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

Sunday, January 31, 2010

James Ehrhard Announces Candidacy For Selectman

ames Ehrhard has announced his candidacy for the office of selectman. For more information about Mr. Ehrhard, and his agenda, please go to

"James P. Ehrhard is the owner and manager of the firm of Ehrhard & Associates, P.C. ( He concentrates his practice in bankruptcy and general litigation. Prior to managing the firm, Mr. Ehrhard concentrated his practice on insurance and corporate defense litigation along with plaintiffs' trial work. He has handled cases in federal and state courts throughout Massachusetts. His firm is one of the largest bankruptcy firms in Massachusetts in terms of bankruptcies filed per annum.

Mr. Ehrhard received his B.A. from the University of Chicago and his J.D. from the University of Notre Dame Law School. Mr. Ehrhard has been a faculty member for Massachusetts Continuing Legal Education and he is a frequent lecturer to professional groups. He was a recurring guest host on WTAG's radio program "The Legal Express" and currently guest hosts on WESO's radio program "Money Matters".

Mr. Ehrhard is an elected member of the Tantasqua Regional District School Committee. He currently sits on the Building and Facilities subcommittee. He also serves on the Labor Negotiations subcommittee, representing the District in contract negotiations with various unions. In addition, Mr. Ehrhard is chairman of the Sturbridge Town Administrator Search Committee.

Mr. Ehrhard is married with a four year old daughter and three year old son. He is a member of St. Anne-St. Patrick Parish."-- from the candidates web site.

Editors note: All candidates are invited to post their announcements on this page. They are also welcome to submit articles on topics that they feel would be beneficial to the residents of Sturbridge.

Dear Mr. Selectman, Enclosed Please Find A GPS To Help You Find A Clue

I've been biting my lip since yesterday. I can't keep quiet no more!

In Thursdays Tantqasqua Common newspaper, there was an article on page one regarding the wait for a sewer line on route 15 here in town. The article is about the need for sewer on Route 15, and the septic systems that are failing while residents and businesses wait for a sewer line to be approved and built.

It's an informative article. Tells of Sturbridge not moving too quickly, gotta get a study done first, gotta find the money for the study, then gotta think on it some more...

Nothing unusual there, small towns just work this way, and nothing unusual about a selectman speaking of the need for sewer on Route 15, and not putting a whole lot of thought into what he was saying.

"If Walker Pond was failing I can guarantee that we'd be doing something to get sewer up there, he said".

What was the selectman saying exactly? Was he saying that the Walker Pond neighborhood is seen as more important in the eyes of the selectmen than the Route 15 area? Why would they "do something to get sewer up there"? More friends in the Walker Pond area? More money?

Whatever the reason was that prompted the selectman to make the statement it really doesn't matter, he should never have made that particular statement. What he did was state that one neighborhood was worth more, and deserved faster attention than another.

OK, I think I know what he was trying to say, but did not say it at all, and the next few statements sort of confirm that this selectman has little clue.

In regards as to how to pay for the study of a sewer line on route 15 the selectman said,

"Let's implement an order that says if you own a sidewalk, then comply with the bylaws. Shovel it, instead of having the DPW do it at a cost of $25,000.00. We've got a part of town where the septic systems are failing, and we can't come up money. But we can come up with money to plow sidewalks I don't understand this."

Apparently, there is a lot the selectman does not understand.

First of all, the sidewalks in town are owned by the town. I don't believe there is one sidewalk that is along side a town owned roadway that is owned by a private party. A private party may have contributed to the construction of the sidewalk at one time, but in the end, the sidewalks belong to the town. Property lines end before the sidewalk. There may be an exception to this from 100 years ago, and never corrected, but this is the way it works.

If the town pays to put in a road with sidewalks, or maintains the sidewalks during warmer times of the year, such as when the DPW repaired the holes and cracks in the concrete sidewalks along Main Street a little while back, then guess what? They own them, and they will maintain them when it cold outside, too. That means clearing, plowing, shoveling, sanding, and making them safe.

Just as the private landowners clear the walkways on their property, the town has a responsibility to it's residents to do the same.

I have said this before, if the town does not clear the sidewalks, something they have always done, and residents are forced to walk in the street, in the traffic, and one of our residents is injured by a vehicle while doing so, the town would not have a leg to stand on in the lawsuit that would follow.

I don't know, $25,000 vs multimillion dollar lawsuit? Hmm.

Let's stop playing around. It is $25000.00. Take the money from the rainy day fund, or sell something. The town can't be that hard up for cash, and if we are, then we are in more of a world of hurt than not having sewer on Route 15. Then start the study, and put an emphasis of haste. Once the study comes in, then look it over, and if things are as bad as you say they are, the study will show it, and get digging.

You can't say things are failing, which will result in lost homes, and businesses, and then let a measly $25000.00 stand in your way.

Doesn't make any sense.

The next time I read something in the paper about the need for sewer on Route 15 I expect to read that the study will be conducted, the money has been appropriated to fund it, and the need to progress rapidly is stressed.

Just as if the Route 15 neighborhood was Walker Pond.

Old Route 15

I-84.svgConnecticut Highway 15.svg
Old Route 15 used to be an extension of Connecticut Route 15 (now I-84) before its truncation in 1980.

The number was formerly used for an extension of Connecticut's Route 15, nowInterstate 84. It connected the CT-15 from the state line in Holland with U.S. Route 20 and Interstate 90 (Massachusetts Turnpike) in Sturbridge. Sturbridge's Route 15 changed alignments several times over the years, as the Wilbur Cross Highway was upgraded to freeway standards (CT-15 used to run concurrently with I-84 to the state line, but was truncated in 1980 to its current terminus in East Hartford). Local lanes of the former Route 15 in Massachusetts are still in use today as Haynes Street, a road parallel to I-84 that ends at Main Street (Route 131) near Town Hall.

This section of road is still referred to locally as "Route 15" and signed as "Olde Route 15". It is also recognized as Route 15 by Google Maps, Yahoo Maps, and Microsoft Live Maps. [1][2][3]

Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Importance Of Frequently Jiggling Ones Handle

It's a true, small town mystery. One and a half million gallons of town water is missing, and no one knows where it has gone to.

No worries, though, mate. The town just billed the owner of the closed restaurant that the water seemed to enter, and never came out of. The Orchards Restaurant ,owned by the Publick House and located on Haynes Street behind the Center School, has been closed for a few years, however the meter says 1.5 million gallons of water was used this fall by the closed facility.


Somethings screwy.

For one thing how does one loose 1.5 million gallons of water into a closed building. The town says there could have been a running toilet that sucked off the water in the closed building.

Seems far fetched, but not impossible. A huge toilet could do it. Really huge.

What seems even stranger is that the Publick House paid the bill. They paid the bill for 1.5 million gallons of water usage for a building that has not been open in years. There has been no uptick in usage before the fall, or since.

If I was presented a bill for a ludicrous amount of money, for something I know I did not, and could not have used, I would argue the point, and ask for specific proof that I used the product and owed the money. Besides what the meter was saying, some forensic hydrology would be needed as well.

Seems fairly simple to me, but to pay the amount, and then argue the point? I don't know. Seems that those in the know know exactly what is afoot, and it is probably less than a true mystery than we are being led to believe.

Maybe the toilet was left open, and it did flush away $16K in water. Maybe the Publick House just screwed up.

Could happen.

Or, maybe, the town's meter isn't as accurate as has been reported.

Whatever, or whoever, is to blame for the "missing 1.5 million gallons" of water it won't ever be determined. Too embarrassing for either party since the "mystery" was released to the newspaper. I figure that since the bill was paid, it is known what happened, but let's make it look like it is a conundrum so we don't get blamed, or look too foolish.

Just being human.

In the meantime, since the DPW isn't accepting blame, and has stood by its meter, and the Publick House is in denial, yet still paid for the water. It gives the rest of us little hope if something similar was ever to happen to us.

In the meantime it's time to fix that constantly running toilet, otherwise, here in Sturbridge, you could flush your savings right down the drain.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Hey Kids!! Let's Put On A Bake Sale!

There are 262 acres of wood, and farmland up on Douty Street for sale. This land has been for sale off and on for a few years, but was recently placed back on the market. The land has been intact for over 300 years, and is beautiful. It is still used as a dairy farm today.

This is one piece of property the Town of Sturbridge would love to add to its growing wallet of parcels. The asking price for the land of $2.5 million. The Community Preservation Act funds have been tapped into to buy other pieces of land over the last few years, and there is not enough to buy this parcel as well.

Sturbridge now has to wait for the funds to grow again. The funds use a formula for a surcharge on property taxes, and the money obtained can be used for open space, affordable housing, recreation, and preservation.

I have no clue as to how long it would take to raise $2.5 million this way, but I am sure it will take a bit of time. But, will the land sell to a developer in the meantime?

Well, not if the town has its way. In 2007 the site failed the percolation tests for residential development, and, according to the newspaper, a sewer extension from Commonwealth Avenue is not an option.

I still find it peculiar that a Town as "up and coming" as Sturbridge still has not made it a priority to put sewer all over the town. Saving historic parcels of land is fantastic, but sewer lines throughout the town would be just that much better.

Anyway, getting back to the land on Douty Road. If it failed the perc test for septic, and an sewer extension from way down on Commonwealth Avenue is not an option, what kind of buyer will pay $2.5 million 262 unbuildable acres?

None, with the possible exception of a philanthropic conservationist.

So, the town will sit on it. It will wait it out, and hope like heck some blue blooded dairy preservationist don't come along and buy the farm for educational purposes. The town will wait it out, and when the owners get to the point where they realize that no one is going to buy the land with the restrictions on it, they will lower the price, and offer it to the town.

I'm not saying this will happen, but I am sure it has been thought of a few times.

It is a wonderful piece of property, high on a hill, with exceptional western views. There is nothing like it in town. If I were the owners, I 'd repeat the perc tests. I'd do them all over the place. We know that if the town acquires the land it will have septic. It will just happen.

Whatever happens to the land, I do hope the it becomes accessible to the public. Driving to the top of that hill, pointing the car west, and watching the sun drop below the hills in Munson on a summers night sure would be nice.

That view alone would be worth far more than $2.5 million, it would be priceless.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

No, No You Can't Take That Away From Me...

It's the little things in life that can mean a lot.

I was on the new Massachusetts Department of Transportation website a few weeks back. I was checking out the new web cams the DOT put up at different traffic trouble spots in the state, and I naturally went to the map, and looked for Sturbridge.

What can I say? It was a slow day.

Well, Sturbridge wasn't listed as having a web cam, but Charlton was. Yep, right there in the middle of I-84, smack dab atop the toll booths at the Pike was a web cam icon with the label, " Interchange 9, I-84 and I-90, Charlton, MA".

Say what?


When did we loose some of our eastern border to Charlton?

I know Exit 9 on the Pike is infamous for traffic backups, but they are our backups. Our exit, not Charltons.

So, I wrote to the MassDOT and asked them what was up with Exit 9 becoming Charltons. Below is the reply I received.

Dear Mr. Hersee:

You are correct, camera #207 is in Sturbridge. We will have the website corrected. Thank you for taking the time to let us know.

Michelle Maffeo

Statewide Operations Engineer

Sweet. That infamous exit is once again ours.

Thank you, Michelle, as you can see, we are a possessive lot out here at Exit 9.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

It's Over

guess I was not the only one to feel the way I did.

Now, let's see what he can do for us, and hope and pray he does it well.

Now, All We Need To Do Is Wait For The Results

This was the toughest election I have ever had to vote in, but it's done.

Despite how I admired Martha for her hard work and accomplishments over the years, and felt it was a "no-brainer" as to where my vote would go, she threw my vote away. When Martha decided to ramp up the negativity in her campaign, and become the poster child for "How To Run A Nasty" race, I was gone.

She made the decision for me.

I am sure there were others across the state that were taken back by her ads. All attack, and little on the issues. That behavior is an indicator of just how she may have performed once in office.

You know, I don't think it was all her fault. I blame her team. Her "handlers", so to speak, for steering her into the negative attack mode. Yes, I know, she is a bright woman, and could make her own decisions, but not without help. Her attack mode was out of character.

This race was not so much about filling a long held seat, or anything to do with the health care bill, it was about electing a person with the scruples to represent us from here on in an honorable way, be they republican or democrat.

She failed to convince me that she could do that.


So, I thought. I thought all evening, and into the night. I thought about what I had written about yesterday, the senate vote today.

It is not like me, this being so undecided this far along, but I am. Do I vote on the issues, or for the candidate? Both options have pro's and con's. If I do vote on the issue alone, what about issues in the future? How can I be sure the candidate will be there on my behalf in the future?

Well, I can't. Even in the best circumstances I couldn't be sure of that.

One thing I am sure of, though. Nothing will change my opinion of a person faster than when I see them behave contrary to what I have always seen, and admired, and for selfish reasons. Doesn't matter if they are only "following orders" for a successful win. If they can loose who they are during the race, they can loose who they are after the race, and there is much more at risk then.

(deep sigh)

So, here I am. Coffee in hand, watching the latest news on the TV, reading more online, and desperately trying to make the best decision I can with what has been offered up. Man, it is tough.

I have until the polls close today. In the meantime, there are walls in the bedroom that need a skim coat of plaster. Hopefully being engaged in some mindless work will free up the commonsense pixies from this jumble of thoughts, and they will show me the way.

Or, I can just go with my heart. It just seems too easy, though.

Maybe that's the point. Maybe I should not make such a big deal out it, and just follow my heart.

It's always worked before.

Monday, January 18, 2010

11th Hour Quandry

I try to stay away from politics that are bigger than the local scene, but I need to vent.

I have always liked Martha Coakley. I feel she has been an advocate for everyone here in Massachusetts, and has done a very good job. I really don't know too much about Scott Brown, but this much I do know: the out of context accusations the Coakley camp has made about Brown are negative campaigning at its very worst.

Martha, I can read. I know when things are stretched beyond reality for the benefit of an ad, I just never thought you would do something like this to advance your position in the race. Actually, I don't think you had much to do with designing the ads, but you did approve them.

Shame on you.

So, now we have someone I was feeling good towards, maybe even going to vote for, and she takes the low road. Doesn't matter if you didn't design the ads, and only approved them. You know it is wrong, it is unlike you, and now I am afraid of just what you would do in DC.

Scott, I don't know. I like you as a person, and I know the craziness the Coakley camp has spread about is a real stretch of just what you have said and done, but I am not totally with you.

All I know at this 11th hour before the election is that Martha took my vote for her and flushed it by her behavior, and Scott is a little too conservative for me.

Then there is Joesph Kennedy ("No Relation Kennedy").


Do I go with my gut? Do I go with what I feel is best despite agendas, and behaviors that are not my cup of tea?

I really don't know.

I've got a lot of thinking to do overnight, as does everyone else.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Open Up Da Door, And Go Outside

Unplug the Wii, put down the laptop, turn off the iPhone, open the door, and toss the kids outside!!!!

Some of our kids grow into adolescence without ever playing in the yard, or taking a walk to a friends house.

Time to let go, and give them a shove.

Jason and Elmo can help

Monday, January 11, 2010

Recycling A Few Old Thoughts

I was reading an article, one morning last week, about some plans for the Recycling Center here in town. One of the things mentioned in the article was the the idea of charging for a second and third Recycling Center sticker per household. The first one would be remain free.

If the idea is to raise money, and to help make the Recycling Center more self sufficient, then I say, charge for the first sticker, and maybe a discounted rate on any other stickers in each household.

When one thinks about it, it is usually one vehicles that makes the "dump run". Might as well put a price on that sticker since the chances for two, or three vehicles in the same family sharing that chore are rare. The fee does not need to be outrageous, either. $5.00 to $10.00 per year would be fine.

Another thing being tossed around is a per-bag fee. I say go for it. Heck, I have curb side pickup, and I pay to dispose of my trash. Everyone should pay to dispose of their waste in one form or another. In the last town I lived in, about ten years ago, everyone in town had curbside pickup for waste and recyclables. It was "free", meaning no bill was sent to the residents of the town, but instead the town had a contract with the different trash removal companies and paid them according to the contract. Yes, we did pay for the service through our taxes, but the process was streamlined, and efficient.

Single stream recycling is a the direction to head in, but is something we need to build towards. In the meantime, institute a per bag fee for trash, but not for recyclable items. We also need to make curbside recycling free as well. Currently, companies that do curbside pickup charge a fee to pick up recycling in addition to the fee for waste pickup.

That does little to encourage recycling, and to reduce waste.

If I am going to separate my trash into what is waste, and what is recyclable, and if I am going to be charged for the volume of un-recyclable waste, I will go the extra step to make sure that
all of recyclables are pulled out the trash mix if my recyclables will be picked up for free.

A Recycling Center sticker fee for the first sticker in household in order to support the center is something long overdue, and I also believe that a fee should be charged for waste on a per bag basis at the center as well. All disposal of recyclables should be without a charge both at the Recycling Center, and at the curbside.

Save some money. Save the planet.