Belmont Police Feedback Survey Now Underway ‘til Dec. 4

Photo: Belmont Police’s newly renovated headquarters in Belmont Center

The Belmont Police Department has embarked on a strategic planning process to map out the department’s direction for the next five years. The first step in the process is a survey for residents, visitors and people who have a commercial interest in the town. 

The survey provides an opportunity for citizens to comment on current conditions throughout the town to include:

  • the perception of crime,
  • quality of life concerns,
  • citizens’ perception of safety and security, and
  • what enforcement activities or services people would like to see improved or strengthened. 

It is important that we hear from our community and what is important to them regarding public safety.

The survey process will be available until Dec. 4. The Department will quantify the survey results and begin producing a plan for further action. The electronic survey can be accessed at this link.

The survey is anonymous.

If you have questions regarding this survey, send an email to: Collaboration@belmontpd.org

Civil Service Could Return For A Second Go-Around At 2022 Town Meeting

Photo: Belmont Police Chief James MacIsaac

Just more than a year after a controversal Special Town Meeting article allowing Belmont’s public service departments to exit the state’s civil service program would implode before being brought to the floor, it appears the Select Board will push for a second go-around of the contensious proposal before Belmont’s annual Town Meeting in the spring.

”We have to talk about revisiting leaving the Civil Service again … because we can not go on like this,” said Select Board Adam Dash after hearing from Belmont Police Chief James MacIsaac at its Oct. 4 meeting of the difficulties he’s had attempting to fill positions at the police department in the past two years.

During an update of the department, MacIsaac referred to “an on-going problem” filling four open positions – which included one officer who was laid off due to the defeat of the 2021 override – for patrol officers since October of 2020. MacIsaac said he received five resident applications from the Civil Service candidates list. Of those, one withdrew, another was older than the department’s age limit, and two failed the physical abilities test to enter the police academy.

This year, after a Belmont officer transferred, MacIsaac once again faced trying to fill four open slots. In September MacIsaac received two lists from Civil Service, comprising of 30 residents and non-residents. Five resident and one non resident signed up for the application process.

”As a manager of a department, I don’t have to tell you how important it is in this day and age to fill four positions with six candidates,” said MacIsaac.

While hopeful that some of the candidates can pass the series of exams and tests to become a patrol officer, MacIsaac said that his department “can’t continue to operate the way we’re operating with these vacancies when we need them filled.” He pointed to two superior officers off on National Guard duty and an incident where officers were required to accompany and stay with a prisoner to the hospital all which taxes the entire department.

”It’s been a tough year to manage the operations” of the approximately 50 member police force, said MacIsaac, who praised the employees for doing “an excellent job” adapting and improvising for what they have to work with.

“They deserve a lot of credit,” said MacIsaac.

“It sounds like a real life example of why Civil Service is not working for the town,” said Dash.

MacIsaac pointed to the non-Civil Service Police Department in Norwood which received more than 100 candidates for its entrance exam. He also gave testimony up on Beacon Hill for a bill authored by State Sen. Will Brownsberger that would allow any graduate from a Belmont high school would receive the same residential preference as residents.

When asked by Select Board member Mark Paolillo on how being removed of Civil Service could impact diversity on the force, MacIsaac said “it would certainly give you the opportunity to diversify the candidate pool.”

Supporters of ending civil service contend the town would see significant cost savings by ending a 105-year-old arcane system for hiring and promotions, replacing it with a locally-focused practice that can increase the racial and ethnic diversity of the force.

Opponents – made up last time of the rank and file of Belmont Fire and Police and resident supporters – said by altering age limits of candidates and increasing diversity in the number of candidates through changes to the existing agreement can reach those goals.

It appears the Select Board is envisioning a debate in the spring.

“We have to think about a spring Town Meeting” to revisit Civil Service, said Dash.

Strong 3-0 Start Sees Belmont High Field Hockey Entering League Play Against Tough Rivals [VIDEO]

Photo: Belmont High’s Layne Doherty vs Melrose.

Led by an experienced set of forwards and a solid midfield, Belmont High Field Hockey has started its 2021 season without “stars” but with a “team” mentality playing on the pitch

And the results, so far, are promising. The normal opening night nerves saw Belmont – ranked 15th in both the Boston Globe and Boston Herald polls – wait until the fourth quarter to take down visiting Wilmington, 3-2, before finding their scoring stride at Stoneham, a 6-1 rout on a high grass pitch, before handling an undefeated Melrose team, 8-1, at Harris Field.

While the Marauders have shown its scoring muscle, the squad doesn’t rely on any one person as the scoring talisman. This year’s version is about everyone pitching in at the highest level.

“The one thing I like about this team is that they all use each other on the field,” said Belmont’s long-time head coach Jessica Smith. “There’s not one true standout. We have a lot of people who can play really hard and really well. They support each other and play together because they’re not looking to carry the ball 50 yards.”

In fact, the squads best defense is its attack. Against Melrose, the visitors did not enter the Belmont zone for the first four minutes of the game as the Marauders front line ball-hawked the Raiders passes and dribbles, forcing turnovers and sending a pair of steals/shots skirting a foot past the opponent’s right post.

So far into the season, Belmont found its scoring touch tallying 17 goals with senior co-captain Ellie McLaughlin, who scored a hat trick against Melrose, and Molly Dacey each with four goals.

The attack, in which an impressive nine players have scored, shows that all the players on the pitch are expected to contribute.

“I think we’re really working on spreading out and getting the ball to new people on the field,” said McLaughlin. The team’s offensive orientation is based on playing together for the past three years for many on the team.

”Our chemistry has brought us together as a team really nicely, especially how we work in our practices,” said McLaughlin in her third year on the varsity squad

What Belmont has demonstrated in its first three games is a quickness to shut down passing lanes and a willingness to challenge opponents for the ball all over the field, traits Smith seeks in her teams.

“I want to play physical because it takes teams out of their [plan] and we can play our game,” said Smith.

Unlike past teams which had college-level defenses (four recent backs have gone to play at Division 1 programs) a relatively young defense and first year goaltenders has been boosted by the addition of senior Mia Mueller who brings three years of varsity experience to the D-line.

“Mia played forward and midfield in the past so she knows how to handle the ball and make passes. And she’s fast so she can close down anyone in the middle. She’ll be so important for us this year,” said Smith.

And the Marauders will need to be at the top of its game as it opens its Middlesex Liberty Division account against strong programs, hosting Lexington on Tuesday, Sept. 21 and traveling to Winchester on Thursday, Sept. 23.

“It’s a big change going from playing the smaller schools to the larger ones. I’m excited because it’s a good test for us to see what we can do and I think the kids are up for it because they know what’s coming,” said Smith.

”We’ve been working hard at practices and been communicating on the field so I think it’ll work against them,” said McLaughlin.

Belmont To Observe 9/11 At Fire Department HQ, Saturday, Sept. 11; At The Beech Street Center On Sept. 9

Photo: Observance at Belmont Fire HQ recognizing those residents killed in the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2014

Belmont will observe the 20th anniversary of 9/11 at two locations in the coming week.

At 9 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 11, the town will hold its official observance at the Belmont Fire Department headquarters at 299 Trapelo Rd. with the reading of the names of Belmont residents who were killed in the terrorist attacks. There will also be the tolling of the bell for the first responders who died in the line of duty and the lowering of the flag to half-staff.

The Beech Street Center members to honor and remember this important day in history on Thursday, Sept. 9 at 1:15 p.m. 

Participants will have an opportunity to share their own stories and memories about this day after we’ll watch a special documentary commemorating the 20th anniversary. Bob Upton Belmont’s Veterans’ Service Officer and officers from Belmont Police and Fire Department will attend and the Belmont Public Library will provide books and movies for those interested.

To register for the Beech Street Center event, leave a message on our programs and events line at 617-993-2976.  

After Extraordinary Year, Belmont Awards Police Chief With Extension, Pay Raise

Photo: James MacIsaac, Belmont Police Chief

A pandemic, nationwide civil rights protests and the challenges brought on by the position itself. The past year put most police chief under the spotlight. And according to town officials, Chief James MacIsaac took on the challenge and shined.

At its Monday night meeting, Aug. 16, the Belmont Select Board unanimously approved a merit increase of one and a half percent for MacIsaac retroactive to July 1, 2021 and agreed to extend his contract by two years with a new expiration date of Dec. 31, 2024. The increase brings his “all-in” salary to $191,354.91, according to Belmont Human Resources Director Shawna Healey.

Belmont Town Administrator Patrice Garvin, who conducts the performance review of police chiefs, said unlike his previous review, “I had to look at it through a different lens given the abnormality of COVID and the challenges that that brought to the position.”

Shortly after MacIsaac started on January 2020, COVID hit, followed a couple months after, the country and police forces was dealing with the murder of George Floyd, all the while running a department from a temporary location while coordinating the move into the new Police Headquarters, noted Garvin.

“The challenges [MacIsaac] was facing in last year was challenges … former police chiefs 10 to 15 years to experience,” said Garvin. Despite working in that “whirlwind” as a first year police chief, “[MacIsaac] performed beyond expectation at an exemplary level, using the strengths that he has, given his personality and his years of experience with the force as the assistant chief.”

“He was able to … lead the community through all those challenges and my review [of his] last year’s performance was the highest it could be for an employee,” said Garvin, rating his performance a five.

“Thank you, Chief. I’m happy to extend you an additional two years,” said Select Board Chair Adam Dash. “Great work and I look forward to working with you further.”

Trapelo Road Condo Building Evacuated Friday Due To Structural Issues, 70 Left Homeless

Photo: The condominium building at 125 Trapelo Rd. evacuated Friday afternoon, Aug. 13 due to structural issues.

A seven floor 40-unit residential building in Belmont’s Cushing Square was evacuated at 1 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 13 after a cautionary inspection Thursday discovered large cracks in apartments on the top two floors that made the 58-year-old apartment block structurally unsafe for occupancy.

The brick and mortar building at 125 Trapelo Rd. across from the newly constructed Bradford apartments is not a threat to fall or see significant portions fall away, said Glenn Clancy, Belmont’s town engineer who was at the scene along with Belmont police and fire and several broadcast crews and three new helicopters overhead.

“But it’s not ready for residents to return,” said Clancy, saying that two independent building inspectors will be on the site Monday, Aug. 16, to begin a survey of the structural integrity of the site. “It will be up to those engineers to determine if the structure is safe for occupancy,” said Clancy, who will sign off on any new certificate of occupancy.

The Trapelo Road evacuation comes less than two months after the collapse of Champlain Towers South in Surfside, Florida killing 98 residents. “[The Florida] event is one reason we are proceeding with extra caution here,” said Clancy.

The inspection by a Maine-based firm Thursday was prompted by a resident of the top floor who found large cracks in the walls and ceiling and alerted the landlord, said Clancy. The structural engineer observed the breaks and wrote a report to the building’s management company, Great North Property Management of Exeter, NH.

Clancy said the engineer told him she suspected the large number of cellular antennas and wireless electronic equipment on the roof to be the likely cause of the damage.

40 residents evacuated

When the severity of the report was known on Friday, the management company notified the town and Belmont Police and Fire responded. ”Firefighters searched the entire building and evacuated at least 40 residents home at the time of the incident,” said Belmont Fire Chief David DeStefano. “The natural gas service to the building was shut by National Grid and it was ascertained from the engineering firm that there was no risk to nearby buildings,” he said

According to assessors records, the building was completed in 1963 and at the time was the largest residential premises in town. It was bought in 2015 for $5,275,000 by 125 Trapelo LCC located on Clarendon Street in Boston. Town officials said about 70 people live at 125 Trapelo.

With the building closed for at least the weekend and likely longer, the concerns of town and state officials turned to the residents who were suddenly made homeless during a mid-August heatwave.

Pearl Risberg and Calvin Heimberg moved into their apartment on Thursday and were out of the building early Friday only to arrive back to their new home to find the door blocked by Belmont firefighters.

”Everything looked great when we moved in so we’re a little bummed,” said Risberg.

Another resident who thought it best not to give his name was watching Netflix on his couch on his day off when someone knocked on his door saying they were from Belmont Fire. “They told me there was a problem with the structure and we need to evacuate.” He would relocate with the other residents across Trapelo Road, some staying inside the lobby of the Bradford to get out of the 90 degree heat to hear updates from Belmont Police Chief James MacIsaac.

“I’ll be staying with a friend for tonight, but after that … “, he said.

But for several residents new to the area or whose families are overseas, the prospects of finding a place to relocate to did not appear promising. The lucky ones were able to grab plastic bags filled with clothes or suitcases with computers and documentation. Several were carrying hot and scared pets wondering where they would be going. By 5 p.m., the MBTA supplied a bus to allow residents a chance to rest in an air conditioned space.

The Red Cross arrived only to determine the building was not closed due to a “natural disaster” before leaving.

The one thing in common with all the residents was their collective scorn for the property management firm.

”It’s crazy. It’s unbelievable. It’s been six hours and no-one has told us anything,” said one resident who was traveling with her cat, Oreo. “This is not our fault. [Great North] should be working with us but they are doing nothing.”

As the afternoon turned to evening, Great North’s on-site representative, senior property manager Robert Linney, would not provide the residents any information on alternative housing or compensation for other lodgings. Linney referred all inquires to the main office in New Hampshire. By 7 p.m., Belmont Police were leading some residents into building to retrieve computers and clothes they would need for the weekend.

State Rep. Dave Rogers arrived at 3 p.m. and coordinated with assistant town manager Jon Marshall, the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency and the Salvation Army to provide shelter for the newly homeless. By 11 p.m., those remaining took the bus to a hotel to spend at least one night indoors.

“There is a core group that really needs help,” said Rogers. “There are long term issues with the building but right now we just want to solve the short term and that’s getting people a place to stay.”

Beginning Monday, Concord Ave. Undergoing Street Construction At New High School

Photo: An image from the Belmont Police Department of the impacted location

With the high school wing of the new Belmont Middle and High School just weeks from opening in September, construction will get underway on Monday, June 28 on the new intersection and completing the road work connected to the high school on Concord Avenue, according to Belmont Police.

Police are advising motorists to avoid this area if possible.

The work will focus on the intersection of Goden Street and Concord Avenue where the entrance/exit for the new building will be located, including installing a new set of traffic lights at the intersection and modifying the center traffic Island in the location.

Letter To The Editor: Civil Rights Groups Call For Transparency Investigating Racist Incident

Photo: Recent protest in Cushing Square (Credit: COS New England Facebook page)

Dear Belmont Police Department, Belmont Public Schools, and the larger Belmont community:

We are writing to express our disgust with the hate filled and racist graffiti found on the Wellington School Building this past Monday. This is unacceptable. We stand, in solidarity, with our Belmont and Boston students and families of color.

We must not and will not tolerate racism in any form or manner. The severity of the incident should be acknowledged and there should be follow through with students and families, alike.

We thank Belmont Superintendent John Phelan for bringing this to our attention as quickly as he did and we thank Belmont Police Chief James MacIsaac for keeping the community informed of the ongoing investigation.  

We ask that the investigation of this hateful incident be swift, thorough, and transparent. We ask that any conversations with students, particularly of color, regarding this incident be thoughtful and transparent. We are here to be a support for our Belmont and Boston students, families, and educators. This is a community issue which is why we are asking for transparency.

For our students and community to heal, you all must be incredibly thoughtful in the manner in which the investigation is handled and how the information is disseminated. We would like to be included, along with community members, in the communications to students and families. We would like to receive updates on the investigation. 

The common theme is transparency.

ALL of our children should feel safe and welcomed in their environment. This incident proves that there are individuals in the Belmont community who continue to try and foster a climate of fear and intimidation. We, as a community, need to be vigilant in our fight against racism. Belmont schools are part of a greater community and we should all be informed when incidents like this happen. If it affects one, it affects all.

We look forward to receiving updates and working closely with you all.

In solidarity,

Community Organized for Solidarity (COS)

Black and Brown Families in Belmont (BBF)

Belmont Pan-Asian Coalition (BPAC) 

Belmont Antiracism Discussion Group (BADG) 

Witness IDs Teen/Preteen As Writer of Racist Graffiti At Wellington

Photo: The Wellington Elementary School

A resident told Belmont Police he witnessed a young man between 11 and 13 years old tagging a wall of the Wellington Elementary School where racist graffiti was discovered a few days later.

According to a statement by Belmont Police Chief James MacIsaac released on Friday, April 2, an adult told police that on Saturday, March 28 at approximately 7 p.m., they observed the young man writing on the wall of the school. The witness asked the youth if he was responsible for graffiti on the wall near the flag pole.

Two days later, on March 30 at 4 p.m., Belmont School Superintendent John Phelan notified the Belmont Police that students discovered the graffiti that contained the words, “Math is F…ing (illegible) my ‘N-word’.”

At this time, the Belmont Police believe this youth was the one responsible forpage1image22307072

“The Belmont Public Schools and the Belmont Police emphasize that whether these words were written with malicious intent or out of ignorance, we are taking this incident very seriously and it is an act that must be strongly condemned. There is no place for hate or racism in Belmont,” said MacIsaac.

At this time, the Belmont Police Department is continuing its investigation.

The Belmont School Department has notified all families of this incident and is working with its Wellington team to discuss this incident with students in an age-appropriate manner.

McIsaac added that residents who have concerns or feel targeted by hate or racism may contact the Belmont Police or the Belmont Human Rights Commission at 617-993-2795 or email at Belmont.hrc@gmail.com.

Driver Killed In Single-Vehicle Truck Accident on Common Street [Video]

Photo: An accident on Common Street involving a box truck left the driver dead

The driver of a box truck was killed in an early-morning one-vehicle accident on Common Street on Thursday, March 4.

According to Belmont Fire Capt. Rick Nohl, Belmont Police and Fire arrived at the scene near the World War 1 memorial triangle at Dunbarton Road after receiving a 911 call at 2:50 a.m. They found a white box truck on its side and a 45-year-old man dead inside the severely damaged diver’s compartment.

It is believe the driver lost control of the vehicle and rolled it over while driving on Common Street, said Belmont Police Chief James MacIsaac in a press release.

Nohl said his department began a recovery operation which took some time to retrieve the body. By daybreak, two large recovery trucks uprighted the truck, which was fully loaded with produce, before it was taken from the scene around 8:30 a.m.

The accident is under investigation by Belmont Police and the Massachusetts State Police’s Collision Analysis and Reconstruction Unit, according to Nohl.