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

Thursday, September 23, 2010

It's Time To Get Back To Basics

A little to the west of us, in Brimfield, there is a bit of a furor going on concerning the placement of wind turbines on West Mountain.  Seems that some folks in Brimfield feel that ten huge 262 foot tall wind turbines and their 253 foot in diameter turbine blades would a bit much to look at.  The money offered, some feel, is not worth the loss of scenery.

I am all for alternative forms of obtaining energy.  Wind, solar, tidal, geothermal should all be utilized, but with a couple of provisos, one would be that the method selected to obtain the energy in a locality should be primarily used in that locality at a discount, and what energy is left over can then be sold onto the grid.  Just seems logical that if local residents change their zoning that they should receive something in return.  Some companies agree to pay the local government an annual stipend.  This is what the company would like to do in Brimfield, too.  $140,000 to $170,000 would be paid to the town each year.  Well, if you figure on $150,000 for the 3028 folks in Brimfield that comes out to about $50.00 per resident each year.

Big whoop.

What would be better would be a significantly reduced rate per Kilowatt hour of electricity for local residents of Brimfield.  Significantly reduced.  Now, that may be easier to swallow.

Another proviso would be that any structure that would be needed to obtain the energy must blend in with the rest of the topography, and not take away from the scenery an area may be known for.  This is solely for the benefit of those living in the town, and live there because of the beauty of the area, however it is probably the most difficult to do.

As I mentioned, I am all for alternative energy, but just because something is "alternative" doesn't always make it right, or a good match for an area.  Lots of thought, and planning, must be done in order to make the structures blend in with minimal disruption to the eye.  It can be done.

When we get our underwear all balled up in a knot here in town about sidewalks, intersections, extending sewer service, and Astro Turf on the ball fields we need to just take a moment and think of the issues other towns are facing, and how they deal with the issues.  Watch them, and see how they handle disagreements.  Do they put issues to a vote?  Do they negotiate well with vendors, and agencies?  Is a compromise part of their plan?

This past Monday evening both sides of the issue met at the Hitchcock Academy in Brimfield where questions were answered by First Wind, the company looking to build the wind turbines.  This coming spring of 2011 there will be a Town meeting in Brimfield, and one of the items up for vote will be whether or not to change the zoning to allow First Wind to build the towers.

Ahhh.  Town meetings.  Remember those.  We just had one here in town.  A special one.  Lasted about 30 minutes.  Annual town meetings are great ways to get things done in a town, or to pass on some things, too.  Expensive things like bricks, silly things like Astro Turf on high school ball fields, and important things like new police cruisers, or fire trucks should be voted on at town meetings, and for the most part, they are.

Then again, there are some things that local leaders take upon for themselves, and decide for us.

Can't do that, though.  Nope.  We're still in charge, and whether they are selectmen, state representatives, or congressmen, they represent us.  They don't act on their own without our input.

But, it seems that they are, and may even continue to do so.

We deserve better than that.

Speak loudly, speak frequently, ask questions, and expect answers that do not insult your intelligence, play word games, or sound as if Professor Irwin Corey is the one responding.  Expect straight, civil, accurate answers, and if they cannot give one, then expect them to find the answer, and give you a time when they will get back to you.

This is so basic.

It"s time to get back to basics.


  1. Too many people are afraid to ask questions at a Town Meeting or any meeting because they feel they might sound silly. If someone feels they're not sure what they're voting on, they should ask questions and keep on asking until they understand what the issue is all about. There are no silly questions when it comes to spending our tax dollar

  2. Based on your dialogue, it sounds as if the town hall conspired against townspeople. I watched a selectmen's meeting in which both Selectmen Creamer and Dowling stated they had e-mails and phone calls from residents about the brick sidewalks. Both tabulated those calls: Creamer said the calls/e-mails were 2 to 1 in favor of brick. Dowling said the calls were 3 to 1, in favor of brick.

    There are honest people that sit on our boards and committees in town. No one has forced this issue on anyone in town.

    As the poster above has indicated, some people don't like to make statements at town meeting,or at public meetings, or they feel silly when it comes to understanding issues. The same can be said of those people who contacted the selectmen in their own way, privately, with their opinions in favor of brick sidewalks.

    The sidewalks are going in and they're beautiful. Should it come to pass, I am happy to pay the one time charge of $38 per household for those brick sidewalks; I might miss going out to lunch one day but that's okay.

    Time to move past this issue; especially Ginger, who should have been on the scene to discuss this issue when it was being debated - not after the fact. Her credibility is out the window at this point.

  3. You're right, I should have been on the scene, I goofed, I missed it, as I stated I really didn't believe the BOS would have a final vote, they did, I was wrong, you are right, this issue is dead. I just hope the process will be changed in the future.

  4. Dear Anonymous,
    The price of your lunch is the cost of a week's worth of groceries for some folks on a fixed income, and your attitude is one of the reasons people are made to feel too small and embarrassed to speak up in this town. One would expect your next comment to be, "Get up off your butt, and do something to better yourself." We are not all like you. We cannot all be like you. We all have our own work to do, and our own challenges in life. Some find one thing more important or time consuming, than another, and on and on...
    Thank goodness that some of us realize that a tiny little one time $38 bucks, plus forever maintenance, is a fortune to some.
    Just last night I spoke with a lady who has no part D medical insurance to help pay the cost of medications for seniors. She can't afford the $30 payment and is not asking anyone for a handout. She is past retirement age, still working, has had great tragedies in her life, and just rolls with the punches as best she can. There are many people like her in our own community who find the price of your lunch to be a very significant amount of money. They've worked hard and paid their taxes so you could enjoy the Sturbridge you find so special today. Please stop insulting them by bragging about the price of your lunch. Lunch, even at the at the Top of the Hub in Boston can be bought for less than the price of yours.

  5. Anonymous, how dare you say that her "credibility is out the window at this point." How dare you? Well, let me tell you this. Your astounding attitude is dismissive of the concerns of others, and it's time people realized that the superior attitude taken by folks like yourself should be looked at as unfortunate - and taken with a grain of salt - I guess one could say dismissed.

  6. Voice in the WildernessThursday, September 23, 2010

    Well written, Wally. We all need to be heard, and, as we see on this page one person's "lunch" is equal to another person's groceries for the week or Senior drug insurance premium for a month - or maybe, even some kid's shoes. Every voice deserves not only the right to speak but the opportunity, as well.

    It would be helpful if people who can't get to town meetings, which are typically held at night, were afforded the opportunity to cast absentee ballots as they do in elections. There is a significant and important number of potential town meeting votes that will never be counted otherwise.

    But what have we seen lately? We have seen a person's $38 spent by a vote of three at the town hall. This is not an unimportant issue, and the sidewalk is there now to remind us all that the number of bricks laid represents the number of voters who didn't get to vote.

    If this payment problem goes to a town meeting as a request to use the Community Preservation funds the voters will be under pressure to pony up to pay the unauthorized charge on their "community credit card." If the money comes from Chapter 90 funds what road work will be left undone?

    Regarding the inconsiderate vote of 3: If someone had to lose the price of a weeks worth of groceries, and someone else had to go without a luxury lunch, either sacrifice would be easier to bear if, at least, their friends and neighbors made the decision together. Gulp.

  7. I propose that we partition off a small section of the town hall, and name it the Professor Irwin Corey reflection room.

  8. In regards to the anonymous comment regarding the Professor Irwin Corey Reflection room, I like it.

  9. Anybody hear anything yet about if they are going to fix the Haynes St., Maple St. and 131 intersection near the town hall, at the Sturbridge hysterical district?

  10. I'm not at all moved by posts from Maple Leaf and others.

    You can twist what I wrote anyway you like; it's not going to make one bit of difference in this matter.

    I'll gladly enjoy my lunch while I'm looking at the brick sidewalks.

  11. Anonymous,
    Of course you will enjoy eating your lunch while looking at the brick sidewalks. That's obvious. As Marie Antoinette is quoted as saying, "Let them eat cake." Right?
    By the way, if bricks are so important to your digestion, you might try McDonald's. They have brick sidewalks, and you can buy lunch in the $3 price range!

  12. Brick Gourmet,

    It would be great if you'd take some of that negative energy and funnel it toward doing some good for the town. If that poor old lady you talked to wants my lunch, heck, I'd gladly give her the money and my lunch, too. Or if you're really concerned for her, maybe you could give her the $38 and maybe you'll feel better.

    Hey, you might want to take a spin over to the Sturbridge Political Watch blog so you can get some facts about the brick sidewalks. You may also want to write your legislators about your dissatisfaction with the lack of programs for the elderly. I agree that the elderly in town need help; there are injustices and people in need everywhere, Brick Gourmet, especially in this economy.

    Whatever you decide, having the facts is important to truly understanding and discussing issues completely. Without facts, you're just making erroneous assumptions and judgments that don't carry any weight and that definitely destroys your credibility.

  13. Couple points 1)The original vote was to proceed with bricks if the State would pick up the tab. When the state said no it should have gone to town vote (which I asked the Town Admin. why it wasn't and thats when he(they) said Chapter 90 funds are available)2) I rercieves 20 to 1 emails and calls Against the side walks.3) That $38 is for the average home of about 250k if you house is worth more you'll pay more

  14. Anonymous,
    When did we VOTE for brick sidewalks after knowing that it would cost approximately another 200,000 dollars?
    I would gladly feed my neighbor too, but I would rather my neighbor had a chance to vote on buying his or her own lunch or insurance, etc.
    That "poor" old lady I spoke of worked hard all her life, raised her family, paid the taxes, and is still working. She has a right to her vote.
    Yes, "the poor will always be with us," but we have no right to spend their hard earned money on what many would call frivolities to "attract more tourists" to the Public House and Sadie Greens, perhaps by using Chapter 90 funds, which by the way are not limitlessly reimbursed by our state as some make it sound.
    Why do you always assume that you are the only person with "the facts," and that any disagreement with your "facts" means that someone hasn't done anything for this town and has a negative attitude? You don't have the facts on that.
    Now you suggest that everyone who disagrees with you pay someone else's $38? There you go again, wanting to spend someone else's money, while assuming that we have an additional $38 to spend on someone else's share of the bricks too.
    Votes in a voting booth, without intimidation, are much better than assumptions.

  15. Who ever would have expected that 3 selectmen would have the gall to plow right on and prevent us from voting on this matter! Using the excuse that this type of thing was done before is no excuse at all. And saying that Garieri wanted astro turf passed without our vote is no excuse to follow suit and deny a vote on another issue. As mother used to say, "If Scott jumps in a lake does that mean that you have to jump in a lake, too?" It looks like Scott knows better now.
    People's eyes are open now and many are not happy with what they see. And we are told that those 3 selectmen sort of got their pseudo votes through their e-mail accounts, etc. That is not how we are supposed to vote in this town. I can tell you that every last person I've spoken too, every single one, is upset about the brick sidewalk and Haynes Street intersection issues - and that's without knowing my thoughts on the subject before they gave their opinion. So, am I to put much weight on the feedback that the pro-brick selectmen say they received. Nope. Everyone who contacted them knew where they stood on the issue and that alone made for unbalanced feedback. Friends are often quick to agree with your position, and strangers, until they are quite angry, are often leery of expressing opposition, and more often than not don't do it then, but they are much more likely to vote at the polls. I will believe the "vote" or the sense of the community on an issue when I see it expressed in private voting booths.

  16. Brick Gourmet,

    Ugh, it's just too much work to try to explain the same things over and over to you. Seems you don't really care to know, or want to know, the facts.

    Clearly, this blog has become the sounding board for the only three people in town who support Scott Garieri. May you all be happy in your loneliness.

    We've got brick sidewalks. Get over yourself.

  17. Just got the News!Tuesday, September 28, 2010

    Was I dreaming when I heard one of our selectmen say that it didn’t matter that we didn’t know where the money would come from for the brick sidewalk because we didn’t know where the money was going to come from for the cost overages already accumulated on the road project anyway?
    Now, finally, we are being told that the money IS going to come from our Chapter 90 funds. I’ve seen nothing about a request and approval by the state for money for installation of brick sidewalks. As far as I can tell from everything I’ve read, these Chapter 90 funds are funds that we have been holding, as usual, for roadway things that may need doing here in town. It looks to me like these are not funds that have been purposely set aside for a brick sidewalk project. I don’t think it was right for 3 of our selectmen to decide on their own to use this money, for this extra cost for brick over concrete without our approval.
    As suggested to a writer in a previous post here, I checked out Mr. Creamer’s blog, and read the following:
    “…In terms of the $38.00 referenced by same, it important to note that such would have been the one-time tax levy if this project were to be funded via residential taxes, which would necessitate approval by the voters. However, such is absolutely not the case as this project will be funded via the Chapter 90 Program - a 100% reimbursable program consisting of funds conveyed annually by the State to all communities specifically for roads, bridges, sidewalks, tress, landscaping, guardrails, berms, curbs, etc.). More information on Chapter 90 can be found at the following:
    Currently, we maintain a balance in our account (through accrual of State funds each year that have not been spent by the Town on Chapter 90 projects) which will ensure that no priority projects are jeopardized by the use of Chapter 90 funds for the brick sidewalks. …”
    Have any of you seen a request and approval from the state for this particular project? Am I dreaming, or have 3 selectmen decided that they will just get rid of the taxpayer’s approval problem without a vote and use money from our Chapter 90 “savings account?”

  18. Anonymous,
    Ugh! There you go with your assumptions again. I have never supported Scott Garieri. The issue is that the people in town didn't get to vote on a controversial subject. That is THE fact.

  19. I guess what most everyone agrees on is that money was spent, and it should have been put to a vote. No matter it was approved in the beginning, it should not have been assumed that the residents wanted to use Chap 90 $ to restore it.


  20. I'm no English major, but it's pretty embarrassing when a selectman makes a post like the one here. Sometimes it's best to have people think you a fool, than to open your mouth or keyboard and remove all doubt.

  21. I am glad someone else noticed the post, too. If you don't put anytime into something as simple as this, and are not afraid of coming across the way your post shows you, then what are we to expect when he is sitting at the table on our behalf?

    I understand what he is trying to say, but the method, and manner do not do him, or his office justice.

    Maybe he shot off the comment from his phone, and that accounted for the clumsy grammar, and syntax.

    "Just saying...."

  22. His letter to the editor was no better. Same 4th-grader proofing it. Watch any meeting; you'll see he's the least prepared unless it impacts his buds or him. Like the saying goes, "better to be thought a fool...than to remove all doubt"

  23. The fact that so many Sturbridge residents are upset that the 3 of the Selectmen voted for brick sidewalks has nothing at all to do with Mr. Garieri. We didn't approve of astro-turf and we don't approve of the way the vote took place on the brick issue. Scott was in favor of one of these issues and opposed to the other. Obviously there are plenty of folks who were upset with Scott over another issue awhile back, but that has nothing to do with bricks. His grammar has nothing to do with bricks either. The issue is that the citizens never got to vote on either issue. Who's decision was that??? Hint: It had to be a majority of the board of Selectmen.


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