Update: Train strikes, kills man near Brighton St.

As reported by WHDH, a man walking along the train tracks near the intersection with Brighton Street was struck and killed by an inbound commuter train this morning around 7:30 AM.

UPDATE: The Belmont Citizen Herald has identified the man as David C. Haverty, 82, of Gale Road in Belmont.

I passed by this scene shortly after it happened, by which time Transit Police had already taped off the scene and started their investigation. I don’t have much to add at this point, though it appears that the man was a Belmont resident. Police at the scene were reluctant to provide details on the incident –including whether it was accidental. It does appear that the signals and crossing gates were working properly at the time.

According to the report, Haverty was not crossing at the grade crossing, but was on the tracks “in an area where no person should be on the tracks,” according to an MBTA official quoted in the story. Haverty’s son, John, is quoted saying that his father was hard of hearing, the result of a war injury, and may not have heard the train coming.

Selectmen at odds on Override timing

The Belmont Citizen Herald is reporting today on a Board of Selectmen meeting last night that makes it look likely that the town will be asked to vote for an override of Proposition 2 1/2 to close a hole in the town’s operational budget deficit. But as the story makes clear, there’s still deep disagreement over the timing of the override and how much voters will be asked to approve.

Despite an estimated $5m difference between the amount needed to fund the town’s current operations at level service and the amount Belmont will collect in commercial and residential taxes, the Selectmen were divided on how much to ask voters to approve and what conditions would satisfy them in asking for the override. Selectmen Angelo Firenze and Ralph Jones are quoted saying that he was  not inclined to support an override if it did not require changes in the town’s governmental structure, such as consolidation of certain town functions and departments.

Selectman Dan LeClerc, reiterating a point he made in an interview with B2 earlier in the month, backed a smaller, incremental override, but raised questions about hinging an override vote on governmental changes — noting that such changes could not be carried out  before an override vote would be required, in June.

“No one has talked to me about consolidating town departments,” LeClerc is qutoed as saying. “I only talk about that at the Warrant Committee and [Board of Selectmen meetings].”

Indeed, Firenze and Jones have been vague about what conditions would meet their satisfaction or what steps toward consolidating services would translate into a green light on an override vote. Nor is it clear that town voters see the override question as intimately linked with consolidation of services.

A second and, likely, contentious issue is the timing of the vote. A delay in state approval of construction of a new Wellington Elementary school means that voters won’t get to weigh in on that issue on the regularly scheduled April ballot. That makes a combined ballot for Wellington and an override more likely. Selectman Firenze said town voters would be ill disposed to paying for two special elections just to keep the issues separate (B2 agrees), while Selectman LeClerc said he’d prefer to see the votes kept separate.

Wellington vote unlikely for April Ballot

A special election to pass a debt exclusion for the construction of a new Wellington Elementary will almost certainly be needed, as negotiations on the final price tag for construction of a new Wellington Elementary School between the Mass. School Building Authority (MSBA) and the town continue. The delays will make it impossible for town leaders to put a vote on a debt exclusion to fund construction before voters in the town’s April election. 

Word on the delay came down late this week from School Dept. Finance Director Gerry Missal, who said that meetings between the town, its architects, project managers and MSBA staff were progressing, but that questions over cost estimates were slowing the process of reaching a Funding Agreement that is necessary before going out to bid on the project.

At issue seem to be cost differences between the cost of the Wellington project compared with that of a similarly sized project in Hingham, Mass., one of the more recent projects to pass MSBA muster. At the meeting, Wellington Building Committee Chairman Mark Haley and vice-chair Pat Brusch, as well as Jonathan Levi of Jonathan Levi Architects and project managers PMA explained that differences in the siting of the two projects and the need to do site improvements at the Wellington (the site includes the remains of a previously demolished building) and energy efficiency features explained the cost/sq ft. differences with the Hingham project. When those factors were subtracted, the two projects had similar per-square foot costs.  They also described $2 million in value engineering reductions to the Wellington project.

Mary Pichetti of the MSBA will now take those adjusted figures back to her larger team for feedback. Furthermore, there are still questions about which unique features of the Wellington project would be reimbursable by the state, Missal noted. As an example, MSBA generally hasn’t reimbursed towns for demolition costs, and Belmont is looking for guidance on whether those costs might be reimbursable with the Wellington. But with the Selectmen facing a March 2nd deadline to get a question on the April ballot, the MSBA sent a signal that it would not have all those issues ironed out in time. 

While the delay gives backers of the Wellington project more time to organize, it greatly complicates matters for the town’s political leadership, which is also juggling a vote on an operational override. At public forums and elsewhere, town leaders have floated the idea of putting off the override vote until late spring until the state’s budget has been settled and the town has a clearer picture of what’s coming its way in the form of local aid, etc. However, those calculations were based on the assumption that the Wellington vote would come in April. With that vote postponed, the town faces the possibility of a combined override-debt exclusion vote that backers of both measures would likely find politically unpalatable.