Belmont Police Issues Snow Emergency Parking Ban Beginning Late Saturday As Winter Storm Watch Is Declared

Photo: Parking ban begins 11:45 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 6.

In an attempt to get ahead of the first nor’easter of the winter, the Belmont Police Department has announced a Snow Emergency Parking Ban on all town roadways, as well as in municipal parking lots and Belmont Public School parking lots, effective Saturday Jan. 6, at 11:45 p.m. and continuing until further notice. Any vehicle parked in violation of the ban will be towed at the owner’s expense.

The ban comes as the Boston office of the National Weather Service issued a Winter Storm Watch from Saturday afternoon through late Sunday night for eastern Massachusetts including Belmont.

“Heavy snow possible. Total snow accumulations of 3 to 8 inches possible. Winds could gust as high as 35 mph,” according to the NWS which released the warning at 4:34 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 5.

Town officials are reminding residents the town’s residential snow removal bylaw requires sidewalks along residential property to be cleared of snow and ice by 8 p.m. the day after a storm ends. Snow and ice should be cleared or treated from sidewalks to a width of at least 36 inches.

Residents should go to the town’s web site for further information regarding winter weather and the town’s snow removal bylaw .

Belmont’s Beth El One Of Several Bay State, US Synagogues Targeted With Bomb Threat

Photo: Beth El Temple Center in Belmont

Belmont’s Beth El Temple Center was one of several synagogues in Massachusetts and more than 100 across the country that received bomb threats on Sunday, Dec. 17.

“I am following up on my earlier message regarding the bomb threat to the temple building, which prompted us to close this morning,” said Rachael Fagin, president of the Temple Center, building this m in an email to the congregation sent Sunday, Dec. 17. 

Belmont and Cambridge police, including a K-9 unit, searched the building and found no threat, according to Fagin. “Law enforcement has confirmed this to be a hoax.”

“We continue to be grateful for the attention and support of local and state law enforcement. There will be an increased presence from the Belmont Police Department this afternoon,” said Fagin.

Beth El was one of many Jewish religious and cultural centers that were targeted on Sunday, a day after Hannuakka ended.

According to a statement from the Massachusetts State Police, a Jewish community center in Framingham, a Jewish cultural center in Tisbury, and a synagogue in Florence received email threats. At the same time, a bomb squad swept a Natick synagogue in advance of an event, though there was no threat.

“Hundreds of similar threats have been received by Jewish institutions across the United States this weekend,” stated the state police.

Physical acts of vandalism of Jewish institutions and religious centers are occurring. A menorah at the Framingham Centre Common Cultural District was toppled, and a sign voicing support for Israel was taken on Saturday, Dec. 16, according to Framingham law enforcement, which is investigating the incident as a potential hate crime. 

[Breaking] Paolillo Will Not Seek Fifth Term On Select Board As Potential Candidates Ready Run

Photo: Mark Paolillo

For Mark Paolillo, 12 years is enough.

Serving the final year of his fourth non-consecutive term (2010-2019, 2021-currently) on the Belmont Select Board, Paolillo will not be seeking a fifth when his tenure ends in April 2024.

“I’m not going anywhere, and I still love the job, but now is the right time to step away,” Paolillo told the Belmontonian at the celebration for the closing of the Belmont Public Library on Saturday, Nov. 18.

“It’s been an honor serving my home town on the board,” said Paolillo.

Even before his announcement, several names had been circulating around town of likely candidates to fill Paolillo’s seat, from those with significant experience serving on boards and committees, and several “newcomers” who have had just a taste of local government exposure.

It’s expected the first, and possibly second, of the potential candidates will be picking up nomination papers at the Town Clerk’s office by Wednesday, Nov. 22, before Town Hall shuts down for the four-day Thanksgiving holiday.

Paolillo will continue serving on the board until the Town Election on April 2, 2024. He said he wanted to participate in the creation of the fiscal 2025 budget and work with his board colleagues, Roy Epstein and Elizabeth Dionne, and town Financial Director Jennifer Hewitt in finding consensus on the critical dollar amount of the Proposition 2 1/2 override presented to voters in April.

“This [upcoming] override vote is massive for the future of Belmont and its schools. We have to get this one right,” he said.

A popular vote-getter at town elections, Paolillo won his first three-year term in 2010, defeating incumbent Dan LeClerc with 45 percent of the vote in a three-way race. Paolillo ran unopposed in 2013 and 2021.

After leaving the board in 2019, Paolillo returned in 2021 with a mission “to help the community move past its differences” after an override that year was rejected by residents by a 1,000 vote margin.

In his dozen years on the Select Board, Paolillo – a principal with the global tax services firm Ryan – has championed financial stability and sustainability (he is a member of the Financial Task Force) and is a strong supporter of implementing the long term structural reforms outlined in the Collins Center Report.

Paolillo is also known for his efforts to find consensus on the board and between town and elected officials as well as the public on the major issues facing Belmont.

“I have had amazing colleagues who have, I believe, made Belmont a better place,” he said.

Breaking: With High Usage Predicted, Belmont Light Asking Consumers To Power Down Thursday Afternoon

Photo: High electrical usage expected Thursday

With high temperatures forecast on Thursday to reach the mid-90s, Belmont Light is asking customers to power down their electrical appliances tomorrow afternoon.

“With hot temperatures returning to the area and more residents home from summer vacations, we are predicting that Thursday, September 7 will be a day of peak energy usage in Belmont,” said the utility’s press release sent on Sept. 6.

With that in mind, Belmont Light requests residents to reduce their electricity usage from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 7 as much as possible to keep costs lower and our energy supply cleaner.

There are simple, concrete things that you can do at home to help keep Belmont Light’s demand peak low, including:

  • Turn the target temperature on thermostats and window unit air conditioners slightly higher. Even a two-degree change in room temperature can make a massive change for you and Belmont Light while not being noticeable to you and your family.
  • Do not do laundry during the peak demand time period. Shift your use of your clothes washer and dryer to before 5 p.m. or after 7 p.m.
  • Cook dinner on the grill instead of using your oven and other appliances. Using your kitchen’s oven also has the negative effect of raising your home’s overall temperature.
  • Turn off and unplug non-essential electronic devices, especially ones not in use. Examples like televisions, computers, and video game consoles, even when not in use, may still draw electricity.

In the release, Belmont Light shows how reducing consumption at this time is a net benefit to customers’ wallets and the environment:

Peak energy usage costs more for Belmont Light and you. When demand for electricity on the New England grid rises above levels that are not typically available, ISO-NE must call on “peaker plants” to go online to provide backup generation. These plants charge a higher rate than typical generators, with a premium placed on their availability during these peak times. Additionally, utilities like Belmont Light are charged by ISO-NE for the highest amount of demand that they have during these peak times, known as the coincident peak. Belmont Light and other utilities must pay year-round for the potential of reaching this coincident peak.

Peak energy generation tends to be from fossil fuel sources, like gas and oil. In situations of peak demand, the peaker plants that ISO-NE calls on for emergency generation must be ready to fire up on short notice. 

‘Milestone’: Building Committee Hands Ownership Of Belmont Middle And High School To School Committee, Town

Photo: The Belmont Middle and High School is now the property of the Belmont School Committee.

“It’s a fairly simple meeting,” Bill Lovallo said of Wednesday’s virtual joint get-together of the Belmont School and Belmont Middle and High School Building committees.

And while it was straightforward, the gathering marked the culmination of seven-and-a-half years of planning, construction, and 163 meetings as the Building Committee turned over the 450,000 sq. ft. 7th to 12th-grade building to the School Committee and the Town of Belmont.

“It’s a meeting about a building, but it’s really so much more than a building,” Meghan Moriarty, chair of the Belmont School Committee. “It’s a really exciting opportunity for us. I’m so excited for our educators and our students.”

“I’m very pleased to say that we’ve come to a milestone here,” said Lovallo.

In a series of three votes, the Building Committee accepted the building from Skanska USA, the project’s chief contractor, before officially transferring ownership of the largest building in Belmont to the School Committee and town.

“This is incredible,” said Lovallo as the $295 million school building opens for the six grades it was designed. “Seven and a half years since we started this project with the building committee, working collaboratively with the school committee … and school department on visioning, working on budgets, working on scope, working on messaging. We’re working on engaging our community time and time again, to do the best thing we can for Belmont with the resources that we have.”

Lovallo issued thanks to Skanska, the architectural design team from Perkins+Will, Owner’s Project Manager CHA Companies, the Belmont School District, and residents who supported the project.

“I’m very proud of what the community has done. I’m very proud of people stepping up, community members providing their input, and comments, the building committee, and others, listening, and then delivering on our commitment. So thank you,” said Lovallo.

One member of the building committee will be a beneficiary every day from the nearly decade long process. Belmont High teacher Jamie Shea called the building “an amazing space.”

Flexible spacing allows innovative teaching

“I’m so thankful that we have that space for teaching and learning for our students. I love my classroom with a moveable wall that allows me to teach an integrated class with a math teacher, which is great. The flexible spacing in the building is allowing teachers to innovate and try new things in ways that were really hard to do in the old building.”

Shea also heralded the work of Lovallo, veteran building committee member Pat Brusch, and recently retired superintendent John Phelan. “This only happened with the three of you. I can’t even imagine the number of hours you spent beyond all the meetings we were at to ensure this happened.”

The town’s Office of Community Development is granting the school committee a temporary occupancy permit (TCO), representing the school building is ready for educators/staff and students to enter the building, said Moriarty. The paperwork to allow the building to open will completed in the next days.

The building committee will identify any remaining work on the “punch” list to be completed, like training for bells, the Public Address system, HVAC, and the solar arrays.

“[Punch list] doesn’t affect life safety account for those types of things, but it does affect 100 percent completeness. So … as we turn the building over, our team will be continuing to work on that,” said Lovallo, “We expect that to take probably about two months from now to get all those items complete.”

One item that will take more time to complete will be the installation of more than 2,200 solar photovoltaic arrays on the building’s roof. Delays due to cost and engineering delays will hold up the final full production mode until February 2024, according to Lovallo.

“I’ll say right here that we have not changed our commitment to flooding the entire roof with – probably is not the best word to use for a roof, but covering the entire roof with PV and that has not changed,” said Lovallo.

Moriarty said the Building Committee would track that work, hold the construction team responsible, and finish up payment and financial issues with the Massachusetts School Building Authority with support from the Town Administrator’s Office. While the project is nearly completed, the Building Committee will continue until the financial closeout is complete, which will take up to 18 months.

A short ribbon-cutting celebration will occur on opening day for Belmont schools, Wednesday, Sept. 6, at 8:30 a.m. outside of the high school lunch area. The district is planning guided tours for families of middle schoolers, just as was done for Phase 1 – high school – of the building completion.

A larger, town-wide celebration will take place in October.

Belmont High Seniors Seek Donated Supplies To Help Women In Need At Rosie’s Place. [VIDEO]

Photo: Belmont High rising seniors (from left) Eva Gruia, Reese Campbell, and Melis Demirtas are collecting women’s essential goods through Aug. 16 to donate to Rosie’s Place in Boston

For many, summer is a time for getting out into the hot sunshine, sweating a lot before heading indoors for one of a couple of showers in the comfort of an air-conditioned home.

But for poor and homeless women – on the streets or with nowhere cool and safe to go – the season’s intense sun, heat, and humidity create hygienic issues that many do not think of daily. In addition to dehydration and sunburn, the risk of rash and infections increases without running water or a place to clean up. A recent study reported that those without a reliable way of personal hygiene have a higher rate of mental health concerns.

Three rising Belmont High seniors are working to help those homeless and in-need women who lack simple health supplies. From now until Wednesday, Aug. 16, Reese Campbell, Eva Gruia, and Melos Demiras have set up a drop box behind Belmont Center’s Champion Sporting Goods adjacent to the Claflin Street parking lot to collect women’s essential goods that will be donated to Rosie’s Place, the largest women’s shelter in New England.

“This summer, I have been volunteering [at Rosie’s Place], and it is heartbreaking to see how many people need essential goods,” said Campbell. She said the donated supplies will be used to create care packages to distribute to women who need them.

At this time, the shelter is explicitly looking for full-sized and unused items listed below:

ITEMS NEEDED:

  • toothpaste
  • toothbrushes
  • floss
  • deodorant
  • soap
  • body wash
  • lip balm
  • face cream
  • hand lotion
  • shampoo and conditioner
  • hand sanitizer
  • wipes

So far, the friends have received 444 donated items, resulting in 20 care packages with a goal of presenting 100 packages to women in need.

Packages with donated supplies heading to Rosie’s Place (credit: Reese Campbell)

“We are asking people to donate at least one item to make a big difference,” said Campbell. “I feel like because these [items are] very rarely accessible to us, we don’t realize the importance of our everyday lives.”

“We are really grateful that Champions has been very supportive of the drive,” said Campbell. “Gerry Dickhaut, the current owner, and Andy Pollock, one of the future owners of the store, were both one of the first people to donate many items to our cause.”

The soon-to-be seniors have been posting progress updates on Instagram @shelteringheartsproject. 

If people want us to pick up items from their house, they can arrange it by emailing shelteringheartsproject@gmail.com

“All three of us are very fortunate to be living in Belmont and have many opportunities around us. And we want to use our free time to help other people that might not be as fortunate as we are because we can give back, and that’s what we should be doing,” said Campbell.

Belmont High Boys’, Girls’ Rugby Go Undefeated, With A Pair Of State Championship Trophies In Tow

Photo: Belmont High Girls’ Rugby Head Coach Kate McCabe getting drenched after Belmont won its fifth consecutive MIAA Division 1 state girls’ rugby title.

The Belmont High School’s rugby program duplicated last year’s achievement as the Boys’ and Girls’ squads returned home to Belmont with a pair of Division 1 state championships in games played Sunday morning and afternoon on June 18 at Curry College.

Boys’ Back Line Leads The Way To Consecutive Championships

Win, return, repeat.

Belmont High Boys’ made it consecutive MIAA Division 1 state titles as the top-ranked Marauders defeated this season’s chief challenger, second-seed St. John’s Prep of Danvers, 24-14.

Belmont High finishes the season undefeated, 10-0, for the first time in the program’s 17-year history, which included three matches against out-of-state competition. The Marauders equals its traditional rival, Boston College High, with the most number of MIAA state titles with three.

“Day one of this season was, ‘Guys, you’re defending state champs, but that was last year’s team. This is a different team. We’ve won nothing,” said Belmont’s Head Coach Greg Bruce. That belief led to the team to adopt a “Zero, zero” mentality – which the team shouted out after every score by either team – which got the team grounded for the season.

Rather than viewing the score of individual games or an undefeated season as the measure of the team’s success, “they just wanted to come out here to play their rugby and have one last opportunity to be together,” said Bruce.

The match’s first 20 minutes was the expected heavyweight bout of hard tackling with no quarter given between programs that acknowledge a level of “bad blood” between the two. “[Chirpy] on the field and from the stands,” according to a Belmont coach.

“We knew they were going to be really physical, and they came out even more physical than we expected,” said Belmont High senior prop Asa Rosenmeier, a co-captain heading off to Brown, where he will play rugby. “We pride ourselves on our defense, so we took that challenge straight on.”

Playing without the senior inside center, co-captain, and the program’s all-time leading scorer Jake Cornelius who was injured in Belmont’s 49-14 semi-final victory over BC High, the Marauders stayed within their “game” of running at Preps’ front row led by the 6’5″, 280-pound Rosenmeier and keeping possession of the ball by controlling their rucks and winning the scrums.

After coming close in the first minute, Belmont struck first at the 17-minute mark as junior Number 8 Max Cornelius took a “tap and go” and snuck over the try line after being set up by a 30-meter run by senior outside center Ben Williams that put the ball inside the 10-meter mark. Junior inside center Stephen Hong – who moved into Jake Cornelius’ number 12 role on short notice – nailed the conversation despite the acute angle to stake the Marauders to a 7-0 lead.

“I was ready for this moment,” said Hong. “We got the ‘W’ so I’m pretty happy about my performance.”

It took just five minutes for the Marauders to add its second tally as Hong hopped by a defender and sprinted 40 meters to score after Rosenmeier stole a Prep pass to give Belmont the ball 35 meters from goal.

Prep got on the scoreboard through Luke Rinklin, the Eagles’ Man of the Match, when the junior fly-half quickly took the ball on a touch and go and weaved 30 meters unopposed to place Prep within one score of the lead, 12-7.

But Belmont would have the final word in the half as senior flanker Matt Doban broke two tackles in the last ten meters to lunge over the try line at the 35-minute mark to up the Marauders’ lead to 19-7 at intermission.

During the opening 15 minutes of the second half, Prep’s task was straightforward: Get an early try and keep the score tight over the final 20 minutes. And the Eagles attempted just that, possessing the ball 20 meters from the Belmont try line as they pressed the attack.

But Belmont’s hard-pressed defense would bend but not break. While the Marauders’ front row punished St. John’s Prep’s runners in the center of the field, it was Belmont’s young back six – Henry Thomas, Luke Wilgren, Hong, Williams, Myles Torres, and Wyatt Sclafani – who made up for their lack of size with speed and tackling prowess prevented Prep from breaching the defensive line including twice inside five meters of the goal line. And when Prep crossed the try zone seven minutes into the half, Hong and junior fly-half Thomas prevented the Prep player from grounding the ball, allowing sophomore full-back Torres to come in for the steal.

“We got down low around the breakdown and then fired up and hit them. You can’t be scared playing defense. That’s how we held them,” said Rosenmeier.

“We asked them to put out their best defensive performance of the year,” said Bruce after the game. “Even though the score might not be the lowest points we’ve given up, that was by far the best defensive performance.”

The Marauders’ victory was secured with one of the season’s flukiest tries. On their first venture into the Eagles’ territory 15 minutes into the half, as Belmont was kicking towards the touchline, a Prep player made what one MIAA official called “an extraordinary athletic play,” leaping for the ball three meters out of bounds to tap the ball back into play. But Belmont had two players covering the kick, and the ball bounced once straight into Wilgren’s arms, who walked over the try line in what the left wing said is “the easiest try I’ll ever score.”

With Belmont up 24-7 and time draining, St. Johns’ was looking to the always dangerous Rinklin to spark a final comeback. And when Prep scored through senior Ryan Albano’s three-meter run with 12 minutes remaining, the Eagles would only cross the midfield line with less than a minute to play. When the final whistle blew, the team received their medals, and Rosenmeier and Cornelius raised the trophy aloft.

Girls’ Dominating Win Results In Five-peat

Just one word describes the championship game and season for Belmont High Girls’ Rugby.

Supremacy.

Belmont pocketed its fifth consecutive MIAA state championship (completed in seven years), defeating a young Brookline High squad 59-0, placing a capstone on a 9-0 undefeated season.

“The team wanted to make a statement about defense, and I think they really came out in the first half and did what they needed to do,” said Head Coach Kate McCabe, who received a celebratory drenching at midfield.

Belmont was only threatened once in the season by a rapidly improving Weymouth squad in the Division 1 tournament semifinals. The Marauders fell behind 7-5 at Harris Field before scoring 26 unanswered points on four tries for a convincing 31-7 Final Four victory.

“The girls walked away from that semi-final match saying the defense and the spread that we were doing wasn’t enough. It really motivated them,” said McCabe.

Already without star Number 8, senior co-captain Val Detheux, on the pitch – lost to a knee injury suffered during the fall soccer campaign – Belmont would suffer a second blow when its all-around commanding presence, junior right flanker Alek Townsend, left the field with a knock to her knee in the first half. But the team didn’t miss a beat Sunday, as there was no loss of skill and talent with the substitutes who were sent in.

“Honestly, the privilege that I have with the depth of this bench is unbelievable,” said McCabe. “The ability to turn around and know exactly who you can put in and make a difference is amazing.”

In a game in which the weather changed by the minute – rain, sun, a dose of showers – Belmont began scoring in the first two minutes with a driving run from junior lock Rowan Dragon with the conversion from junior fly-half Lucy Kabrhel, – who went 7 of 9 in conversion attempts – as the team began a masterclass on all aspects of the game.

Brookline couldn’t string the passes needed to stretch the Marauder back line, forcing them inside where they could not make headway against a physical Belmont front. When the Warriors attempted to push the ball out wide, their runners would meet Townsend, who laid out several crushing tackles before she departed.

On offense, the Marauders were much stronger up front while Belmont’s passes, starting from senior scrum-half Shelby Ball, were quickly delivered and on the mark.

Belmont junior lock Sally Amer punched in Belmont’s second try at the 10-minute mark, followed by junior inside center Olivia Mann diving across the line at 19 minutes to give the Marauders a 21-0 lead at the half.

The Marauders’ junior full-back Mia Taylor finished the game early in the second half with two scores, including a 45-meter solo gallop and a 30-meter run around the edge.

“I was committed to finding the openings as I got the passes from my teammates,” said Taylor, who garnered a second-half hat trick. Taylor saw her sister, sophomore flanker Sadie score her try while senior prop Elise Conroy finished her career with a pair in the final minutes.

And for the fifth time, Belmont took home the state tournament winners trophy as an emotional Detheux raised the silverware with senior co-captain Number 8 Sage Tonomura-MacDonald in front of their ecstatic teammates.

Losing just a handful of senior starters from this year’s first 15, McCabe said the program is on track to continue its impressive championship run.

“We’re building from a good place,” she said.

Guilty Verdict In Henry Tapia Murder Case: ‘A Senseless Tragedy Fueled By Hate And Anger’

Photo: Protests over the murder of Henry Tapia in January 2021

A Middlesex County jury on Monday found Hudson resident Dean Kapsalis guilty of the racially-motivated murder of Henry Tapia during a road rage incident on Upland Road in Belmont more than two years ago, according to a press release from Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan.

Kapsalis, 56, was convicted of shouting a racial insult at Tapia, a 34-year-old man of color, before hitting him with a Dodge Dakota truck, running him over and killing him. While a Boston resident, Tapia was living with his partner and son in Belmont.

The jury’s verdict, announced on Monday, May 1 after two weeks of testimony and three days of deliberation, found Kapsalis guilty of second degree murder, violation of constitutional rights causing serious bodily injury, assault and battery by means of dangerous weapon (motor vehicle) causing serious bodily injury, and leaving the scene after causing injury.

Kapsalis will be held without bail until sentencing by Associate Justice of the Superior Court David Deakin on June 27, 2023.

“The murder of Henry Tapia is a senseless tragedy fueled by hate and anger. The fact that some of the last words Henry Tapia heard were a horrific racial insult meant to intimidate and threaten him based on the color of his skin is something we cannot tolerate,” said Ryan at a press conference with Belmont Police Chief James MacIsaac after the verdict was rendered. Tapia’s death lead to local protests and ongoing conversations on racial bias in Belmont.

On Jan. 19, 2021, around 4:22 p.m., Belmont Police received a 911 call reporting that a man had been struck by a car in the area of 39-45 Upland Road. Police immediately responded and located Tapia conscious but suffering from life-threatening injuries. First responders provided emergency assistance until Belmont Rescue arrived on the scene. Tapia was transported from the scene to Massachusetts General Hospital where he later died from his injuries.

The subsequent investigation by Belmont and State Police revealed Kapsalis and Tapia had engaged in a verbal altercation on Upland Road. That argument wound down but as Tapia began to walk back toward his car, Kapsalis hurled a racial slur at him and then got into his pickup truck and drove it at Tapia, striking him and dragging him a short distance before Kapsalis fled the scene. He later turned himself in to police. At trial, the defense argued Tapia’s death was an accident. 

“What is significant about today’s verdict is that when we have incidents in Middlesex County motivated by bigotry and racism, that hatred will not be treated as a background fact. It will be charged and prosecuted separately. Although nothing that happens in Court can return Mr. Tapia to his grieving family, today’s convictions send a strong signal that those who commit hate fueled violence in this county will be held fully accountable,” said Ryan.

A Champions’ Goodbye: Owner Of Belmont’s Iconic Sports Store Retiring After 35 Years

Photo: Gerry Dickhaut, owner of Champions Sporting Goods in Belmont Center

For the past 35 years, Belmont’s sports universe has revolved around a small elongated storefront smack in the Center. Need your child’s first hockey equipment? How about a lacrosse stick? A bag of Little League baseballs? Swimming goggles? A sweatshirt with “BELMONT” stitched across the chest? Skates sharpened? Tickets for the spring musical? You’ll find it there.

And there you’ll find the proprietor of Champions Sporting Goods on Leonard Street Gerry Dickhaut. And make no mistake, Gerry is the business. He’s taking inventory, finding the correct size soccer cleat, sharpening the skates, stocking the youth team’s uniforms, and sending his teenage employees to Rancs for ice cream.

Gerry has been the most ardent supporter of the Center and its businesses, president of the business association, runs the annual spring Town Day (Champions is the official sponsor of the dunk tank), and knows all the best gossip on Leonard Street.

But as with all good things, Gerry will soon bid a fond “adieu” to his business home for four decades as he’s retiring.

“October 8, 1988. That’s when I opened the doors, 35 years this year. I think I can say I deserve to retire,” said Dickhaut behind the cramped counter in his shop at 53 Leonard St.

“I’ve been very fortunate. I’ve been very lucky,” said Dickhaut, interrupting the interview to help a young father pick out socks for his son.

Gerry’s Champions, one of the increasingly rare independent sporting goods outlets in the US, harkens back to when the Center was the town’s business hub with a Filene’s, a supermarket, a specialty fish monger, an Italian market, a florist, and the century-old local bank. To stay afloat and remain profitable – it’s made money since the third year in operation – as small businesses are desimated by large box store and internet sales, three recessions and a devistating pandemic is remarkable.

Gerry Dickhaut, owner of Champions Sporting Goods

“My success has everything to do with the loyality of the people in town and the youth leagues. They come back time and time again. You can’t ask for anything more,” he said.

Besides selling sporting goods, Gerry has offered generations of Belmont High School students and alumni their first job in the store. Melis Demirtas, a highly proficiant kickboxer and high school rugby player, is one of many who lug new shipments here and there and helping customers putting shoes on kindergarteners.

“Gerry, he’s great,” Demirtas said.

Gerry said he was going to retire last year but was convinced by his landlord to “stay just one more year.”

“They gave me a break when I first opened the doors. They took a chance on me,” said Dickhaut.

The rumor that Gerry was ready to move on has been circulating among parents and league officials for a couple of months with many expressing their sadness to Gerry as some considered pooling funds and purchasing the business.

“I’m humbled and flattered that they see me as a [community asset.] And it goes both ways, I appreciate that they are loyal customers,” he said.

Knowing how the residents regard the store, Gerry has been working with a Belmont resident who is “interested” to buy and continue to run the business at its location. The possible buyer is, ironically, a former employee of Amazon – a scurge of small businsses – who has been working in the store to learn the ropes. The interested person is seeking a partner or a manager to run the store as the hours are quite considerable.

Gerry said there are others interested in running the shop, “and they’re all from Belmont.”

As for Gerry, he has some idea what he’ll be doing after he hands the keys over to the next owner.

“I want to go to London. I was there for two days once and it was fabulous. I want to go to Italy and get a real pizza. Then I want to go to Asia especially Bali, that part of the world. And also tour America. There are just so many beautiful spots in the country,” said Dickhaut.

But Gerry said he will be around to help the new owner “if they want me here.” But soon the golf enthusiast will be looking to the south for a place to hang up his clubs.

“I can’t handle the cold weather anymore. Really. It’s depressing, you’re always stuck inside,” said Gerry with an eye on someplace in Florida, around Pheonix or San Diego. A place with a golf course nearby.

Town Election: Rink Rings Up Big Victory On Its Second Chance; Zuccarello, Yueh On School Committee; Appointed Treasurer Measure Passes 2-1

Photo: (from left) Select Board Chair Mark Paolillo, Rink Building Committee Chair Mark Haley, and Building Committee members Dante Muzzioli and Anne Marie Mahoney speaking on the passage of the debt exclusion for a new municipal rink and recreation center for Belmont.

This past Nov. 8, it appeared the proposal to replace the existing ‘Skip’ Viglirolo Skating Rink was all but dead and buried when a $33 million debt exclusion to build a new rink facility failed in the general election by approximately 350 votes out of 11,800 cast.

But a lifeline tossed by the Select Board that night to give the measure many believed would pass if provided a rare second bite at the apple proved prophetic as the new rink/recreation center project was given an enthusiastic thumbs up as the modified $29.9 million project was approved by nearly 1,500 votes, 3,904 to 2,421.

Get unofficial results from the April 4 election at the Town Clerk’s web page here

“Feels great,” said Mark Haley, chair of the Municipal Skating Rink Building Committee, as he and committee member Dante Muzzioli, nervously watched as the votes trickled in while they camped out in the lobby of the Select Board Room on the second floor of Town Hall. “Once given a chance to tell our story, I knew residents would be back it.”

“The town … understands how important this rink and recreation facility was for this town, and they supported it,” said Muzzioli. “It’s a beautiful day for Belmont.”

Muzzioli praised the three leaders of the “Yes For Rink” campaign – Sheryl Grace, Lucinda Zuniga, and Kayla Wiggin – as “the reason the question passed. They worked and worked and got it done.”

“Shows that hard work pays off, for sure. We had to come back for our kids,” said Zuniga, who arrived with Wiggin and Grace at Town Hall to celebrate the news. The “Yes” campaign raised $1.3 million while conducting an effective campaign based on getting the facts about the rink to the public.

(from left) Sheryl Grace, Lucinda Zuniga and Kayla Wiggin

And many on the building committee noted that Select Board Chair Mark Paolillo was one of the “heroes” of the campaign as he led the board in reviving the project after its initial defeat.

“A three hundred vote margin is not a mandate, especially with the library being on the same ballot,” said Paolillo. “It was only fair to allow it to go before the voters again.”

Rink Reasons

The rink supporters pointed to several changes that helped convince voters to support the project after its defeat. First, unlike in November, the rink was not coupled on the ballot with another large capital project, a new $34.5 million public library. There was some evidence that voters in November felt they were limited to selecting between the library and the rink.

Second, the building committee and the project architect, Ted Galante of The Galante Architecture Studio, abandoned an array of costly features, such as the second-floor mezzanine, and went with an all-new design which reduced the price tag by 10 percent, showing a willingness to make alterations to reduce the amount taken up by ratepayers.

Third, the rink was turned into a four-season operation in which up to five months would be dedicated to town recreation and other activities.

Fourth, rink campaigners used the time to explain in greater detail the failings of the existing building and the expanded uses a new rink will have. The initial campaign was hampered by too many balls in the air: a need to design and price the project and galvanize supporters that were squeezed into a four-month schedule during which the final cost fluctuated, and there was no firm commitment to making the facility recreation friendly.

And it didn’t hurt that the current rink’s defects caused numerous problems this season, including a nearly month-long delay in opening the rink due to warm weather and that 5,000 fewer voters came to the polls.

Haley said important work and decisions still need to be completed, including how the rink will be managed and receiving approval from Town Meeting this May for the funding for the facility.

Demolition of the existing rink will begin in July with a 16-18 month construction schedule.

“Be back here in November 2024!” said Haley.

Treasurer’s Question

Town officials, the leading committees, and the Select Board all backed a Collins Center recommendation changing the Town Treasurer from an elected to an appointed position toward centralizing the town’s financial operations.

While many residents expressed concern that an appointed treasurer would be beholden to the Town Administrator rather than the public, others pointed out that many essential town functions are led by appointed employees and officials and that many similar communities to Belmont have or are moving to the appointed treasurer post.

And with no candidate running to claim the seat, establishing an appointed treasurer position was not seriously challenged. It was accepted by a more than two-to-one margin: 4,255 to 1,811.

School Committee

In a rather tepid race – the three candidates were in-line with nearly all initiatives before the school committee – life-long Belmont resident Amy Zuccarello topped the field with 4,055 votes She’ll be joined on the committee by Jung Yueh (3,306). Rounding out the contest was Rachel Watson, who garnered 2,140 votes.

“We must hit the ground running on many items, including the current and next year’s budget. But I am excited to get started,” said Yueh, who attended the vote counting at Town Hall.

Jung Yueh at Town Hall

Town Meeting

Some would think that being an 18-year-old, first-time candidate would be detrimental to winning a seat on Town Meeting. But if you get profiled in a daily newspaper, produce a slick website, have yourself photographed with the governor, and knock on a hell-of-a-lot-of doors (while having the best name this election cycle), you too could be like Angus James Benedict Abercrombie, who hit it out of the park Tuesday nearly receiving the most votes throughout the eight precincts with 544. Only Susanne Croy in Precinct 6 bested Abercrombie with 546. Abercrombie’s final vote tally reminds election observers of perennial Boston City Councilor Albert “Dapper” O’Neil, who said, “You don’t count my votes; you weigh them.”

In Precinct 1, a pair of newbies took the top spots. Adam Dash, who stepped down from the Select Board this year, is better known than Makinde Abeagbo, but the first-time candidate finished with 446 votes to Dash’s 443.

Incumbents who were not successful in their races include Joseph Wholley and Christopher Grande in Precinct 1, John Alcock and Ian Watson in 3, Linda Oates and Cabell Eames in 6, 25-year Town Meeting member Brett Sorenson and Natalie Kostich in 7, and Connor Maguire and the Ivesters – Heather and Karl – from 8.

Returning to Town Meeting after a forced one-year absence include Marie Warner in Precinct 6, who took a two-year seat by two votes, and Robert Sarno in Precinct 3.

Not placing your profile in the Belmont League of Women Voters Election Guide isn’t a big deal? In competitive precincts, those who left out their profile did not place in the top 12, including well-known incumbents.