High Wind Advisory Monday, Tree Damage, Power Outages Likely During Gusty Conditions

Photo: Trees will be buffeted by high winds this afternoon and night.

The National Weather Service has issued a High Wind Warn for Belmont and eastern Massachusetts beginning at 3 p.m., Monday, Nov. 30, and lasting until 1 a.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 1.

Residents can expect steady west winds between 20 to 30 mph with gusts between 50 to 60 mph which could result in trees or large branches coming down causing scattered power outages.

Belmont Light’s number to report power outages is 617-993-2800. Do not call 911 for a non-emergency call.

During the advisory, people should follow these precautions:

  • Use caution if you must drive. Travel will be difficult especially for high-profile vehicles such as trucks and buses. 
  • People should also avoid being outside in forested areas and around trees and branches.
  • If possible, remain in the lower levels of your home during the windstorm, and avoid windows.

What’s Open (Coffee,CVS), Closed In Belmont On Thanksgiving

Photo: Thanksgiving 2020 (credit: WebMD)

Thanksgiving during COVID-19 will be one in which so many families will be greeting relatives and those close to them over the internet and their phones as even small gatherings can be unsafe. It is a time to be thankful and to social distance while wearing a mask.

Town offices will be closed Thursday and Friday. The US Post Offices will be closed Thursday but open on Friday.

The MBTA’s commuter rail, subway and buses will run on a Sunday schedule.

  • Starbucks in Belmont Center and in Cushing Square will be open from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Dunkin’ Donuts: The store at Trapelo Road and Beech Street will be open “normal hours”: 5 a.m. to 11 p.m. The shop in Waverly Square on Church Street is open from 5 a.m. to 7 p.m. and the store on Pleasant Street is in operation from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m.
  • CVS at 264 Trapelo Rd. is open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. while the pharmacy is open from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
  • CVS in Belmont Center on Leonard Street is operating from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. The pharmacy is closed.
  • Star Market in Waverley Square will be closed all day.

Breaking: Belmont Schools Return To Remote Learning For The Week After Thanksgiving

Photo: Belmont School District headquarters on Pleasant Street.

Saying the Belmont School District was “making a decision regarding the safety of students, educators, and families,” Belmont Schools Superintendent John Phelan announced that all Belmont students will transition to the remote schedule for the week following Thanksgiving, Nov. 30 to Dec. 4.

“It is not a decision we take lightly,” said Phelan. “While we wish we did not have to make a decision, we are confident it is the safest choice during this time of increasing transmission rates, nationally, state-wide, and locally.”

Elementary and Middle School pupils will revert back to the remote plan from their current hybrid schedule and the introduction of the hybrid model for Belmont High School students scheduled for this week will be delayed.

Pre-K and LABBB will remain in-person for the week. Transportation for those programs will continue as regularly scheduled.

In an email to the Belmont community, Phelan noted the decision was based on six factors relating to the safety of students, educators and families.

“The decision for any school district cannot hinge on a single factor, but rather on a consideration of all factors taken together,” said Phelan.

Those factors include:

  1. Communication with families regarding their travel and hosting plans.
  2. Analyzing our staffing data to get a sense of educators’ travel and hosting plans.
  3. Coordinating with available substitutes.
  4. Seeking the advice of the Belmont Health Department
  5. Networking with other superintendents in the Middlesex League athletic league
  6. Discussing this topic publicly at our Nov. 24 School Committee meeting

“It is our hope that by being proactive and strategic in the short-term we will avoid difficulty in the long-term,” said Phelan.

January Cardboard Event Will Cost You To Drop Off The Holiday Packaging

Photo: Cardboard collection day is coming in January.

For the first time since it began two years ago, the next town cardboard event will have something extra: a $5 fee per resident will be required during the next drop off day coming after the holidays in early January.

While his fellow board members believe that including a fee will sow confusion and hard feelings among residents, Board Chair Roy Epstein is so convinced the fee based drop off will be a success, he pledged to make up any deficit out of his own pocket.

The cardboard event – which will be the first since June – will take place on Saturday, Jan. 9, at the Department of Public Works Yard at the end of C Street.

Jay Marcotte, Department of Public Works director, restated his opinion of two weeks previous on Nov. 9, that the only practical way to hold the drop off session is on the weekend with a fee to offset the $2,000 the event will cost the town.

“I would never as the department head agree to … getting rid of planned overtime with the expectation that I would still going to offer that service,” said Marcotte, who said residents are increasingly calling his office on when the next cardboard collection day will take place.

(Cardboard drop offs is a relatively new service, starting after the introduction of automated trash pickup in 2018.)

While suggestions were made to have the service during the workweek, “I don’t see how we would be able to safely conduct an event with a couple hundred cars … blocking up Waverly and C streets,” said Marcotte, noting he would be required to take a crew off of their normal work schedule to run the event.

Board member Tom Caputo countered the need for a fee drop off saying imposing onto residents a new cost would simply create confusion and frustration among the citizenry. Epstein felt that his colleague was “underestimating the ability of our residents to deal with something as simple as a cardboard program.”

“We’re talking about 200 or 300 households out of 10,000 [in Belmont],” he said. “It’s a convenience for a very small number of people in the scheme of things,” Epstein said.

The Select Board’s Adam Dash pondered if holding a potentially money losing fee-based event was worth doing in the first place. At $5 a pop, it’s unlikely the town will see the 300 vehicles needed to break even, said Dash.

“I’ll tell you what, Adam, I personally will make up the shortfall. You can quote me on that,” said Epstein.

What all side did agree on was the need for advanced notice to residents via the media and town signage on the new fee.

“We need to be clear why this is ,,, an unusual year and this is an unusual situation and we apologize” for requiring a fee, said Dash.

The DPW will also set up a pre-payment plan using the town’s Recreation Department website – which can accept credit and debit cards – along with information for contact tracing.

That day payments will also be accepted but it will take longer to process those residents due to the information they’ll need to write out the information required by the Health Department.

High School Hybrid 2.0: New Plan Takes Out Lunch, Puts In The Minutes


The selection of a new Belmont High School hybrid plan came down to what to do with lunch.

After being presented a pair of proposals to remedy issues facing the original hybrid blueprint, the Belmont School Committee voted on Tuesday, Nov. 17 to recommend a jury-rigged plan in which students will attend class in the High School building two half days a week while spending the majority of their days learning with their peers via live streaming video.

The plan will need the approval of the district’s teacher’s union, the Belmont Education Association, as online instruction requires the union’s OK through the collective bargaining process.

The plan is scheduled to going into effect during the week of Nov. 30.

The new plan appears to accomplish what a majority of parents have been advocating since the inaugural hybrid plan was announced in August: a hefty amount of instructional time. Originally slated at 95 minutes, the Hybrid Plan 2.0 will provide 170 minutes a week of instructional time, a reduction of just 10 minutes per week from the current remote plan.

The approved plan was the culmination of a three weeks sprint by a seven-person task force cobbled together after the School Committee rescinded an earlier vote to begin the original blueprint in early October.

“I think we are at the stage here where we are developing a hybrid model that will … to get high school students back into school,” said Belmont High School Principal Issacs Taylor who led the task force.

After reviewing students, educators and parents’ feedback from three surveys and 11 plans from surrounding districts – Lexington, Newton, Wellesley, and Concord to name a few – the group settled on two concepts which checked off many of the boxes the task force set for itself. These included “non-negotiables” such as maximizing instructional time, a balance on in-person and remote learning so all students would have the same classroom experience, as well as ensuring students would remain with their same teachers and classes as they have in remote sessions.

Both options would open and close at the same time for students: 8 a.m. to 2:25 p.m. One of two equally numbered student cohorts would spend two days “at school” – either Monday and Tuesday or Thursday and Friday – during in-class instruction while their counterparts would be following the lesson from home. The big difference from the current remote plan is that all students will learn the same lessons in real-time via live streaming.

The first option was a more traditional in-class school day with two 75 minute periods before and after a 50-minute lunch break taken in their homeroom.

A number of parents who attended the Zoom-meeting were impressed with option one where students attended two complete days in classrooms while having lunch in the building.

The second option squeezes the four 55 minute classes into a morning session. A 55-minute “lunch” break is used for the in-class students to head back home to begin the second round of lessons in the same classes they took that morning, this time in 20-minute blocks.

When questioned on separating a daily class into 55 minute and 20-minute segments, Taylor said “the morning session is that opportunity for the teachers to introduce topics and students to digest them … and then that afternoon session is a way of pulling things together.”

But it wasn’t how subjects were going to be taught but rather the logistics of attempting to serve lunch to 750 students and health risks that encompasses in Option One that turned out to be a “no go” for the task force and educators who expressed discomfort in their survey response being in classrooms for four days.

“In order to have lunch for everyone in school, I believe the health metrics would have to fundamentally change based on the space that we have in the high school,” said Taylor. Since the field house is being used as classrooms, “we don’t have the capacity in the school building to have lunch outside of the homerooms and I don’t believe that is the most effective and safest way of having lunch.”

Having settled on a hybrid plan 2.0 will not result in the task force shutting down, said Taylor. It will continue as “this is just the first step” how the district will move learning forward in this pandemic.”

Broadway Night Is Here! Streaming Online This Weekend

The Performing Arts Company’s annual musical theater cabaret known as Broadway Night goes virtual in 2020. Filmed live following safety guidelines developed with Belmont School Administrators and the Town’s Health Department, the show will begin streaming online this weekend.

Broadway Night will premiere Friday, Nov. 20 at 7 p.m. on the Performing Arts Company’s Website (bhs-pac.org), and air on Belmont Media Center TV (Comcast Ch. 9, Verizon Ch 29).

Performances of “Broadway Night” by the Belmont High School’s Performing Arts Company.


The show will have a second airing on Saturday, Nov. 21 at 7 p.m. After this weekends, performances will be available online to stream any time.

Broadway Night is the PAC’s annual Musical Theater Cabaret, which kicks off the season. Students perform classic show tunes and contemporary work from new musical theater composers in an evening of song, dance and storytelling. ​

Performances of “Broadway Night” by the Belmont High School’s Performing Arts Company.

Each year the show features more than 20 solo, duet and group songs, with a mix of humor, heart, romance and high-energy fun, plus a dance number, choreographed by the PAC Musical Choreographer Jenny Lifson and an all-freshman number directed by upperclassmen.

This year we have added an all-senior dance, an all-senior song and two other group numbers directed by upperclassmen. In addition, Tech Crew has created outdoor theater, complete with lighting and sound, and is learning video recording skills to capture to largest Broadway Night the PAC has ever produced.

​Broadway Night represents the core mission of the PAC, with an emphasis on showcasing student work. The performers have selected, staged and rehearsed the songs almost entirely on their own, with just a small amount of guidance from Ms. Lifson. In addition, the tech is done entirely by students, and four group numbers were directed by students.

Broadway Night is available to watch online for free, but all of the lighting, sound, scenery and video costs of the show are supported by donations. Audience members are encouraged to make a donation on the PAC website to support this show and future 2020-21 productions.

State OKs 40B Project Adjacent To Beatrice Circle; 12 Total Units, 3 Affordable

Photo: The title page of the 91 Beatrice Cir. project

Despite misgivings with aspects of the design and massing, the state’s Department of Housing and Community Development nevertheless approved a controversial 40B project to allow 12 rental units to be constructed on a half-acre lot adjacent to Beatrice Circle on Belmont Hill.

In an eight-page letter released Nov. 3, DHCD Undersecretary Jennifer Maddox said the application by 91 Beatrice Circle LLC “is sufficient to show compliance” with the state’s criteria for the construction of much needed affordable housing.

The developer has two years to seek a comprehensive permit from the Belmont Zoning Board of Appeals.

The state’s action brings an end to a year-long process that began when the developer – made up of members of the Tamposi family – purchased a 2,700 sq.-ft. single-family home located off of Frontage Road between Park Avenue and Pleasant Street for $1.4 million.

The state’s action came as a disappointment to the Select Board, and abutting neighbors who contend the housing project was an intrusion.

“While there were some parts of the decision that I found helpful, I was disappointed, honestly, with the bulk of it,” said Select Board Chair Roy Epstein, who led the town’s efforts to halt and amend the project by authoring two letters pointing out a myriad of problems generated by the developer’s first set of designs

Epstein said the state continues to ignore the two major concerns of town and neighbors: overall density of the two-building project and allowing the development to be 10 feet from the rear property line.

After reviewing the initial 16-unit plan for the site released in June, Epstein penned a list of concerns the town held about the design and sent it to MassHousing. In the view of the town, the proposal was:

  • Too dense and imposing for the surrounding neighborhood.
  • The project requires a retaining wall to a similar height as Fenway Park’s Green Monster.
  • It does not provide the necessary space to accommodate fire and police vehicles.
  • It lacks open space and adequate parking spaces. (“A large number of children who will have a parking lot to play on,” said Epstein.
  • The site would increase traffic congestion.
  • The plans did not address drainage and stormwater issues.

After Epstein’s initial letter, the development team, in response to discussions with MassHousing, in late August reduced the number of units by four to the current dozen with three-set aside as affordable for those earning 80 percent of the median income in greater Boston. That would be an income of $96,250 for a family of four.

The state said the changes reduced the project’s massing, improved circulation within the development and helped with the transition from a single-family neighborhood.

Epstein’s second letter pointing to continued flaws in the project did not appear to move those at MassHousing who signed off on the project to move forward.

“It is now up to the Zoning Board of Appeals … the role of the Select Board, I’m afraid, has ended,” he said.

In its approval letter, MassHousing did set down seven concerns that it expects the development team will deal with during the ZBA process:

  • Be in compliance with the town’s stormwater and drainage issues that could affect abutting properties.
  • Respond to offsite traffic and parking concerns.
  • Fully comply with public safety standards for emergency vehicles.
  • Be ready to discuss ways of softening the project’s massing and design, reduce light pollution and support pedestrian access.
  • Work to increase open space on the site.

The Select Board’s Adam Dash said the state’s extensive list of concerns is not the ringing approval for a project, which points to a possible opening from MassHousing to the residents.

“It did provide a roadmap for the Zoning Board of Appeals to focus on certain areas which I thought is helpful,” said Dash.

While some residents have indicated that there could be a legal challenge echoing many of the same themes as the town, history shows that unless the project is significantly flawed, it’s unlikely an individual suit will be successful.

Epstein said after this experience, Town Meeting needs to give more thought to the future of affordable housing developments because 91 Beatrice will not be likely the final multiple unit development in Belmont.

“We need to create more affordable housing on our terms so that people don’t come and put it in on their terms,” he said.

Four Marauders Sign NLI To Play NCAA DI, DII Sports


Four Belmont High School student/athletes signed National Letters of Intent (NLI) to compete at the NCAA Division I or Division II level:

  • Marina Cataldo Boston University Women’s Diving
  • Jordan Coppolo Rollins College Lacrosse
  • Ashley Green Bentley University Lacrosse
  • Kendall Whalen UMass Lowell Lacrosse
Marina Cataldo, Boston University, Women’s Diving
Jordan Coppolo, Rollins College, Lacrosse
Ashley Green, Bentley University, Lacrosse
Kendall Whalen, UMass Lowell, Lacrosse

Suspects In Winn Brook House Breaks Returned To Neighborhood: Belmont Police

Photo: Belmont Police is stepping up patrols in the Winn Brook neighborhood

Suspected suspects in a previous house break in the Winn Brook neighborhood were spotted Wednesday by surveillance cameras, according to Belmont Police.

On Nov. 11, at approximately 5:05 p.m., two individuals were observed on video cameras in the backyard of a home on Eliot Road. The pair matched the description of two suspects who were captured on video at a previous house break in the same neighborhood.

Belmont Police immediately began a search of the area for the two. Officers’ located evidence connected to the two suspects in a backyard. At approximately 5:53 p.m., a “Reverse 911” call went out to neighborhood residents advising them to shelter in place while the search for the suspects was under way.

Belmont Police received mutual aid assistance in the search that included police officers from neighboring communities, the MBTA Transit Police and the Massachusetts State Police including its Air Wing. At 8 p.m., a second “Reverse 911” call went out to the neighborhood residents lifting earlier advisory.

Most of these breaks are occurring in the area of the Winn Brook Elementary School. The Belmont Police have responded by increasing directed patrol activity in that area and our detective division is working full time on these cases.

The majority of these breaks occur in the late afternoon or early evening. In recent breaks, entry is being gained through the back of the house. The suspects are targeting expensive jewelry, electronics and cash. If possible, place these items in a safe deposit box or a hidden area other than a dresser or closet.

We are urging residents to please call 9-1-1 IMMEDIATELY if they observe any activity which might be suspicious at your house or a neighbor’s house.

What to look for:

1. Someone parking in front of your house and then walking down the street or around the corner.

2. A stranger walking around your or your neighbor’s house or in &through their back yard.

For investigative information only, please contact the BPD Detectives at: 617-993- 2550 for all other concerns, please call 617-993-2501

TIPS: Criminals will often watch resident entry/exit patterns and often strike while people are at work during the day or away on vacation. The Belmont Police suggest residents take the following steps to help protect your home from burglary:

  • Use sturdy doors: Solid wooden doors or doors reinforced with steel offer much more protection than hollow core wooden doors.
  • Use safe locks: Adding quality deadbolt locks is a great idea because they can’t be ‘popped’ the way spring-latch locks can. Ensure that sliding doors are secured with a security plate or screw in the upper track and a metal bar or piece of wood in the lower track.
  • Lock windows: When you are not at home, always lock your first floor windows.
  • Security alarm systems: Most systems have loud sirens. Certain systems alert the alarm company to contact the police to respond to the home. Security decals are also placed on doors and windows as a deterrent.
  • In a single family home or a multi-dwelling building, the outer hallway door should be locked. If a thief has access to the inner hallway, the thief now has a cover from the public’s eye and extra time to break through the front door without being noticed.
  • Turn on your front and rear porch lights at dusk so that the outside of the house is well lit around the entrances.
  • When the house is unattended, leave on a radio or sound fixture and also use timers on some inside lights to leave an impression that someone is home.
  • Ensure that there are no objects lying around the exterior of your home that could be used to break into your home (ladder, tools, etc) or objects that could be stolen (bike, lawnmower etc.)
  • Most importantly, introduce yourself to your neighbors. Consider having a neighbor or friend watch your home when you’re on vacation (cancel news paper delivery; pick up mail, put away trash barrels, etc.)
  • If you observe any activity which might be suspicious at your house or a neighbor’s, please call 9-1-1. For investigative information only, please contact the BPD Detectives at: 617-993- 2550 For all other concerns, please call 617-993-2501

Cardboard Drop-Off Fee Could Be Coming To Belmont, Just Not Now

Photo: Questions to the DPW concerning cardboard collection spike during the holidays

Will Belmont residents have to pay to get rid of the glut of cardboard coming their way this holiday?

That was the suggestion from the Department of Public Works as it came before the Select Board on Monday, Nov. 9, to discuss setting dates for the annual holiday season collection of cardboard by the town’s Department of Public Works.

Saying the subject of cardboard produces the largest number of calls to his department, DPW Director Jay Marcotte said the town is scheduling a handful of cardboard events in the next few months to collect the excessive amount of corrugated material many residents collect especially during the holiday season.

(Cardboard drop offs is a relatively new event, starting after the introduction of automated trash pickup in 2018 when residents discovered they “had no space in their new recycling bin” to place the excessive amount of cardboard they were acculating, said Marcotte.)

And if past events are the norm, Public Works is expecting upwards of 300 hundred vehicles jam packed with cardboard along Waverley Street and C Street attempting to enter the DPW Yard originally scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 5.

But as Select Board Chair Roy Epstein said during Marcotte’s presentation before the board there is “a new wrinkle” to upcoming events: a fee.

The call for a “pay as you throw” scheme for cardboard stems from this spring when the town froze overtime spending due to the reduction of town revenues associated with COVID-19 pandemic.

Marcotte said cardboard can’t stake itself in the five truck-sized containers ready to be filled. The DPW needs a crew.

“We usually have one foreman with three to four workers along with one of the administrative assistants working between five to eight hours,” he said. Add to that expense the likely need for a police detail – yes, cardboard drop-off is like holding a rock concert in Belmont – due to the expected overflow of participants for the upcoming event.

“I’m anticipating that high number for this event because we did not have any drop offs during the spring. Usually by now we would have had two to three events,” said Marcotte. After speaking with the town’s Health Department, the DPW will need additional staff to take down contract tracing information due to the pandemic.

By the end of the day, such an event is expected to cost the DPW up to $2,400 for a Saturday event running from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Without overtime, “this will have to be a self-sustaining event, said Epstein. The cardboard will bring in $400 so the net expense to the town will be in the order of $2,000. A quick back of the envelope calculation came out to approximately $8 to $9.

The initial plan was for residents wanting to drop-off cardboard to head over to the Recreation Department page on the town’s web site to sign up with their contact info and prepay the fee as the event will be cash-free due to COVID-19 and just the ease of making everyone pay online.

“That will probably be the biggest hurdle, getting the documentation,” said Marcotte.

But the fee proposal quickly earned pushback from Board Member Tom Caputo. “I get the principle when it relates to overtime but I also wonder if we are … creating a great deal of resident frustration,” Caputo asked. By forcing the public to pony up for a previously free service on top of requiring them to use a new payment system in the knowledge that many will show up having not paid the new fee “[i]s going to generate a great deal of ill-will,” he said.

A compromise, suggested Caputo, would be to hold the event on a weekday and thus taking overtime out of the equation, a solution fellow board member Adam Dash was amenable to try.

“The whole cost of $2,352 … is such small money that your going to get $2,300 worth of trouble charging $5 or $10 for this,” said Dash, saying that many residents will note the town passed an override a quarter century ago to establish free curbside pickup.

“I’m not happy taking $2,000 away from something else for a repeated event because we’ll have to do it two more times. That’s $6,000,” said Epstein.

And a weekday solution would create its own issues, said Epstein, with long lines of vehicles likely to impede traffic on a busy roadway, annoy the neighbors and clogging up the Town Yard during a busy work day.

While proposals such as drop-offs on consecutive Friday and Saturday one-paid and the other free were bantied about, Marcotte told the board his department simply could not conduct the service “if we don’t charge. I don’t have a budget for it.”

While Caputo said he understood Marcotte’s frustration, “we’ll have to be creative in how we can enable this. Can we try [drop offs] a couple of times during the week and see how that works.”

It was Town Administrator Patrice Garvin who broke the logjam by injecting “I think it’s worth at least a try,” followed by Marcotte saying “I’m open to that.”

Garvin added a caveat of significant outreach to residents along Waverley and C streets on the time span and traffic mitigation for the event now set for the week of Dec. 1.

“We’ll figure it out,” said Garvin.