After seven-and-a-half years and a little more than two terms, Selectman Angelo Firenze came to his final schedule Board of Selectmen's meeting Monday, March 19, with praise for his colleagues, staff and the community.
With his wife, Wega, in attendance, the dapper-attired Firenze said he was "delighted to have served the residents of Belmont," while noting the wonderful staff, he fellow members and the tremendous citizens who volunteer on the "too many committees in town."
While it was a difficult decision to turn down another election run, Firenze said there are "two great candidates" running for his seat – Dan Scharfman and Andy Rojas, who Firenze is endorsing – so that Belmont will be in good hands.
Firenze will be helping his wife with her illness before they take time to head down to Florida and a likely trip to Italy in August.
The Belmont Board of Assessors came before the Selectmen Monday with a request for support of their plan to request landowners who are not required to pay real estate taxes to consider making payments in lieu of taxes, known as PILOT.
In the past 12 years, 13 properties worth $14 million and $175,000 in tax revenue have been acquired by non-profits such as Belmont Hill School.
"That $175,000 means that residents have to pay an extra $25 in taxes beyond what they would normally pay," said Board Member Charles Laverty.
Modeled after a highly-successful program in Cambridge, the town's new PILOT program will seek to have tax exempt property owners to contribute some share of essential services costs. Currently, seven non-profits contributed $36,800 this year with an eighth agreeing to come on board.
"We are gaining momentum and would like continued backing," said Laverty, indicating the board would like to reach a goal of $100,000 in the next few years.
"I will suggest you carry on and collect all the amount you can," said Selectmen Chairman Ralph Jones.
New Ambulance on its way
The Selectmen approved the Belmont Fire Department purchase of a new ambulance to replace the 2002 vehicle currently being used.
Belmont Fire Chief David Fizzell told Selectmen once last year's Town Meeting OK'd the ambulance purchase, the department created an internal committee to determine both the specifications required by the department as well as possibly put a new body on the existing chassis and the trade-in cost.
In the end, the department is purchasing a new 2012 Horton ambulance with a Ford 450 chassis for $208,064 including equipment and after trading-in the 2002 ambulance worth $8,000 which will likely be refurbished and sent overseas.
Board doesn't want it, but Butch does
At last year's annual Town Meeting, the representatives balked at an attempt by the Selectmen to dispose two small parcels on either side of the MBTA commuter rail tracks off White and Pleasant streets.
One reason for the negative vote was that one parcel, at the intersection of White and Grant streets, was used by and kept in good repair by Austin Bennent, better known throughout town as "Butch." Town Meeting decided that putting up the land for sale would essentially box Bennent into a tiny driveway.
On Monday, former Selectman and Belmont attorney Stephen Rosales asked the Selectmen to help Bennent acquire the land by asking the Board to give up any rights the town has on the parcel.
While they said they would wait for advise from town counsel, the Selectmen were more than happy to dispose of the roughly 3,000 square feet of land to "Butch."
A solid gift from Judy
Three members of the Judith K. Record Memorial Conservation Fund present the board and the town a stone wall. More to the point, the fund reconstructed a 600-foot stone wall that separates the town's new Lone Tree Hill conservation land and upper Concord Avenue.
After decades of neglect and recent road construction, the historic wall was in disrepair with stones knocked over and stolen from the site, said Kit Dreier, chairwoman of the JKR Fund, named after the noted Belmont conservationist.
After their offer to rebuild the wall was accepted by Selectmen last year, the JKR Fund hired craftsmen skilled in historic wall reconstruction.
Now, said Dreier, a piece of Belmont history has been restored. And rather than present the wall at Town Hall, JKR board members presented an array of photos of the reconstruction for the town to display.
Two transportation items get Board OK
• After a long wait, the members of the Community Path Advisory Committee has been selected. The seven men – Brian Burke, Jr., Cosmo Caterino, Jeffrey Roth, Price Armstrong, Joseph Noone, John Dieckmann and Kevin Sullivan – will gather information and ID issues and concerns concerning the proposed bike path that will run from Waltham to Cambridge.
• Ralph Jones wants the town to support NuRide, a ride-sharing and reward system in which users track their daily commutes, see their environmental impact and receive rewards – include free merchandise, discounted meals and event tickets, and other goods from local sponsoring organizations – for their “green” trips.