Belmont Public Library Open As Cool Center Friday, Aug. 13

Photo: Cooling center at the Belmont Public Library Friday

Due to the current period of high heat and humidity, the Belmont Public Library, 336 Concord Ave., will be open as a community cooling center on Friday, Aug. 13 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. “We encourage everyone to stay cool and hydrated and to check on elderly friends and neighbors while following good social distancing practices,” said the town’s press release.

Remember if visiting the Belmont Public Library to follow all Covid-19 safety protocols and adhere to the current indoor mask mandate.

Belmont Remembers Those Whose Sacrifice In Combat Were Awarded The Purple Heart

Photo: Honoring those awarded the Purple Heart.

On a return to summer on Saturday morning, Aug. 7, a dedicated number of residents, public safety personnel and town officials came to the Belmont Veterans Memorial off Concord Avenue to honor all who earned the nation’s oldest military award.

At the town’s annual Purple Heart Day Ceremony, “we want to show our honor, respect and appreciation to each of our Purple Heart recipients,” said Bob Upton, Belmont’s Veterans Services Officers who hosts the year event.

The Purple Heart is awarded to members of the armed forces who are wounded in a war zone and given posthumously to the next of kin of those killed in action or died of their wounds while in action. The familiar heart shaped medal with the bust of Washington was designed in 1932 replacing the cloth Badge of Military Merit that was first awarded in 1782.

“It’s interesting that the metal is purple,” said Adam Dash, chair of the Select Board, in his opening remarks. “The color is not red or blue, right or left. It’s a blend of both colors and beliefs because self sacrifice knows no politics.”

“Military uniforms do not designate race, creed or political persuasion. Soldiers fight for United States of America, not for a faction. They put aside their personal political thoughts to do their duty and risk their health, all for the love of country,” said Dash.

Guest speaker Belmont resident Paul Mutch, a retired Sgt. Major in the USMC reserves, said it was important when the statistics of those killed and wounded in conflicts are reported that we do not allow ourselves to focus only on the numbers.

“I asked you pause each time and take a moment to consciously realize that there is a name and face associated with each number. It is a service member, a human who has life has been forever been impacted by a specific violent event in the service of our country. And with our service member, we might find a husband, a wife, a child, a parent, a brother, a sister, relatives and friends that most likely number in the hundreds who are also touched by the strategy Think about the magnitude of impact,” said Mutch.

“Those who wear the Purple Heart paid a significant price for us all. And those who are awarded the Purple Heart posthumously, may be able to pay the ultimate price.”

Belmont Enacts Town-Wide Indoor Mask Mandate Starting Monday

Photo: A town-wide mask mandate takes effect in Belmont at midnight, Aug. 9.

Belmont will enact a town-wide indoor mask mandate starting at midnight, Monday, Aug. 9, after the Health Board voted unanimously to approve the requirement and the Select Board endorsed the decision 3-0 at an emergency meeting held on Friday morning, Aug. 6.

The mandate will impact all establishments that has public indoor spaces including stores, eateries and offices. (See the order below) The town-wide regulation comes days after the Select Board placed a mask mandate on town buildings.

Belmont’s order mirrors the order passed by the community of Provincetown after the Cape Cod community saw a significant surge in infected residents despite having a 95 percent vaccination rate.

The return of the covering ordinance comes as the Covid-19 Delta variant is sweeping across the country increasing the number of positive coronavirus cases. After nearly a month when the town saw a single positive infection, Belmont has seen a significant uptick of 18 new cases over the past two weeks, with several being “breakthrough”, in which a fully vaccinated person is infected. The CDC has designated Middlesex county as having substantial level of infection.

The town-wide mandate will end when the level of community transmission for Middlesex county as recorded by the CDC is designated as either low or moderate for two consecutive weeks. That information is released by the CDC on Sunday afternoon.

Belmont To Honor Purple Heart Recipients Saturday At Vets Memorial

Photo: Poster of 2021 annual Purple Hearts Day ceremony to be held on Saturday

The town of Belmont will hold its annual Purple Heart Day ceremony on Saturday, Aug. 7 at 10 a.m. at the Belmont Veterans Memorial located at Clay Pit Pond.

The Purple Heart is awarded in the name of the President to those wounded or killed while serving, with the U.S. military. With its forerunner, the Badge of Military Merit, the Purple Heart is the oldest military award still given to U.S. military members. 

Belmont’s Veterans Services Agent, Bob Upton, will make the welcoming remarks followed by the National Anthem and an invocation from Bob Butler, pastor of the Open Door Baptist Church.

Opening remarks will be delivered by Adam Dash, chair of Select Board, followed by guest speaker Paul Mutch, Sergeant Major USMC (Ret.)

Indoor Mask Mandate At Town Buildings Return Wednesday; ‘Emergency’ Meeting Friday To Discuss Possible Town-Wide Order

Photo: Belmont welcomes back masks to town

Beginning Wednesday, August 4, visitors and employees in town offices and buildings will be required to wear a mask as Belmont responds to a recent surge of positive cases of Covid-19.

“It’s erring on the side of being cautious. It’s the best thing for the public health and safety of everybody,” said Health Board Chair Donna David as the Select Board approved the sudden return to a mandate after speaking to health and town officials at its Monday meeting. In addition, public meetings will revert back to being held via Zoom or other virtual software.

At this time, there is no scheduled date for the mandate to end.

On Friday morning, Aug. 6, the town’s health and select boards will hold an emergency meeting to discuss expanding the indoor mask mandate to local stores, offices and restaurants. While the town building mandate was a straightforward call, the Select Board appeared less eager to re-establish a full town-wide indoor mask requirement.

“I think the business community’s going to be really upset with us” if masks make a return, said the Select Board’s Mark Paolillo.

It appears Belmont’s schools will continue requiring masks indoors at the district begins the new school year in mid-September, according to Donna David, chair of the Health Board. “They are onboard,” she said.

Adam Dash, chair of the Select Board, told the meeting that in the past when cases were on the rise the town had followed closely recommendations from the state’s health department on mask “but now the state’s basically saying ‘it’s on you’. So here we are.”

At Monday’s meeting, Health Department Director Wesley Chin told the Select Board that after going more than three weeks without a case in early summer, the town has seen 20 Covid cases since July 4, half of which are “breakthrough” cases; when an individual tests positive after they’ve been fully vaccinated against the disease.

“So far, we’ve been lucky we haven’t had any hospitalizations or deaths with these breakthrough cases,” said Chin, noting that those exposed were in their 40s and 50s and relatively healthy. While Belmont has not entered the state’s designated “red” zone of new cases, David said it is moving into that range, with the added complication that within the next three weeks, children – many under 12 and unvaccinated – will be returning to town from family vacations and trips as they settle in before heading back to school.

David said since it has made a “very strong” recommendation to the School Committee to continue its mask mandate, he said her board was “pretty much in alignment that [masks] should extend to the town buildings and offices, whether you are vaccinated or not.”

The reason for being vigilant even with a majority of adults being vaccinated, said David, is due to what is being learned about the variant on a daily basis.

“Each day unfolds new information in terms of the viral load and how it spreads to others,” she told the board. “If you’re at work and you’re exposed and asymptomatic and take it home to your unvaccinated child or somebody who’s immunosuppressed.”

Paolillo said he would support masks for workers and those visiting town-owned facilities “as a way of protecting our employees” especially since the town will not ask who is vaccinated inside a building.

While Town Administrator Patrice Garvin had hoped to give the employees a level of expectation of when the order may cease, it will be up to the Health Board working closely with the town to determine when the mandate will end.

Second Go-Around For Replacing DPW Fuel Tanks Starts With Tuesday Public Forum

Photo: The location of the DPW tanks.

If you first don’t succeed, hold a public forum. That’s the approach town officials are taking as they prepare to host a first of possibly two public forums on the future of a pair of municipal fuel tanks located beneath the Department of Public Works Yard off C Street.

The forum will take place via Zoom at 7 p.m., Tuesday, August 3. Zoom information can be found on the Town’s calendar at WWW.BELMONT-MA.GOV

“This is such a big hot item that we felt it needed a night onto itself rather than being crammed into a meeting agenda. It needs the respect of having its own night,” said Select Board Chair Adam Dash at the board’s Monday night meeting.

Despite seeing a nearly $500,000 supplemental allocation – which was championed in 2020-1 by the Capital Budget Committee and the Select Board after numerous public meetings – to pay for the removal of the existing 35-year-old tanks with an above-ground model costing a total of $1,033,000 narrowly defeated by the June annual Town Meeting, the town is currently conducting a detailed analysis to answer any questions about the project and refute unsubstantiated claims by three abutters who brought a successful citizens petition to defeat the allocation.

Glenn Clancy, Belmont’s director of Community Development who is leading the analysis, said the first meeting will be a chance for the town to share its findings and information on a couple of items such as ensuring tanks that have passed by several years their useful life and likely Department of Environmental Protection environmental concerns.

“I’m going at this very methodically. I’m starting from the beginning myself but I also recognize that a lot of the work has already been done by town staff and so I’m piecing together information and I’m taking good information from them as they help me inform me on my work,” said Clancy.

Both the Town Administrator’s Office and the Select Board said they will make a final recommendation only after hearing from the public and providing a finished report. The town will bring its proposal to the Special Town Meeting tentatively scheduled for early/mid-November.

Already, possible opposition to the town’s findings is coming from a familiar source. In a note to members over social media, Citizens for a Fiscally Responsible Belmont – a financially conservative group that headed the successful drive to defeat the $6.7 million Proposition 2 1/2 override this past April – will press the town to defend the size of the tanks while demanding it produces cost analysis on the tanks and alternatives.

The only option the CFRB is opposed to is a head-scratcher now as it was when it first promoted it before the June Town Meeting: an abolition of above-ground tanks. Despite the town and outside consultants demonstrated above ground storage was far less costly in the long run than those located underground, it was reported the group abandoned its fiscal conservative credo to solidify greater political support.

For Clancy, the only thing he’s seeking is “validation from the residents that what I’m doing and how I’m going about this.”

“The worst-case tomorrow night is that I come away with a message that I need to be digging deeper or … looking a little closer at certain things, which is fine. You know at the end of the day, what I want is a recommendation that I can make to the board that has broad consensus in the community. So it’s important that the community and the residents feel good about what the town proposes,” said Clancy.