As Belmont’s Town Meeting members prepare to vote on nearly $1 million worth of Community Preservation Act projects for the first time since the town opted into the state program in 2010, the most expensive proposal — funding the $385,000 design for a new Underwood Pool — may hinge on a Board of Selectmen vote Monday night.
Selectmen are scheduled to hear the results of a feasibility study during their meeting Monday, and then vote on whether the town should rebuild the municipal pool at its current location, near Concord Avenue and Cottage Street, or move it up a nearby hill toward School Street. The new location would allow the town to build a playing field in the pool’s current spot.
The selectmen’s recommendation will be submitted to Town Meeting for a vote. The project presented by the town’s Community Preservation Committee would appropriate funds to design a new pool.
A number of residents have objected to moving the pool, though doing so could also be a step toward getting a new library.
Anne Paulsen, a former selectwoman and state legislator, said she strongly supports keeping the swimming pool in the same spot it has been since its opening in June 1912. The Underwood facility is touted by the town as the oldest public pool in the country.
“I think maintaining the pool in its present location is imperative for the town in terms of the size of the pool, the surrounding land, and maintaining its historic nature,” Paulsen said.
Paulsen said if selectmen recommend moving the pool, she hopes Town Meeting members would reject funding the $385,000 for design plans.
“Most of the people in Belmont I’ve talked to agree that we should keep the pool where it is,” Paulsen said. “I think that most people would agree what may be possible is not always practical.”
Selectmen Ralph Jones and Andy Rojas, the board’s vice chairman, said that although they want to hear more details about their options, they were leaning toward recommending the pool stay where it is, citing public opinion, cost, and size of the structure.
The three-member board’s chairman, Mark Paolillo, said he did not want to say which option he preferred, but noted that “keeping the pool where it is seems to be a better option.”
Town officials are negotiating with the school district to transfer a portion of Belmont High School’s fields across the street from the pool to the town, which would create a space for a new library.
Relocating the pool would enable the town to build a sports field in its place, which would be convenient for high school teams, Rojas said.
“If the school doesn’t get a replacement field, they would then hesitate to give up their field for the library,” he said.
Belmont Public Library director Maureen Conners said moving the pool would make more sense for the library and the school system.
“The library is naturally hoping for the feasibility study option that moves the pool,” she said. “The school wouldn’t have to pay for busing’’ if it allows the trade, “because the field would be right there.”
The Underwood Pool design is one of nine Community Preservation Act projects on the warrant for Town Meeting, which starts April 29. The requests for funding are the first to be considered since the town voted in 2010 to take part in the state program.
Belmont’s version collects an annual 1.5 percent property tax surcharge, with the local contributions bolstered by state matching grants. The law allows the proceeds to be spent only on affordable housing, recreation, open space, and historical preservation projects in the community.
The town has collected two years worth of tax surcharges and matching state funds, and the total amount in the program’s coffers is about $2 million. A committee was formed to request and review project proposals that meet the act’s criteria, said Paul Solomon, the committee’s chairman.
“This is great for increasing the quality of life in the community, which the town can’t do otherwise,” Solomon said. “With budget constraints these days, necessary repairs or renovations just can’t happen because we can’t get into the regular operating or capital budgets to do them.”
“Some of these projects normally wouldn’t rise to the priorities that a capital budget plan would need it to, so they become orphans and never get done, but they’re still very necessary,” Rojas said. “The Community Preservation Act is the perfect vehicle to fund these high-impact projects for the community.”
Town Meeting members will vote on each separate project, allowing them to approve or reject funds based on individual measures, Solomon said. Continued...