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, January 29, 2009
Boston Film Industry Examiner: Massachusetts, the place to make movies. Eat your heart out, Ahnold.
Posted using ShareThis
Thursday, January 29, 2009
By Barbara M. Houle FOOD EDITOR
"Old Sturbridge Village gets a spot in the Food Network’s new series, “Will Work for Food.”
Adam Gertler pairs his comedic timing with an adventurous spirit in an episode that airs Tuesday exposing him to the world of little-known food jobs. At Old Sturbridge Village, Gertler works beside OSV interpreter Ryan Beckman to learn how to prepare a traditional 1830s-style meal. He gets to milk a cow, chop wood, build a fire, test the oven, bake a pie, skim cream, churn butter and pluck, stuff and roast a chicken. If that’s not enough, the guy then has to serve his meal to the village farm staff. Tough critics, you think?
The Old Sturbridge Village stagecoach saves the day and brings Gertler back to the 21st century.
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
While I was there I poked around in the gadget section. I love gadgets, always have. I found a little radio that I had been lusting for over the past few years. The radio is a small AM / FM Weather band radio that one cranks to charge the rechargeable batteries inside. there is also a solar collector on top that will charge the batteries as well, and a port to plug it into the USB port of your computer to charge it as well. Of, course there is the AC port to charge it as well, but it didn't come with a charger. Those are extra.
The radio usually lists for $35.00, but was on sale the day I was there for around $28.00, so I bought it. This is a piece of equipment that every home needs. We just saw first hand what snow and ice can do to the power grid here in Central Mass, and we need to stay in the know when those times come. This little radio is just the thing to get the information you need, and entertain you as well.
The reception is great, and the weather radio has seven channels to choose from. Worcester is broadcast on the seventh channel, and comes in clear as a bell.
Another feature the radio has is a 3-LED flashlight. LED's don't burn out like regular flashlight bulbs, at least not in your lifetime with normal use, and they stay very bright. They also use very little power.
We have a few LED flashlights around the house. One of them is on a charger, and always ready, another is one that I take to work everyday. They are bright and reliable, so for those times without power from National Grid they are invaluable, and safer than candles. There are also LED table lanterns available that stay lit for hours and hours.
Every home should have emergency supplies such as these items. They'll help get you through a day of no power. Anything longer than that will require some advanced thought on just what to do next. A radio, flashlights, and a way of providing safe warmth are things we must have on hand. Those with well water need to stockpile water, and if the power is off for a long period of time, then the food in the fridge may spoil, so food staples such as powdered milk, juice boxes, Peanut Butter and Jelly, bread should be on hand.
Oh, and Oreo's. They are essential emergency rations.
I'm writing this as the snow is falling, and predictions are that we will receive over six inches today by the time it all said and done. The are also predicting a "wintry mix", that means ice and sleet. Sleet I can deal with, but ice is far more imposing. It sags the power lines, the trees, and makes the roads impassable. Loss of power is common, and car accidents skyrocket.
Ice days are the worst.
This is not going to be the best weather day. Mary is already at work in northern Mass, and I will be driving to work in Boston later in the day. This is when commuting is the worst, and driving slowly, and defensively is essential.
One more thing I have that may not be an essential storm gadget, but sure makes the time go by quicker, is a battery powered DVD player (another gift from me Mary).
I don't like loosing power, or living like a pilgrim for more than a day or so. I guess I am spoiled by the conveniences that man has invented. I'm not sure if that is OK to admit, or not, but it is the truth. If I purposely go camping with only a tent and a sleeping bag, then that is fine, but if I am home, then let the light shine.
Yep, I'm spoiled.
I've been thinking of a propane generator, and a propane powered fireplace log. Both of these items could save this man from a severe case of cabin fever, and make life for those around him bearable.
Anyway, check out www.llbean.com, and look up the little radio. For just a few dollars you won't be able to light your entire home, or power your TV, but it will give you some peace of mind when the weather turns against you.
If it could get cable, and run the microwave it would be ideal.
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
Out here in Central Massachusetts we get more snow, and more cold air than further east. Makes sense since most of our weather comes from the west. Sometimes when I am driving to work in Boston I leave in a steady snowfall, roads covered with a few inches of snow, but by the time I get to I-495 things change for the better.
Most of the time the weather follows me right to my parking spot under the building where I work.
Now, don't get me wrong, I really do enjoy the seasons we have here in New England. I really do, but Winter is something I enjoy looking at, but functioning in is something I don't do very well. When I was a teenager I would join my friends in my hometown and go snowmobiling along the horse trails throughout town. We could actually ride the trails all the way to Route 9 in the Framingham / Natick area. I didn't own a machine, but I usually borrowed an old 1969 Skidoo that was a hoot to ride. Those winters I enjoyed. That was true Winter Time fun.
I guess if I had a winter time sport I could do well, without killing myself, I would enjoy the season more today. In recent years I've thought about learning to ski. Each time I see one of those Mt. Wachusett commercials on TV, and see those friendly folks asking me to come on over and learn to ski, I almost pick up the phone. Then reality sets in: I might die on the slope.
I might die on the Bunny Slope.
See, fear has a way of stunting the expansion of ones horizons. My fear is I'd go off the trail, fly off a cliff and sail off into the horizon.
I've thought about this whole learning to ski thing enough, and I think I will pursue it. I'll let you know how it goes, or knowing my luck, you can read about it in the papers.
In the meantime, we have another snow storm on the way. They are forecasting four to six inches of snow for our area.
I think this whole mid-winter slump actually started the other day when the birds came back to our yard. The yard was filled with them for the first time in a couple of months, and amongst those guys were several Robins. It was those interlopers that got me yearning for the croci.
First of all, aren't they still supposed to be in Naples, Florida? Did they come back a bit early just to taunt me? I don't have a clue, but it was good to see them back. I am the furthest thing from a true back yard orthinologist. I don't know the difference between a Yellow Throated Warbler and a Redfaced Tit Tickler, but I do feed the birds, and really enjoy it when they stop by. They are a bright spot amongst all the grey skies.
I really do want to enjoy Winters more, and I am open to suggestions. If you have a special winter time skill that you think you could teach a middle-aged man with Chronic Spastic Fumbleitis, that won't leave Mary a widow, then let me know.
...oh, one more thing, if you could teach it to me in June, that would be awesome.
Monday, January 26, 2009
"The REAS Foundation, in partnership with Southbridge Savings Bank, Hometown Bank, and the Publick House has established a fund for Mr. & Mrs. Thomas Sisley - 54 Ridge Way, Sturbridge, MA - whose home was destroyed by fire January 15th.
Donations can be made directly at, or by mail to, Southbridge Savings Bank (200 Charlton Road, Sturbridge MA, 01566), Hometown Bank (331 Main Street, Sturbridge MA, 01566) or the REAS Foundation (PO Box 737, Fiskdale MA, 01518) and should be made payable to - Sisley Family Fire Fund.
Most of us can only imagine the magnitude of emotion and loss in witnessing the destruction of a life's work. We labor each and every day to build a life for ourselves and our family, often sacrificing a great deal in order to provide for our children or other members of our family.
Our neighbors - the Sisley's - are experiencing an incredible loss, in many respects the tangible sum total of their life's efforts. We are a community that has repeatedly demonstrated its incredible compassion, humanity, and love via the countless acts of generosity conveyed on behalf of our most vulnerable neighbors.
We are now once again called to service in support of a family in great need; they have lost heir home, their beloved pets, and the physical mementos of an entire life.
Please consider your ability to assist the Sisley's as they begin the long journey of rebuilding their lives. Those of us who are able to help, can take great pride in knowing that even the smallest contribution will go a long way towards helping to ease some portion of the burden, their journey will entail. Knowing that we are here, willing to share this journey may bring some level of comfort to our neighbors.
Thomas R. Creamer
PO Box 737
Fiskdale, MA 01518
REAS Main Line: 508-434-4614
Direct Line: 774-490-9166"
Saturday, January 24, 2009
The new house they are building is about 30 minutes away from where they are now, in the foothills.
Imagine, building a new house in these times. Now, I know they aren't millionaires, but they both work very hard. So, why do folks take such a risk during these times?
They are going on with their lives despite the current conditions because they have faith that their house will sell in the current market for a fair price, and the price they are paying for the new house is not going to nose dive further once they move in. They are risk takers. To sit on ones hands, and wait out the economy is such a passive act. Doesn't accomplish much of anything except to promote hope.
I have to admit that each time I have taken a risk in my life it has paid off. It is just getting the brass to take that first step. I have to admire them.
That same risk taking is seen here in town. Everyday folks taking a risk and going on pure faith that they will succeed. My post from yesterday tells of just such a risk taking endeavor.
During hard times it is easy to take the passive road, and wait out the storm, but to succeed, and move on with ones life, one needs to open the door and walk out into the gale. If more people swallowed hard, and did this it would begin to have a ripple effect that would affect others in theses hard times. Realtors would begin to smile again, as well furniture stores, home improvement stores, appliance shops, well, you get the picture.
"But, I'm upside down in my mortgage!"
Well, no one expects to take a major loss, but today one has to expect to lose something. If you are fortunate enough to break even it makes it that much easier. Work with your bank is the best advise. Even if the banks are not handing out mortgages as they did two years ago, at least try. Work out something that covers the loss on your existing home, and can be rolled over in the new mortgage. With the cost of houses way, way down during the past three years the amount you finance may still be a less than what the home will be worth in few years as the market recovers.
Take the risk. If you've outgrown your home, and you are stuffing kids into hammocks over the washer and dryer, then don't wait. Have faith that your home will sell for a fair price, and that you will find a larger one at an equally fair price as well.
I know, I know, everyone else is holding tight, staying put, not moving on. So? They are living on hope, and there is nothing wrong with that, but to move on one needs to add faith to the mix.
Each day I get an email from a local realtor of homes in the area for sale. I have read them everyday for a few years, and watched the market. Although we only bought this home almost three years ago, I continue to look for that special house, and if we find it, then we will talk, and make the move I am sure.
It is hard when external forces control what you can do in your life, and even harder to overcome them, but when we do, it is so worthwhile.
So, despite our loving our current home, we still look for that house on a hill with a view, and some land, or maybe on a lake. Maybe even a weekend retreat, a cottage near the ocean, or inland on some water. When we find it, we'll know, and then I'll see if I still have the brass to garner the faith to make a change like Patty and Garry, and Nicole and Andre, and buck the trends.
So, if you stumble on a house as I described, let me know. Ya gotta have faith as George Michael sang years ago in a whole different context, but still appropriate.
Either way, it's a fine anthem to get stuck in your head during these times.
Faith - George Michael
Friday, January 23, 2009
I had never been inside the building, but was surprised once inside. The restaurant seats 99 patrons in the dining room, balcony, and heated porch on the second level. There is a bar in the corner of the dining room. Complimentary valet parking was offered at the door last night. I chose to park my own vehicle since there was a space a short distance from the door.
The menu was reminiscent of the now closed Rom's restaurant offering mostly Italian American food, some seafood, and steaks. There is no beer on tap, only in bottles, and the wine list is limited.
We sat in the main dining room not far from the fireplace. A young lady tended the fire, and we enjoyed it during our meal. The lighting is bright, not what one would expect to find for an evening meal.
I applaud the new proprietors of the Inn for taking on this new venture during these cloudy economic times. It is a wonderful thing to see that handsome building being used again as it was designed. It sat abandoned for way too long. It shows that entrepreneurship is still alive, and that there are those willing to take risks despite what is happening around them. These are traits that built this country, and I am sure they will succeed. They will work out any kinks, tweak the menu, and offer things to their patrons they had not considered as time goes on. They have a lot of family experience to draw from.
As we walked from the building after our meal, we looked across the parking lot to the other building on the property, the proprietors and their family are living in the second and third floor space, and there in the uppermost window, a large circular window, was a small boy. He waved to us as we walked to the car, and we waved back. He has an excellent view of his families future from his perch.
I wish Nicole and Andre the very best success in their new adventure. It is great to see that there are still those that are willing to work hard to succeed, no matter how difficult it may be. They are an example to watch, and to follow.
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
But I try, 'cuz ya never do know, someday I may just get it right.
This morning I read in the Telegram and Gazette that the Town Administrator, James Malloy suggested that the Town Hall project be abandoned due to the ever increasing costs to refurbish the old buildings.
Common sense has finally peeked out from under the sheets of local government.
The Town Administrator offered an alternative as well. He suggested looking further into the building recently left vacant by a business in town when it moved to a larger space in the office park on the west end of town.
Extraordinary. Not only common sense, but a possibly viable option as well.
The town has grown beyond the need for offices for the Town Clerk, Building Inspector, Tax Assessor, and Selectmen amongst a myriad of others. The building would suffice if it was 1912, but with the needs of today it just doesn't cut it. A comfortable, uncluttered work environment is needed for those that work within its walls. Room for storage, meetings for more than 50 people, space for equipment, and just the daily business of the town is needed. Easy, and safe access is also needed for residents and employees.
The old buildings should be left as is for now. Mothball them until the time is right to restore them into something that the town can still use, but not in the way a Town Hall would be utilized. They are historic, and must be kept. We cannot continue to tear down our heritage as has been the case over the years.
We will find a purpose, and a way.
In the meantime, let's continue to explore our options. The building on Route 20 may not be the one, but it shows that heads are thinking, and sharing those thoughts with the rest of us is a good thing.
Yes, thinking out loud is a very good thing.
Addendum: To see photos of the Town Halls other communities have in our area click here.
Friday, January 16, 2009
If the area had not been the subject of a speed study, and a Thickly Settled Zone with a speed limit of 30 MPH was implemented, it would be almost impossible to enforce. According to Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 90, Section 17 to enforce the speed limit in this kind of speed zone a violator has to be observed speeding for at least 1/8 of a mile, 660 feet, before issuing a citation. This makes enforcement in this type of speed zone almost impossible. All a speeder has to do is slow down when he comes upon an officer with a radar gun, and if his speed is high, but decreases to, or below the speed limit anytime during those 660 feet, he cannot be written up.
Confused? Wait, it gets better.
I know, it's wacky, however, if the area is not designated a Thickly Settled Zone, and there are proper speed limits posted, then an officer does not have to use the 660 foot rule to contend with, and if the radar says they are over the posted speed limit, even by 1 MPH, they can pull them over.
Yes, there is a "but". The signs that are up on Route 148 (Brookfield Road) are yellow, not the black and white speed limit signs. So, what's the difference? The yellow signs are only "advisory speed limit signs" for the area. They aren't enforceable. "Chapter 90, section 17 of the Massachusetts General Laws begins:
No person operating a motor vehicle on any way shall run it at a rate of speed greater than is reasonable and proper. This is the "basic rule", and anyone could be cited if the observing officer felt that their speed was not reasonable and proper, but that leaves the determination up to the officer, and not the posted limit on a yellow sign. This is often fought successfully in court by violators if they can prove their speed was reasonable and proper.
So, what's with the yellow speed limit signs? Well, according to Chief Ford, who has been in contact with the higher ups at Mass Highway regarding this whole issue of speed limits on Route 148, the signs are not supposed to be there at all according to Mass Highway. They are supposed to be the black and white speed limit signs!
Woo hoo! This means that even if a violator is one mile an hour over the speed limit, they can be cited since they violated a "posted speed limit".
This now arms the police with something solid to use in their enforcement of the speeds in this area. Something they never had before.
Since I first brought this up to the Traffic Safety Committee in August of 2006, the Chief has done a great deal of work behind the scenes. I wasn't aware of the work he, and his officers, Lt Curboy, and Sgt Mercier, were doing regarding this despite my curiosity, and writing about it here several times. Communication may have been lacking, but the work, and research was not.
The Police have set up the new small speed board on Route 148 several times, and this past October they set up a new device, the kind that Mass Highway uses for more scientific studies. Lt. Allan Curboy had reams of data from the 11 day study with this new device that he shared with me. The average speed at the point where the device was set up just north of my house was between 45 and 47 MPH, although there were speeders as well, but most of them came in the early morning between 5 and 7 AM, and in the afternoon from 5-6 PM. This is the prime time for commuters to travel on the road.
One confusing fact I got from all the data retrieved from the device was that the vehicle count for the 11 day study in October was 84,000.
Over eleven days that comes out to 318 vehicles per hour on Brookfield Road, twenty four hours a day, seven days a week. After 10:00 PM to around 4:00 AM, traffic is rare on Brookfield Road, so that would skew the numbers even higher during the day.
I think that the 84,000 count may be a bit inaccurate, but until there is another study in the fall of 2009 we will have to settle on these counts.
So, how does this all affect those living, walking and driving along Route 148? Well, believe it or not, something positive is going to come of all this. First of all the yellow speed limit signs are going to be replaced soon. The order for them was given by the Chief to the Director of the DPW to order them some time ago, and unless they are being hand painted by monks in a monastery in the Alps, they should be up soon. Once they are up, then Chief Ford intends to make the southern portion of Route 148 a "Zero Tolerance Speed Zone", in other words, go over the limit, even by one MPH, and its ticket time. There is a plan to place signs proclaiming this congested area as a Zero Tolerance Zone on the southern end of Route 148 heading north, and a mile or so up the road heading south. These kind of signs are as good as tossing "speed sticks" onto the road. They do decrease the speed of the vehicles.
There will also be an increased police presence on the roadway at varying times, and different days during the week, and a couple of days each week the police will place their electric message board on the road warning drivers that they are in a Zero Tolerance Area.
So, there you have it, the end of one chapter, and the beginning of another. Yes, it sure did take some time to get this far, but in the end I feel the results are good. Now, we will see if the plan will be effective. "Awareness, education and enforcement" was something stated by both the Chief, and Lt. Curboy during the meeting, sounds like a plan to me.
Route 148 has changed dramatically over the years. From an old county road connecting Route 20 to Route 9 and beyond, to being widened to handle modern traffic flows. Recently, we were able to convince the Post Mistress of the Fiskdale Post Office to begin mail delivery on both sides of the road instead of having everyone's mailbox only on the east side of the road. The traffic flow and speeds on the roadway no longer made this a safe way for residents to get their mail each day. After I had initially brought it up to the Post Mistress, and set the idea in her head, my neighbor took the reigns and finally got the approval for allowing west side residents to have their mailboxes in front of their homes.
Things can happen if one has the desire to make changes, and the patience to see them through.
So, what's next?
Well, there are still things to be done to make Route 148 safer for the residents, and pedestrians. Sidewalks would be nice.
Now, whose bonnet can this bee get under now?
So, what to do in the meantime? We start by thinking how we can save some money, or make some money to help offset the funds that we will not be getting from the Commonwealth. Budget cuts come naturally to those that are in charge of their departments. It is simple, and only takes a lot of agonizing thought to decide what needs to be cut back. It is never a good thing to cut back on services, but sometimes one has little choice.
Austerity is something that we must embrace for now.
A few weeks ago I was driving home along Route 20, and I came to some road work at the intersection Route 20 and Route 148. Mass Highway was scraping the roadbed down and repaving the washboard the road in this area has become. There were a lot of Mass Highway workers, and their machinery. There was also five police officers, both local and State Police. Five. Three of them were in the center of the intersection directing traffic.
I don't want to get into an argument of police vs. flagmen, there are times when both are appropriate to use depending on the project, but five police officers at the project site seems like a bit much. Maybe a cruiser with its flashing lights on, one officer and a few flagmen would have sufficed. The money saved would have been great, and the road would have been just as safe.
Thinking like this is easy, but making it happen is no simple feat. One has to decide to make real changes despite generations of doing it another way.
We can't afford to think old school anymore.
Along with thinking how to save, or make money during these hard times, we also have to put some thought into saving money in the long run.
I have a couple of ideas.
Crazy ideas. Out of the box ideas, but worth looking into.
Now, these ideas won't come cheap, but in the long run they will not only pay for themselves, but add cash to the Town coffers, and maybe now is not the best timing to study them further, but when times are good these sort of things get totally ignored. Best to look into them now for our future.
- Crazy idea #1: Harvest wind energy to power local schools, town buildings, street lights, and if we do it right, residences in town.
I know, I know, "Those wind turbines are too ugly." Well, so are higher property taxes. If we stuck a few turbines high on Lead Mine Mountain they'd be out of the way, and high enough to be effective. The energy obtained from the turbines would be dependant n the number of them erected, but they could power our schools, and town buildings without a problem. Another "Cha-ching" idea. Free power.
- Crazy idea # 2: Stick a electric turbine in the East Brimfield Dam to generate electricity.
Just some thoughts.
Thursday, January 15, 2009
"Wally, you're a dope."
Now, for some reason I have always thought that the recycling Center charged for the disposal of trash on a per-bag basis. Why not? Seems that it is done almost everywhere in the country, and trash removal is not a a cheap enterprise. Why would a Town give it away fro free, but charge a fee to post a yard sale sign?
So, I was amazed to read in the paper yesterday that Sturbridge does not charge a per-bag fee at the Recycling Center, they only charge for the disposal of other things like PC's, TV's, demolition waste and the like.
What the heck is the Town thinking? Seems they are behind in the amount of money it will cost to cap the landfill without a way of getting more funds. This is another no-brainer.
We have residential trash pick-up here at the house. We pay on a quarterly basis. It's only right. The trash has to go somewhere, and those that take it there have got to be paid, as well as paying the fee's that are required at the landfills.
I've used the Recycling Center several times for the disposal of large objects that the could not be removed at the curb, and for other stuff. I've always paid a fee, and thought nothing about it. The fee's were always fair, and I assumed everyone paid to drop off anything there.
If those that use the Recycling Center were charged $1.00 per bag we could make the $200,000.00 shortfall in a couple of years. After that, it could be used for site improvements, maintenance, or other projects so designated by the Town.
I don't believe that charging a fee per-bag will increase illegal dumping either. Those that currently do are of a type that saving $10.00 to drop off an old TV isn't the reason they dump illegally, they are just too lazy to drive to the Recycling Center, or wait until it is opens. You can't fix laziness. You can install a few cameras around town at the sites that are often used for illegal dumping. This can make a difference, and if the fines were jacked up, that money could be very helpful.
So, anyway, of course we should charge to use the Recycling Center. Its only common sense.
Since I am out of the loop regarding this whole capping of the old landfill project, I wonder if the methane below the surface will be tapped? Most capped landfill sites have a multitude of PVC pipes sticking out of the ground to allow the methane produced from the the deteriorating trash to escape into the atmosphere.
Al Gore develops a twitch when he drives by these sites.
Best thing to do is to capture the methane, and sell it, or use it to heat, or to power some of our town buildings. Cha-ching! More cash for the town.
If we own something that needs to be disposed of properly, we need to pay, and not expect someone else to pick up our tab.
The Town also needs to charge a fee for a Recycling Center sticker, maybe $10.00 per year, along with a pay-as-you-dump fee.
I'd be interested in knowing more about the Landfill Capping Project, so if anyone has more information, please send me a note at email@example.com, or leave a comment.
Monday, January 12, 2009
"New to Sturbridge has left a new comment on your post "Let's Read the Newspaper!":
Is this blog still active? I just moved to Sturbridge and appreciate reading thoughts like this. I cannot find a new post, however."
What can I say? It's fairly simple to find the latest posts. Look in the right hand column and find the list of Recent Ramblings and take your pick. Those links work well even in an older posting. Another way is to subscribe to the latest posts and/or comments by clicking on the button near the top of the page.
I haven't called it a day as of yet, but I am sure that at one time or another that may come to pass, but as long as readership is as high as it is, and I still have stuff on my mind, I'll be here.
Very poor planning.
This happens in various places along the Pike where garages overlap, and exits to turn around are few and far between, but for the most part the Pike is cared for. I have noticed that although it is cared for, the care is being somewhat delayed this winter. There is more slush on the roadway than usual, and I don't see the sand/salt trucks out there as frequently as I have in the past.
One morning last week it took me a little under 2 hours to drive from here to Exit 18, the Cambridge / Alston exit. No bad, considering the weather, but the slush was deep, and in the past that would never have been the case.
This past Saturday night the Pike was horrible. We took in a movie and had dinner on Shrewsbury Street just as the snow was starting to fall. By the time we were done with dinner, the roads had a coating of an inch or so. All the way from Exit 10 to just before the Sturbridge exit the roads were untouched. By now a one to two inch coating of snow, and slush covered the road, and made driving a bit difficult. Usually there is a lot of black pavement showing from the salt and sand trucks that have already made their rounds, but not this time. I put the truck into four wheel drive for more stability and headed west at about 45-50 MPH. The lines on the road were nearly invisible, but not to some cowboys speeding down the Pike in the left lane at greater than 65 MPH. They must have the nerves of a fighter pilot, or an overabundance of the AH gene. It was not until we made it to the Charlton State Police Barracks til the road finally clear from salt that was put down. The Warren plow crew made it this far and then crossed the median to head back west. The Auburn crew had done nothing.
This weekends drive on the Pike was disappointing.
Governor Patrick wants to remove some tolls on the Pike. It's ironic that a few of the tolls he wants to keep are the ones here in Sturbridge, and at Exit 18.
I can't win in this game.
As anti-toll that I am I have to admit that I don't feel that eliminating the tolls in this economic climate would be the best thing to do. The Turnpike Authority is in debt, and if we cut it's income without removing more of its costs, then the Turnpike will fall into disrepair.
Not a good thing.
Keep things as they are on the Turnpike, and keep the tolls as they are as well. Maintain the road, but put off major projects till the debt is whittled down. When to Turnpikes debt is getting close to be being eliminated, then resume the projects, re-think toll elimination and/or hikes.
Cut costs first. Paying toll collectors over $30.00 an hour for one sided arm aerobics is a bit wasteful. Add more Fast Lanes, and eliminate more collectors. If you want to ride the Pike, and don't want to wait for change, then get a Fast Lane transponder. Ideally, there should be only one lane for cash at the tolls. All Massachusetts residents that ride the Pike should have a transponder, and those from a state with the Easy Pass should make sure their transponder is in their car.
More locally, the roads were well treated here in town during the last couple of storms. Mass Highway does a very good job on Route 20, and the Town does well with the side roads and Route 148 except at its most southern end as it meets Route 20. More salt is needed on that hill. Cars coming down the hill have a hard time stopping in time, and some of those going up the hill slip and slide till they crest the hill.
All in all, the plow crews do well during the storms. Our local roads are kept in good shape allowing commuters to get where they are going, and emergency vehicles to get to most anywhere in town without much difficulty. We are fortunate in this regard.
Now, if I can only entice the plow operators to lift their plows when they go by my driveway the world would be a perfect place.
Monday, January 5, 2009
In 1972, it was the thing to do.
That summer, while I got my act together, I crashed in a variety of places, including my car, but by fall I had my first apartment. It was in an older home, and was very small. After a few roommates, and little privacy I was offered a place at a friends house. The apartment was an in-law apartment built especially for his grandfather. The apartment was attached to the 1950's ranch style house, and over a new two car garage. It was a nice, clean place. It had a large bedroom, a large bathroom and shower, and a combination living room / dining room. There was no kitchen, but rather a sliding door to the owners kitchen for use by the grandfather. That was fine, I ate out all the time, but I did manage to put a refrigerator in the place for essentials like left over subs and beer.
That apartment saved me.
The rent was cheap, only $150.00 a month, and heat was included. For a 19 year old man with two jobs, and not a clue as to where he would be in five years, it was a God-send. It offered shelter, security, and the companionship of my friend and his family any time I felt the need. When I did start school, it offered a quiet place to study, and base my operations from. Other apartments in town were renting for two to four times the amount; something I could not afford at the time, and since I was paying for my schooling on my own, every penny counted.
This "in-law" apartment presented itself to me at time in my life when it was most needed. I have often wondered where I would be if I did not find a place that I could live in with little distraction, privacy, and for an amount I could afford. Would I have continued in the other place with the nightly parties, finding other people sleeping in my bed, eating all my groceries, and treating it as a crash pad for visitors from all corners of the globe, and not have been affected by it?
I doubt it.
There were, and still are, many "in-law" apartments in my hometown. Many are in older homes, and have been used for a hundred years or so. Others, are in more modern homes, like the one I rented, and even more current houses.
Back in the 1930's, when lodging was needed for all those out of work, families could augment their income by renting rooms, or pieces of their homes. This was a win-win for all parties for obvious reasons. The same can be said for economic times, and needs of today.
If an older resident has some space that exists. or could be designated an "in-law" apartment, they should be able to rent it out to whomever they please. Blood relation, or not. For generations this type have arrangement has insured that many folks could afford to stay in the home they have known for many years, and not have to move out. Those that do, usually move in with one of their children, and if they are fortunate, their child has in-law apartment in a town that allows them.
What a twist.
Sturbridge should amend its bylaw regarding the use of these kind of living arrangements. If a person owns a home that has the space to rent out as an apartment with its own entrance, bath, and bedroom, then why not? An extra car in the driveway, or another person or two at the address won't cause any extra congestion. No more so than having two or three teens all with their own vehicle.
Imagine what this could mean for the young single person on their own for the first time, or with a small child and totally on their own. Maybe, an older person that is in between jobs, and needs housing that is affordable, or even a much older person that no longer can afford, or need a large place of their own, but chooses to down size.
Bylaws and regulations that prevent, and restrict opportunities like this from existing are nothing more than the opinion of those in a position to place their personal feelings into law. They do nothing to make our lives better, or safer.
Of course, there would have to be some regulations. A separate entrance, a proper bedroom, a bathroom, a place to properly prepare food, and utilities are all essential. Parking for an additional vehicle would be required as well. But, these are things that are the same that are required for any dwelling.
I know that if it had not been for my good fortune in having that apartment back during a time when I needed it most, things may be entirely different for me today.
It's just time to rewrite the bylaws, and I hope those in the position will do so, and not let their personal feelings get in the way of what is only right.