Keeping Core Campaign Promises As Selectman
Supporting education — Will made a big positive difference every year in the amount of funds allocated to public schools in Belmont.
- Protecting Open Space and siting a cemetery — Will led the effort to prevent excessive development on the McLean property and negotiated the final compromise which permanently protected over 100 acres of open space and reserved 13 acres for a new town cemetery.
- Building a Senior Center that Seniors Want — Will’s first campaign immediately spurred the creation of a leased senior center. His efforts over his nine years as Selectman brought the permanent senior center almost to the beginning of construction. The actual ground-breaking finally occurred on March 25, 2008.
- Controlling Traffic and Improving Pedestrian Safety — In the years of Will’s leadership as Selectman, the town improved crosswalks across the community and adopted traffic-calming approaches to roadway construction.
- Revitalizing Business Centers — Through Will’s leadership, the town now has restaurant alcohol licensing which has supported higher quality restaurants in Belmont’s business centers.
- Improving Planning— Will initiated a visioning process for the town and insisted on the hiring of a senior planner. Across town, in every business district, important longer term initiatives for improvement moved forward:
- The Belmont-Trapelo corridor reconstruction project moved through several levels of the design process with Will’s active support. The project was a top priority for Will as Selectman and remains a top priority to him as State Representative.
- Economic development studies led ultimately to a substantial upzoning of Cushing Square, very much in line with “smart growth” principles. As State Representative, Will hopes to help Belmont and other communities continue smart growth development.
- In Belmont Center, a planning group made substantial progress towards a new vision — this work was still ongoing at the end of Will’s term.
- Rebuilding Pleasant Street — Will fought successfully in a very competitive and constrained funding environment to secure state-federal funding for this project. He also overcame numerous hurdles to its implementation. Construction is finally under way. Major subsurface work has been completed.
- Collaborating with Arlington and Cambridge to Control Flooding — Will led regional collaborative efforts to control flooding. These efforts have led to improved channel maintenance, to better measurement and towards more useful modeling. The collaboration benefits the whole region. The efforts have also identified a possible approach to ending the problem of sewage flooding in Belmont basements — for many years, this problem was considered unsolvable. An engineering study initiated during Will’s term has identified several approaches to moving forward on this.
Improving financial management
- Introduced multi-year financial planning. Will created the first multi-year operating cost projections for the town in early 2000. This model has now been vastly improved and institutionalized by town staff and committees. It is a now a key benchmark in Town financial decision-making.
- Developed reserve policy. For many years the town lacked a policy on appropriate reserve levels and in the late 90s ran reserves to dangerously low levels. Will worked with the rating agencies and the town’s financial advisers to develop a policy which was unanimously adopted by town leadership.
- Identified town’s real capital needs. Will developed a framework for understanding and prioritizing the town’s major capital needs. All of the town’s major building and infrastructure elements were professionally studied. As a result, the town has a much better understanding of its financial options and is moving forward to address its highest priorities.
Controlling costs and Generating Revenue
With Will’s leadership and with the collaboration of the Town’s Warrant Committee and other town officials, Belmont made improvements in every area of its cost structure. Each of these improvements required persistence in delicate negotiations.
- Worked with unions and management to limit wage growth. The town makes every effort to treat its employees fairly, but when state aid fell in 2002-4, Will worked successfully with management and union leaders to close the budget gap.
- Consolidated the purchase of legal services, moving from a collection of smaller firms to a larger firm that offers better access to expertise at a lower cost.
- Consolidated public works activities scattered in four departments – cemetery, grounds, highway and water – into a new public works department. Working as a team, the new department has been able to provide better service with its limited resources.
- Eliminated expensive pay-as-you-go indemnity health care plan and consolidated health care purchasing with a single vendor, saving hundreds of thousands of dollars per year. Initiated processes that led ultimately to a further step — returning to pay-as-you-go financing, but with the new vendor, resulting in additional savings.
- Eliminated civil service protection for the police chief, making him more accountable to the taxpayers.
- Trimmed the police force from a high of 53 positions down to 46 positions.
- Consolidated the firefighting force from three stations down to two — this allows the department to remain effective with limited resources. Belmont chose a pair of fire station sites after very thorough and public analysis of all options by a citizen committee with professional planning assistance.
- Invested in energy cost-saving improvements in buildings across town – these investments were made at no out-of-pocket cost to the taxpayers through a company that accepts payments out of the future energy savings.
- Moved to sell town tax-title properties that had remained unused on the books for decades. Three lots have been given over to affordable housing development and the town is well along in the process of selling the last major saleable property to create multiple private residential lots.
Click here to visit Archive of Financial Framework Documents from Will’s work as Selectman.