Lucky Dozen: Streets Named To Undergo Pavement Repair In Fiscal Year

Photo: Pavement contract approved by Select Board.

It was a few months later than when it’s typically announced but the Select Board finally approved at its Monday marathon meeting of Aug. 10 the fiscal year 2020 pavement management project, the annual list of streets, roads and thoroughfares that will undergo repairs and reconstruction.

RM Pacella located in Plainville was the low bidder on the project, according to Glenn Clancy, town engineer and director of the Office of Community Development. The winning bid on the job estimated at $2,258,955 – $1.8 million in road work and $377,000 for sidewalk repair – came in at $1,861,198, so “we did very well compared to the engineer’s estimate,” said Clancy.

The work includes sidewalk repairs on Williston, Alma, Ridge, Harriet Creeley, Benton and Townsend and curbing on Harriet, Alma, and a small portion of Williston.

Clancy said will the contractor is ready to begin the project, with a dozen streets in the contract – slightly more than a typical year’s allotment – “we won’t finish the work this year so it’ll spill into the next year.”

RoadsFrom To
Williston RoadTrapeloHorne
Alma AvenueBartlettBelmont
Ridge RoadBelmontWhite
Juniper RoadSomersetFletcher
Harriet AvenueBartlettBelmont
Creeley Road SladeHammond
Indian Hill RoadOld MiddlesexBenton
Essex RoadBenton Old Middlesex
Preble Gardens RoadOld MiddlesexOakley
Old Middlesex RoadOakleyBenton
Benton RoadPaysonOakley
Townsend RoadPayson (south)Payson (North)

Like State, Belmont Sees Slight Spike In Positive COVID-19 Tests This Week

Photo: COVID-19 update

Just as Massachusetts has been a bump in COVID-19 cases in the past week, the rate of residents who have come down with positive coronavirus test has jumped in Belmont in the early days of August.

The number of positive tests in Belmont jumped by seven cases – 238 to 242 – during the six day period from July 31 to Aug. 5, the same number increase that occurred over the pervious three week span, 231 to 238, from July 10 to 31, according to a Aug. 5 report from the state’s Department of Public Health.

The number of deaths has remained steady at 60 since July 10. The total number of positive cases in Massachusetts stands at 111,371.

While the percentage of positive COVID-19 tests in Massachusetts rose to 2.2 percent, up from a low of 1.7 percent in mid July, Belmont’s percentage has increased slightly to just one percent; eight cases from 802 total tested.

Belmont PD: Suspect Sought In July McLean Fire

Photo: Administration Building, McLean Hospital (WikiMedia Commons)

Belmont Police is seeking information on a suspect who allegedly started a fire at McLean Hospital on Wednesday, July 29.

In a press release dated Aug. 5, Belmont Asst. Police Chief Mark Hurley said Belmont 911 received an alarm at 3:03 p.m. for fire and/or smoke in the administration building at 115 Mill St. Belmont Fire quickly responded and extinguished the blaze.

An investigation utilizing the hospital’s security surveillance cameras revealed a man entering the front door of the building. Once inside, the suspect begins spraying and pouring an unknown substance on the carpeted floor from a handheld container. He then ignited the substance and fled the area.

The suspect is described as a male wearing brown dress shoes, blue pants, a long-sleeve button-down shirt, a surgical mask and sunglasses.

If you have any information pertaining to this incident, please call the Belmont Police Detectives at 617-993-2550.  

The Belmont Police is not releasing video images connected to this investigation to the public at this time.

Override Postponed To April After State Surprise Town With $3.3M And Lots Of Uncertainties

Photo: November override rescinded

In a dramatic 180 degrees turn, the Belmont Select Board voted Tuesday morning, Aug. 4 to rescind the Nov. 3 Proposition 2 1/2 override vote it approved last week in response to a surprise announcement last week from the state that it will likely provide level-funded local aid in the current 2021 fiscal year.

Since Belmont balanced the fiscal ’21 budget assuming a 25 percent cut in Chapter 70 aid, the news from the Division of Local Services within the Department of Revenue will add approximately $3.3 million to the town’s coffers.

While calling the state’s action “really good news,” Board Vice Chair Tom Caputo said the substantially more state funding coming to the town has also introduces a “fair bit of uncertainty” to the financial forecasting and some challenges to budgetary assumptions.

Needing time to recalculate forecasts performed by the Financial Task Force 2 and allow the economic landscape to settle, the Select Board members said an override vote will now take place at the annual Town Election in April 2021.

The state announcement came days after the Select Board approved last Monday, July 27 a $12.5 million override to resolve an ongoing structural deficit and town revenue lost to the COVID-19 pandemic in the fiscal ’22 budget and beyond.

One of the first decisions to be resolved, according to the Task Force’s Mark Paolillo, is whether to take the $3.3 million and spend it in the fiscal ’21 budget that took substantial cuts or “bank” it, placing it in the town’s stabilization fund and spread it out over time.

“That’s going to be a question we’re not going to answer right now but that’s a big question because that will have an impact on the override figure,” said Select Board Member Adam Dash.

In addition to the Task Force creating multiple new forecast scenarios, there is a growing level of uncertainity on the assumptions coming from the state.

“We do have a bit of a disconnect that we need to resolve between the modeling that we’ve done and [data] we’re getting from the state,” said Caputo. “The challenge … is trying to figure out to what degree we can rely upon this information.” He pointed to the state’s assurance of providing level-funded Chapter 70 aid that has yet to be voted on by the legislature or signed into law by Gov. Charlie Baker.

From now until April, there is the likelihood the town could be eligible to receive federal funds to help fund COVID-19 expenses or other state revenue that could reduce the override amount even further. With state and federal aid in flux, Dash cautioned the town “to be very careful about keeping an eye on how this plays out.”

In addition to the increased uncertainties, the board faced a hard deadline of Tuesday to either keep the override on the Nov. 3 ballot or rescind it, according to Town Clerk Ellen Cushman, who under law needed to submit

“We are backed into a corner,” said Caputo. “Unfortunately, we have very little time to fully process all the information that the state provided regarding that state aid.”

With so much ambiguity thrown on its plate, the Task Force reversed the last week’s recommendation and unanimously voted to request the Select Board to change the date for the override in the spring. The Board voted 2-0 – Caputo and Dash voting yes, Chair Roy Epstein was unable to attend the meeting – to scrap the November override.

Annual Fire Hydrant Flushing Begins This Week

Photo: Flushing out the system.

Starting Monday, Aug. 3 through Friday, Aug. 7 from 7 p.m. to midnight, all street fire hydrants with green tops will be turned on to perform the annual flushing of the pipes. 

Mark Mancuso, water manager of the Belmont Water Division said in an email that operation will cause water discoloration in the system. Residents are asked to draw water for drinking purposes and avoid laundering during flushing hours. 

If there are any questions regarding this program, call the Belmont Water Division at 617-993-2700.

National Purple Heart Day Observation At New Vets Memorial On Friday, Aug. 7

Photo: Veterans at National Purple Heart Day ceremony.

The Town of Belmont will honor and observe National Purple Heart Day on Friday, August 7 at 10 a.m. at the new Belmont Veterans Memorial at Clay Pit Pond off Concord Avenue and across from Belmont High School.

Residents of Belmont, veterans and their family members and in particular all of those who are Purple Heart recipients are invited to attend this special event. 

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.

Tropical Storm Bringing Windy Conditions Tuesday Afternoon; Prepare For Outages

Photo: Latest map from the National Weather Service.

While the worse of Tropical Storm Isaias will impact central and western New England with heavy rain, flooding and possible tornados, Belmont will be visited with buffeting winds beginning on Tuesday afternoon, August 4, according to the National Weather Service in Boston.

Strong, sustained winds of 25 to 35 mph with gusts up to 40 to 50 mph can be expected with a low risk of 60 mph gusts as Eastern Massachusetts will be under a Tropical Storm Watch. Such winds can lead to downed trees and power outages, according to the service.

Below are telephone numbers to keep at the ready during the storm:

Belmont Light (to report outages): 617-993-2800.

The Town of Belmont EMERGENCY HOTLINE: (617) 993-2698.

Unless it is an emergency, do not call 911.

You can also see where outages are taking place on the Belmont Light’s Outage map.

Sehr Gut! Craft Beer Moving To Foodies Site And Opening New Eatery The ‘Trinktisch’

Photo: The current store at 51 Leonard

The owners of the successful Craft Beer Cellars at 51 Leonard St. in Belmont Center is moving their flagship store down the street and into the former Foodies Market site at the corner of Alexander Avenue where it will join a new restaurant/bar venture the partners had longed sought to open.

“The plan is to create a family friendly and welcoming environment, both inside and out, for all people,” said Suzanne Schalow, who with partner Kate Baker opened the business in November 2010.

And the move of the current shop and the new restaurant were made “official” as the Select Board granted last week a full liquor license for the restaurant and a second license for the beer store’s new location.

And the eatery will be called Trinktisch, German for “drink table.” [Trinktisch is also a popular game in Germany among teens and young adults similar to Shoots and Ladders/Chutes and Ladders.] And while food will be featured at the site, Schalow said they will not be competing directly with the other eateries on the street.

“Certainly ‘beer’ is currently our middle name so we plan to largely support that as we go forth into the world,” she said.

While a request for a new liquor license or its transfer can be contentious, the board’s sentiment to the requests was framed by Chair Roy Epstein who found only one misstep in the application: a missing umlaut over a letter in the menu.

The lack of any conflict between town and business was due in no great part that the owners have been the definition of good business stewards for the past decade, according to Board Member Adam Dash.

“I think an expansion of an existing successful business is a good thing to see,” said Dash. “It’s a great addition to the Center.”

And the public’s viewpoint was just as supportive as Alexander Avenue resident and School Committee Chair Andrea Prestwich proclaimed, “Go beer ladies. We love you.”

The restaurant will have approximately 2,400 square feet of bar space with just under 10,000 square feet of common seating, a kitchen, four restrooms, office and meeting spaces and an events space. The bar/eatery will be adjacent to the new location of the Beer Cellar which take 3,800 square feet, It will have a 200-square foot walk-in refrigerator

The Trinktisch will service beer, wine and cider along with non-alcoholic beverages. Schalow said it will also have a limited menu that will source local suppliers.

The restaurant/bar will be located on the lower level of the building and will be accessed by three entries – one on Leonard Street and two off the Locatelli parking lot adjacent to Claflin Street.

“Kate and I never forget, for one second that having a liquor license … is not our right, it’s a privilege. And we think about that every single day when we get up and go to work and we make sure that we’re upholding the virtues and the values that are required by business owners that have a liquor license,” said Schalow.

“I don’t think that’s the same everywhere but we’re not trying to compare ourselves to other people. We’re just trying to do what we feel is right and take care of a community that we do really care about.”

Select Board Approves $12.5M Prop 2 1/2 Override On Nov. 3 Ballot


In the midst of a continuing pandemic and an economic recession, the Belmont Select Board approved placing a $12.5 million Proposition 2 1/2 override on the Nov. 3 Presidential Election ballot.

“I do believe this is one of the most significant votes that Belmont will certainly take in its history as it relates to long term financial stability,” said Board Member Tom Caputo, who also chairs the Financial Task Force II which recommended the override to close a long-standing fundamental structural deficit as well as lost revenue from the shut down of the economy due to the COVID-19.

The board’s approval was expected as the members have publicly supported the tax-hike ever since the proposal was announced earlier in the month.

While the board’s three-member agreed an override is essential to avoid the devastating impact on services from massive cuts in personnel, Chair Roy Epstein voted ‘no’ as he wanted the question to be decided at the April 2021 annual Town Election. Adam Dash and Caputo voted ‘yes.’

The deficit is made up of $8 million in the chronic mismatch between town revenue and annual spending that under the current economic realities will produce deficits year in and year out. About $4 million is directly related to lost revenue due to COVID-19.

Sentiment for and against the override at Monday’s meeting laid on which date on the calendar it would take place as well as the need to reexamine the task forces’ calculations.

Many called for the vote to be delayed to the annual April 2021 Town Election, allowing the Financial Task Force and Select Board to release the revenue and expenses data so residents could take a “deep dive” into the numbers.

Maryann Scali said the COVID-19 pandemic and two major elections – the Sept. 1 state party primary and the Presidential election – between now and the override vote will not allow the public enough time to review the reasons for or against the measure.

“I’m asking you to please slow down, educate the public, let them be informed and consider putting it on the April ballot,” said Scali.

Others felt the financial information driving the override has not been vetted properly or is using data that has yet to be verified.

“In spite of all the good work that’s done, I think it’s an incomplete package,” said Kathy Kohane, who said more needed to be done to examine all of the potential cost savings. “If I were looking at his as a business proposal, I would send it back for additional work.”

Timing was also a concern. Howard Fine from Precinct 5 said there is a time and place for everything and November was not the time “and certainly not the place” for an override as residents find themselves paying for large capital project – ie the construction of the new Middle and High School – increased costs due to a decade long hike in enrollment and the uncertainty of a national economy struggling due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Peg Callahan, Town Meeting member from Precinct 7, voiced the frustration of many who contend that past promises to clamp down on expenses after the last override approved by voters, 55 percent to 45 percent, in 2015 were ignored.

“I’m really tired of hearing – and these are direct quotes – ‘We are committed to,’ ‘We will look into,’ ‘Exploring changes,’ ‘Tightening out belts a little bit.’ This is a call to action. I believe we are the problem, due to inaction. Substantial additional work must still be done” including creating a comprehensive plan and undertake substantial structural reform, said Callahan.

“A pledge must be demonstrated to the taxpayers before asking them to approve a $12.5 million override. And November is just not within that time frame,” said Callahan.

In countering those advocating a 2021 vote, residents favoring a November referendum said coupling the override with the Presidential ballot – which traditionally generates an 80 to 85 percent turnout of registered voters – will present a true sentiment of the town residents. Others said its unlikely the national economic condition will be any brighter in the five months between November 2020 and April 2021.

Geoffrey Lubien, a member of the task force and the Warrant Committee, told the meeting that an extra five months of the public scrutinizing the data will likely not reveal any additional avenues of funds especially for those who contend the shortfall can be made up in expense cuts.

Rather than spending time on reviewing the data, Lubien believes residents focus should turn to the deficit.

“I think what you need to realize that $12.5 million is the floor. That gets us an operating budget that works,” said Lubien. “There’s a lot more work to be done to make sure that we right this ship and get us through the next three to five years.”

“If this does not pass in April, there will be significant declines in services across all departments and significant challenges ahead,” he said. Performing a rough calculation on the impact of a failed override, the School Committee’s Mike Crowley said 70 teachers would need to be “let go.”

“We really need to know what this does to the school system,” said Crowley.

Board Chair Epstein said proclaiming a “doomsday” will occur to town departments and the schools if the override doesn’t pass is unnecessary as it’s “obvious” that a doomsday will occur as “the effects are horrendous” of making cuts of $12 million. But while every “sensible person” knows the override needed, “the question that needs to be answered is how much, when and on what terms.”

Epstein said today the town can only make assumptions – on the level of free cash next year or state aid – that can’t be verified today. He believes the Financial Task Force will have a better hold on the numbers in April to make a clearer prediction.

But Dash said after witnessing a wide range of speculation on future revenue, “I don’t think anyone’s going to know anything anytime soon,”

“There’s never a good time to do this,” said Dash about the override. “You know, my dad would say, it’s never a good time to get married, to have a kid, to buy a house. But at some point, you end up doing all of them and it works itself through. I think you pretty much have to at some point trust the Belmont voters to known what they’re going to do.”