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
Thursday, December 31, 2009
One temporary, for one day, the other permanent, and forever. In these tough economic times an act like this speaks of one thing: selfishness.
I know that times are tough. We feel it. Everyone is feeling it, but when we turn on our survival mode, and aim it only on ourselves there is something wrong.
The furlough would mean everyone going ONE day without pay. One day. The teachers union voted no, and showed how insular they are as a whole. "It's all about me." should be printed on t-shirts and worn by the teachers that voted to insure that their coworkers will loose their jobs instead of everyone loosing one days pay.
We recently had sixteen layoffs at the hospital I work at in Boston. We had a similar number last year at this time. This year is different, though, all of us that survived have been assigned THREE furlough days to take in the upcoming year.
And, the amazing thing about it it was there has been a minimal amount of negative talk about the furloughs. You see, it is pretty obvious to us, if it were not for the furloughs the layoffs would have been far greater.
Maybe it's a different mindset, but what ever it is it is still a fairly simple thing, no work for a day, or no work for a lot longer. Doesn't take a a genius to figure out what is better.
The situation I am experiencing in Boston is not only a result of the economic downturn, but other factors as well. Doesn't really matter, though. It is all the same in the end.
The Superintendent Daniel Durgin said he was disappointed in teachers vote. I'd say that was quite the understatement. I am disappointed as well, but more shocked. The "It's all about me" culture is often associated with teachers groups, and this only confirms it. Individually, it may be different, but as a group, it 's not.
The teachers will work without interruption this year. Next year may be different.
In the meantime, my heart goes out to those being laid off, their New Year is not starting off too brightly.
We can thank the teachers union for that. They are only doing their job, I guess, and have taught us all a little life lesson in charity.
You can be sure this is one lesson I will forget.
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
Thursday, December 24, 2009
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Article published Dec 22, 2009
Board says no to three finalists
Administrator search goes on
By Craig S. Semon TELEGRAM & GAZETTE STAFF
STURBRIDGE — Three of the five selectmen took turns last night saying they were not willing to support any of the three finalists for the town administrator position. So now, it’s up to the current search committee to come up with three more finalists.
Donald D. Crawford, former city manager of Hamtramck, Mich.; Pamela T. Nolan, Truro town administrator for five years, and John O. D’Agostino, who was Mansfield town manager for 12 years, were all shot down by Selectman Mary Blanchard, board chairman, and Selectmen Edward P. Goodwin and Harold J. White.
This means that Mrs. Blanchard’s husband, Paxton Town Administrator Charles T. Blanchard, is technically still in the running for the top municipal spot. Mr. Blanchard was one of the three finalists in the original town administrator search this past summer, although the names of the finalists were never officially announced, and a candidate in the just-concluded second search who didn’t make it into the list of 10 semifinalists.
Mr. Goodwin said the search committee brought forth three “good candidates” but his concerns were for the town.
“While I didn’t find anything that made me think that these aren’t talented people, I do have a concern for Sturbridge with the candidates,” Mr. Goodwin said. “So tonight, I wouldn’t be willing to support any of the candidates.”
Mr. White said that while he recognizes the positive attributes of each finalist, he had enough concerns with each one that he would not be willing to support any of them. And Mrs. Blanchard agreed.
“I, like Hal and Ted, I am not comfortable enough with these three candidates to vote for them,” Mrs. Blanchard said. “I would be more comfortable if the search committee brought forward other candidates.”
While all three finalists were nixed, Mr. D’Agostino, however, received backing from Selectmen Thomas R. Creamer and Scott A. Garieri, who is on the search committee. But their support would not be enough to make him the new town administrator if a formal vote were cast.
“For me, personally, I definitely could support Mr. D’Agostino,” Mr. Creamer said.
“John D’Agostino brought a high level of competency and I think he fit the town well with his experience, especially with what the town has going forward,” Mr. Garieri said. “I, too, would be comfortable and looking forward to having John D’Agostino as a town administrator.”
Although he wasn’t in favor of it, Mr. Creamer said if the board is not comfortable with the any of three finalists who were brought forward, then perhaps the board should entertain writing a job description and “wish-list” of what the board wants so the search committee can narrow its search. Instead, the selectmen directed the search committee to produce three finalists, making sure not to say new or additional, so Mr. Crawford, Ms. Nolan and Mr. D’Agostino could all or individually be brought forward again to the board.
“I think we’re all up here to do the best for the town,” Mrs. Blanchard said. “Three of us apparently came to one conclusion and two people came to another conclusion.”
Copyright 2009 Worcester Telegram & Gazette Corp.
Monday, December 21, 2009
Sunday, December 20, 2009
Saturday, December 19, 2009
Thursday, December 17, 2009
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
I like to be comfortable. Heat in the fall and winter is not only important for our comfort, but our survival. There is a a hitch, however, it can be expensive, unless you use your head.
- Assess your insulation.
- Caulk air leaks.
- Assess your windows.
- Install a setback thermostat.
- Set the temperatures on the thermostat to go way back at night, go up in the morning upon awakening, and way down when the house is empty during the day.
- If it gets a bit chilly when folks are home, turn up the thermostat 3 to 4 degrees, and that's it. No more. The heat will come on, and it will be very effective at removing the chill. When the temperature comes up, and everyone is comfortable, don't forget to turn down the thermostat again.
Monday, December 14, 2009
Thursday, December 10, 2009
Saturday, December 5, 2009
Friday, December 4, 2009
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
Sunday, November 29, 2009
- A theater, or music venue that would attract name talent of a wide variety of genres. Now, if we couple that with a restaurant, beautiful landscaped grounds we will have a destination that will draw from south along I-84, and from the east west along the Pike.
- Athletic field that will attract championship game from around the Commonwealth. Maybe, Little League championship games, High School playoffs, and maybe an occasional minor league ball game.
- A major retail outfit like the Bass Pro Shop, LL Bean with other retail outfits that would compliment the anchor. Then promote the areas outdoors to those shopping.
- Pave the bike paths, make them multi-user friendly for everyone from walkers with strollers to bicyclist, and roller bladders. If we don't pave, we will only attract a certain clientele, and we need to attract all sorts of folks.
- Improved, and professionally designed signage. A common theme should be decided on and chosen. The theme will link all areas of the town together.
- Parking. This was in the 1988 Master Plan as well, but is 20 years late, and more than needed today. The parking should be from 50 to 100 cars, and located on Route 20 near the retail shops. A small fee could be charged to park, and residents would have a sticker in order to park for free.
- A continuing plan for beautifying our streets much on the idea of what is currently done, but in a much larger scale. Large planters of flowers, hanging baskets, seasonal decorations, and a sign bylaw that would eliminate the gaudy signs that some businesses have.
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Thursday, November 19, 2009
"DPW sidewalk clearing efforts spark debate in tough year"
That is the headline on page 9 of today's Sturbridge Villager. Now, read that headline again, and think of all that is says, and especially what it it doesn't say.
Done? OK, now let me fill you in and see if you are thinking the same as I am.
Let me first start off by saying that in the other communities I have been privileged to live in over the years the towns DPW has always taken upon itself to clear the sidewalks. They put them in for the safety of its residents, and they accepted their role in maintaining them. From repairing curbs, to filling cracks, and clearing snow, the DPW was responsible for their upkeep. Goes with keeping their residents safe. If one puts in sidewalks for the safety of people, then those that put in the sidewalks are liable for maintaining that safety of the sidewalks.
Now, there are certain exceptions to this. If a store front is directly on the sidewalk, and snow from their rooftop can fall onto the sidewalk and impede foot traffic, then of course, the owner of the store should touch up and clear the sidewalk once the town make s the initial sweep of it. The store owner should also make sure it is free of ice as well after the sidewalk is initialy cleared.
In the other towns I have lived in there were many sidewalks, sidewalks all over the town. They were there not only for the convenience of pedestrians, but for children walking to school. Here in Sturbridge we bus our kids to school. There are no sidewalks leading to the Burgess School, or to the high school. We bus all of them. Talk about an ongoing expense, but that is fodder for another time.
Greg Morse is right in saying that historically the DPW has been responsible for clearing the sidewalks in town, as it should be. I have watched them clear them and they do a fine job considering what they are up against.
Now, here comes the town Selectman Scott Garieri questioning that the additional $10-20,000 spent annually may not be well spent in a "tough year". A tough year that was chosen to rehab the Town Hall and the Center School.
So, we will leave the sidewalks to be cleared by resident abuters? Some of those abuters own a long length of land abutting the sidewalks, and although the town bylaw states that if you abut it, you clear it, it must be rewritten. Am I responsible for the 304 feet that abuts my property with Route 148? Am I responsible for clearing this road, too? Oh, only sidewalks. Whew.
Morse says the town has a vehicle to clear the sidewalks, however its "footprint" is bigger than the sidewalks.
Now, think on that for a minute. Why would we buy a vehicle to clear snow from the sidewalks that was too large for the sidewalks it is meant to clear? Sounds like shear stupidity to me, or something more, which I believe it is. The vehicles don't fit because their are utility poles in the middle of the bloody sidewalks!!!
Contrary to the Americans with Disability Act, the poles are in the middle of the sidewalks making using wheelchairs, or motorized scooters nearly impossible to use unless one goes out onto the roadway to circumvent the poles. I have watched mothers with double sided strollers do just that, and last summer I watches as a lady on her Lark scooter scoot around a pole by going off onto the road because she could not fit by one pole in Fiskdale.
The Feds have been patient with Sturbridges continuing to to ignore the law, but those days may be coming to an end. Federal fines, and lawsuits by private persons could add up to well over the million dollars estimated to fix the problem. All it would take is a formal complaint made to the Feds, and watch what happens.
As a result of the poles in the middle of the sidewalks, it makes snow removal a long, and tedious task. Trucks are used with their blades to push the snow off the sidewalks and onto the road, and it is then plowed further and eventually scooped up and removed.
Time consuming, but the only way it can be done.
Now, let's think on those needed sidewalks for the reconstruction of Route 131. Will the town be plowing those sidewalks clear, or will they appoint the property owners along the way to maintain them. Might as well demand the property owners to build them, too.
When the town is spending additional hundreds of thousands of dollars in placing a slate roof on the refurbished town hall, instead of the asphalt shingle one in the original plan, then $10-20K is nothing.
The headline in the paper tries to make the economy the culprit in this debate.
It is poor planning. We should already have those poles removed from the sidewalks in town instead of turfing the responsibility to abuters. Don't put the responsibility on others for the poor planing the town makes.
And, don't listen to those that say the cost is too much. Enforcement of the bylaw will cost plenty as well, and while the town chases those not complying there will be a person that can't hobble over the snow on the sidewalk and walks onto the road, and into traffic.
Cha-ching. Lawsuit time. Precedence will speak for itself in this case.
Just fix the real problem of the utility poles, and put that snow removal vehicle on the sidewalk and watch it clear a path right down route 20 in no time.
All this ballyhoo about cost, machines too big to plow, and abuters responsibility is just a snow job.
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
The Worcester Telegram article posted earlier today tells of yet another "leaking" of information to the press before it should have been made public. There is, of course, denials of doing so, but in reality, it was. This is all concerning the search for a new town administrator. One would think this was about filling an empty senate seat with so much activity around this one chore.
It's to replace the old town administrator with a new town administrator. Nothing more. The thing that has thrown a wrench into the works is the dream of a local man to be in the list of those considered for the job. It was that "wrench" that sidelined that last search committee and the establishment of a new one, and now, more accusations, and again, the search is in the news.
Here's how I see it. We have a group of folks on the search committee for a new town administrator, all good people, with one thing on their agenda, to fill that position with the most qualified person. Then there is the fact that at least one of the previous candidates is a local guy with ties to town government going back many years. It may be his dream to be considered, if not to obtain the position. Finally, there are those that just can't help not waiting out the process, and have to speak out of turn, at the wrong time, share information with the media they shouldn't, and others calling for their heads on a platter. They may be good people, too, but there sense of timing, and motive are frazzled.
In the end we have a small town, with folks that are small town folks doing what some in small towns sometimes do when they don't have a lot of experience in the larger scheme of things, act out. Not to say that others in the big world don't act out as well, but in little places like Sturbridge, it seems to happen a little more often, and is just plain sillier when you look at it.
Personally, I can't wait till the search is over, and the candidate chosen, and then all the leaking, personal agendas, and demands for resignation energy can be shifted to our next big scandal. It won't ever stop, the energy just gets shifted to another person, subject, or project like the town recycling center and the Board of Health. That is something we can talk about later, in the meantime, everyone should just concentrate on the matter at hand, and if you are not involved in the process, stay out of it, and if you are, then attend to it only in the meeting room, and nowhere else.
Doesn't take a whole lot of thinking to figure that out.