Geiser Selected Belmont’s Next School Superintendent; First Woman To Run District On Permanent Basis

Photo: Dr. Jill Geiser during a Q&A with Belmont residents

After, at times, a contentious selection process, the Belmont School Committee voted to appoint Belmont resident Dr. Jill Geiser as the school district’s next superintendent at a special meeting on Wednesday, March 29.

“[Geiser] accepted right away, enthusiastically,” said Committee Chair Meghan Moriarity when she called the Oxford Avenue resident with the news immediately after the 5-1 vote.

The selection of Geiser marks the first permanent female superintendent in Belmont. Dr. Patricia Aubin served as interim superintendent for one year between the superintendencies of Dr. Peter Holland and Dr. George Entwistle.

“It’s pretty remarkable that it’s taken this long!” wrote Moriarity in an email to the Belmontonian.

The other candidates were Kimo Carter, the assistant superintendent in Weston, and Carlee Simon, the former superintendent of schools in Alachua County, Fla.

Geiser replaces John Phelan, retiring after holding the post for the past decade. If both sides approve a three-year contract, Geiser’s tenure as leader of a district with approximately 4,400 students and nearly 283 FTE teaching positions will begin July 1. Moriarity said the district would hold “some events and opportunities for the community to get to meet her … even before July 1.

With a Belmont Police Officer stationed at the door of the Belmont Gallery of Art in the Homer Building and roughly a dozen in attendance, the committee spent a considerable amount of time reviewing the candidates’ credentials and reactions to their district visits in mid-March with committee members, teachers, students, and community members.

By the time the committee members spoke on what they believed were important for the district to advance in the next three years, it became clear the committee would be selecting from the pair of Belmontian candidates, Carter and Geiser.

When what would be the only straw poll was taken, Geiser received the first four votes from member Jamal Saeh, Katie Bowen, Moriarity and Amy Checkoway before Carter received the last two recommendations from Mike Crowley and Jeff Liberty.

Liberty spoke of Carter’s accomplishment in completely turning around the education proficiency and management of Watertown Middle School which he headed for 13 years.

Saeh also focused on leadership for his support of Geiser, relating to a reference who called the Billerica assistant superintendent “smart and battle tested … relentless about doing the best” … “and forged by fire” when she participated in two major system changes.

“At this point, Geiser is ready for Belmont,” said Saeh.

Checkoway said Geiser would have less of a transition in coming to Belmont, which Moriarity seconded, noting “she is really attuned to what’s going on in Belmont, the politics and how the town operates” and that “she shared values and beliefs that match our community.”

“She mentioned that if she were coming here, she would really want to reinforce and continue and celebrate what going on but also drive towards academic excellence and the experience of Belmont,” said Moriarity.

“It’s good to have somebody that has that vision for improvement on what we have.”

Liberty said a powerful reference for Carter that when responding to conflict, it was “never with anger.”

“That suggests a certain emotional maturity that one needs to have in this role,” said Liberty, who pointed to Carter’s complete turn around of Watertown Middle School as its principal for 13 years.

When the final vote was taken, Crowley switched his straw poll recommendation and voted for Geiser with Liberty the sole ‘no’ vote.

The vote ended what a portion of residents and those who participated in the selection exercise felt was a flawed process with many pointing to the school committee’s management of the process, which included an abbreviated time frame, questions of transparency and a conflict between the selection and school committees – both sides issued articles on the dispute – that resulted in heated comments online.

After the meeting was adjourned, Moriarity said while she was happy to defend the process, “I think there is evidence that there is still a lot of frustration in the district amongst parents. And that makes me sad. I was hoping that this process would really help bring the community together.”

“We really tired to gather as much feedback as possible and involve as many people in the visits,” said Moriarity, noting that a superintendent candidate survey was employed which nearly 200 people participated as well as the creation of vetting groups of various constituencies including students that advised the committee.

“I think there’s obviously still more that needs to be done and we need to play a role in that. I really hope that [Geiser] can help with that,” said Moriarity.

“I don’t dismiss their feelings at all. I really value their feelings. But I also don’t dismiss the process.”

Dr. Jill Geiser

About Jill Geiser

Joining the Billerica school system in 2017 as the assistant superintendent to Tim Piwowar (who, coincidently, was appointed the next superintendent in Westwood on Monday), Geiser was the principal of the Pre K-8 Healey School in Somerville from 2012. She also served as a middle school principal and high school assistant principal in the Lawrence schools. In addition, she is an adjunct professor at Boston College’s Lynch School, taught in Arizona and New York City, was a foreign language instructor in Thailand, and spent two years in Nepal as a Peace Corps volunteer.

Geiser holds a doctor of education degree from Boston College and graduate degrees from the Teachers College at Columbia University and UMass/Boston. In addition, she enrolled at the University of Delaware where she earned a Bachelor of Arts.

Planning Board Ends Public Hearing On Belmont Hill School Parking Plan; Debate, Possible Vote On April 11

Photo: The level of discord for the Belmont Hill School’s parking plan has been evident by the number of yard signs in town against the 140 parking lot

After four months of public comment and increasing discord, the Belmont Planning Board voted 3-1 with one abstention to end the public debate on the controversial parking plan by the Belmont Hill School to place approximately 140 parking spaces and a 7,000 sq. ft. facilities building on seven acres of the last remaining parcel of semi-wild land in the neighborhood.

“At some point, we need to close the public hearing so that we can get on to making a decision,” said Planning Board Chair Matt Lowrie at Tuesday’s virtual meeting.

Lowrie said ending the hearing does not halt the board from securing additional information. “So, for example, if we close the public hearing and there’s something else that we decided that we didn’t find out or found out and forgot, we get to ask,” he said.

“So closing the public hearing is simply the next step in the process. And I think we’re there,” said Lowrie. After little discussion among the board members, the vote was taken, and the contentious project is one vote in April from becoming a reality.

Tuesday’s vote begins the final stage of the town’s design and site plan review of the plan by the private school – celebrating its centennial this year – to develop residential parcels it purchased over the past two decades a few hundred feet from its campus. The 7-12 school with 450 students contends the new parking facility will meet the demands of student commuters, be a safer location for student to walk to the school, and will alleviate overcrowding on side streets and main roads during school events.

Critics of the plan – more than 2,700 citizens have signed a petition opposing the project – contend the parking lot will destroy habitat for a host of wildlife and cut down old-growth trees during a climate crisis while increasing traffic congestion and safety issues throughout the Belmont Hill neighborhood.

“With the public hearing … now closed, we move to the deliberation process,” said Lowrie, who suggested the board’s discussion on the parking plan take place at its next meeting on Tuesday, April 11. And while he hopes it will render a decision at its next meeting, a final vote – a simple yea or nay – will not happen until the board is ready to vote, said Lowrie.

The board has 20 days after closing the public hearing to render a decision, or the motion is automatically approved. If needed, the school has given the board an extension to April 19 to complete its work.

If the plan is approved, a draft opinion will be issued. Lowrie said Town Attorney George Hall states that a statement of reasons for denying the project is required if the plan is defeated.

Before asking for the vote, Lowrie addressed a motion submitted – and seconded – at a previous board meeting to dismiss or suspend the Design Site Plan Review process pending a study by the school on a 35 percent reduction in the parking area and a large-scale review of traffic and pedestrian safety plans.

Lowrie said after spending “a lot of time talking to town counsel” Hall, it became apparent that a motion to force the school to review its plan is “something we lack the authority to do” under Belmont by-laws.

“On my time on the board, we have never dismissed the design site plan review except for the applicant’s request, which is a different matter entirely,” said Lowrie. “It’s illegal … statutorily. Every lawyer who’s looked at this has said the same to me.”

Lowrie also put a damper on board discussions of its ability to require either improvements or a study of improvements by the school outside of the three areas that are part of the project. While such demands have been part of developments that require a Special Permit, “you cannot use design site plan review as a vehicle to require the school to make improvements elsewhere,” said Lowrie, who noted the suggested changes would be the town’s responsibility.

As Frustration To Belmont Hill Parking Plan Peaks, Select Board Reads ‘Riot Act’ To Critics Of Process, Planning Board Chair

Photo: Mark Paolillo, chair of the Select Board

Mark Paolillo anticipated the Select Board he chairs would receive emails and phone calls related to the controversial plan by the Belmont Hill School to turn an acre-and-half of rare urban woodland into a parking lot for 150 vehicles and a facilities building.

What he didn’t expect was the increasing vitriol many of the messages carried. Strident demands for volunteers on committees to be removed, allegations of favoritism from the head of the Planning Board and calls for the Select Board to step in take control of the review process.

The next virtual meeting of the Planning Board in its discussion of the Belmont Hill School Parking Plan will be Tuesday, March 14 at 7 p.m. You can find the Zoom link here.

But it was an email that included a threat of ‘a riot’ if the board did not act that was a step too far. Paolillo decided it was time to read the “riot act” to the small number of critics who had been raising the heat on the controversial project.

“We’ve also gotten numbers of emails, and I think the recent tone the tenor of the emails has taken a direction that is totally unacceptable,” said Paolillo. “Perhaps such emails are not meant literally, but any comment that suggests or hints of violence in any way will not be tolerated by this board.”

While the Select Board agenda listed the as “Belmont Hill School update with the Chair of the Planning Board,” Paolillo said the board would not take public comment since that should only be directed to the Planning Board. Rather, he read a statement that clarified the Select Board position in relations to the tone of comments and the board’s involvement to the project.

“We have to respect one another civility in our public discourse and assume goodwill on the part of anyone who participates in our local government emails that threatened ‘a riot in the streets’ unless the planning board or the Select Board acts in a certain way are not acceptable contributions to our public dialogue,” he said. “Totally unacceptable.”

In his statement to the 20 residents at Town Hall and dozens attending via Zoom, Paolillo said while many residents and abutters to the project are asking for the Select Board to get involved in the deliberation, “we have no purview whatsoever to conduct any type of a hearing as it relates to site plan review. That falls under within our zoning bylaws and the planning board.”

Opponents to the school’s parking scheme are urging the Select Board to back a request by abutters to require a Development Impact Report for the project, in which a deep dive would commence to determine the scope of the report including environment, social, physical and infrastructure impact, at which time the town would issue a Request For Proposal that a professional development team would perform. 

But Paolillo nixed that request as going beyond the Select Board’s purview.

“So folks, please, understand because I’ve done hundreds and hundreds of emails on this, that it’s not our responsibility as a Select Board to get involved in that,” said Paolillo. “While the board appoints the member to the planning board, its involvement ends there.”

Increasingly, the ire of critics has been directed at Matt Lowrie, who accepted the chair of the Planning Board after Steve Pinkerton suddenly resigned in September just as the Belmont Hill School application for the site plan review was submitted. (In an ironic sidebar, Lowrie was preparing to resign from the board with Pinkerton in October of 2022 as he is anticipating a move from Belmont.)

A growing number of abutters are seeking the Select Board to replace or dismiss Lowrie who they contend has shown by his actions since the start of the site review an overt bias in favor of the private school.

But as with refusing to inject themselves into the planning process, Paolillo said while the board does appoint the members of the Planning Board, there is no process of removing them.

Belmont’s Town Consul George Hall rendered his legal opinion on whether the select board can remove those they appoint, including planning board members. Hall’s answer was succinct: “No”, nowhere in existing state law indicates where the appointing agents also have the ability to “fire” members.

Even if such a mechanism were in place, Paolillo said the current Select Board sees no reason to seek the removal of Lowrie.

“I know you folks want us to remove him and threatened certain things for correct we don’t, we’re not going to remove him. We have confidence in the ability to serve,” said Paolillo.

“The Select Board has competence in the chair of the planning board, Matt Lowry and the other members of the planning board. It supports them in their work to reach decisions that are in the best interest of downline,”

“The Planning Board has what is sometimes an unenviable task amongst themselves. There may be different perspectives, and they do their best to fact that these perspectives in the opinions from the public into any final decision,” said Paolillo.

When an attendee asked what mechanism citizens can utilize to blue-pencil Lowrie from the Planning Board, a collective shrug of the shoulders was given. After the meeting, town officials and Select Board members theorized it would take a series of steps involving Town Meeting votes, receiving approval by the State Legislature and subsequent changes to town bylaws that would in all likelihood result in “a real s**tshow,” according to one participant.

“We understand support the right of residents, so I’m here tonight, you’re going to express their opinions and take passionate positions, but is essential to remember that thoughtful and caring residents may legitimately have different views on this,” said Paolillo.

Calling from the Orlando International Airport, Lowrie updated the Select Board on the parking plan. Planning Board is close to receiving the results of the two peer reviews’ on stormwater and traffic/congestion.

“Both of those changes were made by the Belmont Hill School at my initial suggestion, followed by extensive negotiations among the town administrator and abutters … [that] resulted in letters of support from people who had been quite vocally against it,” said Lowrie. He noted that peer review process have resulted removing parking spaces, extending a sidewalk and increasing the amount of impervious surfaces “[the Belmont Hill School] didn’t necessarily agree with them, but they certainly agreed to make the changes.”

“Because of those changes, the stormwater analysis is probably not impacted a whole lot, but it’s impacted a little. The traffic is probably not impacted a whole lot, but it could be impacted a little and so we’re waiting for final reports,” said Lowrie.

Lowrie said the Planning Board will receive the peer review at its March 14 meeting “and then, I think from there, we close the public hearing, have our vote and issue an opinion.” He said he is hopeful to have it done by the end of March.

Paolillo’s statement and clarification on the Select Board’s inability to involve itself in the process did not go over-well with many in the audience.

“The planning board is here for the community. And there are quite a lot of people in the community who wrote letters about Mr. Lowery’s behavior. Just because one person … wrote a nasty letter to [the board] doesn’t mean that no one should oversee Mr. Lowery’s behavior,” said a resident. “You’re giving him a free pass and saying ‘Thank you’ for being a jerk.”

Outside the board room, opponents of the project were disappointed that they could not express their concerns. Marina Popova who lives just across Route 2 in Arlington said “there are issues that were raised by the public and those issues should be addressed. They should be investigated and we should know the decision,” Popover said.

But with the Belmont Hill parking process, Lowrie’s decisions are “unquestionable. Whatever the one person does, that’s the law. But nobody is above the law. Everybody should be answerable to their peers, to the public, eventually, because that’s who they’re working for, Popover said.

For Courtney Hayes-Sturgeon of Common Street, Lowrie’s “one sided” leadership and long-standing opposition to a development impact report will have a powerful and detrimental effect on the long-standing trees and birds and wildlife that occupy the six total acres owned by Belmont Hill School.

“Lowrie won’t even let anyone talk about the flora and the fauna because he’s tired of hearing about it. It’s as if it doesn’t exist,” said Hayes-Sturgeon.

“People are attached to this area. It’s right next to their home safe watch the thoughts of owls and all these animals, and they know that you know every little piece of trees that we’ve chopped down, or it’s just one more assault on the environment,” she said.

Belmont Schools Announce Three Finalist For Superintendent’s Post; Interviews, Public Forums March 14, 15

Photo: The finalists for the Belmont school superintendent (from left) Dr. James ‘Kimo’ Carter, Dr. Jill Geiser and Dr. Carlee Simon

After an accelerated search process, the Belmont School District announced the three finalists as the next Schools Superintendent on Friday, March 10.

The candidates are:

  • Dr. James ‘Kimo’ Carter, Assistant Superintendent, Weston Public Schools
  • Dr. Jill Geiser, Assistant Superintendent, Billerica Public Schools
  • Dr. Carlee Simon, former Superintendent of Schools in Alachua County, FL

A 22-member search committee of residents selected the candidates, parents, school committee members, administrators, union officials, and teachers.

Carter joined the Weston Public Schools on July 2018 as the new assistant Superintendent of Teaching and Learning. Before his move to Weston, Kimo was the principal of Watertown Middle School from 2005. In addition, he was the assistant Principal of Hawthorne Brook Middle School in Townsend and a social studies teacher in Billerica. 

Carter enrolled at Wesleyan University, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree. In addition, he holds a Master of Arts in Teaching Degree in History and Education from Boston College, a Master of Arts in Educational Leadership from Harvard University, and an Ed.D in Educational Administration from Boston College.

Joining the Billerica schools in 2017, Geiser was the principal of the Pre K-8 Healey School in Somerville from 2012. She also served as a middle school principal and high school assistant principal in the Lawrence schools. In addition, she is an adjunct professor at Boston College, taught in Arizona and New York City, was a Foreign Language Instructor in Thailand and was a Peace Corps volunteer for two years in Nepal.

Geiser holds a doctor of education degree from Boston College and graduate degrees from the Teachers College at Columbia University and UMASS Boston. In addition, she enrolled at the University of Delaware where she earned a Bachelor of Arts.

Simon currently runs the non-profit Families Deserve Inclusive Schools. She was the Superintendent of the school board of Alachua County in Florida from Dec. 2020 to March 2022.

She was an Adjunct Faculty Member at the University of North Florida from July 2019 – Dec. 2020 and the National Education Finance Academy Executive Director for three years.

For eighty years, from 2010 to 2018, Simon was an Assistant Professor in the Dept. of Educational Leadership at the University of Cincinnati. She also was the Subject Matter Expert at the Florida Virtual School from 2007 to 2011. Simon also taught math in a high school setting in two schools in Florida.

Simon enrolled at the University of Florida, earning her Bachelor of Design in Architectural Design in 2000. She received a Master of Education in 2007, a Ph.D. in Education Administration and Policy in 2010, and is expecting a Doctor of Philosophy in Design, Construction, and Urban Planning (Educational Facilities) in 2023, all from the University of Florida.

Dates of interviews and public forums

The following dates have been scheduled for the superintendent finalist candidates for their interviews and public forums: March 14 and 15

Candidates will spend a whole day in the district touring the schools and meeting with administrators and staff. The public is invited to attend the School Committee interviews and the public forums to meet the candidates at the Chenery Middle School auditorium. These meetings will be recorded but not live-streamed. Once all candidate interviews and public forums have been completed, the recordings will be made available along with a survey link for feedback on each candidate from the public at Belmont Public Schools Superintendent Search.

March 14

3:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.: School Committee Interview with Dr. Jill Geiser
4:45 p.m. to 5:45 p.m.: School Committee Interview with Dr. Carlee Simon
6 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.: Public Forum with Dr. Jill Geiser
6:40 p.m. to 7:10 p.m.: Public Forum with Dr. Carlee Simon

March 15

4 p.m. to 5 p.m.: Interview with Dr. Kimo Carter
6 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.: Public Forum with Dr. Kimo Carter

All events will take place in the Chenery Auditorium

Breaking: Snow Emergency Parking Ban Starts At Midnight; Trash/Recycling Will Be Picked Up

Photo: Snow emergency parking ban starts at midnight

Belmont has declared a Snow Emergency Parking Ban on all roadways and municipal parking lots, effective at midnight, Tuesday, Feb. 28, and continuing until further notice. 

All vehicles parked violating the ban will be towed at the owner’s expense. 

Trash and recycling will be picked up per the regular schedule on Tuesday.

Belmont Town Hall and other town offices will open at 9 a.m.

The Office of Community Development would like to remind residents that 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 removed or treated from sidewalks to a width of at least 36 inches. 

Refer to the town’s website for further information regarding winter weather and the Town’s snow removal bylaw.

Second Bite: Municipal Rink Returns Before Voters As Select Board OKs Debt Exclusion On Town Election Ballot

Photo: Members of the Municipal Skating Rink Building Committee before the Select Board Feb. 6

The Belmont Select Board unanimously approved a ballot question on the April 4 annual Town Election to allow residents to vote on a debt exclusion to pay for a new, year-round municipal rink and sports facility, replacing the current Concord Avenue facility that was called “effectively dead.”

“This is not about an old rink and a new rink. This is about a new rink or no rink,” said Adam Dash, at the board’s Monday, Feb. 6 meeting.

This will be a second bite at the apple for the new rink after the initial proposal went down to defeat, 6,051 to 5,710, in the 2022 November general election.

The decision by the Select Board was not surprising as the night it was defeated, the board’s chair, Mark Paolillo said the closeness of the vote and the deteriorating condition of the existing 55-year-old rink would likely see the board revisit a possible debt exclusion.

What pushed the effort to fund a new rink was a month of dramas at the rink as warm weather and faulty equipment delayed the rinks opening and operations by more than a month. The headaches started with leaking condensers, the chiller that is about to fail, and finding an existing refrigerant supply that the US EPA has banned. On top of mechanical issue, an unusually warm late fall prevented rink ice to properly form as the building’s envelop is open to the outside elements. It took nearly a net of $30,000 in emergency town funds and a cold snap to get the rink up and running for the 2022-3 season.

And the price tag to allow the rink to open next fall in its current consition will be $275,000, said Ted Galante, the project’s architect. That doesn’t include the cost replacing numerous systems that are about to fail in the near future: plumbing, HVAC, the hot water heater, and it’s compromised electrical system.

When asked by Paolillo by if he would invest in the existing structure, Galante’s answer was unequivocal: “No.”

“The rink’s broken. I think it’s effectively dead. We can live through March and that’s probably the end of it,” said Dash.

The Building Committee presented the board with a 2.0 version of the past design, a leaner, cleaner, and less expensive second look at the proposal defeated by approximately 350 votes three months previous.

“This building is kept very simple,” said Galante, noting a low-sloping roof with $1.1 million of solar panels, and an entry that will have visual access to Concord Avenue and the playing fields west of Harris Field.

The most significant change is it will be “brand new” with no attempt to keep recycling the steel beams or other recoverable material. This will allow the structure to be reduced in size from 48,000 sq. ft. to 40,313 sq. ft. in a rectangular-shaped building located slightly north of the existing rink. The rink will occupy 30,000 sq. ft. Cost reductions from the original proposal include eliminating the proposed 3,000 sq. ft. observation mezzanine, 1,000 sq. ft. space for the DPW, and leaving the White Field House in place. The new shape will allow for possible future buildout when the White Field House is removed.

The entry to the new municipal skating rink

“I think what’s come out [of the latest design] was fantastic. I think it’s an efficient, clean design that provides what’s needed,” said Roy Epstein of the Select Board.

While there are design cuts from the first design, “we should be clear that the program that we’re putting forward has not been compromised,” said Tom Caputo, member of the building committee, as the rink will still have four dressing rooms – mostly for hockey events – and four locker rooms designed to serve the various different sports throughout the fall, winter, and spring that are currently in the Field House.

Galante said this structure would be a year-round operation, which will allow the town’s Recreation Department will offer activities such as town camp activity and possibly tennis courts during the seven months the rink will be without ice, an idea advocated by neighbor Anne Paulson.

The total cost of the new proposal is $29,953,000 million, a reduction of $5.1 million from the original cost defeated in November. Supporters are hopeful to reduce the total cost fronted by taxpayers with fundraisers and business donations.

“What the town needs to hear is that this is not just a skating rink,” said Building Committee Chair Mark Haley, noting how the structure serves the high school teams, the Recreation Department, and as a staging area for events such as road races and community functions.

Epstein said he sees a new rink as a community asset as the Underwood Pool was when it was rebuilt in 2015. “When we built a new, modern pool, membership rocketed, he said, noting that as a 12 month facility usage will increase with those who don’t skate or play hockey.

“This is going to serve our community. It’s going to be an addition to our town,” said Dante Muzzioli of the Building Committee.

If passed in April, Haley said the demolition of the existing rink would take place immediately after the vote – with the assistance of town funding – which will cause the youth and high school hockey programs to lose only a single season as the new structure could open as early as the late fall of 2024.

“I think voters need to decide based on all this new information, this new design and the lower cost,” said Dash. “And if it’s no, then the people have spoken.

Special Town Meeting Places Appointed Treasurer Question On The April 4 Town Election Ballot

Photo: Special Town Meeting approved the one article on the agenda

In an overwhelming show of support for transforming how the town runs its finances, the Belmont Special Town Meeting voted Monday, Jan. 30, to place a ballot question on the 2023 annual Town Election to convert the elected town treasurer’s post to an appointed position.

The vote – 195 yes, 52 no, with one abstention – will place before town voters at the April 4 election the opportunity to implement a major recommendation proposed by the 2022 Collins Center Report in reshaping Belmont’s fiscal structure or to retain the current framework that stretches back to the town’s founding in 1859.

On Monday, the 247 members who attended the virtual meeting expressed a clear preference for change.

“The town would be best served by being able to hire the most qualified person available, not the most popular resident who wins an election,” said Belmont Select Board Adam Dash who presented the board’s position.

In his final Town Meeting as a member of the Select Board, Dash noted the Treasurer’s position requires a state-regulated set of technical skills and experience which, by, “restricting the pool of people to just Belmont residents prevents us from casting a wide net which includes looking outside for the hire.” According to the Collins Center report, 821 Belmont residents work as financial managers in the finance and insurance industry, while Middlesex County has 40,000 in the same occupation.

Mark Paolillo, chair of the Select Board, said adopting significant change in the town’s financial management – as recommended by the Collins Center report and advised by a 2011 Division of Local Services analysis of the town – which has been hampered for years by the lack of a unified approach in the budget process.

“The town of Belmont is one of the most decentralized towns in Massachusetts … and it really diminishes our effectiveness around financial management,” said Paolillo.

The meeting also heard from Treasurer Floyd Carman, who decided not to seek re-election in April, ending 18 years in the post. Carman – who received unanimous praise from the meeting for his stellar tenure at treasurer – primarily spoke on the duties and requirements of the job. Carman did not expand on the Special Town Meeting article itself, remaining agnostic on his personal views of the article.

If voters approve the ballot question, the town will begin a process of advertising for and vetting candidates before making a selection while the Treasurer’s Office staff runs the day to day operations. If the measure fails, the person who receives the most votes, including write-ins, will serve three years as treasurer.

While state statute names the Select Board as the appointing agency, Belmont’s Town Administrators Act passed in 2014 supersedes the state law, with Town Administrator Patrice Garvin holding that responsibility.

During the 66 minutes of debate, many members supporting the article concurred with the Collins Center’s findings that Belmont needs to revamp its management structure to meet current and future budget challenges effectively.

“The town is in a financial crisis and I strongly support making this position an appointed one for all the reasons described in the Collins Center report,” said Roger Fussa, precinct 8. Speaking from the report, Fussa said effectively dealing with Belmont’s structural deficit is rooted in its financial organization. If the residents and town officials back away from the 19 Collin Center recommendations being proposed – which an appointed treasurer is considered a priority – long-term solutions “will bare little fruit,” said Fussa.

Others believed Belmont can no longer roll the dice on selecting one of the most important posts in town based on politics.

“This position is simply too important and requires too much expertise to leave up to a vote and up to chance,” said Nicole Dorn, precinct 1, who works in a financial role for a public entity. “There is an incredible amount of complexity and compliance that goes into these roles. Imagine if we got someone in this position without the skills to manage our bond rating and it tanks? That would have a greater negative impact on our town that perhaps any action taken by the Select Board or Town Administrator or even ourselves.”

While politics plays an integral and essential role in shaping Belmont’s future, Paul Joy, precinct 7, said some positions in town government require “a different set of skills and experience, a level of professionalism that simply can’t be politized.”

“It is imperative that we separate politics from the professional role in town government to ensure that our financial health remains strong and secure,” he said.

Those seeking to preserve the current elected Treasurer’s post view the proposed change as taking the resident’s voice out of the selection process. Judith Ananian Sarno, precinct 3, said “my perspective is our town officials are proposing we take the hiring decision away from the 1,000s of voters … and then want to make the change to making it a position hired by one person. In this case, the town administrator with sole authority to hire,” noted Sarno.

“[Currenty] our elected treasurer is required to be a Belmont resident and in my view, this ensures that the persons running for the office will have a commitment to serving Belmonts financial interests is not necessarily true of the professionals we hire from outside Belmont,” Sarno said.

Judith Feinleib, precinct 6, questioned the “significant unintended consequences” to the town if the Treasurer is no longer providing an independent voice on financial matters.

Feinleib argued – counter to the finding in the Collins Center report the town has too many separate financial entities – that Belmont’s “unusual but effective governmental structure” in which the elected offices such as the Select Board, Town Clerk, Assessors and Treasurer, provides a balance not just to each other, but to influential volunteer committees, ie. the Planning Board and the Warrant Committee, “on which Belmont depends for so much of the work that is needed to keep our town running.”

Feinleib said this “healthy balance” of multiple power structures will be lost if the Treasurer is made into “a mid-level appointed bureaucrat,” resulting in the volunteer committees and “our unelected town administrator … will have too much power.”

Breaking: Belmont Police Report ‘Possible’ Shooting On Olmsted Drive, Two At Area Hospitals

Photo: Belmont Police investigating shooting on Olmsted Drive

Two people were likely shot Monday afternoon in an Olmsted Drive parking lot and are being treated at area hospitals, according to a Belmont Police press release.

The preliminary investigation indicates this was not a random act of violence, according to police.

The police as of 8 p.m. continue to investigate what they are calling a “possible shooting” after finding evidence at the scene and learning that two possible gunshot victims were being treated at local hospitals, said Belmont Police Chief James MacIssac.

The press release said Belmont officers responded to a pair of 911 calls reporting shots were fired in a parking lot off Olmsted Drive around 5:20 p.m. Police found spent shell casings and a magazine but no victims or suspects. Olmsted Drive is the location of Waverley Woods apartments.

After an investigation, police learned two possible victims with gunshot wounds were being treated at local hospitals.

Anyone with information on this incident is asked to call Belmont Police at 617-484-1212.

More to come.

Belmont Treasurer Carman Will Not Seek Re-election, Opens Up Vote On Appointed Post

Photo: A 2014 photo of Town Treasurer Floyd Carman

Floyd Carman, Belmont’s long time Treasurer, announced late Friday, Dec. 30, his decision not to seek re-election to the post in the April 2023 town election.

“I am retiring and not running for re-election on April 4, 2023, as your Elected Town Treasurer and Tax Collector after 18 years on the job,” said Carman in an email to residents. “It has been a privilege and honor to serve Belmont.”

The announcement makes official what was speculated in the fall when the Select Board’s Roy Epstein revealed that Carman would not seek a seventh three year term as the town’s leading financial official. Carman would later say in November that he would decide whether to run to keep the post “sometime in the new year.”

With Carman’s decision, the Select Board will move forward with its plan to seek Town Meeting approval to restructure the Treasurer’s position from an elected position to one which is appointed by the Town Administrator. The Board is seeking to implement one of the major recommendations proposed in a report by the Collins Center for Public Management released in August 2022. The report called Belmont “one of the most decentralized town structures of its size existing in the Commonwealth” resulting in a “significant diffusion of responsibilities and authority across the executive branch.” The Center made nearly 20 recommendations including the change to an appointed treasurer to allow a more cohesive approach to budgeting and financial management.

The Special Town Meeting will be held in February for member to vote on an article to establish an appointed treasurer post. If adopted, a ballot question will be presented to voters at the Town Election. During this time, any eligible voter can run for the open post to fill the three year term. If the voters approve the appointed treasurer post, the winner in the general election will serve until the legislature approves the voters initiative which will occur in a matter of weeks. If the voters rejects the proposal, the winner will serve the three year term.

The Select Board has come out in strong support for the appointed post as have many members of the influential Warrant Committee. Additionally, Elizabeth Dionne, the sole candidate seeking to fill the seat on the Select Board held by Adam Dash who is not running for re-election, has said she supports a appointed treasurer. Critics of the change have said there are highly qualified residents who can fill the post who will then be beholden to the voters rather than a non-elected Town Administrator.

Breaking: Dash Will Not Seek Re-Election To Select Board In April Town Election

Photo: Adam Dash

Two term Belmont Select Board member Adam Dash announced he will not seek re-election to the three-member body in the upcoming Town Election this coming April 2023.

Dash made the statement in a press release on Thursday, Nov. 17.

“When I was first elected, I knew that I wanted to serve more than one term because three years was not enough time to accomplish my goals, but that I did not want to serve indefinitely because new people should get a chance to serve,” Dash said in his announcement.

“Today, I am comfortable with what we have done, and I am ready to turn over my seat to someone new.”

Dash’s decision creates an opening on the board that oversees Belmont’s town government as it begins the process of implementing recommendations from the Collins Center report on structural changes to town governance and as Belmont enters a period of fiscal uncertainity.

Known for his lawyerly demeanor – Dash is an attorney with a practice in Cambridge – and someone who argues points in a cordial manner, the Goden Street resident has created effective partnerships with each of his board colleagues.

Dash’s tenure will be known for his leadership during the Covid-19 pandemic which occupied most of his second term (Dash was re-elected in June 2020 when the election was pushed back by two months; he ran unopposed).

“Having been re-elected during the height of the COVID pandemic in 2020, I spent untold hours helping our dedicated team navigate the medical and financial crises, and I am proud to say that we adapted and continued to serve the community,” he said.

Dash was first elected in 2017, defeating Guy Carbone, 63 percent to 37 percent as Dash won seven of eight precincts. A member of the financial watchdog Warrant Committee since 2009, Dash’s profile rose to prominence in 2015 as the public face of the “Yes for Belmont” campaign, successfully arguing the need for a $4.5 million multi-year override.

Dash pointed to the board’s accomplishments in the past six years including, as a member of the now defunct Light Board, to bring Belmont Light to the brink of 100 percent green energy; increased the number of women and people of color on Town boards and committees; built a new High School; renovated and added onto the Police Station and DPW buildings.

In addition, there was the hiring of new Town Administrator, Police Chief, Fire Chief, Town Accountant and Belmont Light General Manager; chose a route for the Community Path; re-designed the Town’s health insurance plan; passed a Housing Production Plan and new liquor license regulations; banned plastic bags; while successfully maintaining Belmont’s “coveted AAA bond rating.”

“I want to thank everyone who put their trust in me. I also want to thank the Town’s dedicated employees who have worked through difficult times to continue making Belmont the town we love.  We would not have accomplished anything without them,” said Dash.