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The message loud and clear at a public hearing held by the Select Board and School Committee on Sept. 16 was, "What's the rush?"
Several residents voiced their concerns about the timeline for of the Request for Proposal (RFP) for a public-private partnership to secure a private entity to construct, operate and maintain a new, year-round skating rink on the Belmont High School campus.
On Sept. 23, the Select Board said it heard the residents' concerns and discussed a new timeline which the School Committee agreed with on Sept. 24. Also, several revisions were made to the RFP and lease based on feedback from residents at the Sept. 16 hearing.
The Select Board will finalize and vote on the RFP and lease on Oct. 7. The School Committee will vote to approve the RFP and lease on Oct. 15. It will be advertised in the central register on Oct. 16 and advertised in the Citizen-Herald on Oct. 24 and 31.
Proposals will be due Dec. 18. An internal working group will evaluate the proposals between Jan. 6 and Jan. 17. Top respondents will be interviewed Jan. 21.
The School Committee will select the best proposal (if any) on Feb. 4.
On Feb. 24, a Special Town Meeting will be held to vote on leasing to the selected private developer and amending the zoning bylaw.
Revisions to RFP and lease
Since a zero net energy middle and high school is being built, many at the Sept. 16 hearing questioned why a new rink on the same campus would not have the same requirement. Based on the feedback and with input from the Belmont Energy Committee, changes were made to the RFP to beef up the energy efficiency and sustainability requirements, according to Senior Planner Jeffrey Wheeler.
Zero net energy has been added as a preference of the town and would be highly advantageous in the evaluation criteria, said Wheeler. Examples of equipment and construction methods that are energy efficient were also included in the RFP.
The lease was revised with many changes suggested at the Sept. 16 hearing, including language to incentivize the developer to construct the rink quickly, a limitation on the number of large tournaments to one per quarter, prohibition on the assignment and subletting of the rink and hours for the high school's and town's use, and language to clarify what will happen if the operator of the rink fails.
Residents voice concerns
Goden Street resident Jane Otte asked the Select Board if any of them have visited a public-private skating rink. Select Board Chairman Tom Caputo and Vice Chairman Adam Dash each said they have visited rinks but do not know if they are public-private partnerships. Select Board member Roy Epstein said he has a list of rinks that are public-private partnerships and plans to visit them.
Otte expressed concerns about the size and location of a new rink. She also said she and many other residents are questioning if it is fait accompli because the hockey parents were so quiet during the hearing on Sept. 16.
"It's apparent to me this train has left the station," said David Otte.
He is concerned about the additional cars a new rink will add to the already congested Concord Avenue.
"I see a mess," he said. "The traffic study results are not realistic."
The final draft of the RFP and lease will be posted on the town website. Visit https://www.belmont-ma.gov/community-development/pages/rebuilding-the-ice-skating-rink for more information.