Water/Sewer Bills Coming Monthly

Photo: The old bill will be replaced with a combined one with Belmont Light

After sending out water and sewer bills to the public four times a year “for more than forever,” Belmont is prepared to shake things up starting Jan. 1, 2021 when water and sewer remittances will be coming to customers on a monthly basis.

That was the announcement on Monday, Oct. 26 from Department of Public Works Director Jay Marcotte to the Select Board at its Monday, Oct. 26 remote meeting.

The change in billing frequency comes as the Water and Sewer department nears completion of the town-wide smart meter program. The four-year installation plan – replacing older models which required visual reading of the meters with the latest generation of systems that can be “read” online – is nearing 97 percent complete with approximately 400 residences that have yet to give their permission to remove the old meters.

When the automated system is up and running in the New Year, the department will replace its antiquated quarterly billing system and dove-tail into Belmont Lights’ invoice account.

“Once fully implemented, the ability to go to monthly billing is going to be a reality,” said Marcotte.

Before the Jan. 1 turnover, the department will undertake a comprehensive outreach and education program to inform residents of the change, how it will work, tools for on-line payments and viewing of real use consumption by homeowners.

The old system, which will be needed for the 400 customers whose meters have not been replaced, will incurring a fee to the water and sewer department to maintain and staff that system in order to accurately bill for consumption.

Public Works will waive the cost during this time of COVID-19 and will take up what the fee will be with the Select Board next spring.

Opinion: Let’s Do The Right Thing; Vote ‘Yes’ On Town Meeting Article 23

Photo: Belmont Police Headquarters

Have you visited the Belmont police station lately? Or dropped recyclables off at the Department of Public Works yard? Have you noticed the condition of those buildings? Have you tried to climb the 21 stairs to meet with Police Chief Richard McLaughlin? Do you know that our plow drivers have no place to eat or rest after eighteen hours of plowing snow? Have you experienced a sewer back-up in your basement? Do you know that DPW workers have no place to shower or change clothes after wading through raw sewage? Do you know that the female police officers who work in our neighborhoods and schools have only tiny locker space crammed into a bathroom?

Many professional evaluations over the years have determined that the police station and DPW facility are in far worse condition than any other town buildings. The time is now to finally meet the urgent needs of our employees by providing safe, accessible, gender appropriate working space.

The November 2017 Special Town Meeting authorized a building committee to address both the police and DPW. The committee has been working all out since December to present schematic designs to Town Meeting on May 30th.

The proposed solution for the DPW facility has two-prongs. In the short-term, renovate a small section of the DPW main building and add modular units which will house locker rooms, shower and laundry space, room for training and quiet rest and a small amount of office space. Renovations to the existing space will provide a more suitable kitchen and break room space and additional restrooms. This first phase will provide greatly improved working conditions for about $1.2 million. Long-term, the Town must pledge to construct a totally new facility on the existing site within ten years.

The solution for the police station is a brilliant design to renovate and add to the existing building on Concord Avenue. This will meet the department’s needs indefinitely. This extraordinary proposal includes additional construction on the back of the station as well as a sally port on the Pleasant Street side. The completed addition and renovation will provide new locker room space for both genders, new holding cells, safe and secure entry and booking space for prisoners, an elevator and second stair, evidence storage, meeting space and more. The proposed design respects the historic features of the building, provides an accessible entrance and additional parking. The permanent solution can be accomplished for between $6.2 and $7.5 million, which is a quarter of the cost of a new facility.

This proposal can be paid for out of the operating budget and will not require a debt exclusion. The advantage of this funding approach is that the work can begin immediately and will not interfere with either the library or high school plans for debt exclusions. The plan is the result of tremendous creativity by the building committee, the architect and owner’s project manager, the Town Administrator, and the Town Treasurer as well as the enthusiastic support of police and DPW personnel.

This proposal is a significant step forward for the Police and DPW who have languished in substandard working conditions for decades. As a town, we depend on our police department to keep us safe. We depend on our DPW to plow the snow, keep clean water flowing to our homes, and maintain our playgrounds.

Please urge your Town Meeting Members to vote YES on Article 23. It is the right thing to do.

DPW/Belmont Police Department Building Committee
Kathleen Cowing, Secretary
Roy Epstein
Anthony Ferrante, Vice-Chair
Anne Marie Mahoney, Chair
Stephen Rosales
Judith Ananian Sarno, Treasurer
William Shea
Michael Smith

Selectmen To Ask Residents: What Should Go Into The Former Incinerator Site?

Photo: The entrance to the former Belmont incinerator site.

The day before town residents are asked to provide their thoughts on limits on the place and time of retail marijuana sales, the Board of Selectmen is holding a meeting inviting citizens to discuss the future use (also known as post-closure) at the closed incinerator site off Concord Avenue on the Lexington Town Line.

The meeting to take place on Monday, June 18 at 8 p.m. at Town Hall will seek ideas for future use since whatever is selected will determine the type of “cap” or cover that will secure the contaminated land below the surface. For instance, a “passive” use such as trails will require a less intrusive and less expensive cover than a cap on which a structure is built.

A description of capping by the EPA can be found here.

Uses brought up in the past include a solar farm, trails, municipal use, a location for a skating rink, athletic fields and as a marijuana farm.

A pot far will be eliminated as an option if Belmont voters approve the “opt-out” bylaw in the September special town election. Lexington opened a solar facility on a closed landfill site in May 2017, reportedly saving $19 million in municipal energy expenses. While Belmont Youth Hockey has developed preliminary plans for a two full-sized rink facility on the site, the group has said it prefers to locate the public/private development close to Harris Field on Concord Avenue.

One use that many residents feel will continue is Department of Public Works including the location of its brush and composting piles.

Whatever the selected use is finally determined, it will be years before it is opened as the site is the likely staging area for equipment and material for the construction of the new Belmont High School which will not be completed until the mid-2020s.

Public Meeting, Tours Previewing Proposed DPW/Belmont Police Renovations

Photo: Police Headquarters at the corner of Pleasant Street and Concord Avenue.

The DPW/Belmont Police Department Building Committee – created to research and plan improvements to these major facilities – wil;l hold a Public Meeting on Thursday, May 24 at 7 p.m. at the Beech Street Center, 266 Beech St. to preview plans for proposed renovations and additions at both sites.

Observe the current conditions and challenges of the facilities by taking tours of the buildings on:

  • Monday, May 21
  • Tuesday, May 29

The visits start at the DPW from 9 a.m. to Noon (enter from C Street) and the Police from noon to 3 p.m. (Enter through the front door.)

Or you can take video tour of the pair of facilities at http://www.belmontmedia.org/watch/talk-town-bpd-and-dpw or
https://youtu.be/EVFl9oViDN0

Garbage Giant Named Belmont’s New Trash/Recycling Hauler

Photo: A WM side loading collection truck.

A giant in the waste removal industry was officially named Belmont’s trash and recycling hauler on Monday, Feb. 26 after winning a five-year contract with the town.

Waste Management of Houston was selected by Department of Public Works Director Jay Marcotte and approved unanimously by the Board of Selectmen at the board’s Monday morning meeting. Waste Management’s winning bid of $12.2 million over five years was $2.3 million less than the only other accepted bid from Casella Waste Systems of Rutland, Vermont.

Waste Management services approximately 21 million residential, industrial, municipal and commercial customers in US, Canada, and Puerto Rico with the largest trucking fleet in the waste removal industry with 26,000 collection and transfer vehicles.

The contract includes fully automated trash and recycling collection using 65-gallon (for trash) and 96-gallon (recycling) wheeled barrels, yard waste removal, the collection of Christmas trees and other bulky items as well as a fee for recycling processing. The contract begins on July 1. 

While Waste Management takes over trash and recycling in four months, it will continue collecting curbside waste and recycling manually until the firm has purchased the new trucks that will service Belmont.

“The start date will be when they meet their comfort level,” said Marcotte, which could happen in the early fall. Before then, the DPW and town will reach out to homeowners and residents to educate the town on the new automated system. 

The breakdown of the payments over the five years are:

  • Fiscal ’19: $2,224,296
  • Fiscal ’20: $2,355,554
  • Fiscal ’21: $2,442,192
  • Fiscal ’22: $2,531,867
  • Fiscal ’23: $2,624,685

The first year of the new contract is approximately $350,000 more than the fiscal ’18 fee paid to Somerville-based Russell Disposal. 

Marcotte told the board if there are any changes in the current market for recyclables beneficial to the town, “[Waste Management] promised to renegotiate the contract.”