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
Tuesday, November 30, 2010
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
Study: D.C. among worst for holiday trafficNovember 24, 2010 - 5:11am
WASHINGTON -- Two of the nation's most congested roads during Thanksgiving are in the Washington area, a new report finds, unwelcome news for the over one million area residents heading home for the holiday.
Record-setting travel expected this afternoon
Bay Staters itching to make it home for Thanksgiving on the busiest travel day of the year are expected to begin packing the highways at noon in what is projected to be a record-setting travel day.
New England holiday auto travel is expected to increase 12.1 percent from last year, and out of 42.2 million people traveling nationwide, 94 percent are doing so by car this Thanksgiving, the highest percentage ever recorded for a single holiday, according to AAA statistics.
“We do expect heavy traffic like every Thanksgiving,” said state police spokesman Lt. David Wilson. “We ask people to be patient, give yourself plenty of time, make sure your car’s prepared, don’t drink and drive, and always wear your seatbelt.”
Though traffic was moving smoothly this morning, Wilson said that could all change after noon, especially on Interstate 495, Interstate 95, the Massachusetts Turnpike, and Route 9 in Framingham.
Notorious for its backups at holiday time, the 56-mile-long stretch of the Mass Pike west from downtown Boston to Interstate 84 in Sturbridge was recently voted the number two most congested road in America by the Weather Channel.
Mary Maguire, spokeswoman for AAA Southern New England, urged commuters to keep both hands on the wheel at all times today as “extremely windy” conditions could make for a shifty ride despite it being a “beautiful day for driving.”
“Traffic is certainly steady but not heavy,” Maguire said. “An early departure before noontime would be ideal because we’re only going to see heavier traffic as the day ensues.”
To ensure quick and convenient service to and from Logan Airport, the Silver, Red, Orange, Blue and Green lines are operating with additional service today, according to the MBTA. Buses and commuter rails will operate on a regular weekday schedule.
The T and commuter rails will operate on a Sunday schedule Thanksgiving. On Friday the Green line will operate two car trains every eight minutes throughout the day.
Article URL: http://www.bostonherald.com/news/regional/view.bg?articleid=1298621
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
Monday, November 22, 2010
From Friday to Friday, it was a very bad week.
As we heal, we grow, and learn from tragedy. We experienced something that was devastating emotionally, and to not recover, and put the raw energy of sadness to work to better ourselves would be not only be a shame, but a waste.
As a nation, we went in directions we may not have gone if JFK had lived that day on November 22, 1963. Some good, some could have been chosen better. The same could be said happened to me as a result of my mothers death on November 15th. Some life choices I would never have made, or even thought of if I had not experienced what I did. Most good, some could have been chosen better.
We are the some total of our life experiences, both the tragic, and the good . How we choose to be affected by each one determines who we become, and who we are.
Friday, November 19, 2010
It is coming. As a matter of fact, it is already be here. How can I make such a statement? I am just reading the signs as they poke their heads from that recessionary ooze, and I have this feeling.
Signs? Yes, small signs to the world, but in my world, big ones, enough to give that certain feeling.
Let's start with local businesses. The Sturbridge Coffee House is moving to a new location where Romaldo's Restaurant was until recently. Amazing. A coffee house a few doors down from Dunkin' Donuts, of all places, survived the recession, grew, and is now able to move a larger space.
Think about that for a moment. They actually grew enough to move to a newer, bigger space. They grew all the while directly competing with DD's, and now, they have the munchkins to move directly next door to Dunkin's.
Yeah, they got brass munchkins alright, and they are telling the world that they have had enough with all this negative "world in financial chaos" talk. They're doing fine, and are movin' on up.
The restaurant, formerly known as the Cedar Street Restaurant, is being rebuilt with a huge new addition, and a new name, The Cedar Street Grill. This is something one does not do when things are bad. Either the new owners have captured a genie with unlimited wishes, or they have great confidence in their product,and where the world is going financially. Confidence doesn't come from guessing, either. It is a feeling, that is grown from reading the signs. It's all about reading the signs.
The Charles River Wine Company, a town based distributor of fine wines since 2004 has won Planning Board approval to move his distributorship to the long empty building beside the Hearthstone Inn where Romaldo's once was. The new store would move from offices located in the Sturbridge Marketplace at the Falls on Main Street, and offer to the general public the same 600 plus fine wines they have sold wholesale through their distributorship. They will also offer New England produced goods, cheeses, and foods. This is a big step for a six year old company. A step one doesn't usually make unless they are ready, and the future looks good.
They have read the signs, too. They also have that feeling.
There will be businesses closing their doors like New England Graphics at the Marketplace at the Falls will do in late December, but they aren't so much closing as they are bringing the curtain down after a successful 28 year run, and will keep the business going at their other place on Route 12 in Auburn. This was planned long ago. There will be businesses, like Romaldo's, closing their doors for different reasons more related to the economy. This is, or course sad, but when we pull back, and look down at the entire picture of what is going on here in town, we can see that there are those that are making it, too.
Yes, I have a feeling that this going to be a good year. A good, good year. *
*Apologies to the Black-Eyed Peas.
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
After what seemed like 20 years of building, refurbishing, tweaking the building, and parking lot, has only been two years, or so. The new restaurant opened at 376 Main Street in front of the Yankee Spirits liquor store yesterday, November 17.
So, what to do on a dark, and drizzly Tuesday evening? We went to check out Sal's.
Mary came home around 5:30, and Jen, Mary and I hopped in the truck and drove over. First thing that greeted us was the parking lot, obviously. The way the parking is set up is a great, and efficient use of the limited space they have, and as long as folks stay within the lines, it will be fine.
Inside the restaurant it was clean, and new, but lacked the warmth one would expect from a pizzeria inspired by Boston's historic North End, but it was the recipes from the North End that was the true inspiration, not the brick and mortar, and that shows.
We ordered two slices of pizza each, a Greek Salad, two bottles of water, and a bottle of iced tea, for $20.00.
A "slice" is equivalent of 1/4 of one of Sal's large pizza's, and the Greek Salad was large inside its plastic container. I do like having the option of having a slice, and not a whole pizza with leftovers to bring home. The pizza was good.
Sal's is a chain of restaurants, a franchise, with over 30 locations in New England, and other locations as far south as Florida, and one in California. As a franchise it lives up to what one would expect inside: effective furniture, easy maintenance surfaces, and floors, and a neutral color scheme. Very franchise like. Very corporate like.
Beyond the franchise feeling, the employees we encountered, all knew what to do, and went out of their way to serve their customers, and above all, they smiled while doing it. Very nice.
Although we have several pizzerias here in town, each one offers something the other one doesn't. If you want your pizza delivered you will call one place, if you want an enormous pizza, you will go to another, a great sandwich and a pizza may beckon you to another store. All of the pizza places in town are individually owned, and not franchises. We have burger franchises, sandwich franchises, it was only a matter of time before the pizza franchise arrived.
I wish Sal's Pizza luck on their endeavor here in Sturbridge. They'll have a tough, loyal local audience with specific allegiances to their own special pizza place, but Sal's location will insure a great deal of traffic from the conventions at the Host Hotel, tourists as well "the locals".
Welcome to Sturbridge, Sal's. Good luck.
Thursday, November 11, 2010
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
Vigilance. We need to keep our ears up, our eyes open, and our spirit calm in order to be effective.
So, Grasshopper, snatch the pebble from my hand, and rise above the storm of dissent, and anger, and if the selectmen do not respond as one would like this coming year, use the pebble to get their attention.
It may take more than one.
Monday, November 8, 2010
Saturday, November 6, 2010
Now, when an architect is designing a new building, or drawing up a new design for an old building they are doing it with the input of the client, and there is a back and forth between the two. This is how a good end result is achieved. There may be issues along the way, such as a foundation too old, and weak to support a wall, and that information is acted on, and plans are changed accordingly. More cost, more work, but the challenge is taken, and overcome. The end result will show the attention to the detail.
Then there are times when the best made plans are shared, used, and completed, but it is not until the end user finds that there is a problem.
Now what? Well, a fix is needed, obviously, but why did the problem occur in the first place?
Some problems aren't noticed for a very long time, others are more obvious. Not being able to use the front door of a newly rehabed town building would fall into the latter category.
So, as I initially said, project managers, designers, builders, and architects know the ADA law, and part of their job is to advise the client, along the way, in order make sure that the law is followed, and the client is happy with the plans in order to comply with the law.
Communication. Oversight. Two essential ingredients in any undertaking, but for the second time in recent months we are discovering that there was not adequate communication, and most obviously, very little oversight on the town hall rehab project, and the Haynes and Main Street intersection construction.
There is a common theme here.
This is not a silly mistake. This is the front door to a $4.2 million restoration of a public building that cannot be used. The architects know the ADA law, and the architects knew which door was the front door, as did the project manager. Did they screw up, or did the town not respond appropriately?
We can only guess as to what happened next. Did the architect inform the town that using the front door would be an issue without redesign? Was the town told, but blew it off? Soon we will know what exactly transpired, and who was told what, and when. Even the current Chairman of the BOS is a bit taken back by this SNAFU.
In the end it will come down to oversight. Who has it? Was it done well enough? If not, then why not? One thing is very clear, we need more intense oversight here in town. We have a waste water treatment plant to be built, an elementary currently being built, and other projects that will follow in the coming years. Do we have individuals knowledgeable enough to catch the issues before we sign off on a project?
One more thing, $50,000 to $100,000 for a ramp at the front door? Really?
Click here for the web site for the project manager of the Town Hall and Center School Project.
Thursday, November 4, 2010
I learned a very long time ago that the it was less taxing to my spirit, and my wallet, to listen to that little voice. I believe the Town of Sturbridge will find this out as well, eventually.
The new sidewalk snow removal policy enforcing an old bylaw for property owners to clear the sidewalks of snow in front of their property is going to haunt the town. Regardless of the fact, that the bylaw that has been ignored for fifteen years, and the town cleared the sidewalks during that time, a precedent has been set. A ten dollar fine for not removing snow will inspire few landowners to comply, especially if no foot traffic that use their property actually use the sidewalk.
This new policy, or should I say, this re-adoption of an old, intact, bylaw is designed to decrease the towns liability, and costs. Costs to clear the sidewalks here in town would be less if there were not telephone poles in the middle of the sidewalks along Route 20 in Fiskdale. A small sidewalk tractor would then be able to clear the sidewalk in no time, but that is not our case, still the cost devoted to clearing the sidewalks would be less than if the town was sued.
Basically, if the town decides to have sidewalks they are choosing so to offer a safe pedestrian walking zone out of the way of vehicular traffic. By planning, then building such a sidewalk the town is saying that it wants the pedestrians in our town to be safe, and is offering them a safe path. To abandon that thought on a seasonal basis, based on costs, will come back, and bite our little town right on its backside sometime in the future.
It's a Municipal Gamble. Some towns play the odds more than others. What are the chances of being sued by an individual, and for how much, versus how much could we save in snow removal costs? Every town plays the odds in some form, or another, and so are we.
I totally understand where the town is coming from on its desire to save money. I really do. It just seems there are good ways to do some things, and there are better ways. I don't think this is one of the better ways.