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

Friday, January 16, 2009

"Marge, He's Talking Crazy Again."

This recession is going to last for a bit, and the effect on our Town is going to be great. The budgets of all town departments are going to take a hit, services will be cut back, layoffs may occur, and life as we know it here in our little town will not be the same till we experience a strong recovery.

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.
A few months ago I found a paper on line where this was studied back in the late '70's. Do you think I could re-find the site where this was now? No, but I do know it was considered. To actually have a dam in town that is modern enough, and manned continually is a blessing in many ways. The flood protection it affords is only one part of what it has to offer. Why not take advantage of the power slipping through its flood gates, and use the electricity generated to power buildings here in town? Old Sturbridge Village has electric turbines on its dam on the Quinebaug. If you don't think this is feasible, take a look at the French River Land Company's website, and see what other towns in Massachusetts and New England have done to generate hydroelectric power.

Just some thoughts.

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