This article has been updated to clarify that the Library Long Range Planning meeting Tuesday is focused on Library programming that the Library will offer, not issues concerning the library building itself. PFR Nov 16 2015.
Much of the work of governing Belmont happens in open, but mostly unobserved meetings. Appointed committees and elected boards sit in rooms at the Town Hall, or a community room at The Chenery or The Wellington and talk – mostly to each other. The public is always invited to attend, observe and comment, but we rarely do. That isn’t great for democracy, but its the way it is.
Every so often, however, our elected leaders make clear that they really need public input on an important matter, or wish to inform the public about a critical development that affects the community. In those cases, its important for everyone to shake off our torpor and make the extra effort to engage. There are a number of such meetings this week.
To T or Not to T? That is the Question.
First, this evening (Monday), leadership from the MBTA and the Massachusetts Department of Transportation will be visiting Belmont this evening for a discussion of changes to Belmont’s two MBTA Commuter Rail stations. As you may know, one of those – the Waverley Station – has been declared in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the MBTA is floating the idea of closing the station. The Belmont Center station is also not ADA compliant. Unlike Waverley, though, it continues to be grandfathered in to the ADA law – a status that could change suddenly following even modest improvements to the station.
The question is: what to do? Improvements to make Waverley ADA compliant will be expensive, as the station sits some 20 feet below street level. The cash-strapped MBTA is reluctant to make them and is proposing closing the station altogether, and locating a new station on Pleasant Street. Tonight at the Beech Street Center (starting at 7:00 PM), officials from the MBTA and Mass DoT will provide new information about what the agencies would like to do to resolve the situation (or, as they say “Americans with Disabilities (ADA) compliance alternatives”). Those range from fixing the existing station, to closing Waverley and Belmont Center and building a new station along Pleasant Street – or at some other location (Brighton Street has been floated as an alternative location, as well.) The Belmontonian has an excellent write up, courtesy of Sue Bass of the Belmont Citizens’ Forum here. It’s required reading before tonight’s meeting.
The Long View on the Library
The second issue that deserves your attention is
the fate of Belmont’s much loved and much used Public Library. The most-used public facility in town, our town’s main branch library is in desperate need of updating – or outright replacement. But how and even where to do that is a topic of much dispute within town. Plans to renovate the existing facility and an alternative plan to locate it across Concord Ave both failed to win approval of key constituencies. All the while, the existing facility continues to deteriorate, raising the specter of costly repairs in the not distant future.
Recently, the Trustees of the Belmont Library commissioned a special committee to develop a Long Range Plan for the library. This week, on Tuesday, the Library is inviting the public to provide its input and ideas to that long range plan. According to a message from Kathy Keohane of the Library Board of Trustees, the meeting on Tuesday will be a forum for “public input to the Long Range Plan that outlines the programs and services that the library offers,” but “is not a meeting to discuss the building, renovations and or a grant.”
The Long Range Planning Committee was convened by the Library Board of Trustees and is populated by members of the community.The meeting on Tuesday evening will include “a short presentation explaining our long range planning process.” Attendees will then break into groups to “review and solicit ideas for programs and services.” The meeting is scheduled on Tuesday, November 17th from 7:00 to 8:30 PM in the Library Assembly Room at 336 Concord Avenue. I encourage everyone to attend this meeting, as well!