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

Saturday, February 6, 2010

On Hold? Why? Let's Hear A Credible Reason For Once

Rt. 15 sites on hold for sewers

Treatment plant capacity to increase


STURBRIDGE — Standing in front of the town’s wastewater treatment plant, state Sen. Stephen M. Brewer, D-Barre, declared the Board of Selectmen will no longer have to turn away business because the plant’s capacity is full.

Mary M. Berry, manager of the Sturbridge Retirement Cooperative Corp., will believe it when she sees it.

Like several other property owners in the Route 15 Special Use District, Mrs. Berry has been butting heads with selectmen for years over connections to town sewer lines. Monday night, she will plead her case in front of selectmen again.

The Sturbridge Retirement Cooperative Corp., 1 Kelly Road, and neighboring Yogi Bear Jellystone Park Camp Resorts, 30 River Road, are facing administrative consent orders from the state Department of Environmental Protection to upgrade their septic systems because their daily flows exceed the Title 5 limit, which is 15,000 gallons per day.

“The consent order says that we’re noncompliant; therefore, we have two choices: our own treatment plant or a municipal tie-in,” Mrs. Berry explained.

She wants a municipal tie-in to the town sewer system for 32,700 gallons per day, but she said the actual flow on most days is about 20,000 gallons.

Back in September, Sean Finicane, owner of Yogi Bear Jellystone Park Camp, said he needs 31,500 gpd a few months a year.

Mrs. Berry said she has already spent about $500,000 and it would cost an estimated $1.2 million to finish an on-site treatment plant.

Mrs. Berry accuses some selectmen of stalling the issue by relying on delay tactics, including repeatedly citing the need for “another study,” the necessity to “recharge the aquifer,” and the existence of a “sewer moratorium” as fallback excuses.

“I have tried to take each concern of the board and address it and find the quickest and easiest way to get something accomplished,” Mrs. Berry said. “I someday want to strike the word sewer from my vocabulary. Let’s see if this time the rubber meets the road.”

Mr. Brewer’s visit Jan. 26 coincided with Gov. Deval L. Patrick’s announcement that $15.1 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act grants and State Revolving Fund financing will be used to upgrade Sturbridge’s 40-year-old wastewater treatment plant from 750,000 gpd to 1.3 million gpd.

Mrs. Berry said selectmen should add Route 15 Special Use District to the comprehensive waste management plan and apply for a permit modification to add about 75,000 gpd to the existing plant to address the immediate concerns.

She said she wants to make them understand how simple this could be and that ultimately, the question being posed to the selectmen, who act as sewer commissioners, is simply, “Do you want to help?”

“How do they think these seniors feel when they are told the town’s got the capacity for us, but they have to hold it for somebody else that may need it down the line? What are we, chopped liver?” Mrs. Berry asked. “We’re not asking for something for nothing. Just give us what we need. It’s available, if you do it right.”

Mrs. Berry has repeatedly offered the town a check for sewer privilege fees totaling $450,000 with hopes of being connected by about 2.5 miles of pipe stretching from Route 131 to Kelly Road. The offer is still on the table, she said.

While Sturbridge Retirement Cooperative Corp. (67 acres) and Yogi Bear Jellystone Park Camp Resorts (at 75.5 acres) represented the need side of the equation, Gary E. Galonek represents the opportunity side. Owner of Kelly Farm Ltd., which includes three parcels at 17 Kelly and 26 Kelly Road and 90 River Road (74 acres combined), Mr. Galonek has been pushing for infrastructure for 15 years along Old Route 15 with no results.

“The special use district was put in place to be developed,” Mr. Galonek said. “Sturbridge has gotten into the land collection business. We have more land that we don’t tax, that we have no plans for.”

Selectmen Scott A. Garieri and Thomas R. Creamer both agree the town has an obligation to help provide a solution to the sewer woes along Old Route 15.

“This is a neighborhood, a district, however you want to look at it, that’s in need,” Mr. Garieri said. “And it’s our obligation to find out and do everything we can do, not just putting it off because certain factions in town don’t believe Route 15 should be developed.”

“I’m fully prepared to support any municipal solution down there on Route 15,” Mr. Creamer said. “Waiting is no longer an option. We need to do something and we need to do it now.”

Selectman Mary Blanchard, chairwoman of the board, said the board will be able to come to more educated and viable answers to these questions Monday.

Worcester Telegram & Gazette February 6, 2010


  1. When it comes to sewer's, when is the last time you heard a credible reason for denying from the BOS?

  2. Get your facts straight people. It is in the minutes of 6-20-05 selectmens meeting. Galonek removed Kelly road partnership from the sewer proposal and the Sturbridge Retirement cooperative then removed their request for town sewer.After Galonek pulled out the retirement cooperative could not afford the sewer.

  3. Who's Galonek? And is Mrs. Berry just offering $ to the wind?

  4. This town should be finding ways to make things more afforable for the people who live here. We are effectively turning our own seniors and youngsters away because we either don't care, or we are too busy doing other things to notice. It sure would be nice if those who would like to stay with us were welcome to do that. I know several people who once said they would never leave Sturbridge. Sturbridge was their home. Some have left, and some are seriously considering leaving their hometown.
    We're good at buying up land and making things look good from the outside, though ... so if they come back to visit us some day, they'll have something attractive to look at...but there will forever be a chill on the warmth they once felt in our "quaint litle town."

  5. Galonek probably wants the taxpayers to foot the bill for it instead of paying for it like all other sewer users had to! And they ARE NOT even in the sewer service area!! The experts would have recommened adding them to the sewer service area if they believed it would be beneficial! Watch GBIS push this down the taxpayers throats.

  6. Galonek and Berry both had sewer connections granted by the selectmen. Both Galonek and Berry withdrew their request. They got what they asked for in 2005. They have no right to complain now.

  7. Galonek and Berry had a sewer deal and walked away form it. Why too expensive for them. Who do they think will pay for it now? We the tax payer? I already paid for my sewer connection I am not paying for theirs.

  8. In response to the last anonymous post: I expect that "Galonek and Berry" (and others) will pay for their "own" connections, as you say you paid for yours. The problem is that there is NO sewer line to connect to on Route 15.

  9. And that is the issue. There is no sewer line and there needs to be one as a matter of public health.

  10. Whatever the reason - rt 15 if they get sewer they should pay for it themselves. Not the rest of us. Why not look at other options? I'm sure the experts, Tighe and Bond, would have added them to the sewer service area if they felt it was a wise option for that area. Why doesn't the selectmen look at other options?

  11. Does anyone out there have or remember cost estimates for what it will cost taxpayers to bring sewer all the way down Route 15? For example, a price per foot? I seem to remember hearing it costs thousands of dollars per foot, and I imagine the cost would be much higher now. So on-site municipal systems are perhaps the best and cheapest choice.

    That stretch has got to be at least a mile up Route 15 from Route 20.

    And as one anonymous person states above - if it's true that Galonek pulled out of a partnership, then he is responsible for leaving the seniors in that park high and dry.

    Fact is, my taxes are high enough and are going even higher to pay for all the upgrades in town that are happening, or about to happen. If there is an option to provide on-site sewer, that is what should happen. I would certainly not expect those folks to pay for sewer installation on my street.

  12. If the many septic systems are failing then the failure is related, and is a public health issue and must be addressed by the town. If it was one or two, not an issue, but businesses, and a retirement community plus private residences? That's a crisis.

  13. Garreri and Creamer have been shouting to listen to the experts for several years now. They need to do the same, Tighe and Bond stated in their study the the route 15 area has soil best for on site septic systems. So follow the experts advice no sewer down route 15.

  14. The last poster says that the experts said no sewer down Rout 15. They said no such thing. The selectmen said no sewer down Route 15. Tighe and Bond said that Route 15 had good soil for on site systems if the selectmen decided not to run sewer there. Creamer supports both an on site option or sewer depending upon cost. Garieri says sewer because on site would cost twice as much and take years. The last poster needs to get their facts straight.

  15. No matter what, the town cannot try to promote the Route 15 area without sewer. I would not build there without it, especially since it seems that all the septic in the area is mysteriously "failing" at the same time. Sewer is needed, and the property owners can choose to connect or not.

  16. town sewer is more costly then on site sewer systems

  17. After watching the selectmen's meeting the other night, all these comments aren't worth the cloud bank they're written on.

    Selectmen approved Route 15 sewer in 2004 and 2005. But no other businesses or homes on Route 15 wanted the cost at that time. To feed the park and Kelly Partnership, a 2" to 3" pipe running down Route 15 was cost prohibitive and not adequate for anyone else on Route 15 to hook into in the future.

    So the cost to install was too much for SRCC and Kelly Partnership and they withdrew. Remember, also, that Kelly Partnership, in conjuction with Tuscan River, had offered to pay for the sewer; but that fell apart too.

    After putting half a million into the park's on site system, Mary Berry seems to think it's appropriate for her to bulldog town officials - and residents - to pay for their sewer. It's sad because, I'm sure residents and officials want to help seniors in the park but where were Mary Berry and other Route 15 people in 2005 to 2009 when the comprehensive wastewater management plan (cwmp) was completed? That huge, $250,000 document precludes that area being sewered now - if the town now tries to add Route 15 to that plan, it will have to be redone, which will be paid for by the taxpayers.

    Watch channel 12 today, before it's removed from public access and you will get accurate information.

    The costs to re-do the cwmp, environmental impact report, privilege fees, betterment fees and all other fees have to be borne by all Route 15 people who want it. Not the current 2,000 sewer users who will see their bills rise anywhere from $300 - $1,400, more or less.

  18. I just made the last post and forgot to say this: I would ask town officials to move toward working with park officials to finish their on-site system. Time is of the essence, with DEP in Boston and Worcester placing pressure on park residents.

    Focus on the on-site system and start working on it; assist the park with grants or grant writing to pay for it. CMRPC allots towns so many free hours each year and they can help in some way. Talk with Steve Brewer and see if there is technical assistance available. Perhaps a group of residents would be willing to volunteer and work on it? Would REAS officials be willing to help in some way? The current town administrator could get the project started; then a new, full-time town administrator can help to get that on-site system done.

    I don't see the sense in spending $25,000, and I have my doubts, with all other taxpayer increases on the horizon, that voters will, too.


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