Police, Schools Holding Open House/Tours Of Their New Buildings In October

Photo: There will be three opportunities next week to view the new high school wing of the Belmont MIddle and HIgh School.

Residents will have the opportunity to take a look inside of Belmont’s newest municipality buildings as they fling open the doors for the public in the coming weeks.

On Saturday, Oct. 16 at 1 p.m., the DPW/Belmont Police Department Building Committee invites the town to celebrate the dedication and ribbon cutting of the nenovated Police Headquarters with guided tours of the station located at the intersection of Pleasant Street and Concord Avenue will follow.

“Come see the successful renovation of the historic 1931 station and construction of the modern additions,” said the Building Committee chair Ann Marie Mahoney.

“I know it’s been slow but there have been small and annoying things at the end that we are still wrapping up. We are in the black and giving money back to Community Preservation and Warrant committees so that’s all that matters!” she said.

And the public will get their first look inside of the new Belmont Middle and High School on Concord Avenue as the district is holding three days of public tours of the high school wing:

  • Wednesday, Oct. 20; 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.
  • Saturday, Oct. 23; TBA
  • Wednesday, Oct. 27; 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.

“It’ll be a very exciting day on Saturday. There will be some words spoken by students and there’ll be the marching band to welcome folks, said School Superintendent Phelan at Tuesday’s School Committee meeting, Oct. 5.

“We’re glad that we can open the doors with the majority of our spaces complete and ready to be seen and enjoyed by our community. We appreciate your funding of this beautiful new facility that’s completed phase one. And we’re prepared to move into our phase two for the seventh and eighth grade over the next two years,” said Phelan.

Moving Day: Belmont Police Returning To Renovated Headquarters On Monday

Photo: The Belmont Police Headquarters ready for the move Monday

The painting is done, the new furniture is in place, and come Monday, March 8, the staff and officers of the Belmont Police Department will be moving back to its long-time headquarters at the corner of Pleasant Street and Concord Avenue.

And the change of addresses from the temporary headquarters – located in modulars on Woodland Street they entered in August 2019 – is scheduled to take just one day to accomplish.

“Overall, the project is in very good shape; the interiors are wrapping up and we should have a final [town] inspection Friday,” said Ted Galante, the principal of the Galante Architecture Studio in Cambridge which designed the police headquarters’ extension and interior as well as revamped the Department of Public Works structure.

For those who oversaw the building project, the return of the department to its headquarters is a success story despite a few bumps in the road.

“It looks fantastic from where we started,” said Ann Marie Mahoney, the chair of the Building Committee and as long time head of the Capital Budget Committee who had spearheaded for more than a decade the drive within Town Meeting to provide “a humane place” for both the Police and Department of Public Works employees to work from.

While the year-and-a-half-year construction project was the rehabilitation and expansion of the now 90-year-old original structure, it will be a whole new experience for the men and women who endured its famously cramped and antiquated depths.

Where once were constricted spaces with no storage will be rooms with accompanying filing and cabinets. Rather than just a single stairway leading to the second floor, an elevator has been installed. The men’s locker rooms are expanded while female officers will have their first dedicated changing space and showers instead of a jerry-rigged set up they had languished with. The once constricted booking area – where the cells are – is now an expanded space, secured with an internal sally port to safely transfer detainees.

“The furniture has all been installed and … the little bit the punch list (the to-do’s list that need to be completed before a project can be considered finished) on the interior of the building has been cleaned up,” said Galante, who said the town’s certificate of occupancy was expected to be issued on Friday, March 5.

The project did not meet its scheduled opening day in October due to a COVID-19 delay receiving the charcoal black terra cotta panels (installed on the newly built extension) when the Italian manufacturer was forced to close shop last summer.

Finally, the landscaping and any leftover exterior work will be completed by the spring.

While the physical portion of the project is all-but completed, there still remains work to be done bringing the work in on a budget of just south of $11.8 million. And while she said the project was “a little bit on fumes,” Mahoney is confident that “when the project is presented to Town Meeting, every penny will be accounted for.”

What started as a $6.7 million renovation and expansion in 2018 ballooned to nearly $12 million a year later when the project’s scope changed to include a complete interior rehab, requiring a special town meeting vote for an added $3.76 million. While there were some grumblings at Town Meeting of a “bait and switch,” the additional funds were approved easily.

With a few “soft” costs remaining, the committee is sitting on about $31,500 in unencumbered funds with a commitment from the Capital Budget Committee to pay for “whatever odds and ends that may need funding,” said Mahoney.

Mahoney said a major reason the new headquarters will come in on budget is due to a shade under $30,000 in private contributions from residents and groups such as the Richard Lane Foundation, named after the late Belmont assistant Police Chief which will be paying for landscaping, a new flag pole and equipping rooms to be used by officers.

Actually the project will be returning approximately $35,000 to the Community Preservation Committee of the $100,000 it requested for exterior work such as masonry work while sending back to the Warrant Committee about $50,000 from a $250,000 transfer to repair a retaining wall and mitigate the “junk” soil on the site.

“This is fabulous,” said Building Committee member Stephen Rosales. “It’s close but it’s in the black.”

With COVID Cases Rising, Belmont Town Buildings Will Be Closed Through Jan. 3 If Not Longer

Photo: Belmont Town Hall

Due to the rising number of positive COVID-19 cases in Massachusetts, all Belmont town buildings with the exception of the Police Headquarters will be closed to the public effective Monday, Dec. 14.

The closure will last into the New Year until Sunday, Jan. 3, 2021, and may be extended.

The Belmont Public Library will continue to serve patrons outside of the building as well as virtually.

In an email to residents, town officials said “the town will continue to provide the same high level of service that our residents and businesses have come to expect.”

A directory of the Town Departments can be found online at https://www.belmont-ma.gov/departments and the phone numbers of all offices have been posted on the doors of the Town Hall and Homer Municipal Building.

Belmont Police Relocates to Temporary HQ at 40 Woodland

Photo: Getting to the temporary location of the Belmont Police HQ. (Belmont Police)

The Belmont Police Department relocated to its stopgap headquarters at 40 Woodland St. on Sunday, Aug. 4.

The temporary station is located at the bottom of Woodland Street just past the Belmont Water Department building.

The entrance to Woodland Street is approximately 800 feet west of the intersection of Thomas Street and Waverley Street and is roughly a quarter-mile east of the intersection of Trapelo Road and Waverley Street.

The relocation is necessary while renovations and additions to the existing building are set to be underway on Aug. 12. The BPD anticipates that it will spend 18 months at the temporary location.

All phone numbers and email addresses remain the same. The building at 460 Concord Ave will have NO police personnel present. If you need to visit us, please proceed to 40 Woodland St.

Police Station Renovation Project Passes First Test With Funding Challenge Ahead

Photo: Architect Ted Galante before the Zoning Board of Appeals.

It was smooth sailing as the renovation of the nine decades old Belmont Police headquarters at the intersection of Concord Avenue and Pleasant Street got its first thumbs up as it begins meetings to clear regulatory hurdles and obtain the funding for the historic preservation of the project.

“Step one done,” said Ann Marie Mahoney, chair of the DPW/BPD Building Committee which is overseeing the renovation of the police building and the facilities at the Department of Public Works after receiving unanimous approval from the Belmont Zoning Board of Appeals on Monday, Dec. 3.

“And this [vote] was good and wonderful being unanimous,” she noted.

The committee was before the ZBA seeking approval of a pair of special permits which would allow the circa 1931 headquarters project to bypass town regulations and increase the structure’s height and adding an additional floor to a portion of the building. Architect Ted Galante of The Galante Architecture Studio in Cambridge told the board the additional space would improve the building’s function and allow for a sallyport and revamping of the unsafe holding cells. There will also be a need to reconfigure the entrance to the parking lot from the corner of the intersection to a new curb cut slightly up Pleasant Street. 

The changes will correct complaints of the safety of the cells and meet Americans with Disability Act regulations, said Galante, bringing the building into the 20th century. “We want a building and facility the town can be proud of,” said Belmont Police Chief Richard McLaughlin.

ZBA Chair Nicholas Iannuzzi quipped that as Belmont is a “Town of Homes,” it’s unlikely any of the residents will ever be spending time in the new cell block, only out-of-town “visitors,” to which McLaughlin agreed.

Next up for the project will be a presentation before the Planning Board in January 2019 which will review the project specifically the building’s larger floor area ratio and the landscaping in greater detail. 

Earlier in the day, the committee delivered its final request to the Community Preservation Committee for a $700,000 grant to preserve the historic features of the building. While the majority of the $7 million budget will be paid for via a long-term bond financed by existing town revenue, the brickwork and other repairs to the facade is critical to complete the job.

But the request seeking funding comes during the most competitive grant cycle in the CPC’s short history. Already approved in  the 2019 grant round is $400,000 for the design of an underpass on the commuter rail line at Alexander Avenue while the Board of Selectmen is seeking $1 million to design and conduct an engineering study of a community path from Belmont Center to Brighton Street. In addition, six other requests are pending. The total requested by the nine projects if funded would exceed the nearly $2 million the CPC has to provide. 

“And we really need that money this [cycle],” said Mahoney.

Committee OKs Design For Renovation of DPW Building; Bids Out In 2019

Photo:Belmont DPW building which will be renovated and undergo construction in 2019.

During the winter of 2019-20, there will be one big difference when the first storm blows through Belmont; the crews plowing the snow will finally have a place they WANT to come to take their break.

On Tuesday, Oct. 16, the Department of Public Works/Belmont Police Department Building Committee approved a final design plan for the renovation of the DPW building at the Town Yard off C Street.

“We are very happy, ecstatic really,” said Marcotte, director of the town’s DPW, who had been pushing the renovation/construction along with Committee Chair Anne Marie Mahoney who has been the champion of improving the deteriorating infrastructure at the DPW and Police Headquarters at the corner of Pleasant Street and Concord Avenue.

Mahoney has for years advanced the cause of these “orphan” projects – as they had no natural supporters among residents – with the idea of making repairs to the structures so “to create a humane conditions for our employees.”

Bids on the $1,189,000 project – paid out of the town’s operating budget so it did not require a debt exclusion which was approved by the Town Meeting in May – will be going out in February and awarding the contract in March. The work would not start until April after the winter weather has finished, said Michael Santoro, manager of the DPW’s Highway Division.

It will take about six months to renovate and add to the interior of the 70-year-old building with the construction of locker rooms, showers and laundry space, room for training and quiet rest and a small amount of office space. Renovations to the existing area will provide a more suitable kitchen and break room space and additional restrooms. 

The committee selected the third of three design schemes presented by The Galante Architecture Studio of Cambridge. See design plans below; an overall view of the work on top with a more detailed view below.

Design plans continue for the police station that will under go construction of a large addition and significant interior renovation.

While the makeover is nearly a year away from completion, the head of the DPW said his team is eagerly awaiting the “new” building.

“The crews are especially appreciative,” said Marcotte

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

Like New: ‘Innovative’ Designs Upgrade Police HQ, DPW At Fraction Of Cost, Time

Photo: Police Chief Richard McLaughlin in the current crowded police headquarters.

Last fall, the first cost estimates to replace the outdated and dilapidated police department headquarters and crumbling Department of Public Works building came in at a staggering $50 million for both projects over 10 years.

But through the innovative work of a talented Cambridge architect and the cobbling together of a financing plan by town officials, the police and DPW can expect upgraded and improved facilities at a fraction of the initial price tag and with the work completed in a tenth of the time.

“The architect has done a fabulous job,” said Belmont Police Chief Richard McLaughlin of Ted Galante of The Galante Architecture Studio in Harvard Square whose design plan based on renovations, creative land use and additions has the project coming in at just under $9 million with both updated facilities operational by 2020.

A public presentation by Galante on the design of the Police Headquarters and DPW building will be given on Thursday, May 24 at 7 p.m. at the Beech Street Center. 

The current police headquarters across from Town Hall at Pleasant Street and Concord Avenue is nearing its ninth decade of use and shows it; space is at a premium, there is no safe transfer of prisoners into the lockup from the outside, female officers have no lockerroom facility, paperwork and supplies are stored willy-nilly throughout the building and the second floor lacks handicap access.

Last November, the Special Town Meeting approved a new committee, the DPW/BPD Building Committee, which in one of its first moves hired Galante to lead the design of the project. 

“He’s been very creative and very ingenious. Every week he came up with something new and [the committee] said ‘Wow!”, said Ann Marie Mahoney, chair of the committee. To the surprise of the group, Galante “found a way to achieve everything … in the current location in such a way that we no longer see a need for a new police station,” said Roy Epstein, chair of the Warrant Committee and member of the building committee.

“He’s taken this to another level because I really didn’t think it could be done. I said we need to have the facilities here to be able to support all our work and this design does that. He made believers out of me and other people,” said  McLaughlin.

Galante’s design is the functional equivalent of a new station, said Epstein. The plans call for a new second floor located in the rear of the station adjacent to the commuter rail tracks that will hold office space and a new elevator. There will be a three-vehicle garage that will increase parking. The current garage will be transformed into large locker rooms and showers for male and female officers. The building will have a new electrical system along with air conditioning, updated plumbing and other upgrades.

On the left side of the headquarters, a new interior sally port to facilitate the transfer of arrested individuals will be located. To the right of the port will be a two-story addition with storage on the first floor and new prisoner holding cells and a processing center.

With work scheduled for the back and the side closest to Pleasant Street will leave intact the historic Georgian-style front facade along Concord Avenue. The renovation and additions will be done in stages so not to require officers to be housed off-site. 

“We are anticipating that construction will be completed on the police station in the fall of 2020,” said Mahoney.

The upgrade at the Department of Public Works will use modular units, similar to those at town schools. In the front of the main building will be a small unit which will be dedicated to much-needed office space. In the rear of the building will be three connected “mods” housing men and women’s showers and locker rooms, training rooms and a rest area for workers who are plowing snow or fixing broken pipes round the clock.

There will also be washing machines and other areas for cleaning services “because if you’re out there working on a sanitary sewer all day, currently there is no facility to clean your clothes before going home,” said Epstein. In the interior of the building will be an expanded break/cafe area and more office space. If approved, the DPW fix can be done by the fall of 2019.

The total bill for both buildings will be $8.9 million ($6.7 million for the Police headquarters, $1.2 million for the DPW); $7.4 million requires a vote by Town Meeting to issue bonds with $1.5 million covered by reserves. Best yet, “by inspired work” by Town Treasurer Floyd Carman and Town Administrator Patrice Garvin, the total cost can be done without a need for a debt exclusion,” said Epstein. Carman said the town has “sufficient monies” in revenue coming from capital turnbacks, premium dollars and retiring debt “to cover the debt service of $440,000 for the next 30 years.”

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

Going Up? Lack Of Temp Elevator Could Fast Forward New Police Station Decision

Photo: An exterior elevator in Italy.

Two months ago, the Major Capital Projects Working Group revealed a long-term plan for a new Belmont Police Headquarters located adjacent to the Water Division facility at the end of Woodland Street. Best guess for its opening? Approximately 2026-ish.  

But there’s a chance the working group could recommend bringing the proposed project before town residents for a funding vote in the next year or two.

What could fast forward the project is whether an emergency “fix” to the existing police station can include a temporary elevator fitted to the exterior of the building. That was the latest update provided by Working Group member Anne Marie Mahoney to the Belmont Board of Selectmen on Monday, Nov. 6 during a board’s review of the warrant articles before Monday’s Special Town Meeting.

“If that elevator can’t be added to the building, then it’s extremely likely in the Spring [the Working Group] will have another plan ready with a new funding source,” said Mahoney.

The Working Group is requesting from Town Meeting $383,000 be spent to create schematic plans for short-term repairs to the Police Station and the main building at the Department of Public Works, both which are in severe states of disrepair. The funds for the designs – which will outline the “emergency solutions” needed to “create … humane conditions for our employees,” according to Mahoney – will come from a portion of the insurance money the town received after an April 1999 fire destroyed the former Kendall School on Beech Street.

Once the designs are finalized, the Working Group will return to the annual Town Meeting in May seeking a bond authorization of between $4 million to $5 million to make the repairs at both buildings.

The big question mark on the future of a new headquarters is a proposed fill-in elevator. The police station doesn’t have a functioning lift in the two-story building which is in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). While the headquarters is allowed to operate under a grandfather clause, once “penny one” of the renovations is spent, the town is required to bring the building up to code.

Back in October, it was assumed a temporary elevator connected to the outside of the building would be sufficient. But since then, other experts are not so sure an elevator is “doable” at the site, said Mahoney.

If the elevator cannot be incorporated in the emergency repairs, Mahoney told the board the working group would develop a secondary plan that would call for the construct a new police headquarters “sooner than later.”

“If we can’t do the emergency repairs now, we have really no choice but to move quickly on a new building,” said Mahoney.

Mahoney said it would take less than a month for schematic designs to be completed by the first of the year, “so we’ll have six to seven months to figure it out” before Town Meeting.

Mahoney said it would be a challenge to develop a funding plan – past estimates pegged a new police station in the $20 million range – which will primarily be competing with a debt exclusion vote for a new/renovated Belmont High School which could reach $200 million.