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Biosolids banned, bank building purchase denied in Belmont


March 10, 2010
BELMONT — Belmont residents banned biosolids but voted against the purchase of the former Northway Bank building during ballot voting Tuesday.

The warrant article to purchase the land and building at 154 Main Street for $275,000, funded entirely through the Municipal Facility Capital Reserve Fund, failed 421-311. The property's location to the library, Town Hall and the mill was a selling point for the selectmen, both now and when it was first up for sale a few years back. At the Deliberative Session in February, Chairman Ron Cormier called it "a nice, central location" and pointed out that when the town held its special town meeting back then, the purchase failed by only a handful of votes. The cost is slightly lower than last time and is below the assessed value.

Selectman Jon Pike said Tuesday that the board will probably not pursue that property further.

"I think the town has told us now, enough's enough," Pike said.

The article to prohibit any and all use of biosolids in the Town of Belmont, supported by both the Planning Board and the Conservation Committee, passed easily, 458-283.

Planning Board Chairman Peter Harris said at the town's Deliberative Session that there is no conclusive evidence that biosolids won't cause health problems, and there are some uncertainties, such as who would be liable or pay for cleanup should there be a contamination problem.

"The town must err on the side of safety," he said.

Based on Tuesday's vote, it would seem the townspeople agree.

Those who voted against the measure felt that banning biosolids altogether is extreme and unnecessary.

Other hot-button warrant articles included one that would have abolished the Fire/Ambulance Equipment Fund, otherwise known as the Comstar fund. The selectmen recommend discontinuing the fund and depositing all future ambulance revenues into the general fund to offset taxes. Future fire/EMS equipment and apparatus purchases would have been funded through the establishment of a capital reserve fund.

AFSCME local 3657, Belmont Public Safety Fire and Police, opposed the article.

Chairperson and firefighter Thomas Murphy spoke against it at the Deliberative Session and in a recent letter to the editor. He said that since the fund was established in 1994, the fire department has been able to purchase half of Engine 2, a tanker, three ambulances, two department cars, and a pickup truck, without using tax dollars.

In opposing the amendment during the Deliberative Session, Selectman David Morse argued that it costs the town $820,000 per year to run the ambulance service, and by putting some of the revenues back into the general fund, it would alleviate that cost. He also says the selectmen can't manage the fund by controlling how much goes in there, which is why the account has accumulated $582,000. Requests from the fire department to pay for apparatus from that fund have been voted down in recent years.

Pike said Tuesday that he was disappointed with the result and that the account is misunderstood.

"The fire department campaigned it very well," Pike said.

A petitioned warrant article submitted by resident Ken Knowlton was approved, making it "unlawful to play any device at such a volume that it is audible at the property line," among other restrictions, between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. Monday through Saturday and 10 p.m. on Saturday and 10 a.m. on Sunday. The ordinance will also restrict the noise levels of motor vehicles.

Curbside recycling was narrowly defeated. The $128,814 article received 367 no votes and 354 yes voted. The Budget Committee and Board of Selectmen were in favor of the article and said it would reduce the amount of trash and thus the amount the town will have to pay for tipping fees. A similar article was voted down last year.

The town's $6.7 million operating budget passed, 396-307.

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