Underwood Pool Fundraising Update: We’re Half Way There!

Just a note to my loyal Blogging Belmont readers about the status of the private effort to bridge an unexpected $388,000 shortfall for construction of a new Underwood Pool. With a bit more than a month to go, private donations stand at $93,000. Combined with dollar-for-dollar matching funds pledged by the Belmont Savings Bank Foundation, that brings the total raised to $186,000: a hair shy of the halfway mark.

[Save the Underwood Pool. Click here to donate!]

In an e-mail dated September 18, Ellen Schreiber said that, with six weeks of fundraising left, Belmont residents have sent checks totaling $93,000, with donations ranging from $10 to $25,000. “We’ve made a lot of progress, but there is still a long way to go!” Schreiber wrote.

An image of the redesigned Underwood Pool. Rebidding the pool would likely require design changes.

An image of the redesigned Underwood Pool. Rebidding the pool would likely require design changes.

Ellen is chair of the fundraising campaign along with former Selectman (and current Town Meeting member) Ralph Jones and Bob Mahoney, president of the Belmont Savings Bank.

The pool story has also received some media attention – not just in the local press (BCH and Belmontonian), but also the Boston Globe.  and this one in the Boston Business Journal.

Some background on this for those of you who are confused and wondering why there needs to be a private fundraising effort when the town voted for a debt exclusion to pay for the pool. The short answer is that Belmont got blindsided by Seaver Construction of Woburn, which came in with a $3.8 million proposal then withdrew its bid at the last minute, citing a clerical error. (Note to readers: beware of Seaver Construction!!)

State law prevents Belmont from negotiating with Seaver or other bidders, so the only option is for the town to go to one of the other construction firms that bid on the job and accept their offer. The next lowest bid to Seaver came from New England Builders and Contractors of Methuen – but was $388,000 more than the Seaver bid. The town now needs to come up with the difference to prevent the project from having to be put out to bid again (ruling our reconstruction by next summer). New England Builders has graciously extended their offer until the end of October. If Belmont’s private fundraising drive succeeds in closing the funding gap, New England Builders says it can begin construction immediately and have the pool ready in time for the summer 2015 season (winter weather permitting).

Belmont residents voted overwhelmingly to rebuild the pool last spring, with 62% of residents voting in favor of the debt exclusion. As Ellen notes in her letter, that support “includes young families and empty nesters, homeowners who are new to Belmont and those who grew up here, residents who use the pool and those who don’t.”

Donate now to keep a 101 year tradition alive in Belmont. Point your web browser to http://www.underwoodpool.com to donate!

Solar Supporters: Hearing On New Solar Metering Rules In Belmont Tonight

This is a note to all my readers that there’s an important meeting at the Town Hall auditorium this evening at 7:00 PM concerning Belmont Light’s policies for supporting residents who wish to switch to solar power.

Belmont residents who use solar power could find themselves paying the town for energy they generate and give back to the grid under new rules proposed by Belmont Municipal Light Department.

Belmont residents who use solar power could find themselves paying the town for energy they generate and give back to the grid under new rules proposed by Belmont Municipal Light Department.

You might not know, but Belmont Municipal Light is weighing a series of rules changes about how it reimburses residents who have solar panels on their homes. Long and short: the proposed “net metering” policies would change Belmont from a town that reimburses residents for extra power that they generate and give back to the grid to actually _charging_ residents for the power they consume and generate. That’s right: you can give electricity back to the grid for BMLD to use or sell, and pay for the privilege of doing it.

Here’s how Sustainable Belmont describes the proposed rule change, dubbed “Phase III”:

Phase III
MLAB is now proposing to enter Phase II only as an interim measure. Phase II would begin this fall as planned, but without the energy production caps in place. Phase III, which MLAB has termed “wholesale net metering”, would begin once new billing processes are developed. Under this phase, solar customers would pay retail rate for all their energy consumption, whether they generated it themselves or not. These customers would receive wholesale rates for all the energy they produce. Click here for a full description of the proposed Phase III.

At a hearing in the Belmont Town Hall Auditorium this evening, the Selectmen (who also act as the Town’s light board) will hear comments from the community on this policy.

Needless to say: changing our town from one that encourages solar adoption to one that, in essence, punishes residents from choosing solar is a step that is 180 degrees in the wrong direction. Residents should make an effort to turn out to Town Hall this evening at 7:00 and make their voices heard. Even if you don’t use solar – and have no intention of using solar – its important for Belmont to put itself on the right side of history and common sense here: crafting a policy that both supports residential adoption of renewables and supports the continuing operation of BMLD.

Sustainable Belmont has a nice write up of the issue on their website here. Read it and then head on down to Town Hall to show your support for solar in Belmont.

An Opportunity To Meet The New School Superintendent

Summer’s fast drawing to a close and thoughts are turning to the new school year. With that in mind, parents with kids in the public school should definitely take advantage of an opportunity to meet our new superintendent, John Phelan.

Superintendent John Phelan

Superintendent Phelan will be hosting a coffee to get introduced to residents and hear their concerns on Monday afternoon at 4:30.

Superintendent Phelan has been holding coffees with interested citizens all summer long – the most recent was this morning. There’s one more this month: on Monday afternoon, August 18 from 4:30 to 6:00 in the Superintendent’s Conference Room at the School Administration building.

Superintendent Phelan comes to Belmont after 25 years as a principal and teacher for over 25 years in the Boston and Milton Public Schools. Our new Superintendent organized the coffees as a forum to listen to parents, as well as community members. He’ll be using them to help get up to speed on the issues of concern to community members and also to formulate a plan for the district going forward.

If you can’t make Monday’s coffee, there are supposed to be more scheduled in September. Alternatively, you can make an appointment to meet with Superintendent Phelan individually. Please call Cathy Grant at 617-993-5401 to schedule an appointment.

I look forward to seeing you at the next Monday afternoon!