As a former chair of the Board of Selectmen, I participated in the early discussions about the need for a new school. Two facts led to the decision to build a 7-12 school. First, Belmont and its excellent schools have attracted many new families with children. School enrollment has increased by an average of 100 students annually. Enrollment growth shows no sign of stopping. These enrollment increases cannot be accommodated in our existing grade schools and middle school. Second, our high school is reaching a stage in its useful life where substantial, costly renovation or replacement is needed.
After 25 years in town government, I know that the Building Committee will carefully manage taxpayers’ money. I served with most of the members of the Committee on various town projects, and I know that they understand our priorities and values. As conscientious citizen volunteers, they have already found ways to cut costs from the original budget. We in Belmont insist on meeting the needs of our students, but we also insist on the most cost-effective way to accomplish that goal.
The Building Committee has hired an experienced Owners Project Manager in Tom Gatzunis of Daedalus Projects, Inc. He is the construction professional who will represent Belmont’s interests. He will be a check on the architects and contractor. Tom Gatzunis served with great distinction as our former Director of Community Development. In my years in town government, I worked with Tom, and I am confident that he understands and appreciates Belmont’s values.
Finally, the state agency that gives out school construction grants acts as a financial watchdog throughout the project. They scrutinize every choice. They don’t allow cost overruns, so we will live within our budget.
As a former Selectman, and former member of the Capital Budget Committee, I am proud of the way that current officials have achieved consensus on our current building priorities. The Building Committee has determined what is needed in a transparent process that has considered all options. Now, it is up to us, the citizens of Belmont, to affirm their work and vote to invest in our educational system.
As Belmont residents for almost 50 years, Sherry and I are confident that voters will support our schools. Join us in voting YES on Question 4 on Tuesday, November 6.
Ralph T. Jones
Former Chair of Selectmen, School Committee, and Warrant Committee