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
Monday, February 28, 2011
Then I watched this interview on the Today Show this morning.
All bets are off.
First of all, any local activity like the Chowder Fest always attracts my attention, and are fun to attend. It was a chance to see folks we haven't seen since before the mini ice age set in this winter, and, in this case, to sample some excellent chowda' prepared by nineteen local chefs.
The chowder was excellent, and we sampled our way around the room. We didn't manage to sample every one, but came darn close, and in the end we voted for the one we thought was best. It was a great way to spend a late Sunday afternoon.
We arrived around the halfway point in the afternoon, and the place was packed, and parking was tight. Cars were parked down the Publick House Road, in the Orchards parking lot, and in almost every spot in the lot behind the Publick House. I'd say this event was a great success for the Exchange Club, and the charities they support.
I even won a gift certificate for Annie's Kitchen. Sweet.
If you missed the event, there is always next year for the Chowder Fest, but if you are looking forward to getting out of the house, seeing some old friends, and supporting a great organization, then save March 31 on your calendar, and check out the event below.
We'll see you there.
Thursday, March 31, 2011
5:30pm - 8:00pm$35 per person
Oliver Wight Tavern @ OSV
1 Old Sturbridge Village Road
Sturbridge, MA 01566
Join us at our annual charity wine, beer and food festival and sample a variety of wines and some of New England's best beers while you enjoy food prepared by some of the areas top chefs.
A variety of wine distributors will be on hand pouring their favorites from around the world. Top breweries from New England and beyond will be providing samples of their beers and ales. The knowledgeable staff at Yankee Spirits will be assisting in the selections. All beers and wines will be available to order at a discount at the event.
Participating Vendors, Restaurants and Wineries to date:
We will have an extensive silent auction that will also feature works from local artists. Artwork by:
Tickets are $35.00 and can be purchased at the door, through our online store; by filling out the following information and processing your order through our secure ordering system, downloading our Wine, Beer and Food Festival Brochure and mailing it to RRI, or by contacting Kerrie Mason at 508-347-8181 ext. 105.
All proceeds will support people with developmental disabilities in our community
Wednesday, February 23, 2011
Ted Goodwin has resigned from the Board of Selectmen after five years. Ted cites family and work as becoming hard to juggle along with serving as selectman. This is too bad, but I understand where Ted's at. I have always liked him, and he will be missed.
A fifty year old man has been charged with purposely running over the ducks at the Burger King parking lot, and killing two of them. The person charged stated he was not the driver of the vehicle, witnesses say otherwise. We'll find out for sure when the investigation is complete, and the matter goes off to court. Since the investigation has not been completed, as of February 18th, I'll refrain from expressing what has been running through my head since I read about it last week. Everyone deserves at least that much consideration. I'll let you all talk amongst yourselves, and when the investigation is done, I'll join you.
The chef at the Old Sturbridge Village, Tim Quinn, was recently chosen as the Overall Iron Chef Winner at the Worcester's Best Chef Competition held in January. I'm not surprised, the food at the Oliver Wight Tavern is superb. Mary and I chose the tavern for our wedding reception, and that was a great move.
If you haven't tried the Oliver Wight Tavern at OSV, I strongly suggest that you do. Below are some upcoming events at the tavern along with their regular lunch time schedule.
in the Village Cafe
Tuesday, February 22, 2011
The speeders are still there. No change. No increase, and certainly no decrease in the number of drivers speeding well over the posted limits. There are more cruisers lying in wait down by the "Compatible Canine" store, but the violators know that is where they are. Some wave to the officer as they pass.
I have always thought there had to be some other tactic that could be used to dissuade speeders from burning it up along this stretch of Route 148. Something simple. Something that would leave an impression.
I think I found it. A small community in Georgia had the same safety problem we are experiencing, and they have solved it with a sign.
I believe Chief Tom Ford would find this method effective, or at the very least, cost effective.
Saturday, February 19, 2011
I made reservations for us over the phone after repeated attempts to book them on line at OpenTable.com. Using the site has been a challenge in the past as well. Each time I chose to book a reservation it either told me there was nothing available for 2.5 hours before and after the time chosen, or it would give me a choice of a time far from what I requested. I called the restaurant on the phone and made reservations right away, in fact I had to call back later in the day and adjust the reservations since Mary was getting out of work a bit later than planned. No problem for them.
The parking lot at the restaurant is still quite small, however they do offer valet parking now. I have no idea where they park your car once the lot is full. After we parked, we walked along the wide sidewalk from the parking lot to the entrance. One would assume that this was the main entrance since it led from the parking lot, but it isn't. The main entrance is off the driveway where the valets are stationed. The driveway is not too wide, and with cars using what there is of it I don't recommend it as a pedestrian walkway to the front door from the lot, use the other entrance. However, it's fine if you are dropping off the car to be parked.
Once inside, the new design and renovations are everywhere. It is has a casual bistro look to it. The newly expanded front of the building houses the new bar, and a few high tables for dining. We met the hostess at the main entrance, and although I had made reservations in advance, she chose to seat us at the worst table in any restaurant other than the one by the kitchen door, the one beside the service station for the wait staff. The table was as small as the children's table at Thanksgiving dinners when I was a kid. I asked if we could sit at a larger table like the couple beside us was sitting at. The hostess told us that all the tables were taken with reservations, but we could change to the other micro table on the other side of the half wall.
We took it. It was obvious we were not going to be seated at an adult sized table. We were there for one hour, and with the exception of one booth, all the booths in our room remained empty. We did not enjoy our table at all.
A restaurant customer must be made to feel welcomed, and made comfortable. No amount of great food and service can make up for that if it is not done in the beginning. If one is running late, and gets a last minute reservation, or table, then take what they have, and be thankful, but not when one makes reservations a half a day in advance.
Mary and I chose one of the specials of the day, Pan seared Tilapia over Spanish rice. We started with a Cesar salad. The salad was great. The pan seared Tilapia was superb. As Mary said, her taste buds were going crazy. I had to agree.
We'll return to the Cedar Street Grille in the future, and hopefully the hostess will seat us at the grownup table.
Thursday, February 17, 2011
Amazing, of course, but not surprising in hind sight. OSV has made some great moves over the past few years that have been very successful, that have resulted in many more visitors, and much more revenue. Their latest move in saving money for the Village is excellent. OSV has hired Swedish company Securitas Security Services USA INC to take over their current security department. The neat thing about this, besides saving the Village a lot of money is that part of the agreement with Securitas is that none of the current eleven security employees will be displaced. They will either be offered positions in the new department, or positions with Securitas elsewhere.
Times change, and changes inevitably have to be made, but they don't have to be heartless. For those retained at the security department there may be changes in salary, benefits, and hours, but they won't be let go if they are eligible after background checks.
It is good to see that thought was put into the current employees welfare. Over the past few years this has been a rare occurrence elsewhere due to the economy. I think when an entity keeps the most basic things dear during changes, or crisis, they may fair better than those that don't. Simple matter of having consideration for others, and letting it guide you when making decisions, and hard choices.
It is just a small part of a major shift in attitude that occurred a few years ago when Donhue took over. It is why they are succeeding today.
Watch OSV, and learn from what they have done, are doing, and have in store. There are great lessons to learn here.
Saturday, February 12, 2011
Date night at The Whistling Swan was last last night, and as promised, here is our review: the meal was fantastic, and the service was stellar.
Mary had the pan seared scallops on risotto , and I had the beef tips on a bed of fettuccine. The house Pinot Noir was very good as well. If you have not had a meal at the Swan in while, or since the new folks, Table Three Restaurant Group, purchased the restaurant, I strongly suggest that you do.
You will be very happy you did.
Next weekend, The new Cedar Street Grill.
Friday, February 11, 2011
The review posted below is from Masslive.com, it came out yesterday, and was my inspiration for choosing the Swan for tonight. Stay tuned, I'll let you know how they did this weekend.
Check out the the Table Three Restaurant Group. There are some familiar, and very talented people making some wonderful culinary changes here locally. Time to get out of the house, and do some local dining.
Restaurant review: The Whistling Swan in Sturbridge
Published: Thursday, February 10, 2011, 5:00 AM
Now operated by the Table 3 Restaurant Group, the establishment recently welcomed Rob Fecteau as its executive chef.
Fecteau is a local boy – he grew up in nearby Spencer – but his culinary vision is decidedly cosmopolitan, thanks to stints in high profile eateries across the Northeast.
The menu focus at the Whistling Swan has shifted from Continental to contemporary American, with current entree choices including Buttermilk Fried Chicken ($15.95), Cracker Crusted Haddock ($16.95), and Lobster Mac ‘n’ Cheese ($18.95).
Ultra-yummy “smashed” redskin potatoes and steamed pencil asparagus completed the handsomely styled plate.
The new menu at the Whistling Swam, it should be noted, is relentlessly a la carte – neither salad nor bread is built into the dinner price.
Fully licensed, the restaurant maintains a wine list of about two dozen choices. Prices are moderate, with nothing going for more than $40.
Dessert, we discovered, is reason enough to visit the Whistling Swam these days. The current selections (all are priced at $8) include a dark chocolate truffle cake, Nutella ice cream profiteroles with coffee hazelnut caramel, and a carrot cake cheesecake iced with marshmallow glaze.
White chocolate mousse served in a pistachio cookie cup was soothingly sweet, while a bread pudding made with chocolate cake and raisin bread had a deliciously dense character.
Name: The Whistling Swan
Address: 502 Main St., Sturbridge
Telephone: (508) 347-2321
Hours: Open daily, serving lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. and dinner from 4 to 9:30 p.m.
Entree Prices: $14.95 - $35.95
Credit cards: American Express, Discover, MasterCard, Visa,
Handicapped access: Rear entrance is accessible, with rest rooms equipped for wheelchairs
Reservations: Accepted and advised on weekends
Now, I am NOT saying that Suhoski had anything to do with the Town Hall problems in the town of Ayer he would later become Town Administrator of, or the issues with the ADA violations here in Sturbridge with our own town hall restoration while Suhoski has been Town Administrator. No, I won't say that at all.
It's just one of those strange, weird coincidences that make one think a bit, and wonder.
When you're done reading the article below, I wouldn't be surprised if you heard the "X Files" theme playing in your head.
(c) 2002 The Sun (Lowell, MA). All rights reserved. Reproduced with the permission of Media NewsGroup, Inc. by NewsBank, Inc.
Access issue forces meetings from Town Hall
Moving meetings from the building temporarily is "a show of good faith" that the town wants to resolve the disagreement, said Selectman Connie Sullivan.
"Rather than force ourselves into a litigious situation, we decided that meetings would be held in the places where we know people can attend them," he said.
Most will be held in the lower public meeting room at the Ayer Public Library on East Main Street.
Complaints started coming in even before the old building at 1 Main St. was reopened. Numerous town residents and representatives from at least one state agency, the Massachusetts Office on Disability, have said the building is inaccessible to the handicapped.
In January, the U.S. Attorney's office began its own investigation. Results have not been made public.
Also in January, investigators with the Massachusetts Office on Disability listed several areas in which they said Town Hall was in violation of the law. Through meetings with the building's architect, most of those areas were found to be in compliance.
But some of the complaints prompted changes.
External double doors at the Columbia Street entrance originally opened into the building, but this week were reversed to open outward to the street.
A section of the ground floor's main corridor also was determined to be too steep. The general contractor, Paul J. Rogan Co. Inc., will reshape the concrete base to shave the angle of incline.
Additionally, both entrances to the Board of Selectmen's ground-floor meeting room have been configured to fit dimensions under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
State access codes only require one entrance per public meeting room to meet ADA-accessible definitions. But town Economic Development Director Shaun Suhoski said the meeting room's second entrance also has been modified to ADA widths.
"It does make more sense now, and it's a lot more functional," Suhoski said.
At the state level, the Attorney General's Office and the Architectural Access Board have enforcement power over ADA regulations.
Sullivan and other selectmen said the constant complaints are frustrating.
"We spent a great deal of money to make the building accessible. We didn't just want to throw some new paint on the walls," Sullivan said. "The thrust of all of these improvements is handicapped accessibility."
Hegarty said yesterday there is no litigation is pending.
Thursday, February 10, 2011
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2011.
I understand the whole "paper trail" thing. Believe me, I do, but we are beyond that now.
In December I posted an article about the far from glowing annual evaluation that our Town Administrator, Shaun Suhoski had received from the selectmen. The evaluation came with a warning. Tardiness was a major issue in the evaluation, and was addressed when the evaluation was presented to Suhoski. Now, a month and a half later he has been suspended, with pay, for that major issue, tardiness.
This is the most basic piece of maturity one makes as they leave their teenage years. One learns to get their butt out of bed in the morning for class, or work, or fail the class, and look for another job. It is that simple. It's a learning thing like eating with utensils. When one does not catch on after a short time, and is still practicing the same poor behavior twenty years later, then there is either a physiological / psychological reason, a reason concerning family, or personal life we are unaware of, and not privy to, or simply it is because because they don't give a rats ass.
I want to believe it is anything other than the latter, however, if it were anything else, I think that the selectmen would be aware, and would have addressed it. The 5 day suspension proves that it is a matter that Suhoski is in control of, or maybe not.
Either way, looks like it will be a long year here in town. (sigh).
Monday, February 7, 2011
Snow pileups should be cleared on flat roofs
Q: My new storm windows on the second floor have iced up, and when the ice melts I get water between the storms and my single-glazed main windows. There is no icing of the old leaky storms on the first floor. Is there an easy way of reducing that icing?
MRS. McCarthy, Cape Cod
MRS. McCarthy, Cape Cod
AUDREY & RON RANDO, Nashua, N.H.
|Crane raises large canvas basket to roof of WalMart |
in Sturbridge for snow removal.
For the past few days, the WalMart in town has been removing snow from its flat roof around the clock. Two large cranes, like the one shown in the photo, are at each side of the building and are taking loads of snow down from the roof. A team of workers can be heard running about the roof from inside the store.
At the other end of the store, near the main entrance, are a dozen, or so, portable lighting systems commonly seen along the highway at night for use on construction projects. I imagine these lights are used on the roof at night.
This whole project must cost a great deal for the company to insure the safety of its customers, and to maintain the structural integrity of its building, but a pitched roof on a building so large would not be practical. Building a flat roof that would tolerate large dead loads would be. Buildings the size of Applebee's or Staples are the size one would expect to see a pitched roof on.
Most schools have flat roofs, and as we have seen over the past week many of them have been closed out of concerns for students safety as the snow is removed from their roofs. Stronger roofs is something that should be built into the initial design, but upgrades cost money.
Times like this give us pause to tweak our building codes a bit for future construction. We can't do a thing about the homes, and buildings already built, and those that have suffered damage, but we can make things easier for the the owners of future structures.
Every situation is a chance to learn something, and to put that new knowledge in effect for the next time. The recent high accumulation of snow is one of those situations. I hope it's a lesson well learned.
Sunday, February 6, 2011
Great PR for Sturbridge. We cause our own problems.
I want to put some things out there that haven't been addressed in depth before, and some that haven't been addressed at all.
The original bylaw was to force property owners to clear the sidewalks in front of their property of ice and snow. The reason was a cost savings initiative by the town. I never heard exactly how much money was to be saved, but since the town had the equipment already, and would be clearing some of the sidewalks, I imagine it wouldn't be that much savings at all.
I believe the town has gone about this entirely in the wrong way, and may have opened itself up to an enormous liability.
Like clearing the roadways for vehicular traffic, clearing the sidewalks for pedestrian traffic is a matter of safety. Safety for those using the roads and sidewalks. If the town only plowed the roads in front of town property and left the roadway in front of private property it would not be the smartest thing to do for obvious reasons. Same with sidewalks.
Now, I realize that the laws regarding snow removal for the roads are a bit different than those for sidewalks, but I hope you get the bigger point. If the town takes a DPW employee, and instructs that employee to clear a length of sidewalk in front of town owned land, such as from New Boston Road extension on Route 131 to the property line with a private landowner, and at that point they stop clearing snow from the sidewalk, what then? Are they hoping the private landowner is going to do a meet 'n greet at the property line and the landowner will clear the rest of the sidewalk so the entire sidewalk will then be cleared for foot travel?
Is the town really thinking that this is going to happen? Look around town. I hasn't happened, and the snow will stay on the sidewalks until it has melted naturally, sometime in May. What has happened is the town has cleared what they see as their sidewalks, when in fact it is all their sidewalk since the proximity to property does not make one its owner, otherwise I'd own 300 feet of Rout 148 and start charging a toll.
Now, let's take it to the next step.
Imagine a pedestrian is pushing a stroller along the cleared town sidewalk on their way to the library. Halfway to their destination the sidewalk is blocked with unshoveled snow. The private landowner has not cleared their portion of the sidewalk. Yes, they could be fined by the town, but that won't clear the way now. The pedestrian still must get to the library, and the town, through their inaction in not clearing the entire sidewalk, and assuming that a bylaw will insure a persons safety, has actually set up a dangerous situation.
The pedestrian has no clues as to why the sidewalk is not totally cleared, they may be from out of town. All they know is that they must get to the library, and that means taking the the stroller from the safety of the sidewalk, and on to the roadway. They begin walking on the side of the road, parallel to the unplowed sidewalks, only inches away from the passing vehicular traffic. After a bit, they come to cleared sidewalk in front of town owned land, and if they are lucky, they will make it there.
What the town has done by initiating the clearing of the sidewalk it has stated though that action that the sidewalk has been cleared of snow, and is fine for pedestrian traffic. This is a "safe assumption" just like placing a door in the wall of a building is a safe assumption that it is to be used for coming and going. The cleared sidewalk at no time gives any indication that has not been completely cleared. Thus, it actually "leads" the pedestrian along it until it stops. That incomplete clearing, that abrupt stopping of pedestrian traffic can only result in one of two actions.
- Turning around, and attempting to reach the library in the spring when the snow melts, or
- Continuing on toward the library along the side of the road.