Belmont Is A Mess! Select Board Targets Growing Trash Complaints On Street, In Parks

Photo: Just another overflowing receptacle in Belmont

When Mark Paolillo decided not to run for re-election to the then Board of Selectmen in 2019, it was mentioned at the time that board meetings would miss his memorable discharges of distain for people who left garbage, trash and, yes, dog poop on the town’s streets and parks.

“This is outrageous, simply outrageous. This can’t happen,” he cried when viewing the aftermath – beer cans, food containers, plastic bags – of an adult softball game in 2016.

So with Paolillo winning a return to the board earlier this year, it was only a matter of time before the public would hear his clarion call:

”Leonard Street is a mess!” Paolillo said at the Monday, Sept 20 board meeting, barely containing his disgust of anyone knowingly throwing trash in overflowing barrels at parks and in the business centers.

But Paolillo’s anger is not attention seeking but well warranted as anyone who travels through Belmont Center, by eateries around town or in any park or playground can testify, trash is a real problem throughout the Town of Homes. Containers outside the town’s favorite take-out places are overwhelmed while barrels in parks are swamped with all manner of garbage and waste.

“The trash levels that we’re seeing now are pretty substantial,” Jay Marcotte, Department of Public Works director, told the board.

Topped out trash cans and garbage left on the ground is not a new problem. Over the years particular locations such as the aforementioned softball diamond off Concord Avenue, Belmont Center or at Joey’s Park at the Winn Brook School which has become an impromptu site for children’s parties, are in need of collection specifically during the weekend.

The trash cascade begins on Friday evening and continues all day Saturday as residents and visitors come for grab a bite to eat or to attend kids events at parks. And the trash doesn’t stay where its bought or brought. A study from a newly formed local environmental group, Clean Green Belmont, discovered the majority of waste at Clay Pit Pond comes from Belmont Center eateries.

And the jump in trash is more than just a litter or esthetic issue. All that out-in-the-open garbage quickly turns into a public health problem as improperly discarded food contributes to the introduction of rats and other rodents.

So how did the town get in such as predicament? According to Marcotte, much of the increase in waste began in 2019 when the town eliminated overtime for the DPW’s Saturday pickup schedule in a cost savings move. And despite the town’s hauler, Waste Management, emptying town reciprocals three times a week, on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, it does not keep up with the volume for waste produced over the weekend.

Two years ago, the DPW issued a Carry in-Carry out policy that is successful at National Parks but didn’t work in Belmont other than making many residents angry that waste barrels were removed.

In addition, the town had “a very detailed discussion about trash” with Leonard Street businesses when the street became a one way to promote dining and shopping in the Center which led to an agreement that retailers and eateries would install their own trash receptacles which they would have removed.

”I think what we are starting to see is that’s not happening,” said Town Administrator Patrice Garvin.

Vice Chair Roy Epstein said it would be a reasonable takeaway to say that self policing by residents on controlling trash “is not working.”

“This is an example of a public good where the way to make sure it gets done is to have the DPW do it and not rely on somebody’s good intentions,” said Epstein.

Marcotte agreed, saying the return of a DPW weekend collect “is a venture we should look into it and start implementing sooner than later.” Garvin pegged the overtime price tag at $10,000 for two workers from April 1 until the first snow fall in late autumn/early winter.

The board agreed the dollars spent in reinstating the DPW pickup “are insignificant considering the benefit it will have to the community,” said Paolillo.

Garvin will “use her usual resourcefulness” to find the money, said Epstein, either by tapping into town resources or rearranging DPW schedules to allow for personnel to work on Saturday. A plan coming from Garvin will be presented to the board at its next meeting.

Despite Changing The Date, Belmont Town Day Still Brings Out The Crowd

Photo: Another great Town Day in Belmont

Gerry wasn’t worried.

Gerry, as in Gerry Dickhaut, the owner of Champions Sporting Goods in the heart of Belmont Center, wasn’t worried about the reminiscence of hurricanes washing out the day, or the Labor Day three-day holiday syphoning away residents and especially the surge of the Covid-19 Delta-variant – the reason for the date change – turning businesses away.

The Belmont Center Business Association annual Town Day was going to happen on Sept. 4 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Period.

And under a cloudless, sparkling late summer sky, the 30th edition of Town Day turned out to be just what Belmont ordered.

“I’ve been here since 6 a.m. directing the set up,” said Dickhaut, sitting in front of his sports store on Leonard Street. He said he had to give special thanks to the crew from the Department of Public Works “who’ve been in the center since 5:30 a.m. working closely with me to get everything (setting up tables, placing garbage cans, getting rides placed in the proper locations) done on time.”

While there was a slightly fewer table and eateries – no hot dogs or sausages this year! – the crowds came out with many youngsters having a last weekend of fun and games before the school year begins. There was the robot that captured ball then launched them into the air, carnival rides, food, tables manned by non-profits or businesses making a profit, bouncy castles and kids getting to see the inside of fire trucks.

“And the band’s good,” said Dickhaut, who once again sponsored the dunk tank. “As long as the band’s good.”

Belmont Fire Dept. Dedicates New Engine 2 Then Responds To Alarm Minutes Later

Photo: Belmont Fire’s new Engine 2

It didn’t take long for Belmont Fire to get to use its newest apparatus. Just minutes after the department placed the 2021 E-One pumper in service on Aug. 19, the newly dedicated Engine 2 responded to its first alarm from its new home on Leonard Street in Belmont Center for a flooded basement.

And the department has a pretty versatile truck. The pumper features a 1,500 gallon per minute pump, integrated foam delivery system, and has been configured to support the diverse missions of the modern fire service. In addition to its firefighting capability Engine 2 has the capability to support hazardous materials responses, technical rescue incidents, and provide advanced life support medical care.

“Together with a crew of skilled firefighters this truck optimizes our service capability and keeps our residents safer with the latest technology,” said Belmont Fire Chief David DeStefano at the dedication, joined by the Select Board’s Roy Epstein. “Based here at Station 2 this company protects half of the entire town with rapid response and efficient service.”

DeStefano thanked the firefighters for their commitment to the department, especially those who served on the committee that wrote the specifications for the apparatus: Assistant Chief Wayne Haley, Capt. Andrew Tobio, Capt. Robert Wollner, Lt. Gerrard Benoit and firefighter Ross Vona, as well as Belmont residents for their support in funding the purchase of the truck.

Belmont Town Day Set For A Late Summer Return

Photo: The return of Town Day is coming in September.

After a postponement and an expected delay, Belmont’s long-running Town Day celebration is returning to Belmont Center although a bit later than its usual time.

The Select Board voted on Monday, June 21 to approve a request by the Belmont Center Business Association to hold the 30th annual Belmont Town Day on Saturday, Sept. 4, from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. on Leonard Street in the hub of the its business center.

Residents and visitors can expect the usual attractions: a dog contest (Belmont’s version of the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show), kiddy rides, carnival games and food, a dunk tank, business and groups tables, food for sale and the like.

Due to Belmont’s austerity budget, town services such as police and fire details and DPW crews, will now be paid by the sponsors. Select Board member Mark Paolillo did ask if the business association would be responsible for cleaning up at the conclusion of the pony ride, which Town Administrator Patrice Garvin said they would be.

“Maybe they have been fertilizing the grass and that’s why it’s been growing really well,” said Paolillo.

Leonard Street Again One-Way As Center Welcomes Return To A More Normal (Photos)

Photo: Placing jersey barriers along Leonard Street as Belmont Center’s main roadway becomes one-way ’til Halloween.

The Flett Company’s trucks and excavator were rolling down Leonard Street Monday morning, May 3, as workers under the management of Department of Public Works Director Jay Marcotte placed 35 jersey barriers and 100s of metal barricades along Belmont Center’s busiest road. From today to the end of October, the town’s main business thoroughfare will be a one-way avenue, running southward from Alexandra Avenue to Moore Street as the area becomes a pedestrian and dining friendly spot.

With residents returning to those pre-pandemic “normal” activities as vaccinations become the norm rather than an exception, “we want to welcome them back and enjoy the Center,” said Heidi Sawyer of the Belmont Garden Club.

The single lane road – 10 mph, please – is a return from 2020 when Leonard Street was narrowed to allow restaurants to expand their al fresco dining during the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. While created to assist the struggling eateries, residents and visitors found the added space to be a new found pleasure which allowed for strolling and people watching during a time when most residents were stuck at home.

There are some improvements from last year as the barriers have a fresh coat of silver paint, bright yellow tables, chairs and umbrellas are scattered along the sidewalks and the inclusion of play spaces with table tennis and other fun activates.

But the most recognizable upgrade from last year are the dozens for planters filled with flowering scrubs and bushes placed on and in-between the jersey barriers, thanks to a collaboration of the Belmont Center Business Association and the Belmont Garden Club which was supported by a $25,000 gift from a local couple which will go to making the summer a return to a more normal.

One-Way Leonard Street Returns For Spring, Summer and The Fall

Photo: A return to one-way traffic through Belmont Center

The second “summer” of a pedestrian-friendly one-way Leonard Street – with several refinements included for this year – is being extended from mid-spring to Halloween as the Select Board OK’d the town’s blueprint at its meeting Monday, March 29.

The one-way season will begin Monday, May 3 and last to Sunday, Oct. 31.

Considered a huge success by the public – more than 300 emails were sent to the Select Board in favor of its return – many businesses, and town officials, it wasn’t a surprise the Select Board would enthusiastically approve the return to outdoor seating for restaurants while creating a haven for strollers and shoppers.

“This new proposal strikes a somewhat better balance recognizing the very different constituencies in terms of accommodates the non-restaurant businesses better,” said Select Board Chair Roy Epstein.

Glenn Clancy, head of the Office of Community Development, said the town had two guiding principals viewing the project; build on what was seen as a success of the previous year and be responsive to feedback from several sets of stakeholders.

“We should always strive to make it better than it was,” said Clancy.

As a result, there are five changes to the previous year’s plan:

  • Moore Street will be made a one way from Leonard to Pleasant streets;
  • The former MBTA bus stop at the former Belmont Savings Bank will become a loading zone for businesses in the center;
  • The four parking spaces on Leonard Street entering Belmont Center will be short-term parking with a 15-minute limit;
  • Parking will be allowed on the northside of Leonard from Alexander Avenue and CVS with accessible spaces at both ends of the roadway; and
  • The parking spaces on the southside of Leonard at Alexander will become a public space where community seating, park benches, and other amenities will create “a place where if you are wandering around Belmont Center and you feel like you just want to sit and relax for a minute, there’s a place for you,” said Clancy.

The Select Board’s Adam Dash questioned the need for parking on the north side from CVS to Alexander Avenue after residents and visitors did not want any parking along Leonard Street. Clancy said last year business owners and office spaces would continually open and close the temporary metal gates to allow customers to park in front of the businesses. The new arrangement would allow a less cumbersome parking arrangement.

Epstein said his one concern would be the “unintended consequences” when traffic returns to pre-COVID levels which resulted in long-lines of vehicles attempting to navigate the Center.

“We need to be prepared to react,” he said.

But Dash took a counter view saying it’s not all that bad “if we can put up a little roadblock” in the Center, forcing commuters who cut through the town to reconsider that route. He noted that popular travel apps used by commuters to cut their time traveling home will likely send users to other towns than Belmont.

Glenn Clancy, Director, Office of Community Development

One Way Leonard: Town Seeks Comments On A Return To One Lane Traffic

Photo: Leonard Street down to one lane last summer

The Select Board will hold a public meeting to discuss a proposal to restrict Leonard Street to one lane of traffic between Moore Street and Alexander Avenue from April through October. The virtual meeting will take place on Monday, March 8 at 7 p.m.

“The town is eager to hear comments and get feedback to determine the level of interest of this proposal,” according to the announcement sent by the Town Clerk’s Office.

Last year, the Select Board instituted the one way traffic plan to allow restaurants to expand their al fresco dining area onto Leonard Street to assist those business owners impacted by COVID-19 restrictions on indoor operations. While many enjoyed the increased pedestrian opportunities created by the measure, retail shops said the loss of parking spaces on Belmont’s main commercial center hampered their businesses.

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Belmont Center Reopens For Two-Way Traffic: Will There Be A Repeat Next Summer?

Photo: Back to normal on Leonard Street

There are two ways to view the return of two-way traffic on Leonard Street through Belmont Center on Monday, Oct. 27: a return to normality for commuters after 137 days of detours and alternative routes or an end to a new way to view and use Belmont’s business and restaurant hub.

According to the head of the group that advocates for Belmont Center’s businesses, there is a good chance the merchants and restauranteurs will ask the town to return to the more pedestrian-friendly arrangement for next summer.

With the concrete New Jersey barriers and steel gates removed just after the morning rush hour, Leonard Street returned to the two way traffic after the town’s Select Board voted in early June to close down Belmont Center until Labor Day as a way of supporting the prominent restaurant trade during the COVID-19 pandemic which forced them to halt indoor dining.

With traffic restricted through the center, restaurants and retail stores were able to expand their operations onto the sidewalk for al fresco dining.

After first voting to halt all but emergency vehicles and MBTA buses, the Select Board moved to limit travel on Leonard Street from Alexander Avenue to Moore Street in the direction to the commuter rail tunnel after hearing from several merchants protest the elimination of all off-street parking.

The restrictions were extended from Labor Day to the end of October to assist eateries as state continued to limit the number of diners in establishments.

Gerry Dickhaut, owner of Champions Sporting Goods and president of the Belmont Center Business Association said the more than four months of the new traffic configuration resulted in “an excellent summer” as “a lot of people loved it, just to get outside during these tough times.”

“It was very successful for the majority of merchants,” said Dickhaut.

With the recent experience under its belt, Dickhaut said the business association is eager for a return to a more pedestrian-friendly center for 2021.

“Hopefully, we’ll be able to do it next year after [Belmont] Town Day (which takes place in mid-June), and make this an annual thing,” he said.

With permission from the select board and town officials, Dickhaut would like to see the one-way traffic configuration for the calendar summer from June to September.

“It was well worthwhile maybe we should add some music next year, make it a festival,” he envisions. “We heard that some of the merchants said, ‘it’s great to have it for the summer but a little longer is maybe hurtful for some of the business.’ There were a couple of businesses that didn’t like it, but the majority of the business did like it.”

One More Month: Leonard Street To Remain One Lane ‘Til Oct. 25; And Free Lot Parking!

Photo: Traffic flowing on Leonard Street

Belmont residents will have four additional weeks of al fresco dining and one way traffic along Leonard Street as the Belmont Select Board voted 2-1 to extend the closure of the main thoroughfare in the town’s business center until Sunday, Oct. 25.

The board majority – Adam Dash and Tom Caputo – felt the extra time will continue to benefit eateries in the Center and across town which have been particularly hit hard due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I heard a lot of support from the [Belmont] community for continuing it that is addition to what the business community in Belmont Center,” said Caputo.

The sole dissent came from Roy Epstein, the board’s chair, who said he was keeping a promise made to the business community that includes retail operations that the roadway would be opened on Sept. 28 which will free up dozens of on-street parking.

“Maybe it’s going well for the restaurants but I think the harm to the other businesses is actually invisible to us,” said Dash.

“I think we should give them the best shot,” said Dash.

Along with the continuation of one-way traffic on Leonard Street, free parking will continue for residents and visitors in the Claflin Street municipal lot located off Channing Road in Belmont Center.

Leonard Street Remains One Way Until Sept. 28; Free Parking In Center ‘Til Then

Photo: One way on the way out come Sept 28

The Belmont Select Board has extended by nearly a month the one-way traffic on Leonard Street allowing restaurants in Belmont Center to continue al fresco dining into the fall.

The street through Belmont’s main business hub will revert back to two-way traffic in the early morning hours of Monday, Sept. 28. In addition, licensed outdoor table service will be extended to Sunday, Sept. 27 throughout the town.

The board also approved that free parking in the Claflin Street municipal parking lot located behind Belmont Center will also end on Sunday, Sept. 27.

At yet another marathon Select Board session held Monday, Aug. 24, members acknowledged that several Center merchants have “expressed some unhappiness” with the plan that began on June 18 as it has taken valuable on-street parking spaces out of circulation, according to board member Adam Dash.

The traffic change was installed as an opportunity to provide extra outside dining areas to local restaurants which are still not allowed to use their interior dining space due to restrictions imposed by the state to stem the COVID-19 pandemic.

In addition, the Belmont Board of Health had some concerns in regards to Leonard Street being “a little congested” during the height of dinner service along with complaints that people were not diligent in wearing masks or being aware of social distancing, said Town Administrator Patrice Garvin.

“We were hoping to have an opportunity to go down there and to see if the requirements of the permits were being adhered to,” said Garvin.

While saying “the last thing we want is the community to be concerned that people are acting irresponsibly when they’re out and about in Belmont Center,” Glenn Clancy, town engineer, and director of community development, said he has been on Leonard Street “quite a bit and I haven’t really been seeing problems,” an observation seconded by Dash who is a regular diner.

The three-plus week extension of the one-way direction of Leonard Street has required the town to inform at least one resident of Moore Street – a principal detour of vehicles traveling northbound onto Pleasant Street – that the board would extend the one-way experience past a promised end around Labor Day deadline.

Clancy said he does worry about traffic in nearby neighborhoods and along specific streets – Moore, Alexander Avenue and Pleasant Street – during the expected increase in post-Labor Day traffic.

Clancy believes that it’s prudent for the town to take these issues incrementally “and I think if we’re talking about the end of September [to return to two-way traffic], I think that’s far.”

Since many restaurants made investments in furnishing and in the appearance of the outdoor space, “I’d like to give them the maximum ability” to take advantage of the money spent, said Dash.

“I think there is a great community atmosphere that been created down there,” said the Board’s Tom Caputo. “I do think that this isn’t going to last forever but certainly going through the end of September very likely makes some sense.”