Belmont Town Meeting Notes: Live Blog

We’re here at Town Meeting – we’ve dispensed with a lot of administrative business and are on to the meat of the Spring town meeting: Article 16 which is asking TM to approve the concept of the preliminary design of a new main library and authorize the Board of Library Trustees to apply for grants etc.

On the table here is around $8.5 million in state grant money at some point in the future – probably July 2011. This should be a no-brainer, given that voting “yes” doesn’t compel the Town to spend any money on anything – or even form a building committee, while voting “no” forecloses on Belmont getting state money to build a new library anytime in the foreseeable future (read: the next 20-30 years).  The Warrant Committee, Capital Budget Committee and Board of Selectmen have all weighed in for approval of this, but we’ll see. The Tea Party line on this is “NO NO NO!” but not sure how many of them are in the audience.

Thanks to Sara Masucci for letting me bum a Smartie!


Matt Lowrie of the Library Board of Trustees (hereafter LBoT) is speaking and we’re getting to the elephant in the living room around the new library: the current softball field or soccer field gets nixed with the new library design. I’m ready to say goodbye to the softball field if I don’t have to sit in a cramped, 40 year old study carol with frayed wires hanging off of it when I want some quiet space to work, aren’t you? Given the narrowness of the available, non-playing field space, without nixing the softball field, our new library will most likely have to look something like this:

our new library? don't bet on it!

our new library? don't count on it!

State requirements say, based on Belmont’s population and use statistics for the existing, 29,000 square foot structure, we need to build a 45,000 square foot library to qualify for State matching funds. Plusses: modern infrastructure (like fire suppression and air conditioning) as well as AWDA compliance – which our current library doesn’t have and which we’re one good lawsuit away from having to offer at a cost of about 30% of the current usable space.

Belmont library stats:

  • 313,000 annual visits last year – more than 1,000 a day!!
  • 15,000 registered users.
  • Current estimate on costs: $18.5m. State funds: $8.5m, $3m private fund raising, around $600,000 in pocket and $250 promised already. Estimated around $22m to build in current location.
  • New library cost per house: $5/month or $60/year.
  • This may work with other capital plans (like the police station)

Costs of doing nothing:

  • $3.4m for roof, elevator, hvac, fire suppression
  • $2.2m front steps, carpet and asbestos tile, power
  • Accessibility: $1.0m – still has vacuum tubes (cool!)
  • $60,000 for glazing, partitions
  • Total: $3.4m to $6.6m.

Thanks to Sara Masucci for letting me bum a Sweet Tart!

School Committee has voted neither for nor against this plan because they don’t have enough information on what the building will look like and what the contingency plans for the softball field are. The BSC is worried about issues like accreditation for the school, adequate compensation for the land that is currently used as a softball field. Mark Paolillo of the Board of Selectmen says that everyone will work hard to find a solution to the softball field.

Question: how can we even talk about a new library when everything is going to pot in town?!


Zombies are at town meeting!!! Aaargh!

Anne Rittenburg is taking the time to skewer the library plan. Four words: heavily. ulitilized. athletic.facility. Matt Lowrie: analysis paralysis – we’ve been studying the bejezus out of this for a decade and now all we need to do is give the green light to possibly qualifying for state matching funds for almost 50% of this project at some point in the future (subject to Town Meeting approval, of course).

UPDATE: Lots of debate – mostly about the advisability of building a new library, which is – in moderator Widmer’s words – “out of scope” for the question. Someone suggests that Belmont’s fabled fire bug have a go at our fire suppression-less, fifty year old library and, with that, the question is smartly moved. We approve it heartily.

Article 17 gets pulled for some reason – whatever happened to the governance reform recommendations? This is one of them.

UPDATE: Article 18 regarding addresses in town. There’s an article to give the Board of Selectmen clear authority to appoint Town employees to oversee the numbering of all taxable and non-taxable properties. This could have a real impact on my plan to unilaterally relist my property as 54 7/8 Cross Street!

Dave Petto: IT Director for Belmont is addressing TM on Article 18. This article is brought to you by “all the departments in town.”  Turns out that all the different town computers have separate and non-reconciled address tables for properties in town. Example: Assessors table has parcel addresses, but not separate per-unit addresses for multi unit addresses. Verizon e-911, tax assessors addresses, etc. Apparently, correlating these addresses is a huge job and adding lots of overhead to Town departments. IT wants one address table that all the departments can reference. Makes sense to me.  I’m ready to vote “Yes.”

Question: will this bylaw require anyone to change their address, get a new license? Glen Clancy – short answer “Yes” but only in instances where there are inconsistencies or some safety issues. Glen virtually guarantees that folks in multi unit buildings won’t need to get a new address. Emphasis on “virtually.” 😉

Question: What do other towns do about this? Are we ahead? Are we behind?

Glen Clancy: “I wouldn’t say we’re behind, I’d say we’re not…ahead.”

We vote to approve this common sense request from the town. No surprise.

UPDATE: OK. We just voted to dismiss something. I don’t know what it was. Article 19: The Tree Bylaw. (Thanks, Sara!)

UPDATE: On to Article 20: Stretch Energy Code. Even getting the right slide up on screen was a major and complex issue involving Town Counsel. That’s a sign that this Article is gonna rock!!

Moderator Widmer is suggesting that we “postpone” this Article. Or table it. Or take it out into the parking lot and shoot it. We’re all strongly in favor. Roger Colton moves to table. There are 50 “seconds” to this. We’re putting it off until later.

Suggestion: when we get amended bylaws how about putting the italics on the new stuff?!?!

UPDATE: Article 21: Community Preservation Act – there are three amendments to the original motion. This is gonna be a good one. Oop! We’re punting this one till Wednesday’s meeting, too. This is easy!!

UPDATE: Article 22: This one gives the Town Clerk the ability to distribute notices of pending Town Meetings to Town Meeting members electronically to the verbiage about distributing notice to TM members. This one should win easy approval – what with e-mail entering its third decade. We learn Don Mercer doesn’t have an e-mail account. Approved.

UPDATE: Article 23: Mike Liebenson of Warrant Committee is introducing this one, which is about consolidating the Town and School Dept. maintenance and facilities functions. Voting for this will authorize the Board of Selectmen, School Committee and School Dept. to implement a consolidation.

Looooong wind up to this article by Mike. I could do it in five words: This Will Save Us Money. Besides, my laptop is running out of juice. Can’t mike see the blinking battery light from up at the podium?!?