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Yes or No, Which is The Better Option on Question 1?

By : Katarina Maldarelli and Chaivin Moon

In early November of last year, Belmont voters were given the opportunity to vote on whether to renovate the existing ice rink. There was a very close vote of 5,613 Yes and 5,978 No. Now, six months later, on April 4th, voters will be given another chance to vote on this issue. This time however, the question is whether to spend funds to make a new community rink or have no rink in Belmont at all, because the old rink has deteriorated to the point that it has become unsafe to use.

There are many pros and cons when making this decision. One of the pros is that the proposed community rink could serve as more than just an ice skating facility. The proposed rink will have three seasons of ice-based options for people of all ages. Some of these consist of hockey home ice for Belmont teams, adult hockey leagues, S.P.O.R.T. skating program for special needs residents, skate rentals, PTA/PTO nights, skating lessons, figure skating, and many other ice-based activities. This array of activities far exceeds those formerly offered at the old rink. For the fourth season, the proposed rink would offer a number of summer options. For example, the ice would be removed, creating a 17,000-square-foot surface for non-ice activities like summer camps, summer sports, special events, and tournaments. In addition to the ice-based and summer options, the proposed community rink will offer public bathrooms, concessions, team locker rooms to replace White Field House, dressing rooms, and storage.

The above-mentioned pros would seem like a no-brainer for the Yes vote, however, there are many compelling cons as well. Arguably, the most important one is cost. In these extremely uncertain economic times, the consequence of spending money, unless it is deemed necessary, could be dire. Furthermore, the burden on taxpayers who are already suffering due to inflation and higher interest rates could be seen as unfair. Another important con is that there are many people who would either never use the rink at all or would avail themselves of other existing nearby rinks instead, for example, ones in Arlington, Watertown, and Newton. In that case, they argue they shouldn't have to pay the price.

A sample group of Belmont residents was surveyed on this issue. Unlike the November vote, a small majority of those surveyed were in favor of the rink. One person gave the following reason in favor, “I would vote yes because the current rink is quite literally falling apart. It’s a danger to anyone who steps inside and looks absolutely atrocious too. Not only should Belmont have a reputation of safety, but the reputation of having public amenities for generation after generation to use.” Others expressed similar sentiments, including, for example, that the old rink “sucks,” and that the old rink, “is really gross.”

There were also a handful of people who expressed that although they think it may be a good idea to have a new rink, and they could see the benefits, the cost would be too much. A number of people expressed being in favor of the rink, but not if it means an additional tax burden on residents. One such person stated, “I am all for the new rink because I would love for the recreational experience to be safe and sparkling new! But, at no extra cost to taxpayers; the town should use the existing funds and not burden the taxpayers any further.”

Finally, the people who outright opposed the rink gave the following reasons: 1) they would never use the rink; 2) there are many ice rinks in neighboring towns; and 3) it is reckless to waste money on an unnecessary community rink during this period of high inflation, market insecurity, and increasing interest rates. One person interviewed stated, “I think it would be crazy to spend millions of dollars on something that is not absolutely necessary when inflation is high right now. They should wait until inflation is under control to even consider such an expenditure. This is certainly something we do not have to have.” Another person opposed to the rink said they have never used the old rink and wouldn't use the new rink either. They felt that public funds shouldn’t be used if it wouldn't benefit everyone. Furthermore, they added that there were many nearby rinks available to the public that offer the same ice skating facilities, including bathrooms, concessions, skate rentals, etc.

On April 4th, voters will have a chance to have their voices heard about whether Belmont should expend public funds to build a brand new, full-service community rink, or whether this is not the time to spend taxpayer dollars on an unnecessary facility. There are many good reasons for and against the rink. Belmont voters will decide whether Yes or No is the better way to go.


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