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

Sunday, May 8, 2011

There Was A Plan All Along

There has been a lot of hullabaloo about the front doors to the Town Hall not being open to the public because some  people feel that the building would not be ADA compliant if they were.  This, despite the fact that the building meets all requirements with its rear door facing the parking lot.

Everyone is just too skittish to act, and open the darn doors for fear of letting in a lawsuit, or some gosh-awful penalty from the state.

I have this vision of a roomful of "Don Knotts" sitting around a board table stuttering, and shaking  their way around the issue, and then ordering the door locked, nailed shut and the curtains drawn over it.

All this comotion about not being ADA compliant.  Nice sentiment, but is it sincere?  I am sure it is in this case, but...

The sidewalks along Route 20 in Fiskdale have not been ADA complaint since they were built, yet despite this fact the state has not cited the town, or closed the road down until made right.

Of course not, it's a state road, but where does the responsibility for the sidewalks lie?  Well, since the town has made such a fuss about private citizens maintaining them during snow storms, those sidewalks belong to the Town of Sturbridge.  They have to be if they are making rules, and bylaws about them, right?  So, what about the fix for the ADA deficient sidewalks?

Bueller?  Bueller?

Don't bother expecting an answer.  They do know it has to be done, but the fix is harder and costs way more than those town hall doors.

The town halls front doors do need to be opened, and I don't think anyone can say that it was an oversight, or a mistake.  It was planned for them to remain closed, and it was planned without the proper input of the the residents.

And, that is the entire point.

Front "dummy" doors to the Center Office Building.
How can I assume this to be true?  Well, if you look across the street to the Center Office Building that was restored at the same time the town hall was, designed by the same architect, you will notice that the front doors are without door knobs.  In fact, the brick walkways leading to those doors are higher than the driveway grade, and there are not steps, or ramps to access those doors.

Front doors.  Not accessible, and just for show and tell.  There is an unmistakable pattern emerging here.

Rear doors to the Center Office Building.
Now, look around back.  There are two doors around back.  One door has a knob, and access with a ramped curb cut.  There is also access to an elevator at that entrance.  there is also an other door facing the rear of the building without a knob.

So, the Center Office Building has only one door leading into it that has a knob to allow access, and the other five doors without knobs are for looks, and hopefully, exiting in case of an emergency.

Now, if a mobility disabled person is in the building in an emergency they had better be near the rear doors since they are the only ones that lead to a ramped curb cut.  If that person is forced to use the front doors, good luck getting down from the sidewalk onto the driveway.  I guess just getting ones backside out of a burning building outweighs falling off the curb onto the same backside.

The design of both buildings shows that the front doors were never designed to be used, and this came as a shock to many in town that assumed the buildings were going to be restored to the level of functioning they had before, but significantly improved.

I realize that the Board of Selectmen are working on getting the doors opened by submitting a request for a variance with the state.   Good luck with that, and I hope we hear from the state in short order.  All I want to illustrate this today is that the design was intended, and since it was, it had to be approved by people from town in the know.  All I'd like to know was who were those that signed off on this without allowing for the residents input, and do they still have input into issues concerning the town?

A better awareness of the inner working of town government would be good, how the  decisions being made there affect us, and how to be sure that those decisions are for the benefit of all in town.

We just need to be more aware, and if those in office aren't anxious to do it, we need to take the reigns ourselves.


  1. What does this mean for the new elementary school? Are all their doors going to be handicap compliant? Will they be allowed to use other doors for recess and other activities or will the doors be locked too?

  2. How do fire and police respond through locked, doors with no handles? Is it legal to have only one means of access? How would this affect response time in an emergency? If there was a "bad guy" in the building he might have a few ways of egress, but the good guys would have only one way to enter the building without an axe or a gun?

    Can someone help me to decipher the following from the Special Town Meeting Warrant, February 24, 2009?
    "...Additionally, to meet building accessibility and fire code issues other costs that were not included in the original estimate include: Owner's Project Manager (this became a requirement after the original estimate); both buildings have elevator/secondary access in additions; both buildings will have fire suppression sprinkler systems..."

  3. I see in the above posting, from the Special Town Meeting Warrant, mention that "both buildings have elevator/SECONDARY access in additions." We seem to have SINGLE access in both buildings.
    It also mentions Owner's Project Manager which had not been required or funded in the previous estimate.
    Project Management:

  4. At the town hall, also, isn't there only one realistic way out for a person in a wheelchair? If someone in a wheelchair flees a building in an emergency, only to find himself at the top of outdoor steps, what is he to do next - and can he do it? We do have the same problem in other buildings, but this problem seems to our citizens and outside observers to have been preventable, and occurred knowingly, primarily because of superficial looks.

    How about doing things in a way that looks like, not only do we have the means and know-how to do the right thing, but we also care enough to actually do them? I would love to see a ramp at the front door of the town hall. Now, that would state loud and clear what the citizens of Sturbridge stand for today. Are we afraid to leave some little mark of progress as our part of the real history of the government of Sturbridge?



    The site listed above will help us better understand our “door problem.”
    If you click on the site listed above, you will find a manual. You can either enter page 5 or scroll to page 3. (Yes, I know, but either should take you to the actual page 3.) At the bottom section of page 3 you will find this:
    “If the work done in a 36-month period is more than 30% of the ‘full and fair cash value’ of the building, the entire building must come into compliance.”
    The Massachusetts Architectural Access Board's rules are more stringent than the ADA rules. We were supposed to follow these MAAB rules, which require the doors to be compliant – or we could have requested a variance before we went ahead and had the work done. Then we would have known what we would be getting ourselves into.
    Now we are waiting for permission to ‘temporarily’ open the front door, until we get an actual decision, perhaps in a couple months.
    The next step, if the decision on the town hall is in our favor, is to start the process all over again for the doors at the center school.
    Hopefully things will go in our favor, because otherwise we could be in the “deep doo-doo” of paying for our noncompliance until we get things fixed.

  7. Here's more regarding what we were required to do unless we got a variance.


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