Belmont Savings Matching Grant Could Help Save Underwood Pool

There just might be outdoor swimming next summer in Belmont after all.

The Belmont Savings Bank Foundation, the community grant-making wing of Belmont Savings Bank, announced Thursday, Sept. 11 that it will match, dollar-for-dollar, up to $200,000 in private donations raised towards building a new Underwood Pool.

The potential $400,000 will allow the Underwood Building Committee to accept the current low bid of $4.55 million from Methuen-based New England Builders and Contractors to erect the new pool complex on the site of the current historic 102-year-old facility at Concord Avenue and Cottage Street.

“The bank understands how much Belmont residents care about the Underwood Pool, and once again they are partnering with us to make a positive difference in the community,” said Ellen Schreiber, secretary of the Underwood Pool Building Committee.

The future of the new two-pool facility had been in question since late August when the initial low bidder Seaver Construction of Woburn, abruptly withdrew its $3.84 million offer on the project that the Building Committee has budgeted at $4.16 million.

As a result of the Foundation’s challenge, the Building Committee is launching a fundraising campaign to raise $200,000 “from large donors as well as from the grassroots to complete the funding for the New Underwood Pool project,” said Schreiber, who has set up a donation website,

All donations are tax-deductible – the committee will be working with Belmont’s Partners in Play and the Winn Brook PTO – and is restricted for the pool project.

In a separate announcement, New England Builders and Contractors has agreed to extend until Oct. 31 signing a contract with the committee to build a new facility. The current deadline to award the work is Sept. 26. The firm also said it would build through the winter and attempt to have the structure open for the 2015 recreation season beginning the final week in June.

As a result, “[w]e need to raise $388,000 in donations as a public-private partnership … by October 31,” said Schreiber.

“The timeline is aggressive, but the grant from the Belmont Savings Bank Foundation really makes it possible,” she said.

“As a donor, it is very exciting to know that every dollar you give is being doubled. And this is a true matching grant – for every dollar we raise, the foundation will give us a dollar, up to $200,000. So we encourage people to help complete the funding for the Underwood Pool,” said Schreiber, who is well-known for help leading a massive community effort to build the new Joey’s Park adjacent to Winn Brook Elementary on Cross Street that opened in October of last year.

Those interested in making a large donation can contact Ellen Schreiber at or 617-290-6216. Make donations of any size by check or online at

Officials Ponder Future of New Underwood Pool

What now?

After the sudden withdrawal on Aug. 28 of the (only) low bidder to construct the $5.2 million new Underwood Pools complex, town officials are scrambling to discover a way to keep the project “on time and budget” to allow the facility to open for the 2015 summer recreation season.

That process begins on Tuesday, Sept. 2 at 7 p.m. when the Underwood Pool Building Committee – the public group that coordinated the new facility’s final design and its detailed budget – will meet to discuss the current lay of the land and the series of options. The committee will bring their suggestions to the Belmont Board of Selectmen on Wednesday, Sept. 3 at 8 a.m.

The committee “would like to review the options going forward with the Town Administrator [David Kale] and the Board of Selectmen,” said Committee member Adam Dash in a press release issued last week.

Under the Building Committee’s tentative timeline, construction on the two-pool complex was scheduled to begin in September with completion by the first day of summer 2015, replacing the 102-year-old existing historic structure that closed for the final time on Monday, Sept. 1.

Woburn-based Seaver Construction was the only of the five bidders that came in under the committee’s $4.16 million construction budget. Soon after submitting its $3.84 million plan, the construction firm withdrew its offer claiming it made a “clerical error” in determining their cost in completing the project. Belmont officials noted that despite the miscalculation, Seaver would have stayed within the Building Committee’s budget.

The next closest proffer to build the complex came from New England Builders and Contractors, Inc. at $4.55 million.

While both committee members and town officials are keeping their opinions close to their vests before the two public meetings, the new Underwood Pool appears to be impacted by a dramatic shift in the demand for the same contractors who can build Belmont’s pools. In the past year, there has been a boom in private-sector building throughout Boston, according to a May 12, 2014 article in

With billions of dollars in the pipeline in greater metropolitan Boston – from Boston’s waterfront to Watertown’s Assembly Square – the demand for general contractors has skyrocketed, and so have their fees. Nor does it appear that this trend will subside anytime soon.

“As for the private marketplace, Mark Warren, senior vice president and managing director of WSP’s Building Systems, believes there is enough work throughout the metro region for years to come.

“Everyone says you are going to saturate the market at some point,” he says. “But there is research showing that existing space is being consumed and that more is needed.”

Underwood Pool’s ‘Last’ Days this Weekend

Belmont residents – the few still in town during the Labor Day holiday – were anticipating to witness the final days of the Underwood Pool, the oldest continuously serving outdoor municipal pool in the US, as it prepares to shut down for the final time since opening its doors a few weeks after the Titanic sank in 1912.

After 102 years, the historic pool would be open for one last weekend before shutting down.

But with news earlier this week that Woburn-based Seaver Construction withdrew its low bid to build a new Underwood Pool complex – the only one of five bidders who was within the $4.9 million construction budget – the future of the existing oval-shaped pool has grown a bit murky as town officials scramble to determine their next move on the already designed new two pool complex scheduled to open on the first day of summer 2015.

Town departments, officials and the new pool’s building committee will meet at 8 a.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 3 to discuss any next steps that can be taken.

For those residents who wish to take a “final” plunge into the historic facility, the pool’s Labor Day weekend schedule is:

  • Friday and Saturday, Aug. 29 and 30: 10 a.m. to 5:45 p.m.
  • Sunday, Aug. 31: 1 p.m. to 5:45 p.m.
  • Monday, Sept. 1 (the “final” day): noon to 4 p.m.


New Underwood Pool in Flux as Low Bidder Leaves Belmont High and Dry

The sudden departure of the construction company set to build the new Underwood Pool complex has left the future the town’s facility in flux as officials prepare to convene to discuss Belmont’s options in completing the project by next year.

“We are disappointed that Seaver Construction decided to withdraw its bid, as we were looking forward to working with them to build the new Underwood Pool,” said Adam Dash, the vice chair of the Underwood Pool Building Committee which oversees the pool’s design and construction.

The Belmont Board of Selectmen has announced that it will be holding a special meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 3 at 8 a.m. to discuss the fate of the new complex with the Underwood Pool Building Committee at Town Hall.

Under the Building Committee’s tentative timeline, construction on the two-pool complex was scheduled to begin in September with completion by the first day of summer 2015, replacing the 102-year-old existing structure.

There is no official word whether the committee’s time schedule remains viable at this late date.

Not only was the Woburn-based company the lowest of four bids to build the $5.2 million project, Seaver was also the only firm to stay within the established budget.

According to a press release from the Belmont Department of Public Works, Seaver withdrew its bid “on the grounds of having made a clerical error” in determining their cost in completing the project.

Under state law, public construction regulations prevent adjustments from being made after bids are submitted.

But even calculating in the error, according to the DPW, Seaver’s bid would have still been within the project’s budget and would have remained the low bid.

Seaver has built several projects in Belmont, including il Casale Restaurant in Belmont Center, converting a private house into the Belmont Hill School new Alumni Center and a high-end residential home at 365 Marsh St.

Dash said the committee “would like to review the options going forward with the Town Administrator [David Kale] and the Board of Selectmen.”


A Sunny Muddy Day at the Underwood Pool

Sunday was the perfect summer weekend day; sunny, warm and dry.

Dry, that is, until you mix water and dirt together and then send wave after wave of children racing on an obstacles course around the Underwood Pool on Sunday, Aug. 24 as the Belmont Recreation Department held its inaugural “Kid’s Mud Run” to give kids a chance to say goodbye to the century-old municipal pool. 

Belmont Recreation Department’s Program Supervisor June Howell and her staff spent the morning creating a course that included a downhill water slide, a tour of the Underwood Playground, sack races and two mud-filled children pools at the beginning and end of the “Tour de Underwood.”

At high noon, the children from 4 to 12 where sent along the route circling the pool – after 102 years, the facility will be replaced with a modern $5.2 million two pool complex approved by the spring Town Meeting in April – to the thrill of parents, friends and siblings.

“It was really nice,” said Grace McDonald, the winner of the girls’ 4 to 6 year old group. All winners received a Summer 2015 Family Membership and a trophy.

The winners are:

Girls’ 4-6: Grace MacDonald

Boys’ 4-6: Aaron White

Girls’ 7-8: Candace Burger

Boys’ 7-8: Adam Bower

Girls’ 9-10: Sylvia Davidson

Boys’ 9-10: Colin Fergason

Girls’ 11+ : Oliva Zarzycki

Boys’ 11+ : Sean Palmer

Finally, several Rec Dept. councilors and lifeguards took their lives into their hands in their own special race.

After the event, the pool was open to all for free with music, hot dogs and games for the remainder 0f the day.
The Underwood Pool’s final day will be Labor Day, Monday, Sept. 1.

Rec Dept. Says Good-Bye to Underwood Pool With Kid’s Mud Run

How do you say good-bye to an old friend?

How about a day of mud and fun!

That sounds just about right to Belmont Recreation Department’s Program Supervisor June Howell. After holding a successful season-opening event – the Summer Blast Off – for the town’s Underwood Pool in June, Howell began to think about holding some sort of celebration to mark the end of the life of “the “old Underwood” (this year marks the pool’s 102nd summer) and incorporating the kids seemed to be a great idea.

That’s when Howell remembered something she had been keeping in the back of her head for a number of years; a fun run around the facility with water slides, obstacles and mud.
Lots of mud. 
“Actually, my (adult) nephew told me about one he did and I researched to see how they adapted it for children. They are becoming quite popular.  So between looking at websites and using our imaginations, we came up with some obstacles and a course we think will be fun yet safe,” said Howell.
So at high noon on Sunday, Aug. 24, kids will be able to take part in the Rec Department’s first-ever Kid’s Mud Run at the Underwood Pool to recognize the last days of the century-old facility.
Kids between 4 and 12 will start off at a “mud pit” before heading up the hill to the playground above the pool where they will attack a balance beam, weave in and out between the swing set, carry wood then head back to the pool where after more challenges, they head to the sprinklers before wading across the kiddie portion of the pool to the finish line.
There will be four categories, boys and girls 4 to 6, 7 to 8, 9 to 10 and 11 to 12, with the winners receiving a Summer 2015 Family Membership and a trophy.
After the mud, the Rec Department will hold an open community day at the pool with no membership or day pass required to enter from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. There will be music, hot dogs, swimming and games.

“I really think it’s going to be a blast for the kids,” said Howell. “And for all of us at the department too.”

You can find applications and a course map for the Kid’s Mud Run online at the Belmont Recreation Department Web site. (

Belmont Weekend: Pool Blast Off Sunday, Bright Corner Fair, the ‘Chef’ at the Studio

• The Belmont Recreation Department will be holding the 6th annual Summer Blast Off Party at the Underwood Pool on Sunday, June 22, 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. Join the celebration of the Underwood Pools’ farewell season with music, games and fun.

• The Bright Corner Summer Fair will be held in the strip mall at 70 Concord Ave. on Saturday, June 21, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The event is sponsored by the three businesses – East Boston Savings Bank, Indigo Fire and Mathnasium – in the mall and Belmont Dental Group.

• Blockbuster, smockbuster; forget all the loud, visually-maddening mega-films aimed at stuffing young people in movie theaters. Playing at Belmont’s Studio Cinema is “Chef,” a “small” film directed, co-produced, written by and starring Jon Favreau with co-stars Robert Downey, Jr.Scarlett JohanssonSofía VergaraDustin HoffmanOliver Platt and John Leguizamo. Show times are 3:30 p.m., 6 p.m. and 8:15 p.m Friday, Saturday and SundaySee the trailer here.


Membership to the Historic Underwood Pool’s Final Season Now on Sale

It opened only months after both the sinking of the Titanic and the very first opening day at Fenway Park. It survived wars, polio epidemics and years of underfunding.

But finally, Belmont’s 102-year-old Underwood Pool, which some believe is the oldest outdoor municipal pool in the US, is preparing for its final season after voters and Town Meeting approved funding to build a new $5.2 million pool complex on the site to open in June 2015.

This summer will be residents last chance to experience the Underwood Pool of years past with summer memberships for residents and non-residents, children, adults and families now on sale at the Recreation Department’s website

The season lasts from June 21 to Sept. 1.

Memberships for residents are $100 for children, $140 for adults and $225 for families.

A membership allows swimming at both Underwood and the Higginbottom pool which is located in the Wenner Field House at Belmont High School. 

The Underwood Pool will open Saturday,  June 21.  The annual ‘summer Blast Off’ at the pool is scheduled for Sunday, June 22 with swimming lessons begin Tuesday, June 24.

LIVE FEED: Belmont Town Meeting, Night 2: Pool, Pot, Shoveling and Yard Sales

7 p.m.: Welcome to the second night of the 155th edition of the Belmont Town Meeting here at the Belmont High School auditorium.

Tonight will see the – hopefully – the final night for non-budget articles.

First up is an update report on the “quaint” Belmont Center reconstruction being presented by Glenn Clancy, director of Community Development and Selectmen chair Andy Rojas. The days of doing nothing or just fixing the pavement is not what is needed, said Clancy.

The work, costing around $2.6 million, could be funded with a state grant, capital funds from the Cushing Square parking lot ($850,000) and the Woodfall Road payment (just north of $2 million), a debt exclusion, Chapter 90 fund, town reserves or existing pavement management funds, said Town Administrator David Kale. The town will come back at the fall Special Town Meeting on how to pay for it.

This presentation is the first volley by the town in the public campaign for funding.

7:35 p.m.: Long-term Town Meeting members are being honored. And Marty Cohen, 39 years of service, speaks before his colleagues on the differences from when he first came to the meeting in 1974 including that women now constitutes 50 percent of Town Meeeting. Speak loud and learn the rules, is his advice.IMG_5549

Dave Rogers, our active State Rep., is going over what’s happening on Beacon Hill impacting Belmont. There is largely good news with an increase in state aid for general government and schools along with special funding for energy efficient buildings.

7:50 p.m.: First up for debate and a vote tonight will be the two articles concerning the funding of the proposed new Underwood Pools complex scheduled to replace in June, 2015 the 102-year-old swimming “pond” adjacent to the Belmont Public Library at the corner of Concord Avenue.

Members will vote on a $2 million grant from the town’s Community Preservation Committee as well as allowing the town to borrow $2.9 million the town’s voters approved by 62 percent on Town Election on April 1.

Selectmen Chair Andy Rojas wants to give an update on some design changes after the April 1 vote. Rojas said that the design voters selected is a preliminary one so new revisions and changes can be made with a “more rigorous” process. This process could save money, but please note there will be more public comment on the pool. “Tell us what your thought are.”

Ann Paulsen, the Pool Building Chair, is presenting the history of the design process. She highlights that there were many meetings, multiple changes the committee made with other groups, and a design that has won the approval of the Underwood family. “This will keep a community amenity for the next 50 years.”

8 p.m.: “Let’s dive in,” said Underwood Pool Building Committee member Adam Dash – to a collective groan – who is reviewing the design and changes that will be made.IMG_5565

Much of what Dash is explaining has been reported in the Belmontonian, including a detail of the current design – a two pool complex (a “kiddy” pool and a more “adult” oriented one with laps and a diving pool) with updated bathhouses on both ends, greater green space, and a revamped parking lot design.

For more information, go to the Underwood Pool Building Committee Facebook page.

This is what people wanted to see [in the pool design]” said Dash.

Now for something different: the first image of the new design for the bath houses, on a more historic theme. With HIP roof, nice airy design, easy to clean and a “Belmont” feel. And the view from Concord Avenue is “inviting.”

Dash also explains how the money is coming from. “We got our monies worth out of the pool,” he said. Will he get a hand for his presentation? He does.

Questions? Jim Stanton, Pct. 1, asks why there is a historic preservation element in the CPA funding when the bath house is being razed? Floyd Carman, town treasurer and vice chair of the CPC, said the committee just doesn’t look at small bits of money but how it effects Belmont as a whole. Stanton, who said he will be voting for the pool, said the CPA is a “law” and it should be followed and is “not for us to decide the Belmont way” in interpreting the law. Paulsen then comes up and said that what is historic is that the site is the location of the first outdoor municipal pool in the country “and we are maintaining the site that is historic.”

Funny moment: Dash explaining why two pools: “If there is a child has an ‘accident’ in the kiddy pool, and let the record show that I am using air quotes when referring to ‘accident’,” to the laughter of the members.

The article is called and is passed with a single “no” vote.

8:44 p.m.: Now up is article 17 allowing the town to borrow $2.9 million from the town election. It will cost residents $48 but that will be offset by a $108 reduction with the expiration of the Chenery Middle School debt to considerable cheers.

The article is called and easily passes the 2/3 barrier to applause. The town officially has a new pool!

8:48 p.m.: Now up, CPA grants. You can approve or deny, said CPC chair Paul Solomon.

Five grants to be approved:

  • $8,700 for the JV Field irrigation upgrade.
  • $165,000 for the electrical upgrade at town-owned housing.
  • $66,524 for phase 2 of the Butler Elementary playground project.
  • $100,000 for the renovation of the Winn Brook field (Belmont Second Soccer)
  • $375,000 for first-time homebuyer’s assistance (Belmont Housing Trust)
  • $12,000 for the Belmont Community Moving Image Archive.
Only the first-time homebuyer’s program could come under some questioning as the Warrant Committee overwhelmingly voted against the grant.
Jim Stanton, Pct. 1, questions the $56,000 administrative costs of the Community Preservation Committee including hiring a person – who works in the Treasurer’s Office – to do the stand alone committee work. He’d like to see more transparency of costs. Rojas said that the money is well spent as the CPC has to do a great deal of work each year. If the entire amount is not used, the remaining money is put back into the CPA fund. While not disputing the need for the money, Paul Roberts of Pct. 8, said the committee could it saved itself the grief of having the members pull the information from the committee’s documentation. Solomon agreed and said they will do better.
9:13 p.m.: We are back after a short break and the members will debate and vote on the individual grants. First is $8,700 for the JV field, a request from the Belmont Soccer Association. It’s approved unanimously.
The electric upgrade at Belmont Village (circa 1949), a $165,000 request from the Belmont Housing Authority. Sue Bass, Pct. 2, asks if this is the first of several future requests as the current amount will only revamps 25 units. Donna Hamilton of the BHA said that is likely as they do not receive sufficient monies from the state and federal government. Fred Paulsen, Pct. 1, said Belmont’s legislators should seek state funds as the town should not use taxpayers funds (the CPA is funded by a property surtax) for state housing. Jack Weis, Pct. 1, said that he was told that any maintenance is the town’s responsibility so the use of the money is appropriate. But lots of residents, such as Roger Wrubel, Pct. 5, Anne-Marie Lambert, Pct. 8, and Tomi Olson, Pct. 5, contend that this work should be the state’s responsibility and it should fund it. “I will vote for it but this doesn’t feel good,” said Ellen Schreiber, Pct. 8, who asked if this is about safety, why only fix a quarter of the units? Hamilton said $165,000 is a lot of money to ask Town Meeting to pass.
The question is called and this amount is approved. This took a half-hour to debate so it’s looking unlikely that we’ll get through all the articles tonight. Sigh!
9:45 p.m.: Really? One person voted against $66,524 for improvements to the new Butler playground? Come on!
Belmont Second Soccer’s request for $100,000 for their $302,000 project to renovation the Winn Brook field so kindergarteners can chase in a moving cluster after a soccer ball on a well-maintained pitch is approved unanimously.
9:54 p.m.: A real debate is expected with this request: Belmont Housing Trust’s $375,000 grant for a first-time homebuyer’s assistance. Mike Libenson, chair of the Warrant Committee, said the Town Meeting’s watchdog members voted 10-3 with one not voting against the request as it’s so limited – just three households will be added to the town’s affordable housing stock which is only 3.8 percent, nearly 600 units from the state benchmark of 10 percent.
Judith Feins of the BHT, defends the request as being cost effective and allowing families with a medium household income of 80 percent ($61,000 for a three person family) to live in the community. They will be selected in a lottery. Gloria Leipzig, BHT vice chair, gives a real person example of a family who sees their monthly housing expenses don’t exceed what they can afford. One purpose of the CPA funds is to increase and preserve community housing. Sure, it’s not going to help reach the 10 percent but it is a concrete example of Belmont’s commitment to affordable housing. Treasurer Floyd Carman gives the request a boost by comparing a first-time homebuyer’s program (which adds taxes to the town) or a fully-subsized housing model like Waverley Oaks (no tax money).
Selectman Sami Baghdady, who appears to be speaking for those opposing the measure, said the money could be better spent elsewhere as the $325,000 is a large amount of money to spend that will not nudge the affordable housing gauge. To reach the 10 percent state goal can be better made by developments such as Cushing Village where 12 units will be added with no cost to the town.
Bob McLaughlin, Pct. 2, and warrant committee member said that Belmont does not have a [housing/economically] diversity problem and this proposal is a “waste of $325,000” as it doesn’t help the town meet the 10 percent state benchmark.
Paul Roberts and Fred Paulsen spoke very strongly to this measure. “This is the type of affordable housing that Belmont wants”  “You want to see Belmont freak out, propose 600-units of affordable housing,” he said. Don’t get hung up on 10 percent, “do it because its the right thing to do.” Paulsen pointed out that the Cushing Village model is not realistic as Belmont doesn’t have the land to create another Cushing Village.
Roger Colton, Pct. 6, said in the past, Belmont spent $1.5 million to build four units; this grant will produce three units. “This is the right thing as policy; it’s the right thing morally.”
Richard Hanson, Pct. 5, gave an economics lesson on why the members should vote against the proposal including the impact of lost equity that is part of urban blight; Lucia Sullivan, Pct. 3, of B Street – who is a neighbor of three affordable apartments – said she supports this request as she has great neighbors.
Ralph Jones, notes the town over the past 20 years have approved small numbers of units not to reach the 10 percent goal but because it is the right thing to do.
It’s 10:52 p.m. We might get through this by 11:15 p.m. Maybe.
Devin Brown, Pct. 5, worries that owners will not have the equity which could be a determent to making repairs.
Bonnie Friedman, Pct. 3, said she knows of a lot of renters that would love to own. “We can make this work.”
Jack Weis, Pct. 1, said there is nothing in this request that precludes the town from seeking more developments to add affordable housing. “This is not an either/or question,” he said. The public voted for the CPA with the understanding that housing would be used.
Now the vote. And it’s not even close: 129 for, 70 against. It passes.
One final vote, for $12,000 to moving image. And the Town Meeting is now adjourned until next Monday, May 12 at 7 p.m.

Belmont Town Meeting Resumes at 7 PM

After an opening session that was a two dog (article) night, the 2014 annual Belmont Town Meeting will resume at 7 p.m., Wednesday, May 7, with the remaining non-budgetary articles with a real chance of finishing the May portion of the yearly assemblage of the town’s legislative body.

The approximately 300 representatives who will gather at Belmont High School’s auditorium are tackling a number of new issues and others returning to Town Meeting for subsequent votes.

Representatives are asked to be in the auditorium before 7 p.m. so the meeting can start on time.

A copy of the warrant which contains the articles can be found here on the Town Clerk’s web page.

Tonight’s meeting will be broadcasted live by the Belmont Media Center.

First up for debate and a vote tonight will be the two articles concerning the funding of the proposed new Underwood Pools complex scheduled to replace in June, 2015 the 102-year-old swimming “pond” adjacent to the Belmont Public Library at the corner of Concord Avenue.

Reps will vote on a $2 million grant from the town’s Community Preservation Committee as well as allowing the town to borrow $2.9 million the town’s voters approved by 62 percent on Town Election on April 1.

Next will be the remaining six CPA grants including a first-time homebuyer’s program that could come under some questioning as the Warrant Committee overwhelmingly voted against the funding. 

Back for a second try is a proposed bylaw regulating yard sales to three a year. The citizen’s petition was defeated in the Special Town Meeting in November. 

A second citizen’s petition will attempt to kill a bylaw that passed in November: the new residential snow removal bylaw that has been enforced for just one snow “event” this year.

The last article on tonight’s agenda will be where residents will have to travel to get their medical marijuana with the creation of an overlay district.