Autumn in the North Cemetery.

Sixty miles west of Boston, Massachusetts there is the small New England town of Sturbridge. Located at the junction of I-90 (The Mass Pike), and I-84 it has become known as the "Crossroads of New England". The town was first settled over 300 years ago, and like other small New England towns it has grown just enough over the years to be in a difficult place today. How do we embrace the future without forgetting how we got to our present? How do we attract the right kind of growth, and maintain who we are? And, what about our culture out here in Central Massachusetts?

These pages will cause one to think about how to protect what we have, our future direction, and how to move on in the very best way.

Those thoughts, and other ramblings, will hopefully inspire more thought, conversation, action, and occasionally a smile...

...seems to be working so far

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Pay Attention to What is Said, and Then Hold Them Accountable

Recently, Town Selectman Edward Goodwin was quoted in reference to his supporting the smaller waste water treatment facility here in town. He stated, "If we had gone for the 1.5 (million gallons per day), that would mean an extra $150.00 a year for the average taxpayer. That's discretionary income that people can't spend on local businesses. We can't just go for a 1.5 just because people want the biggest plant possible. We also have a new school to build, and we have to look out for the school system, the taxpayers and the business community."

Say what?

Read that quote again. Slowly.

Let's start with the "extra" $150.00 per year. That's 41 cents a day. I'm not Donald Trump, but that is not going to break anyone. That will barely buy a cup and a lid at Dunkin' Donuts. So, let's scrap that reason now.

Next, let's take, "That's discretionary income that people can't spend on local business."


Discretionary income is just that, discretionary. People can spend it as they see fit. And what the heck does this mean about not spending it on local business? Isn't that what we do, earn money, and spend money on things that are supplied by local business? At our discretion? Who is in charge of our money? Ourselves, or the Board of Selectmen? What do local businesses think of this statement? It only reflects what has been stated recently about the Town not caring about local business. Take the story about the Sturbridge Baking Company for instance. (see previous post).

And, why can't the taxpayers have the largest plant possible? The key word here is possible. No, a one billion gallon per day plant is probably the biggest possible. All the consultants advised, and was recommended by other officials and committees was a 300, 000 increase in size. And, that is what was desired by most.

If the people want it, and it is advised by others with more knowledge than the selectmen, then the Selectmen have no choice to accept it, not to ignore it. They are elected to represent us. They are not in office to promote their own agenda.

And, finally, the final statement. "...we have to look out for the school system, the taxpayers and the business community.".

The taxpayers? We already covered that. Next.

The business community? The waste water treatment facility of proper size would support the business community by allowing them to grow, and attract more businesses to the the town. Not supporting the larger plant will lead to more of an exodus, and other businesses overlooking our town.

The quote above was taken from a recent article in the Tantasqua Town Common of December 27, 2007. The articles main emphasis was the town reaching out to Roms restaurant in order to get them to stay in town.

I wonder if the town did any similar "reaching" to Basketville, The Sturbridge Baking Company, Van Heusen, and on, and on, and on.

Anyway, I'm just thinking...


  1. Since Sturbridge is going to go towards a split tax in the future 50/50 with business and home owner property tax. Why should the burden be on owners who don't even use the waste water treatment plant have to pay for the increase? What if your not the average tax payer how much would that be if it’s not $150.00 a year and for how Long??? If a new business is coming to town let them pay for it. I also don't believe that the reason that some of the companies and businesses are leaving have little to do with a wastewater treatment plant.
    The article that was written about the Sturbridge bread company had also mentioned that it was being purchased by the same person who opened up Enrico's Pizza. He must see some value to staying in town his restraint was successful and he sold it and is now reinvesting in a new business. There are enough empty buildings in town for new business why doesn’t anyone want to use what we have available. The wastewater treatment plant wouldn’t even be an issue at that point. Sorry to rant just another point.
    Linda C

  2. Linda,
    You make some valid points.

    Why should the burden be on those that don't use the wast water treatment plant? Well, because we all do in one form or another. If we aren't connected to the system at home, the stores, shops and restaurants in town we frequent are. Besides, sooner, or a little later the system will be throughout the town. It will have to be.

    And, I agree, if a new business comes to town, they should be paying for our infrastructure improvements since they will be using them as well. No argument there.

    And, I don't believe that businesses are leaving the town solely because of the treatment plant. No, there are other issues that they have spoken up on that has led them pack up and move on. To leave because of the waste water treatment facility not being large enough would be silly. But, each has their reason, and some are because of the business climate here in town, and others for more personal reasons.

    The owner of Enrico's has his own reasons for buying the bakery. I am not privy to that information, but since he is a successful person, I am sure he feels confident in the future of his decision.

    Yes, there are a lot of empty buildings in town. Why not use them? I don't know. The former owner of the Sturbridge Baking Company said that foot traffic was down. We all know that. Except for the folks in town, there is not enough walk-in traffic to support some business ventures.

    We need to promote the town, to attract more people, to shop the businesses, to use our facilities in order to be successful. We need an attitude from the Town Hall that supports the existing businesses we have, and attracts more.

    Before a company settles down in a given place , they do their homework. Sturbridge is not on their Top Ten list right now. We can change that.

    And, don't be sorry. You aren't ranting. You have a different opinions. I learned from you comment. It is good to offer your opinions, that way others that share your ideas will come forward.

    Thanks, Linda.

  3. With OSV continuing to lose $1 million per year, chances are very good the Village won't be around in a couple of years either. While there are many factors contributing to the Village's decline in attendance (its attendance is down 60% since the late eighties), the lack of other attractions in town is a key factor. Places like Plymouth have been able to weather the trends in museum attendance by making their towns destinations that give people a reason to visit (and do so in a tourist friendly manner). Right now there is almost nothing in Sturbridge except the Village to attract people here and the Village by itself is no longer enough.

    Either the Town, starting with its leadership, is going to make a concerted effort to attract and retain businesses that will bring visitors to the town (and the Village) or it will will soon experience an even more major blow by losing the Village forever.

    This is not just gloom and doom talk - the Village's attendance trends and financial information is public knowledge. It's a big mistake to think it will always be here.

  4. Thanks for you opinions I try and read your blog whenever I get a chance. I realized that I had misspelled a word Restaurant. Spell check must have made it restraint in my earlier post. I also wanted to add that you spoke about the foot traffic with regards to the Sturbridge Baking Company. Have you ever tried walking down 131 I wouldn't feel too safe. It was in newer strip plaza with no sidewalks in front. The walk-in traffic would have come from the businesses around it. Not just taking a hike down 131. Thanks Linda

  5. Concerned raises an excellent point. I have to agree that it's total denial to think OSV will always be there - nothing lasts forever. So, I have to wonder: there is a new business group in town called GBIS (Growing Business in Sturbridge). What are they doing - are they bringing ideas to the town? Are they sharing information? Is there a gathering of the minds out there, and is the town being asked to the table? My understanding is the study completed by the Chamber of Commerce is complete, and it shows that tourism has millions of dollars flowing through Sturbridge every year.

    I see huge communication gaps, plenty of finger-pointing, but no one actually DOING anything - yet.

    If change is to happen, everyone needs to get down to the business of creating action plans. Then put the people in place to do it. If there's no money, find it somewhere!

  6. Concerned,

    I, of course agree, in part. I do beleive that we aren't giving the village enough credit. They will rethink their position in the community, and at large ( I know they have been thinking for some time), and capitalize on changes.

    I whole heartedly agree with you that we need more in town. We are more than "The Village", but right now, we need each other, and if things go right, we will do wonders for each other in the future.

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

  7. Here, here!! Carol, well said.

    First we need to know just excactly where we stand with the committees, and planning currently going on in town. Then we need to write it all down. I know, sounds rather silly, but once we get all the information out there in one place, we can refine it. Sort of a "Where Do We Go From Here Book". From this initial step, we can form an action plan.

    May I suggest that we put your heads together, and write down what you know. You can send them off to the email above, and we can formulate an outline.

    I planned on using the "Document" portion of the google account attached to this Blog for publishing documents and opening it up for others to add and edit. If this something you would like to explore, let me know.

  8. Linda,

    Don't worry, I don't take off for speeling.

    I think the baker was referring to "foot traffic" as drop in kind of traffic that her shop sees, in cars. Sort of a generic term.

  9. Hey, at the last town meeting, residents voted to renovate town hall and center school buildings. The way I understand the artile, there is a debt exclusion to cover that cost, which if memory serves, has a 20-year term. So, taxes are going to increase for the next 20 years for residents to cover that cost, in addition to the estimated $150 WWTP increase, right?

  10. Just Thinking

    I read with great interest your material and of course the comments posted which is a great exercise in free speech; something I have been committed to my entire life.

    I found the reference by one commenter about her past business experience somewhat unrevealing in terms of the discussion taking place.

    Perhaps it is due to her modesty as she is extremely talented and most productive in her professional field. And that is said with sincerity. As I recall (and the individual can surely correct me if my recollection is wrong) the business to which she refers was an appraisal business dealing with home purchases. As such I found it an odd reference to the discussion taking place about business or the reduction thereof in town.

    I find it a stretch to suggest that one might infer either directly or not that the home appraisal business is in any way similar to that of a retail business which needs the type of traffic (via foot or vehicle) that a more business friendly and growth accepting approach used by other successful towns just west of us.

    Retail by its nature feeds off of other retail as the draw for a particular type of business can become a vehicle for attracting buyers to other retail establishments nearby. Certainly the business community here in town has been saying that loud and clear over the past few months. The vast majority of business establishments in town support more growth and more retail as it becomes a valuable tool for them to take advantage of the additional traffic. One need only look west to see this happening. But hey what do I know, I am not a retailer, I am only one who speaks with the business community here on a regular basis and supports the local businesses here with every purchase I can possibly make.

    The appraisal business may certainly be impacted in part by growth, but I would suggest that it is tremendously more so impacted by bank rates, sale prices, tax rates, and amenities offered within a state or local jurisdiction. As someone who has now purchased 3 homes I think I can speak with a little authority here, as can anyone who has purchased even a single home, when trying to get the best overall value for the dollar and one's income.

    Just a thought.

  11. Dear Just a Thought: I appreciate your commentary and your kind words. I would probably reciprocate if I knew who you were. I think the statement I made which you are referring to was actually located on some other page of this blog..? So forgive me if I skip a beat, but I don't know on what portion of this blog I made the comments, or what they exactly were.

    On this page, I asked about the GBIS group. Are you suggesting that the GBIS group is comprised of retail business only? If so, then I was unaware of that, and I guess it shows that more information about it would be helpful. I still want to know what they are doing in terms of working with others toward creating a plan to grow retail (and other) business in Sturbridge.

    You are correct that I did have a (permitted) home appraisal business at one time, however, I also rented office space in Sturbridge for some years too. I had an expensive sign outside and it generated some foot traffic. But I didn't rent office space because it paid off in foot traffic, I did it because I wanted to be a visible part of the business community. People dropped in, I had excellent neighbors, and it was great, expensive, but great.

    My employees used local businesses for their needs, and I used local businesses for insurance, signs, photo development, flowers, lunch -you know, all those things that go into running a successful business while building a sterling reputation.

    I don't remember suggesting my appraisal business was similar to retail, so I'm not sure why you would find my comment odd, as I believe I was referring to "businesses" in Sturbridge, not separating one kind from another. My humble opinion is that we do all feed off one another, and when one goes down, we all feel it - businesses, residents, everyone.

    The second comment I made asks the question about increasing property taxes as it relates to a new sewer treatment plant, plus the recently passed town hall renovations, and come to think of it, aren't we going to be renovating Burgess too? It was a question about possible increases in property taxes, and my comment was not derogatory toward business.

    What's interesting is, no one, not one single person, has asked me what gallonage I would have approved of when increasing the WWTP. Not one single person. I find that odd, however, it speaks to the "two sides" in town, and how I am perceived. For the record, because of the wide disagreements between 1.5 and 1.1, being the compromising person I am, I would have landed in the middle, at 1.3 just to try to meet in the middle, on common ground, so everyone can work toward a common goal.

    I'll just add that I am no longer in the appraisal business - I now sell real estate for a living. I live off the local economy and so do my clients. I conduct a lot of business at the local restaurants, and as I build my client base, you can be sure I'll send them to local businesses, retail included.

    But at the same time, I expect retail to hold up their end of the bargain by being the best they can be in the retail arena. I expect them to keep their place clean so I keep coming back; I expect that when I arrive, I'm greeted kindly; I expect them to care not just about themselves, but the entire town where their customers live and work.

    Being a part of the solution is better than being a part of problem, for all concerned, regardless of the type of business it is.


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