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, 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.


  1. Walley,
    Your article makes a lot of sense. Public safety should be the main concern. It makes little sense, in a town that spends so freely, to nickle and dime on clearing ice and snow from public sidewalks.
    If the state would do it that would be great, but apparently they will not be doing that.

    We've been told, right here on these pages, by those who promoted the brick sidewalks without agreed to voter funding, that "just fine" is not good enough for Sturbridge. They say that Sturbridge should have only the best. Although I think that "just fine" is good enough for many things, I believe that skimping on safety issues, like dangerous intersections and snow and ice removal is just plain foolish.

    It seems that safety and inconvenience are mere after thoughts here, but dressing to the nines is all important. I'm sorry to say it, but to not be willing to spend the money for a plate full of crackers for a high class spread, while going ahead and putting out the caviar seems a very strange thing to do.

    Why are some of us so willing to hire all sorts of builders, contractors, planners, etc. to acquire more and more stuff, and yet so unwilling to pay for the hours required for our own town workers to take care of it?

    By the way, before someone says, "Go to the BOS meeting or they won't known how you feel about this," we know "they" read the blogs.

  2. This whole snow removal idea has been pushed for a few years now by the same person in the DPW. Different members of the BOS, different TA, but same DPW pushing for the change. Not a whole lot of money will be saved, but what will be saved is the DPW from clearing that pain in the ass patch of sidewalks along route 20 that they have to do with a truck and plow instead of a sidewalk clearing tractor because of the telephone poles in the middle of the sidewalks!!! If they could plow the sidewalks with tractor it would be a much fought over job on the DPW, especially clearing the new sidewalk on 131. I wonder what the REAL reason is that the DPW is pushing the change??

  3. Does Sturbridge prohibit children from walking to school? What if a child wanted to use the sidewalks to walk to school? Aren't there supposed to be sidewalks to allow this? Do we bus every child in town? If we do, why? No sidewalks? Seasonal sidewalks?

  4. Anonymous wrote:
    "This whole snow removal idea has been pushed for a few years now by the same person in the DPW." Even if that's so, in the end the decision was made by the selectmen to reinforce the old bylaw, which probably never worked correctly when it was enforced the first time.

  5. Karen, there are no sidewalks going to any of the schools here.

  6. BOS is between a rock and a hard place. Bylaws say that the owners of property have to clean sidewalks. They want the sign bylaw enforced so how can they pick and choose what bylaw to enforce and what not to enforce. Now that the issue has been brought up, as I see it, until the snow bylaw is changed they have no choice but to enforce it.
    Do I think the town should be cleaning the snow, sure do. In the winter its not so much the tourist who navigate our sidewalks as it is our own residents. I'm seeing more and more walkers out there which is a great thing.
    If and when the bylaw gets changed, if the DPW is too busy to clean the sidewalks, hire a parttimer to do it, we hire outside the DPW to clear some of the roads, why not the sidewalks also.

  7. Dear Anonymous,

    I know.


  8. It is a bylaw that needs to be changed especially now that the town is having 2 miles of new sidewalks installed in town. Adding another person on the DPW to clear the sidewalks, and the equipment to do so would be an easy fix, but I don't think it was considered. I agree that the BOS, and the T. A. read the newspapers, and blogs, and they are very knowledgable abut how people feel in town. Every resident in town does not have to attend each and every meeting in order for the town to meets our needs.

  9. Trying to make sense of itFriday, November 05, 2010

    Anonymous wrote:
    "Now that the issue has been brought up, as I see it, until the snow bylaw is changed they have no choice but to enforce it."
    I wonder if that may be incorrect. If Massachusetts followed all it's outdated laws we would be giving beer to hospital patients - but I don't think we are.

  10. wait a minute! are the new sidewalks on route 131 not going to be plowed, too?

  11. The amount of money saved on not plowing the sidewalks on Route 20 amounts to a drop in the bucket when compared to the DPW annual budget, so what gives? And, don't go saying I don't know what I am talking about. Has anyone ever seen the DPW clear the sidewalks on 20, and just how they do it? The issue is not snow removal, the issue is snow removal on route 20 because it is so difficult with the sidewalks blocked every 50 feet with a pole!

  12. Trying to make sense of it ... not sure how the beer to hospital patients got in there, that's a new law to me or perhaps I should say that's a new old law to me......another thought....we can't use the front doors of the Town Hall because of the Disability act, wonder if the town could get sued over the sidewalks with telephone poles in the middle of them because a wheelchair can't if the telephone poles were to be moved than it would be easy to plow the sidewalks and people with disabilities could use the sidewalks.......for want of a nail a shoe was lost.....

  13. Too Much ShovelingFriday, November 05, 2010

    The way I see it is that, yes, we need to remove the telephone poles which have been in the middle of the sidewalks for many, many years as soon as we can do that. BUT there is no excuse at all for the front doors at the newly renovated town hall (and center office building?) to be non-compliant with the American with Disabilities Act. We paid $4.8 million dollars to have the renovation project done legally and to code. If a private individual has work done at his own home or business, the town seems to be all over that individual to make sure he complies to every law, by-law, code, etc.
    So who is going to fix this blunder? We shouldn't have to pay another $50,000 to $100,000 or more continue to use the front door to the town hall (and what about the center office building?), which we have always used! We already did our part!!!
    As far as the sidewalks go, again, we have paid umpty-ump monies for all sorts of upgrades and frills for all sorts of things in this town, so it's only natural to think our run of the mill safety related work, like snow and ice removal from sidewalks, will be taken care of. In my world, if I need to pay someone to shovel a path, but can't afford to have a sidewalk constructed, I pay to get the path shoveled. If I buy a sidewalk but cannot go out for several months because the snow is deep and I can't shovel or pay someone else to shovel...... but, then, I wouldn't have bought what I couldn't afford in the first place, and would have continued to pay the shoveler. Yup, I get it, there's shoveling and there's shoveling. Some you pay for and some is just...
    Regarding the town, it just seems to get deeper and deeper...

  14. Il est bon d'ouvrir des portes. Je vous remercie, Walley.

  15. Ce serait bien pour la ville d'ouvrir les portes, aussi.

  16. News coverage of not clearing the sidewalks ever mentions 131 does this mean route 20 sidewalks were singled out as not to be cleared by the DPW or are 131 sidewalks included in this?

  17. There was some discussion about not clearing on 131 also. I think that 131 also will not be done by our DPW. If you live there or own property there perhaps you should check with the DPW. They may or may not be clear on the isssue themselves...

  18. Anonymous wrote:
    "BOS is between a rock and a hard place. Bylaws say that the owners of property have to clean sidewalks. They want the sign bylaw enforced so how can they pick and choose what bylaw to enforce and what not to enforce. Now that the issue has been brought up, as I see it, until the snow bylaw is changed they have no choice but to enforce it."
    Signs are not usually dangerous things. Snow and ice are dangerous things. I think much more emphasis should be put on getting the DPW to clean the sidewalks, and the town we should continue clean them as it has been doing. Wouldn't the town or the state be the ones being sued if a pedestrian was injured from a fall on snow and ice on a public sidewalk??? I mean, even if the town says that the property owners along the public sidewalk have to clean them, isn't the town who made the by-law ultimately responsible to make sure that it is done? Sooo if a person is injured, couldn't he or she go after the town??? I certainly think they could and they would.

  19. The "Town" says that they will enforce the old by-law. I think strict enforcement is to begin January 1st. If they enforce the old by-law, it seems that yes, that means they will stop clearing sidewalks along privately owned land on both 20 and 131.

  20. From what I've read online about towns not wanting to clear snow from sidewalks is they can do it, but the issue in Sturbridge is why now? We won't save that much in the scheme of things. I really do believe it is because that Route 20 in Fiskdale is just too difficult, and I bet they will still plow the sidewalks on 131. I would like to see a $ amount in estimated savings for the town, though.


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