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Remembering the Top 13 Stories in Belmont in 2013

News in the past 12 months in Belmont.

Level 3 sex offender Carl Peterson talking at a public meeting that included Belmont Police Chief Richard McLaughlin.
Level 3 sex offender Carl Peterson talking at a public meeting that included Belmont Police Chief Richard McLaughlin.
If you read the national and overseas analysis of 2013, you'd think that it is the beginning of the end of civilization; The Economist says the world entering 2014 resembles that of a century ago just before nations stumbled into the First World War while a senior US Senator wrote that the country was on the verge of collapse due to leaders ruling rather than governing. There were some ups in '13 – Boston Red Sox winning another World Series – but those were accompanied by true terrorism coming less than a mile from the Belmont town line on a warm day in April. 

Locally, 2013 saw the end of some traditions (Macy's closing) and the start of things new (Cushing Village). The list below is in no particular order. 

What other news would you have added to this list? Place your big news in the comment section:

13. Dan Schafman: The new year could not have started on a sadder note as School Committee member and all-around great guy Dan Schafman, a man who loved the schools, his family and finding solutions to everyday problems, suffered a devestating heart attack in January and died a week later. There would be void that has yet to be filled in town after it lost one of its smartest and committed sons. 

12. Cushing Village/Woodfall Road: It took a year-and-a-half of at times contentious discussion between the Planning Board and the team lead by developer Chris Starr but the project – a nearly 190,000 square-foot retail, housing and parking complex in the heart of Cushing Square – got a thumbs up from the board. In addition, the town-owned Woodfall Road parcel is being purchased for $2.2 million by a locally-led team. 

11. The fiscal 2014 budget: Was it that painless? Unlike previous years when dire predictions ruled the day, a smarter way of creating the annual budget – involving a town-wide approach and pushing back the entire process to ensure more reliable data and numbers – reduced the anxiety especially for the schools, which represents 58 percent of the more than $90 million budget.

10. Special Town Meeting: Four major items were taken up in November with the financing of a new turf field at the High School being approved and the reps OK-ing demolition delay and snow removal articles. The yard sale bylaw appeared to pass muster but a recount of the initial vote discovered that it failed by a handful of votes. 

9. Doling out CPA Money: The first use of Community Preservation funds proved to be a success as all nine projects receiving part of the nearly $1 million in grants was approved by Town Meeting in May. 

8. Sex Offender Speaks Out: This came out of the blue; at a September public meeting concerning the news that a high level sex offender had come to town, Carl Peterson, the person who the meeting was about, got up and spoke to about 150 stunned residents. It was an extraordinary 20 minutes in which he attempted to calm the public about his presence, to very mixed results. The Belmont Patch article of the meeting was picked up by hundreds of national and international news organization and media sites. 

7. Sports: Belmont High School sports had some memorable highlights: Girls' Basketball and Boys' Baseball reached state sectional semifinals, Girls' Ice Hockey merges with Watertown, Boys' Soccer and Boys' Golf captured league championships, after a great season Field Hockey was surprised by being thrown into a higher division for the playoffs, while Girls' Swimming placed second in the Div. 2 state championships with sophomore Jessica Blake-West (100 butterfly) and the team's 200 medley relay (Blake-West, Angela Li, Emily Quinn and Ana Pulak) becoming state champions. 

6. One More Pool Season: The historic Underwood Pool opened for its 101st season but only after the state and town waived some regulatory requirements with the understanding that the town come up with a plan to build a new structure on the site. That effort got underway this fall for a $4.5 million project. 

5. New Library Fail: The hope of a new public library died an ignominious death when the Board of Library Trustees could not convince the School Committee to depart with a softball field back in April as the new home of a library. The town had to return $8.5 million in a state grant to assist in building the $19 million structure. 

4. A Super Selected: Belmont will be getting a new school superintendent as John Phelan, the assistant superintendent in Milton, was selected by the Belmont School Committee during a nasty snowstorm in December. 

3. End of a Long Shopping Spree: After 72 years, Macy's – formerly Filene's – shut down its Belmont Center store in part due to consolidation within the company. The landlord, Locatelli Properties, has been tight lipped about the future of the site. 

2. Brownsberger's Long Run: Belmont's own State Sen. Will Brownsberger ran a spirited campaign for US Representative in the 5th Congressional district for the seat vacated by current US Senator Ed Markey in which he broke from Democrat orthodoxy on several issues. But this was not a year for straight talk as he finished fourth in a five person field. 

1. Terror Comes Home: The Boston Marathon terrorist bombing and the Watertown shootout: A number of residents were in the vicinity of the finish line when the two explosives went off. Four days later, Belmont Police and Fire assisted neighboring Watertown public safety when that town became ground zero in the hunt for and the eventual capture of the surviving of two terrorist. That Friday, Belmont was placed under a regional "lock down" with residents staying nervously indoors as a manhunt was conducted less than a mile away. 

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