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
Monday, August 30, 2010
Case in point: This past week Mary filled her gas tank in Leominster for $2.45 / gallon. I filled my tank here in Sturbridge, at the Mobil across from the Picadilly, for $2.79 / gallon.
Thirty four cents difference. Not three to four cents difference, but thirty four cents. The other towns in our area are low, too, but not as low as Leominster. They were at least twenty five cents lower.
Well, the first thing you are thinking is, "Well, duh, Wally, you are filling up at the most expensive place in town."
I know. No excuse. When I drive by Cumberland Farms, which traditionally has one of the lowest prices in town, it is usually filled with cars, and so the next place is the Mobil. Poor excuse, but when the difference is ten cents a gallon I can live with it. The difference is getting much greater, and now the Pilot gas station on old Route 15 is the least expensive in town, not Cumberland Farms. One would expect the Pilot to be more expensive since it grabs the tourists right off I-84.
Until now I could justify a "convenience fee" for myself, but no longer, the price difference here in town is too great.
I have to wonder how the Mobil can justify their price. Doesn't matter really, they will charge what they can for as long as they choose to. When a products price varies so greatly in a small locale one has to wonder a bit. I, on the other hand, have to change my ways.
They say it takes thirty days to start, and embed a new habit into your regimen. I'll let you know how I do around October 1st. Last evening I took the family out for ice cream at Friendly's, and then for gas at Pilot.
I know, I know, I am just too damn fun.
Sunday, August 29, 2010
Soon, we will have some suds to go with our subs at Subway in the Millyard.
"Sturbridge Brewery Reworks Plans
Friday, August 27, 2010
I can't imagine being witnessing something as horrible as this as an adult, never mind as a child, and neither can this New Hampshire couple, they are suing SeaWorld for the trauma the tragedy caused their son.
"There seemed to be no plan as to what to do to save Dawn," the lawsuit said. "The SeaWorld employees were acting in an unorganized and chaotic manner."
Oh, I don't know, maybe Dawns family should be the ones suing since Dawn was obviously the one traumatized the most. No matter how you argue it, the victim is the looser, the witnesses don't even place.
Accidents, and tragedy's are just that. They happen. It's life. Unfortunately, a lot of the time they happen when someone is looking.
Give the kid a hug, show him you love him, and be there if he is scared,or has worries. That's what parents do. That's what you should continue to do. Money won't give you the power to do it better, or longer, or with more emotion. The money would always be the money that the kid was paid because he watched a girl get killed by the whale, and nothing more.
Thursday, August 26, 2010
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
Well, that certainly makes sense. Tell a fairy tale to a toddler, and one presents it a bit differently than if a similar story is told to a seven year old. Different understandings. Different expectations, and different responses.
Same is true when explaining about a municipal project. A presentation to a bunch of engineers would go one way, a presentation to local residents would be presented another.
Know your audience. This is a basic. Adapt your information for your particular audience. Engineers won't have the same questions, as residents would.
Something else to keep in mind about large public projects is what are the cost/benefits. Will the benefits from the completion of the project justify the cost, and just what are those benefits? Will the project correct a poor situation, a problem, a bad design, poor construction, or just be an overall good improvement? Each part of the project must be addressed. The project, as a whole, can be summarized, but specifics are then needed, otherwise it will come back to bite you on the arse. Those specifics must be tailored to the audience.
A historically bad intersection will be rebuilt along with several other during a large road rebuilding project, and we assume that it will be rebuilt better, and will have a better design, and function just as all the other intersections are being built.
We all know about assumptions, and we all know what assuming anything without asking questions will get us.
It will get us into a jam similar to the one we are in now.
We need to keep in mind a couple of things. One is to ask for information in order to fully understand something. We don't do that, though. Goes back to grammar school, and many of us didn't ask questions then either. The other thing we need to be aware of is that besides asking questions is that those folks in the know need to be fully aware of every aspect of the project in order to accept it, and explain it thoroughly.
It is obvious that a few years ago, when the Route 131 plan was presented to the Town, that those in the know failed to ask certain questions, and assumed that the engineers had addressed issues, and problems. After all, they were engineers. We now know what happened.
That all being said, and being unable to change it, what do we do know?
I know, it is hard, but we need to give the TA time to follow through with our concerns, and demands for a fix. It took years to assume things would be right, it will take a little bit of time to plan a fix.
What should we expect? We should expect that the issue will be addressed by the town in short order, and that they will keep the residents of the town in the loop as to what will be done, and when. We should also expect that the permanent fix will be more than stop lines pushed twenty feet back, warning signs, or blinking lights. The fix will involve cutting into the embankment in front of the Center School, possibly having to move the Veterans Memorial a bit, installing a retaining wall, and redesigning the intersection to allow for access onto, and egress from Haynes Street for all size of vehicles, and it will all be done in conjunction with the current road construction.
These are expectations, they are different from assumptions.
In 2010, as in 1758, and our roads need to reflect our usage, and commerce, but reflective of modern times.
Now, in the meantime, the town needs to look across the street to Maple Street. Maple Street is an actual street, not a driveway to back of the Town Hall, and the Church as many using it would have you believe. It has always been narrow, and drivers have not treated it as an actual road. The diagonal parking alongside the church makes the road that much narrower.
Oh, crap. Scratch all that. One SNAFU at a time. We are still bantering about bricks around the Common. If we are fed anything else our little heads will explode.
I don't want to be responsible for that. Unless, of course, we have the right audience.
Monday, August 23, 2010
|Pool in Brimfield.|
Kirk is a lot like I was years ago. Boston, Framingham, Worcester, Albany, and then Los Angeles, in that order, and with nothing in between. Central Massachusetts was a term, not a location. Although, my brother has lived in the most southern town in Worcester County for 25 years, he seldom ventured out west. Now he does since his job transferred him to a different facility in Worcester this summer.
A whole new world has opened up for him since the transfer, and as it did for me since my moving to Sturbridge ten years ago.
Yesterday morning we woke up very early in order to catch the sunrise with our cameras. It was dark. Really dark. In recent days it has stayed darker, longer in the morning. Another sure sign of change, and it will be accelerating.
I took Kirk to Quabog Pond in Brookfield, and we pulled into the parking area at the boat ramp and waited for sunrise. Well, daylight did come, but the cloud cover prevented the glorious sunrise one would expect for a Sunday morning.
|Heron at Quabog Pond |
After our encounter, I took my brother on a tour of Brookfield, West Brookfield, Warren, Brimfield and Sturbridge, and along the way I gave the required tour guide speech, my favorite part. We stopped along the way to capture the scenery in our lenses.
|Boston may have their Citgo Sign overlooking Fenway Park, |
but Warren has one overlooking their sunflowers.
The scenery in anyplace we are accustomed to can become too familiar after a period of time, but every once in a while something we have not seen before will show itself, and renew our appreciation for where we live. That can also happen when we are seeing things through another's eyes for the first time. It happened for me yesterday morning, too.
|In the rain along the Quinegbaug River in Sturbridge|
I have been interested in photography for a very long time, but Kirk has only recently taken to preserving the world around him onto an SD card. He is becoming quite good, and his eye for further artistic manipulation of an image is something that I never had. Couple that talent with his virginal exposure to world around us out here, and you have the ingredients for a long lasting relationship with the land.
|Old rail station in Warren|
take a deep breath, and open our eyes wider than usual, and take in what is around us. Make it a monthly ritual, it doesn't take long. A few moments of seeing will last for a very long time.
When we do this, we are empowered to not only appreciate more things around us, but to see things from an angle others don't have. That ability is invaluable to not only us, but to those that rely on our vision, and the input it provides.
The photography may not always be great, but the exercise it provides the head is something I have come to need, and that need now seems to be running in the family.
|Photo taken in our backyard taken by my brother, Kirk.|
Friday, August 20, 2010
- The difference between the old intersection and the new intersection is "negligible". With the old intersection being as badly designed as it was, and by the engineers own admission, trucks were using the soft berm to increase their turning radius before, why would the design of the new intersection not allow for this since this situation was well known? Why would hard infrastructure such as granite curbing, and sidewalks be placed on the original foot print of the old intersection thus preventing trucks from making those hard turns? Who was the Sturbridge expert(s) feeding information to the State engineers? Who were the Sturbridge folks giving their feedback on the design? Why would the state engineer stay with a bad old design?
- The work was to restore what was already there without improvement to a bad intersection. Why? Look at the other intersections along Route 131 from Route 20 to the Southbridge town line. The new intersections look like a Boeing 747 could land inside of each one. At some, such as Wallace Road, where Savers Bank is, there was some land taking to make the intersection wider to allow for a better turning radius. Why was this not done at Haynes Street, especially since the rehab of the Center School was being done at the same time and the work could be coordinated? Did they feel it would have a negative impact to the War Memorial?
- There is an admission that the intersection is plain wrong from the engineers, and a solution of moving back the stop lines admits to this. Yes, that will be a temporary fix, as noted, but what about the permanent fix, since it is alluded to?
Thursday, August 19, 2010
I've said it recently, I bring things to the attention of those that can affect change. If after a time the changes are not addressed, and the safety of residents, and visitors is still at risk, then it is time to go a step higher, and that's where the Fed's come in.
So, today you have a choice. You can either continue to wait for a response from the town about the issues that confront us, or take a step in correcting at least one issue by completing the ADA complaint form.
We need to keep in mind that the government is of the people, by the people, and for the people. We are the people. Our representatives answer to us, and if we want something as small as answers, we should get them ASAP.
As with anything, our actions may not evoke an immediate change, but what this posting, and your actions it does is make the issue a matter of public record so when the issue does come up in the future as a result of a lawsuit, or penalty there is no denying it.
As residents, and citizens, we deserve to be treated with respect, not as annoyances.
Don't ignore us. It's really simple, when a question is asked, or a concern voiced, or a plan is asked to be discussed then answer it, acknowledge it, and discuss it.
It ain't that hard.
Through lawsuits and settlement agreements, the Department of Justice has achieved greater access for individuals with disabilities in hundreds of cases. Under general rules governing lawsuits brought by the Federal government, the Department of Justice may not sue a party unless negotiations to settle the dispute have failed.
The Department of Justice may file lawsuits in federal court to enforce the ADA, and courts may order compensatory damages and back pay to remedy discrimination if the Department prevails. Under title III, the Department of Justice may also obtain civil penalties of up to $55,000 for the first violation and $110,000 for any subsequent violation." -- Source Department of Justice ADA Homepage
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
Brake lights coming lighting up on the car in front of you.
Someone yelling "Fire!" in a apartment house.
A prison tattoo on your date reading "3 Strikes and I'm Out. C'mon #3!".
These thing are all there to make one aware of something that may be dangerous, and your job is to react appropriately.
Ducking, slowing down, running out of a building, and pretending to be dead with the tattooed date, are all ways to avoid a problem. The warnings are merely that, warnings. They are only there to make the one aware so that they can make a decision.
Sometimes I am that "Yield" sign. I'm only there to make others aware of an issue, or a real, or potential problem. Sometimes I may be way off base, other times I am right on the money. I don't have the power to correct it, others do. I'm just the guy that will tell you your pants are on fire. What you do with the information is up to you. Hopefully, you will do the logical thing
It should, but as with most warnings, they are largely ignored.
Last week I wrote of the dangerous intersection at Haynes and Main Street. I am not sure why I wrote about it. I've written about Arnold and Main, New Boston and Route 20 before, and both of those intersections are treacherous. One was the scene of a double fatal accident a few years ago. I've written, and nothing has been done. No, I don't expect immediate change, but what I do expect as a resident of this town is acknowledgment, and a plan.
I expected it last week when I wrote about Haynes Street. I got a couple of emails from a selectman, and that was good, but nothing else. No acknowledgement of the problem from the TA, or the Board of Selectmen as a whole. I don't need the acknowledgement made directly to me, but something in the paper would be nice.
So far, I've heard bupkis.
I could go on a rant. I could yell and scream, and not get off the subject ever. I could become a general annoyance, but that is not what I do.
I offer the warning. It is now out there. It's public record. So, if the intersection is not corrected right now with all the equipment right here, and it is left as it is then where will the Town stand when something bad happens at the intersection?
We know where it will be standing. Up to its neck in quicksand, probably standing on some bricks.
Warnings, and responses.
Excuse me, Sturbridge, your pants are on fire.
- Call Dad and wish him a Happy Birthday. ☑
- Keep iPhone close by, and ringer on, in case I get an email, or call from someone about the what they are thinking at Town Hall about the intersection of Main and Haynes Street, and what the plan is to be. ☐
- Write about it when I get that email/call. ☐
- Write about it even if I don't, but with an entirely different slant. ☐
- Mow the lawn. ☑
- Shopping ☑
- Haircut ☑
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
Sorry, did I think that out loud?
Note to self: Positive self talk is a good thing. Talking to ones self is not.
Click Here for earlier post.
One way to avoid those kind of situations is to stay on top of things as they present themselves. A leaky pipe needs a plumber, or you, if you know how. Peeling paint, out of control bushes, uncut grass, cats that need spaying all require attention, and if they are not allowed to pile up, that overwhelming feeling is never there.
Making a to do list and being in control. It's a great feeling.
Then there are those of us out there that are married to someone that has their own ideas, and shares them. Sharing. Lots to be said about that, but one thing that is a given is that it comes with the vows. Sharing is good in many ways. It eliminates surprises, and that is good in any marriage.
"Who's the little kid?"
"He's your son."
"Thanks for sharing."
Timeliness in sharing is optional.
|The corner cabinet where the TV will be|
However, there are some people out there that actually multitask in the kitchen, and a TV would be a nice thing. I wouldn't know about that. I can open the fridge, wash dishes, make a sandwich, and boil water, all of which take a lot less time than watching a program on TV, so a permanent LCD in the kitchen is something I would never have thought of.
Mary thought of it, though, and onto the list it went. Right to the top of the list (see vows).
So this is how I will spend the morning today. Should be simple enough.
- Determine location. Mary told me where (again, see vows).
- Determine easiest, least destructive way to run the television cable.
- Run the cable.
- Mount the TV under the cabinet.
- Connect the power, and the cable.
- Figure out the remote control.
- Turn on the TV.
Monday, August 16, 2010
Saturday, August 14, 2010
Friday, August 13, 2010
I'm not worried, though. I'm not saddened, either. I am glad I am still around to see, and feel the changes. To be aware enough to pick up on the slightest flicker of color change, to feel the air become lighter, dryer. Some days I can plow through the hours like everyone else, and get caught up in scheme of the day, the plan of the week. I try not to overlook the changes about me, and I will eventually recognize them sometime during the day. It is a game in a way. It is an adventure moving through one period of my year, and into the next. In my mind, I see a circle. Some envision a long line with a beginning, and quite naturally, an end.
I avoid the "end" part with a circle. I may not be able to avoid the "end" part forever, but as long as I keep going in circles I'll feel as though I can.
It all depends on where your head is at each day that determines what you'll see, feel, hear, and experience that day. Those inputs will determine how you react, perform and treat others that day as well. It all starts with just being aware, and acknowledging what is around you.
It's getting late, I've got some catching up to do.
Thursday, August 12, 2010
Teachers that allow themselves to be found by their students on Facebook, and actually add the students to their friend list deserve that slap.
The line forms to the right.
Why? Well, Facebook by it's nature is a venue to announce to the world what one is doing at any particular moment, post photos of those moments, and comment on others moments, photos, and videos.
Simple enough. Kinda neat really, and you can choose just who to share those times with. You can share with everyone, only friends, or only particular friends. Just like in the off line world. And, as in the real off line world a teacher would not roll into class on Monday morning, sit down at their desk, take a deep breath and tell the class all about their weekend with a special friend.
But, some do, on Facebook. Some teachers actually add their students to their friends list on Facebook, and those friends are privy to all their goings on. Most are harmless, a lot are private. Either way they should not cross over the teacher / student boundary as it recently did in Manchester, New Hampshire. Now, there are exceptions as with most everything, but for the life of me, I can't think of one.
It is a bit about privacy, but in the case of the New Hampshire teacher and how she shared herself with students on Facebook, it is about safety, too.
Something to think on this morning.
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
This can be very telling.
When a particular situation about public safety is presented in an open forum, and acknowledged by local government, one would expect a response as to when the situation would be addressed, and just how the situation would be addressed.
This is only a normal expectation.
When a response is not made, then one has to determine if the issue is just not being taken seriously, or those that you expect to respond are just blocking.
It does matter.
One thing that does not change is the fact that the situation has been brought to their attention, as well as the publics, and when a bad thing happens as a result of the situation not being fixed it will all fall on those that chose to ignore it, and the town will pay.
Sharing information has a way of attaching responsibility to those that rightly own it.
Sturbridge, we own this problem, and we need to fix it.
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
Well, now we're getting somewhere. The road IS more narrow because of the sidewalks on both sides of the road, a sewer line air release chamber, and an existing traffic light. It would be "difficult and extremely expensive" to fix.
Looks like where we are today was known way back when the plans were first out. Why was it allowed to progress, and not be corrected back then?
Greg also makes note of the public meeting prior to the work going out to bid, and that complaints could have have been made to the Town, or MADOT then. I'm not a civil engineer. I would have no clue what the blueprints showed, or how that information would affect me. That is why we have experts in the towns employ that have the education, and experience to look at a plan and see that it was going to be four feet more narrow than it was before. Obviously it was know back then, but for some reason the experts felt that it wouldn't be an issue.
How did the experts think emergency vehicles, school buses, RV's and trucks were ever going to access that road? It is very obvious that the experts missed the boat. Since the experts were aware of the road narrowing back when the plans were first being discussed, and chose not to address it then this sounds to be a bit more than just "missing the boat". They did not correct what is now a major mistake, and is going to cost even more money for the town to correct.
The house on the corner, I believe, is part of the National Register Historic Places, and the Historic District, and cannot be taken, or torn down. So, that leaves moving the sewer, the traffic light, and taking a piece of the Center School front yard in order to fix the problem.
Or, we can ignore it, and just put up a sign prohibiting RV's, School buses,and trucks from going down Haynes Street from Main Street, and vice versa. We also need to tell the residents, and business owners down there that emergency vehicles may be a bit delayed in getting to them as well.
Bottom line is that a fix is needed. It will cost money. Best time to do it is now while everything is torn up, and the equipment is here, and accept the fact that we will be paying for it for awhile.
Monday, August 9, 2010
Someone sure screwed up. Really screwed up.
|Looking south onto Haynes Street the intersection does not |
have enough width to allow turns onto, and from Main Street.
The radius needed to turn is just not there.
How can this be? There is no restriction as to what vehicles can use Haynes Street so it must be designed to accommodate all vehicles.
This is very strange. The road designers went by the book for a rural intersection since Haynes Street is not a freeway that would require them to design a wider "mouth" for the intersection, but they ignored two important facts that would have mandated a change in the design:
- Haynes Street was built wider, with a wider shoulder years ago when it was no longer Route 15, and I-84 was built. It had become a "feeder road" for I-84 for car, and large truck traffic. As a feeder road the design for its intersection would be different. A rest area was built for cars and trucks that houses Sbarro's and Roy Rodgers, and years later a much larger truck stop was built on the road, Sturbridge Isle, now Pilot. It is natural to assume that large vehicle and local truck traffic would use this intersection since they use the road constantly.
- The re-construction of the Center School at the this time that Route 131 was also being rebuilt would have been an excellent time to redesign, and build a wider intersection at Haynes and Main Street.
Shades of Storrow Drive.
|Tire marks, chipped and displaced granite curbing indicate that|
there have been problems with the turn already.
Maybe, but I don't think so. I think they are flummoxed by this as we are, and will have to think hard, and run fast in order to fix it.
I'll be waiting to see what comes next.
Download print version for review, the web version does not work as well.
Sunday, August 8, 2010
Obviously, the forest was here for an eternity, then the Europeans came and cleared the land for farming, and pasture land, and to build villages, towns, and cities. After a period of time some farms were abandoned, some villages, too, and the forest crept back in, and after a very short time it took over the land again. It covered all trace of man.
|Vegetation swallowing a guardrail on Route 148.|
|Articulating cutter arm can cut the grass below, and the|
tree limbs above alongside the road.
Here in Sturbridge the DPW does the same thing. They have a tractor with a similar device that trims back all the tall grass and low hanging tree branches and brush alongside the roads. Earlier in the season they came by on Route 148, but as you can see in the photographs, the vegetation takes over very quickly.
Maintenance of the roadsides, sidewalks, and the rest of our infrastructure is forever, and if we slack off it will cost us dearly in dollars and our safety. That's something to consider when making a decision about material to be used on any project. We may want visual impact, but cost, and maintenance must be the deciding factors.
|Half of the bridge on Haynes Street has been demolished, and|
is waiting to be rebuilt.
I guess we need to keep in mind not only how a project will look, and function, at the present moment, but think down the road a bit about how to keep it looking like day one by properly maintaining it. Otherwise, Nature will continue to take back the land, and destroy our infrastructure. We need to cut our losses in the beginning and make wise, safe, and cost effective choices.
Hmmm. Brick, stamped concrete, or plain concrete. Which has the most going for it in the long run?
Information, and cost for the Haynes Street bridge rehabilitation.