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, December 30, 2010

Wanted: An Angel Or Two

I received the comment below this morning while Mary and I were having breakfast at Annie's.  I posted it where the writer had left it, under the Common Winter video.  I thought I should also give it a place of its own, too.  It's that important to spread around.


Mary was just asking me to check for volunteer opportunities in the area when the email with this comment came in.


That's karma.


Check out the message below, and give them a call if you would like to volunteer.  


"We are in need of an angel here in Fiskdale. Meals on Wheels desperately needs someone who is willing to deliver 8 meals to the elderly at Heritage Green daily. If there is such an angel he or she could contact the Senior Center at 508-347-5063, or Tri-Valley at 1-800-286-6640. Thanks so much! -- Someone Needs An Angel"


If you do know of weekend volunteer opportunities in the area, drop me a note at aroundsturbridge@gmail.com.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Now, The Rest Of The Story

The following is by Selectman Tom Creamer in response to the posting I made on December 28 regarding the property on Main Street beside the Playa Del Carmen restaurant.  


As always, I am glad Tom wrote to set the record straight.  Seems that none of the print media has followed up to get  the "rest of the story", but then again, it wasn't offered up either, until now.


I appreciate Tom taking the time to explain what wasn't explained in the newspaper.  Keep in mind, I write this blog as an "everyman".  I am not an investigative journalist, but I, like many others react to what they see and read.


That is my sole purpose.  To think on what I see and read, and to share those thoughts with you.  In the process, an exchange is initiated, and, at times, more information is offered up.


It is a very simple, and effective process.


That process worked again this week, and we now know more than we did two days ago.


I hope that Tom will also address the issue in the Town Common newspaper, as well.  That paper has many more readers that would appreciate knowing more about the issue.


The following was submitted by Selectman Tom Creamer.




Wally, I thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts on the issue
outlined in your post - Common Sense goes on vacation. Certainly, you raise
some issues worthy of consideration by all and I am grateful that you chose
to raise them; I do hope however that you will take no offense as I
(responding solely as an individual member of the Board) take an opportunity
to share some thoughts based upon facts, as opposed to speculation. I do
recognize the limitations that must exist when one hasn't had the
opportunity to attend a public meeting specific to a particular subject
matter, nor watch it via cable access, as that can certainly serve to limits
one's perspective of the overall issue. Far too many of us are limited in
our ability to become more informed via active participation and are thus
forced to rely upon the limitations inherent in press reports. Competing
demands upon our time as well as family obligations and responsibilities
challenge our ability to access information with which to make more informed
determinations. Rather than struggle with the word count limitations
inherent with comment blocks, which might restrict the ability to fully
address your concerns, (not dissimilar to the challenge faced by reporters
who are restricted with space limitations) I have chosen instead to
construct this correspondence - sharing directly with you - a more complete
fact-based perspective. It is my hope that it may help you to better
understand the issue you have raised, while simultaneously addressing the
concerns you maintain.

First and foremost, your suggestion that “both pieces of information” are
not being, nor have been examined is inconsistent with the facts. Sturbridge
Town Counsel has reviewed the notification process, as well as the existence
of the parcel in relation to the Sewer Service Bylaws and has twice opined
that the posting of the meeting, the Town’s position, and the final
determination were/are consistent with the law. That said, I specifically
conveyed to those in attendance before the Board that evening that
additional review would be conducted, Town Counsel would again be queried,
and said information would then be shared with all involved, at which time,
other avenues – if appropriate – could be then considered. Additionally, one
might consider that this particular project received full vetting from both
the Planning Board during a significant number of Public Hearings and
meetings, as well as the Conservation Commission, which equally addressed
concerns/challenges specific to their jurisdiction. This project proposal
did not occur in a vacuum, nor was it in any way deficient of public
scrutiny as it consumed over 12 months of public review by a number of
Boards/Committees and Town departments.

In terms of Parliamentary Procedure, one must bear in mind that adherence to
Protocols, Process, and Procedure is important if one is to ensure effective
and credible governance. To depart from such, would, in many respects,
paralyze any effective decision-making process, along with overall progress,
as every decision unfavorable to one side or the other, would potentially
result in constant reconsiderations, were it not for the "ground rules"
attendant to the Process. At some point, one would be compelled to determine
some arbitrary line in the sand in an effort to move forward; resulting
still yet, in a level of disenfranchisement by one side. Noteworthy is the
fact that during the meeting at issue, only one of five members of the Board
raised any questions about the Process in terms of Parliamentary Procedure,
and that challenge had more to do with the Process pertaining to the
previous vote (March 2010), which due to new information from Town Counsel
resulted in a different determination by the majority of those present. No
Board member argued against the merits or importance of maintaining
Parliamentary Procedure, despite the fact that there existed disagreement in
terms of support for a service station. Perhaps, (and I speculate here for a
moment), such stems from the fact that a reasonable and objective approach
to governance, recognizes the value of maintaining Principles over
Personalities; our country was after all founded upon Principles.

Equally, adherence to Process and Procedure ensures continuity in the
decision-making process and prevents public officials from circumventing
and/or manipulating the process to their liking, which would surely be a
dangerous and irresponsible course. Process ensures that we all “play by the
rules” so to speak and that “do overs” (your reference) are based on facts,
not whims, or personal proclivities. When new information is in fact entered
into the equation, it, in-and-of itself, provides the sound basis for
reconsidering a previous vote. Such has yet to be sufficiently provided to

process was legally and appropriately addressed. To chart another course
without sufficient standing, would serve only to increase the chance of
successful litigation against the Town (by the proponent), resulting in an
irresponsible expenditure of tax-payer dollars because of the Board's
failure to adhere to the Laws and Bylaws of the Town of Sturbridge.

Bear in mind as well that because no new information had been provided to
the Board in requesting an appearance, there was no obligation to revisit
this issue, In fact, a request for same dating back to July went unanswered
- perhaps for that very reason, though I cannot attest with any certainty.
However, in November, when a request was directed to me (now in my role as
the Chairman of the Board), I immediately scheduled Mr. Decoulous and those
he represents for an appearance before the Board so that they would have an
opportunity to share their concerns and present anything not previously
provided to Town Counsel. That said, there was nothing new presented upon
which to alter the previous determination.

In terms of your concerns about what is and what is not an appropriate use
of land, that is not a decision for the Board of Selectmen, as zoning issues
are determined by a 2/3rds majority at Town Meeting. To that end, the voters
have overwhelmingly determined that a service station is an appropriate use
of the land in question; thus, there is no amount of discussion that can
change that fact short of 2/3rds majority vote at Town Meeting. The
appropriate venue to alter or restrict the legal use of land is via Town
Meeting, as that is where the legislative branch of our government resides -
with the voting residents of our community. The Town Charter is quite clear
on this matter and specifically states that - "The legislative powers of the
Town shall continue to be exercised by a town meeting open to all voters".

The decision for me personally to refrain from reconsidering a previous
vote, has absolutely nothing to do with whether it is embarrassing or not;
such speculation is completely inconsistent with my decision-making tenure
on the Board. In fact, I have publicly reversed my position on a number of
issues when sufficient evidence was presented dictating such a course was
appropriate. It is never embarrassing to change one’s mind; it is in fact,
part of one’s responsibility as a public official, provided of course that
good logic and facts guide such a reversal. One might argue instead that it
would be embarrassing for a public official to modify one's position based
upon what appears to be politically expedient, as opposed to what is
politically and legally the right thing to do.

I am no fan of service stations, nor am I against same; I am in effect -
service station neutral, as the authority for what is allowed and what is
not, rests where it should - with the residents of Sturbridge through Town
Meeting, not with the Board of Selectmen. To that end, I am zoning neutral.
My role as an elected member of the Board (per the Town Charter) is to
“…cause the laws and orders for the government of the Town to be enforced…”
, not to determine which ones are popular and which ones are less so, nor
which ones are favorable to me and those that are not.

Finally, to your point about ensuring that all are provided with an equal
opportunity to make their case, one can rest assured that such has been, and
continues to be the case. Despite the lack of any new and/or valid
information being offered to date, time was provided for the airing of
grievances so as to ensure that all involved would better understand the
challenges inherent with this particular situation. Should new, valid, or
relevant information be introduced, then certainly additional considerations
could be provided, as that is the very foundation of appropriate
Parliamentary Procedure relative to reconsidering previous determinations.

Additionally, the suggestion or reference to any concerns of a “wink and a
nod” approach by enforcing adherence to Parliamentary Procedure is again
inconsistent with the facts. The original vote on this issue was 4 – 1
(against the request for additional gallons) with me voting in the minority
- arguing that failure to grant the additional gallonage request was
inconsistent with two other votes taken that evening granting additional
gallonage. Equally, I argued that the decision was inconsistent with allowed
uses under the Sturbridge Zoning Bylaws, as well as our role under the Sewer
Service Bylaws.

Subsequent to that vote, Town Counsel opined that the Board’s original
decision on this issue was inconsistent with the Town's Bylaws, resulting in
a reversal by one selectmen, and an abstention by another, culminating in a
2 -1 -1 vote in favor of granting the additional gallonage. Thus, the
ultimate decision was dictated by Process, which was dictated by the Laws
and Bylaws of the Town of Sturbridge, supported by an opinion from Town
Counsel. To suggest otherwise is simply inconsistent with history and the
facts.

In terms of your reference to credibility, I would submit that one’s
credibility is best maintained by adhering to one’s oath of office in a
manner void of personal proclivities and consistent with one’s
responsibility to those whom one serves, not as one might suggest, by
reversing decisions that are consistent with our Laws and Bylaws that are in
effect - the manifest will of the people; unless of course the facts dictate
such a course is prudent and legal.

It is my hope that a closer look at the facts attending this issue will
provide you with a more informed understanding of the challenges faced by
all concerned - whether supportive or otherwise of service stations (or any
other legally zoned enterprise for that matter). If, as you suggest, common
sense has in fact taken a vacation, such stems not from the reliance upon,
and adherence to Protocol, Process, Procedure, and Principle, but rather any
departure from same for the sake of appeasement that lacks legal standing.

Please do not hesitate to contact me with any questions or concerns you may
have relative to this or any other matter.


-- 
Regards, 

TRC

Thomas R. Creamer - Board of Selectman
Town of Sturbridge
359 Leadmine Road
Fiskdale, MA 01518

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Selectmen's Meeting Minutes Posted

Selectmen's meeting minutes for November 24, 2010 9:30 PM to 9:38 PM posted in right hand margin, or you can click here.

Common Sense Goes On Vacation

"It's lunacy I tell you, absolute lunacy!"

"They're still gonna hang Pa even though they got new evidence!!!"

"They say they don't have to reconsider according to parliamentary procedure if they don't want to."

"But, there are new facts that must be be considered!"

"Tough.  What do you want the head stone to read?"

The above dialogue is a scene from the continuing local production of, "Common Sense Goes On Vacation".

In our last episode, residents and an attorney representing them, questioned an action made by the Board of Selectmen last winter.  According to the Town Common newspaper the attorney says that the public was not properly notified that a vote would be held for the allocation of 60 gallons per day of sewer flow to the property at 173 Main Street.  The property is set to become a gas station, and convenience store.

"The hearing was not properly advertised, and there was a failure to let the public know what was going on," the attorney for twenty-six residents, James Decoulo told the selectmen at the recent December 13th meeting.

Initially denied in August of 2009, the towns attorney urged the BOS reconsider the vote in March because they would loose if the denial was challenged.

Here's how it went down.  Initially denied the sewer flow, the decision was then reviewed by the town.  The review included all the things one reviews like meeting minutes, and the existing sewer bylaw.  It seems that a property has the right to connect to the sewer if the property existed before December 31, 2001.  Apparently, the land at 173 Main Street has been on record since 1992, and this is in contention with the attorney and the residents.  They insist the parcel came into existence in December 2008, and they have a deed to prove it.

"It's difficult to make an legal opinion if you don't have all the facts before you", Decoulo stated.

The current town administrator, Shaun Suhoski, says the property was found in town records from 1992.

OK.  Time out.  Time for a do over.  Looks like both parties have conflicting information, and a decision  has been based on only one of those pieces of information.  Logically, one would expect both pieces of information to be examined, not just one, even if the opposing piece came onto the scene later.  This is called common sense.

Now, here is where it really gets bizarre.  Selectman Tom Creamer is credited with stating that under parliamentary procedure the vote to award the sewer connection could only be reconsidered if a member in the prevailing side in the original vote made a motion to reconsider.  There are only two members on the board in that position, Tom Creamer, and Mary Blanchard, and as was stated in the Town Common newspaper, "both are firmly against making a motion to reconsider."  Both went on to explain why they were against reconsidering the vote.  The newspaper stated that both selectmen said that the gas station owners followed proper procedure.

Since when has following proper procedure assured a vote in ones favor?  Think about this.

The selectmen also stated it would be an appropriate use of the land.  Now, that may be true, but it is also a matter of opinion, and there are twenty-six residents, and their attorney that feel otherwise.

Creamer is also credited with saying, "It's not the role of the Board of Selectmen to trump zoning bylaws.", and I agree, but I also feel that if there conflicting information regarding a decision made, a vote taken, that comes to light after the fact, that it must be heard, and considered even if it means a reversal of the original vote.

Inconvenient?  Yep.  Embarrassing if the vote is reversed?  You betcha, but it's only right.

And, that is the gist of this mornings post. It is not so much about the original vote, but taking steps to correct a decision possibly made on bad information, or not all the right information.  In order for there not to be a feeling of the old wink, and nod being done with the vote, and refusal to reconsider the vote, it needs to be reconsidered with the new information.  If the new information proves invalid, so be it, at least all parties have had an equal opportunity to make their case, even after almost a year.

Take this for what it's worth.  Something like this has a way of tainting ones credibility forever, if not properly pursued.

Think about it.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Donja Just Wish That Donald Trump Could Do a Guest Appearance On The BOS


I read this "great" article this morning.  I thought I would share.--ed.









By Craig S. Semon TELEGRAM & GAZETTE STAFF




STURBRIDGE —  Shaun A. Suhoski’s first performance evaluation as town administrator is certainly nothing to write home about.
Mr. Suhoski, who was named town administrator in February, last night received his first 11-category performance evaluation from the Board of Selectmen. It included seven poor ratings and two unacceptables.

Mr. Suhoski received a poor rating, the second lowest possible rating, in the categories of budgetary/financial administration, supervision/leadership, staff development, public relations, employee and labor relations, interaction with the board, and intergovernmental. He also received an unacceptable rating, the lowest possible, in the categories of policy execution and goal/performance attainment.

“The members of the board, without exception, indicated that there was a sense on their part that hopefully Shaun would recognize some of the issues that were raised here and there would be a concerted effort on his part to make every possible effort to perform in a manner that was more consistent with, who I happen to believe, personally, Shaun is as an individual,” Thomas R. Creamer, chairman of selectmen, said. “I think the board feels there’s a great deal of potential in Shaun but that potential has not been realized in a manner that one would hope.”

Some of the comments in the four-page evaluation include “…fails to provide detailed information relative to actual/anticipated costs for consideration of projects and/or policy,” “…has demonstrated a tendency towards delay relative to committee appointments despite repeated inquiries from the board,” “…frequently tardy for work and meetings, thus demonstrating a lack of consideration for the time of others,” “…was non-participatory for much of…(the move and transition back into the Town Hall and Center Office Building) process” “…his frequent lack of availability,” “…demonstrates a reactive, rather than proactive approach to dealing/working with other entities” and “…thus far failed to demonstrate a sincere desire to fulfill his responsibilities and that has led to acrimony both internally and externally for the organization.”

“I won’t say that I agree that I did a poor job in every one of those things. I don’t necessarily agree with all that,” Mr. Suhoski said. “I do agree that I have not met the expectations of your board or the community to this point and I am going, as embarrassing as it is, to accept that. I appreciate the feedback. You need objective perspectives sometimes to see what your own weaknesses are. So I am going to accept it in that vein and I appreciate you sharing it with me in a professional manner, to share your observations, and
 I am going to try respond in kind.”

Prior to his position in Sturbridge, Mr. Suhoski had been Ayer town administrator since 2006. In a 5-0 vote in Sturbridge, Mr. Suhoski succeeded James J. Malloy, who left the town administrator post after 14 years to become Westboro town manager. 
His best ratings, acceptable to poor, came in the category of personnel administration, followed by his second best rating, poor to unacceptable, in effectiveness/productivity. He did not receive any ratings characterized as excellent, good or acceptable.

Monday, December 20, 2010

From An Angel Among Us, A Gift

Think back over the past ten years.  Interesting isn't it?   We either are pleased with the way the past decade has gone, or see room for improvement.  That's only natural.  Now, take the past ten years in the life of Jackie Evancho. Born on April 9, 2000, she appeared on "America's Got Talent" at the age of ten this past year.  During the past decade she, too, has had some wonderful experiences, however, I believe she has accomplished more in her short time on this planet than I could ever wish to in my entire life. Her voice is mature beyond her years. It is as if she has been here before.  She may truly be an Angel.

What she does have is a gift, and in the videos below, she shares that gift with us.  Thank you, Jackie, and from us mortals here in Sturbridge, Merry Christmas.




Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Town Hall / Center Office Building Committee Meeting To Be Held, Please Use Rear Door

The Town Hall/Center Office Building Committee will meet on Thursday, January 13, 2011 at 7:00 PM in Veteran’s Memorial Hall of the Town Hall to discuss the following:

 

1)      Meeting Minutes

2)      OPM Update

3)      Architect Update

4)      Punch List/Warranty Item Update

5)      Technology Update

6)      New Business

7)      Old Business

Always The Season For A Little Horseplay


video

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Adios, Amigos

The late newscaster, Paul Harvey, had a segment called, "And now,...you know the rest of the story" .  It was always a factual story with, as Wikipedia says, a surprise twist at the end.  I always looked forward to those stories.  One never knew just how they would end up.

I feel that stories in the newspaper should have a column after the initial story to invoke the same statement.  "And now,... the rest of the story" should  follow all stories where one would go away with the thought that there is more to the story than what is being told.  In small town America, this would be especially helpful since we love a good story, and a great twist, too.  We also like the truth.

I got that feeling the other day as I read an article in the Sturbridge Villager about the Playa Del Carmen Mexican restaurant on Main Street being closed down by the landlord, and owner, of the property, Rom's Restaurant, Inc.

The landlord says they have the right, as indicated in the lease with the current tenant, to enter the building, and repossess it if the tenant abandons the building.

Well, that seems only right.

Right?

But, wait, there's more, the manager of the restaurant says they did not abandon the building .  They did report to the owner, during the week before Thanksgiving, that there was no heat in the building, and that the owners did nothing to fix the problem.  The manager also said they were current with their rent.

The officials from Rom's have declined to comment on the issue.

Now, here is where Paul Harvey would say, "And now,...the rest of the story."

I think I know how this one is going to end, but I can't wait to read it in the paper.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

New Selectman's Meeting Minutes Posted

The meeting minutes of the the September 7th, and the November 15th Selectman's Meeting are now posted.  Click on the link in the right hand margin to access the minutes.

Winter Forest Walk And Talk

Hot chocolate and candy canes will be served.
Contact the Conservation Department for more information.
508.347.2506

Sunday, December 5, 2010

100 Reasons To Love Our Town

Reason Number 27:  

Traditions. 
Simple moments in time that occur each year with  the only real difference being the size of our children.


The crowd on the Common sang carols while awaiting Santa's arrival on Friday evening.

A dance troupe entertained us.

Santa and Mrs. Claus arrived in style aboard a Sturbridge fire truck.

With a countdown from 10, and the flip of a switch, our tree was lit for another Christmas season.

The annual tree lighting ceremony on the town common, December 3, 2010.