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

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A Place To Give At The Legion

The Sturbridge American Legion Post 109 is supporting the efforts of our Gold
Star Mother, Ms Booth, in supporting those veterans less fortunate than us at
this time of year.

If can assist is any that will be much appreciated.  Drop off box located at
American Legion Post 109, during hours of Wed- Fri: 5 PM to 8 PM and Saturday
10 am to 6 PM.  Or contact me for any assistance.

Please pass the word....


Tom Chamberland

Donation Wish List

Gift Certificates
Grocery Stores, Fast Food/Restaurants (Subway, Dunkin' Donuts, Boston Market,
McDonalds, etc.), Chain Stores (Target, Walmart, Bobs, etc.), Gas Cards,
Movie Tickets, Bus & Train Passes, Sporting Event Tickets (Worcester Sharks,
Tornados, etc.)

Toothbrushes, Toothpaste, Dental Floss, Deodorant, Bar Soap, Plastic Closable
Soap Dishes, Shaving Cream, Razors, Combs, Shampoo & Conditioner, Foot
Powder, Seven Day Pill Holders, Lip Balm, Suntan Lotion

Rubber shower shoes (flip-flops), men's large/extra large - sizes 8-10)
Men's new underwear (assorted sizes)
Men's T-shirts (all sizes)
Winter Hats, Gloves, Scarves (men's)
Winter Jackets (assorted sizes)
Sports T-Shirts, Sweatshirts, Hats (Men's assorted sizes)
New Sneakers
White Socks and Dress Socks

Additional Items
Postage Stamps
New Twin White Flat & Twin White Fitted Sheets
New Double White Flat & Double White Fitted Sheets
New Pillows
Bath Towels
Laundry Detergent
Nonperishable canned goods
Regular ground coffee (no whole beans)
Case/Pack of individual bottled spring water
Cleaning Supplies (for individual housing units)
Snow Blower (used or new)
Calendars, day planners and journals
Hand and Foot Warmers
Digital Cameras (new or used)
Games (cribbage, chess, checkers, cards, etc.)

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

When It Comes to Holiday Traffic Exit 9 Makes Top 2 Worst

Study: D.C. among worst for holiday traffic

November 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.
The Interstate 95 corridor between Washington, D.C. and New York City made the top slot for worst traffic during Thanksgiving, according to a The Weather Channel report. The segment of the Capital Beltway between Merrifield, Va. and Landover, Md. is seventh worst.
The finding is especially tough for the 95 percent of D.C. travelers who drive home for the holiday, according to the AAA.
Also in the top ten is the westbound Massachusetts Turnpike from Boston to I-84 in Sturbridge, the I-84/I-94 Borman Expressway in Chicago, Throgs Neck Bridge and Whitestone Bridge in New York City, and eastbound I-80 from San Francisco to Sacramento and Tahoe.
Washington also has the second-worst rush hour in the country, according to a NAVTEQ study. Only New York City ranked worse, in front of San Francisco, Los Angeles and Philadelphia, also in the top 10.
Before heading out, bound for that turkey and stuffing, check out WTOP'sThanksgiving Guide, with up-to-the-minute traffic and travel information.
And help us gather information on traffic jams and airport delays, by adding the #WTOPTravel hashtag to your Tweets, posting to our Facebook page or commenting on this story.

WTOP's Andrew Mollenbeck and Paul D. Shinkman contributed to this report.
(Copyright 2010 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

Record-setting travel expected this afternoon
By Ira Kantor  |   Wednesday, November 24, 2010  |  |  Local Coverage
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:

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

New Selectmen's Meeting Minutes Now Posted

The selectman's meeting minutes for August 16, 2010, and for October 18, 2010 have been released by the town, and are now posted here in the right hand margin.

Monday, November 22, 2010

November 1963

I can still see where I was forty seven years ago today as if it was a video on YouTube. I remember walking home after we were all dismissed from school, and seeing neighbors crying in their driveways, and out in front of their homes.  Dressed in housecoats, most with their hair in curlers, they were in the uniform of the times, but their sadness was timeless.  JFK was gone.  It was also one week, to the day, from when my mother died suddenly.

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.

November 1963 was one of those key times in my life that I chose to grow from.  I don't think I consciously chose to, but rather did so as a reaction to what I was feeling back then.

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.

Board of Selectmen Meeting

The Board of Selectmen will meet at 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday, November 24, 2010 in Veterans Memorial Hall, Sturbridge Town Hall.  Note time.

9:30 AM  Sal's Pizza   Common Victualler License 

Friday, November 19, 2010

I Have A Feeling, Woohoo *

Just as events, or an era, sneaks up on us, like the recent "financial downturn" ( such a kind, and gentle term for a depression) the recovery sneaks up on up on us as well.

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

They're Here. Finally.

Sal's Pizza is open.  Finally.

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

Veterans Day 2010

To many, everyday is Veterans Day.

Thank you to all that have served, and that are serving now.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Can't Help It, I Fell Asleep Watching Kung Fu Panda

This is going to sound really mystical, but it's really not, it just good advise.

Divert negative energy to positive, and productive work.

Work can be a deed, words, love, a task, or just work.  The thought one has, the plan one conceives, how one shares words, or lifts a shovel is energy.  Energy is either positive or negative.  Good advise is positive. Yelling expletives is not.

Building is positive.  Tearing down is not.

Acknowledging a mistake, or a need for a correction can be positive if accompanied by a solution, or a willingness to find one.  Acknowledging a mistake, or a need for a correction accompanied by insults, expletives, or no possible solutions, is obviously not very positive.  

Yep.  Deep, maybe, mystical, no.  

However, if an oversight, or mistake is acknowledged, and is not addressed further with some form of correction, or just blown off, then after a reasonable waiting period all bets are off, and it's dope slaps all around.

We've learned some hard lessons here in town since the summer.  We learned that when there are issues that need input of residents, or residents questions answered, it is not handled well.  We are still waiting for those questions to be answered honestly, and for the input of the residents of our town to be respected enough to ask for it by having a special town meeting when a project is being changed, redesigned, or funded differently.

So, as this year creeps to a close in the next seven weeks, let's readjust our shorts a bit, and start the new year with our energy flowing in a positive direction.  There will be challenges to come in 2011, and they will be addressed, ignored, , grappled, overlooked, taken on, filed away, changed, and reinvented as something else.  How we respond to them, and how we assist in making them better by listening, questioning, and helping will determine just how many challenges go down as defeats, or as victories for our town.

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

BOS Meeting Minutes From Sept 20 Available Now

Today I received an email from the Town of Sturbridge with the September 20, 2010 Board of Selectman's Meeting Minutes attached.  The link for the meeting minutes are posted in the right hand margin, or you can click here to access them.

Getting the minutes in chronological order would be a good thing, but I am sure there was a reason for the big delay in making them available.

Now, We Wait

They get it, or should I say, he gets it.  Board of Selectman Chairman Tom Creamer was recently quoted in the Sturbridge Villager in which he spoke about the front door snafu at the recently restored historic town hall.  In order to comply with the American with Disabilities Law, the front doors of the building, the historic, and traditional entrance can not, currently,  be used.  All pedestrian traffic is directed to the back door since the front door does not meet ADA requirements for equal access.  What's more is that the pedestrian traffic must walk to the back door along Maple Street, and there is not a sidewalk in place for pedestrians to do so safely.

" Chairman of the Board of Selectmen Thomas Creamer said opening the front door is a matter of safety as well as convenience. He pointed out there is no sidewalk from the front of the building to the rear and that people have to walk down a street to get to the back.  "What we are doing with this setup is encouraging people to walk down a street used by people coming to Town Hall and it is the main access for people who live in the neighborhood back there,” he said. “That increases the chances of having a conflict between pedestrians and vehicles.”

Creamer said he would like to get the issue resolved quickly and was disappointed that the issue was not raised during the planning stages of the project. “It is mind-boggling we just got this information in September when we started asking questions,” he said. “This is something that should have been anticipated in the design phase and incorporated into the plan for the building. I am embarrassed because I can’t give residents an explanation. Ultimately this is the responsibility of the board and I am not looking to shift blame, other than the fact that there was a lack of communication." 


Now we wait.  

Tom is aware, as is everyone in town government that has a stake in this situation.  What happens next is entirely dependent upon how soon they want the fix to occur, and who is taking the lead in making sure it happens.  If the Chairman takes this current episode of "As Sturbridge Turns" as seriously as he taken other issues, then I feel we can rest easy.  Unless, of course, we have to spend $100,000 for a ramp for the front door.  If that happens, I'll meet you at the doors with my Skill saw, and hammer.

Saturday, November 6, 2010


On July 26, 1990 the Americans with Disabilities Act was signed into law.  Every project manager, designer, builder,  and architect knows the law very well, otherwise they would not be in business.


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.

Or not.

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

And, We'll Save Exactly How Much?

I don't pretend to have a crystal ball, or to be "all knowing".  Nope.  Most of the time it is just common sense, and common sense will tell you what is a good move, or a lame move, if you are willing to listen.

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.