public land sale for the rink as well as the approval of a new zoning bylaw to allow for a recreational building to be constructed will likely be shelved at the Select Board’s meeting this Monday, Oct. 7, due to the town needing to prepare for the 2020 Massachusetts Presidential Primary set for Tuesday, March 3.

According to town officials, the dates are too close to allow proper preparation for either events in such a short time frame.

It now looks likely the issue of the public/private agreement and the new bylaw will be taken up during the annual Town Meeting which will convene in late April 2020.

The date change to next spring for the new skating rink proposal [see what the new rink will be comprised of here] to come before Town Meet is in stark contrast to the lightning speed town and school officials had initially hoped the proposal to have taken place. The first version called for the bid to be accepted, a lease created, the Town Meeting vote and a contract awarded by December 2019.

Town and school officials pushed for the fast track approval process as the town’s existing ice surface, the nearly 50 year old ‘Skip’ Viglirolo Skating Rink adjacent Harris Field off Concord Avenue, is on the verge of failing. Without a replacement, the town would need to secure ice time for the high school hockey programs at a considerable hit to the school department budget.

But after listening to residents – such as Jack Weis and Bob McGaw – who warned at a public meeting last month that a project done in haste could result in costly mistakes, the Select Board in September extended the procurement of a public/private partnership by an additional 15 weeks. Rather than a mid-December date for the school committee signing a final lease with the winning bidder, the new date for the lease signing will be in late March 2020.

But this latest delay will now push the final lease signing into May 2020.

The additional two months will also allow residents who questioned the rink’s location, traffic generation and hours of operation to campaign for restrictions to be placed in the lease to mitigate those concerns.

It is reported that residents led by Anne Paulsen are seeking town wide support to locate five tennis courts on the new Middle and High School property in the general area of the proposed rink.

Three ‘Modest’ Proposals Frame New Regs For Town Meeting Roll Call Votes

Photo: Moderator Mike Widmer discussing changes to the roll call bylaw with the Select Board

The most impassioned moments of the 2019 annual Belmont Town Meeting didn’t involve a vote but how they were reported. And next week, Town Meeting members and residents will hear and comment on changes to the roll call bylaw sponsored by three mainstays of town government.

At this year’s Town Meeting a group of members sought roll call votes on the outcome of several articles including measures that passed overwhelmingly on a voice vote.

Unlike the usual aggregate vote when just the grand total of yea and nay are presented to the meeting, a roll call requires each member’s vote to be recorded and made public. With electronic voting in Belmont, member’s names are projected on the main screen for the assembly to see how each member voted.

While roll call proponents said knowing how a member voted is an expected part of representative government, others called out the rarely invoked process “harassment” and “vote shaming” by revealing who may have voted against “popular” measures.

The town is holding a public meeting to discuss proposed Roll Call Bylaw changes on Tuesday, Oct. 15 at 7:15 p.m. at the Beech Street Center, 266 Beech St.

It culminated with a vote favored by the pro-roll call caucus going down to defeat during the roll call after initially passing with an aggregate tally. Soon after, there was some confusion on who could ask that the article be reconsidered, resulting in a decision by the moderator that left Town Meeting in a kerfuffle for a few days.

At a recent Select Board meeting, representatives of the Town Clerk’s Office, the Town Administrator and Town Moderator presented an initial draft article which they will bring to the fall Special Town Meeting in November supporting, as moderator Mike Widmer describes it, three “modest” proposals that will clarify and codify what constitutes a roll call vote.

“The proposal is based on the informal survey of Town Meeting members after the annual meeting … and we have done our best to reflect the will of the majority of members,” said Widmer.

Assistant Town Clerk Meg Piccione announced the proposed changes to the bylaw:

  • a roll call will be automatically conducted for the final action on any article or motion that requires a 2/3 majority vote.
  • an automatic roll call will be done when a motion or article is passed by fewer than 10 aggregate votes.
  • If a member requests a roll call vote for any other article, the measure will require 50 supporting members, up from 35.

Widmer noted the bylaw change also includes redefining reconsideration – when a matter that was voted on is brought back before the Town Meeting for a second time – which was also an issue at the annual meeting. The new bylaw will only allow a member who voted in the majority be allowed to request a motion to reconsider.

Widmer said he does expect some to question the group’s bylaw change and possibly challenge some aspects of the new bylaw.

“We’re under no illusion that there won’t be any amendments to this proposal,” said Widmer. “But our hope is to have …the one article so we can make it a smoother process rather than having one citizen’s petition for an article and another for something else.”

State Rep Rogers Announces October Office Hours

Photo: Dave Rogers

State Rep. Dave Rogers, who represents the “ABC” district (Arlington, Belmont and Cambridge) announced his October office hours:

  • Tuesday, Oct. 8 from 9:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m at the Beech at the Beech Street Center, 266 Beech St.
  • Friday, Oct. 18 from 9:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. at the Black Bear Cafe (Belmont Books), 79 Leonard St.

Feel free to contact Rogers’ office at any time with questions: by phone at 617-722-2013 or by email at

Discover Rock Meadow With Belmont Historical Saturday, Oct. 5 at 1 PM

Photo: Rock Meadow Conservation Land

The Belmont Historical Society invites the public to explore one of Belmont’s great open spaces with a Walking Tour of Rock Meadow this Saturday, Oct. 5 at 1 p.m. The walk is free and open to the public.

Learning about the history of Rock Meadow by walking the conservation land with Anne-Marie Lambert. Discover the history and uses of the land off Mill Street which include:

  • wetland habitat for fish and beavers,
  • hunting and fishing grounds for the Pequosette,
  • hay meadow,
  • bird watching area,
  • key part of McLean Hospital Farm with its wells, orchards, pastures and piggeries
  • a place for respite for immigrant workers and
  • site of the Victory Garden.

Participants will meet in the Rock Meadow lot off Mill Street with addition spaces across the street in the Lone Tree Hill parking lot. Bring water, closed shoes, and weather appropriate clothing.

High School Solar Panels Survive Value Engineering Cuts … This Time


The installation of solar panels on the roof of the new Belmont Middle and High School will stay on the builder’s “to do” list … for now.

While the photo-voltaic cells were spared in this round of cuts, the head of the Belmont Middle and High School Building Committee said the group will return for a second and possibly third look at possible savings with an eye on big-ticket items that will likely include the solar panels.

At a civil but still contentious meeting held last week at the Belmont Gallery of Art, solar supporters including residents and many students clashed with several members of the building committee who the previous week advanced a plan using the $2.9 million set aside for roof solar arrays to close a $19 million deficit laid out in the second value engineering

After the previous meeting, the committee experienced push back on removing PV cells from environmentalists and local supporters of zero net energy. Before and during the early morning meeting last week, more than 50 residents and students came holding signs and distributing a fact sheet that contends solar arrays more than pays for itself by reducing energy costs by $170,000 annually.

Bill Lovallo

Committee Chair Bill Lovallo began last week’s meeting with an overview of the $295 million project reaching one of the committee’s goals of constructing a “high-performance building” that uses non-fossil fuel sources, innovated designs and automation resulting in the school being net-zero energy ready. Lovallo said even without PV panels, the building’s design that includes geothermal wells and other energy-efficient technologies, is “nothing like something that exists in Belmont … or what MSBA has in design now.”

But with the project’s budget set in stone, questions of what expense items are necessary to meet the teaching and learning mission of the school said Lovallo. And that may necessitate reducing the number of solar panels on the roof to save other items that residents are not advocating.

“I am for PV cells. We promised that. But we have to keep in mind that other costs are just as important,” said Lovallo.

Those campaigning to delay solar installation contend the move would close the deficit while preserving threatened educational programs such as classroom equipment and not scrimp on the quality of building material.

Bob McLaughlin

“We heard a lot about the promise that this building would have solar on the roof and that’s absolutely true,” said Bob McLaughlin, who spearheaded the drive to reinvest funds set aside for solar to restore interior items taken out. “But the mother of all promises, however, is that we will build a first class school and provide the best possible education experience.”

He believes panels can return as a post opening project which would be have the support of town meeting and will likely see a marked decrease in overall cost due to innovation and technological changes.

“There are so many things you have to do now [including tiles, flooring, and lighting]. And if they don’t get done now, they’ll never get done,” said McLaughlin. And solar’s $3 million can restore a great number of important items, he noted.

Ellen Schreiber

Committee member Ellen Schreiber countered McLaughlin’s suggestion of Town Meeting involvement as a step too far for taxpayers to take.

“I think that we have a pact that we made with the voters. And I think it’s very easy to say right now we’ll take that to [the meeting] because the next time we ask for something they won’t believe us,” she said.

Speaking in favor of retaining the panels in the construction budget, Belmont High senior Madeline Kitch – who helped bring out students to the first value engineering process in May and last week collected more than 200 signatures from high school students in support of the PV cells – said that “truthfully, I don’t have to be here. I refuse to believe that you don’t know the right choice because the very fact that you’re here is a demonstration of your investment in education and your investment in the future.”

“I can’t believe that you can’t see that the world is changing,” she told the committee. “In our time, we’re faced with incredible opportunities. We face decisions much like these, ones that dictate the lives of future generations who, I hope, will look back proudly and say to our faces about a vote much bigger than school and the community,” said Kitch.

Madeline Kitch

After the speeches and presentations the meeting moved the to the heart of the matter: examining 85 large expense line items selected by the building’s design team in which the committee either placed in the “it’s cut” category, the “under discussion” column and a subset of expenses which should be rebid in an attempt to generate more savings.

Many of the decisions had been determined during the first three value engineering meetings. Some were “easy” such as changing the base of the building from cement to masonry, reducing the ceiling finishes and casework in classrooms and simplify the audio playback system.

Others expenses that were “under discussion” were reconsidered such as removing skylights – it will now just be reduced in size – while town officials said they would reject the idea of trading asphalt curbing for granite.

By the end of the meeting, the arrays costs – having been separated into two line items totaling $1.2 million – were not touched. By the end of the meeting, the committee was within $150,000 to its goal of reducing the total cost by $19.2 million.

But Lovallo said discussions on PV cells and other large expense items will most likely be discussed in November as the Building Committee will conduct a third value engineering exercise, on 90 percent of its construction documents, which could reveal another shortfall, all at a time when the project’s contingency fund has been reduced from $19 million at the start of the project to about $7 million today.

Another area that the design team believes savings and be found is through the creation of a “relief valve” account which are accepted bid alternates of many big-ticket items.

But it’s likely that solar panels will be high on the list of expenses that will be forward to a “release valve” account which is a list of expenses that will be rebid. One example Lovallo suggested – to wide approval from the committee – is to remove the operable windows throughout the building “which we could do if the numbers are not looking good” with the budget. Another item could be the PV cells, either looking about both line items or just one while delaying the other.

In addition, the solar panels will be the final item put out to bid in 2023, said Lovallo, “so we have a long way to go to keep that money [in the budget] but there are a lot of things that are going to happen before then.”