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

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

You Are Kidding Me, Right?

I'm so confused.  You just can't make these things up.

Now, it would be so much easier on this head of mine if I could see a pattern, a rationale, a simple reason, but it is beyond me.

Damn, I hate admitting that.

I'm sorry.  Did I say that out loud?  I've been muttering ever since I received a few emails from the Town of Sturbridge today.  The emails had Board of Selectmen meeting minutes attached to them.

Yesterday I posted about the long time we had to wait for meeting minutes to become available to the residents of Sturbridge.  I was flabbergasted when meeting minutes from June 27th were finally released.  I expected that it was an oversight, or there was a more legitimate reason for the extraordinary delay.  I expected some explanation, as usual, posted in the comment section, but I did not receive a comment, and now I know why.

Today I received more minutes from this months meetings held on the 14th and 4th.  Excellent.  Minutes from the same month the meeting was held.  Awesome.

The other minutes I received today were from October 1, June 6, 13, 20, and May 23rd.

Yes, May 23rd of 2011.  Six months ago.

But wait, it gets worse.  The last email with meeting minutes attached was the best by far.  The minutes were from a selectman's meeting on March 24, 2011.

Yes, eight months ago.  Eight months after the meeting, the minutes are being released to the public.

Now, I am done asking why.  I no longer need a reason, or excuse,  posted in the the comment section of this blog by selectpeople offering a rationale explanation.

There is no rational explanation when meeting minutes from a meeting held  twelve days ago are released within the same month as the meeting, and minutes from a meeting held eight months ago are casually sent out in the same batch.

I don't want an explanation.  I've been down this road before, and I nodded, accepted, and moved on after that explanation.  I trusted that explanation.

This is a simple thing to master, and for there to be an eight month delay in making minutes public it speaks of other more important issues with the board that this is only a symptom of.

No more excuses, and reasons for the simplest things.  I'm done with it.

The smallest details always reveal the most, and when the time is right, I have a ballot, and I know how to use it.

For March 24, 2011 Selectmen Meeting Minutes click here

96019 Visits

I began writing this blog in November 2007.  In July of 2008 I put one of those counters on the site to see how much traffic I get.  Seems it varies from day to day, and depending on the system I use to view the traffic.  Some posts get a lot more traffic than others.  Some barely move the meter.

Today, the little numbers at the bottom of the page say 96019.  That is the number of you that have stopped by and read my blathering since 2008.  I figure if I include the eight months without a counter the number just may be over 100,000.

No, I'm not a YouTube viral sensation that records 90000 hits an hour.  That would be the best.  No, I'm far from it.   I may not be a national writing marvel, or internet sensation, but I am the appreciative sort, and for those 96019 visits people have made it to, thank you, thank you very much.

Now, let's see if we can do those 96019 visits in thirty days.  That would be really neat.

Go ahead, surprise me.  :-)

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Why Do Meeting Minutes Take Months To Share?

Of course, small town America runs a bit slower than big cities, it's just the nature of the village beast.

Now, there is small town slow, and then there is "why bother?" slow.

Today, I got a "why bother".

I subscribe to the selectmen  meeting minutes, among other notifications,  through the towns website.  I often get notifications of meetings, meeting time changes, agendas, and public announcements.  A very handy thing to have. I scan the emails as they arrive.  Some times I get mass emails with attachments.  Most of those attachments are meeting minutes.  A month of meeting minutes arriving by separate emails is not unusual, and the usually come late.  One to two months late, and that is frustrating, and aggravating to say the least.

This is how I figure it.  The meeting minutes are not only a record of what transpired during the meeting, who attended, who spoke, who said what, what business was settled, and what business was continued, but it is also a report card.  It shows us just how the meeting went, and how those we elected to office handled the issues, and handled themselves.  If one is satisfied on how they have performed, and handled the topics, and issues before them, one would think that a public record of that would be a great thing to have out there ASAP.

Nope.  Not here.  Not in Sturbridge.  It is almost like the longer they delay the release of the minutes, the more of us will forget what transpired at the meeting.

Naw.  That can't be it.  Too petty.

Today I received Selectman's meeting minutes in several emails.  The most recent meeting minutes were from November 18th.  Now, this was only eleven days ago, and although not the most timely meeting minutes, anything delivered in the same month is golden.

The next set were from November 7th, again, a good thing.  The other two sets are from October 17 (now we're pushing it a bit in the tardy column), and August 31st.

August 31st.  Beyond late.  Ancient history late.  Previous generation late.  No good to me late.

And, again, "why bother"?

I did receive another email with selectman meeting minutes attached.  That meeting was held five months ago on June 27th.


I know there is a good reason.  I know this because I will be told there is a good reason in the comment section of this post after I post it.  I've been told this before, and I was told it was for a good reason.

Let's see.

The mechanics of recording minutes are pretty standard, and putting them in some readable form for distribution is also standard.  Getting the minutes reviewed, and approved, should happen fairly quickly as well.


Unless there is a whole bunch of stuff one doesn't want in the minutes, and they have to be tailored for distribution.  It's called editing, and there's nothing wrong with that.  Making the moment sound better than it was is an art.  I've been there.  It happens, but it doesn't happen to take five months.

Next April, when we get this Decembers meeting minutes, I would be thrilled to read that something was being done with the system in order to hasten the distribution of the minutes.

Gives me another great reason to wish for Spring.

To read the Selectman's Meeting Minutes from June 27th, click here.

To subscribe to informational emails from the Town of Sturbridge, click here.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

"The Truth Behind Article 48" by Carol Childress

The following letter was submitted, for posting, by Sturbridge resident, Carol Childress.  At the end of her letter, Carol has also supplied documentation, a definite "Paper Trail",  that she feels supports her position.--ed.

Dear Fellow Sturbridge Residents and Taxpayers, 
I'm writing to all of you because there is an important issue that has once again stirred me to speak out, and with urgency, I am asking that taxpayers please attend the December 5th Special Town Meeting to vote NO on Warrant Article 48. 
The truth behind Article 48 is that it asks voters to allow the town to convert one of its current conservation parcels, the Shepard parcel, into $2,500,000 athletic fields. On its face, you will find that Article 48 does not mention any costs involved in the conversion or the athletic fields, or why the conversion is even necessary; rather, its ambiguous content asks voters to allow the town to go to the legislature and make a "deed correction" to a 6-year old deed, which if approved, will insert active recreation as an “intended use” for the property when it was purchased in 2004 with Community Preservation Act funds. 
Voters who attended the 2004 Town Meeting when this parcel was purchased can attest to the fact that athletic fields were never mentioned as an intended use; two original members of the Community Preservation Committee have attested that athletic fields was not an intended use; and in fact, Article 48 completely disrespects and disregards that 138/5 supermajority vote rendered in favor of purchasing the property for conservation purposes in 2004. 
To make matters worse, voters were asked for and appropriated funds in 2009 to pay for design services for these fields; however, there is no language in that 2009 warrant article informing voters that the Shepard parcel had actually been purchased 5 years earlier for conservation purposes and that recreation fields are not a permitted use on the property. My research has shown that little (if any) due diligence was exercised on both the Shepard and Town Barn parcels prior to asking voters for design money in 2009. And yet, there isn’t a prudent developer out there today who purchases land, much less spends money on design, without first knowing where the rare species are located and whether it will impact their development (according to the Conservation Commission, the Shepard parcel is 2/3rds covered with Priority and Estimated Habitat for Rare Species.) Just this issue alone should cause town officials to pause and think about the potential waste of that 2009 appropriation if the fields must be redesigned; there’s also the possibility that the project will not be permitted at all. 
I and many others, including legal professionals, have reviewed the 2004 Selectmen’s Executive Session Meeting Minutes; Community Preservation Committee (CPC) Meeting Minutes and Agenda discussion; the 2004 Finance Committee Warrant Article in comparison to the Selectmen’s Substitute Motion and the vote taken in 2004; the Shepard deed; and the 2004 Report of the CPC in the 2005 Town Meeting Warrant. The only place active recreation is mentioned is in the 2004 Selectmen’s Executive Session Meeting Minutes when “uses” for the property are discussed, and it is stated, “not recreation fields.” Those minutes served to inform the reasoning behind the language inserted into the Selectmen’s 2004 Substitute Motion, and all other official town documents clearly point to passive uses for the property, such as hiking, non-motorized biking, fishing, and hunting.  
Residents should also be aware of one of the most eye-opening issues discovered earlier this year, which is that the town used vague Warrant Articles when it purchased all the so-called "conservation" parcels with taxpayer dollars through the 3% Community Preservation Act (CPA) surcharge on our tax bills. Therefore, this conversion of the Shepard parcel represents one of four parcels that can potentially be converted to other uses, or they may now include uses that are not what voters may expect based on presentations at Town Meetings. As one who attended and voted at all the Town Meetings when these parcels were purchased, I took those Warrant Articles at face value; I trusted and believed our town officials that these properties would be used for conservation purposes; however, in reality, some properties seem to be protected and some definitely are not. I say some "seem to be protected" because three of them, including the Shepard parcel, are under the so-called “protection” of the Conservation Commission; yet they made the sole decision to “release” the Shepard parcel for athletic fields - without voter input or agreement. Such a decision is completely contrary to voter's rights under the Article 97 Amendment to the Constitution of the Commonwealth, and it is also completely contrary to the Conservation Commission Act under MA General Laws Chapter 40, Section 8C, which allows passive uses only. 
I have also discovered that the town is in violation of the Community Preservation Act statute, as all the properties purchased using the 3% surcharge and matching state CPA funds are required by law to have permanent Conservation Restrictions (CR) on them - but none of them do - in fact, the town has skipped that entire part of the process; so technically, these property transactions are not complete. Not until I raised this issue in April 2011 did town officials make any real attempt to complete these transactions; however, they are seeking to include active recreation in at least one of the CRs, thus indicating that future conversions on other parcels could be imminent. 
The last cost estimates I heard at a Selectmen’s meeting to build these athletic fields currently tips at $6,000,000. The fields are extravagant, regulation-sized, tournament-type fields at two locations: the Shepard conservation parcel, which is estimated to cost $2,500,000; and the new Town Barn fields are estimated to cost $3,500,000. There have been no public forums or hearings so residents can learn more and become informed instead of being asked on-the-spot at 2012 Town Meeting to pay for these fields. 
Not the least bit disturbing is that the town actually has a golden opportunity to complete the Conservation Restriction on the Shepard parcel right now. This is an opportunity that the Conservation Commission has chosen to ignore; but in fact, it is not solely their decision because they are not the “owners” of the parcel – the town and its residents are the owners, and voters should have an opportunity to weigh in on this opportunity. The Department of Fish & Game informed me on November 3rd that it's "highly likely" they would hold a Conservation Restriction on the Shepard Parcel, plus they would work with their Office of Fishing and Boating Access to build a kayak launch ramp and parking lot – with all construction and engineering costs to be paid by the state. These uses are in keeping with the property’s current legal uses and zoning in that district, while strongly complementing current eco-tourism efforts underway by the Trails Master Plan Committee. 
Over the last five years, the town of Sturbridge has accumulated $50,000,000 in long-term debt that has increased our property taxes by 28%. Water and sewer rates have risen sharply; and it was decided on November 14th that the town will borrow another $1,800,000 to cover damages associated with the October snowstorm. The economy is not improving as everyone would hope and many Sturbridge taxpayers are already struggling to make ends meet.
We are the ones who will foot the bill for these $6,000,000 fields (this estimate doesn’t include the two additional maintenance and recreation personnel per the Master Plan, or other costs associated with building these fields), and we have every right to expect a public forum and other information prior to being asked on-the-spot at the 2012 Town Meeting to pay for these. 
I urge you all, please come to town meeting on December 5th and let your voice be heard: vote NO on Article 48. Let's send the following message: we will not allow the town to disrespect and negate the taxpayer’s supermajority votes of 2004; we will not allow the town to set a precedent by converting one or more of our conservation parcels; and we will not allow the additional spending of millions of taxpayer dollars without prior public input at public forums and hearings. 
Carol Childress 

Note:  the following are links to supporting documentation.--ed.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Doing Our Part On Small Business Saturday Weekend

Small Business Saturday was yesterday.  It is the day that American Express started last year to promote shopping locally through their OPEN program for small business owners.

A super sized company with a great idea that affects the local merchant in a good way.  A rare thing this is.  American Express may have started out promoting its OPEN small business unit, but what has happened has been the promotion of all small businesses.

More often than not we head for the plaza, or the mall to "cluster shop".  Cluster shopping is attacking ones list by shopping in places that offer most everything on the list.  Large stores like Target, Walmart, Macy's, Sears and Kohls are places where ones list can be completely crossed off in a short amount of time.  Small Business Saturday is designed to introduce people to the small local businesses that carry many of the things on your list, but not everything.  For that you will have to visit a few places.  Most of the time, when you are only looking for that one particular thing, a local, non-national store will have what you are looking for.

Supporting small, local businesses keeps our money local, and not in a bank in Bentonville, Arkansas.

We try to do a lot of our regular shopping locally.  For those things that aren't offered up the street, we do stray to a large chain as much as we want to support the small businessperson.  Somethings just can't be had at the local business level, but for those things that are, we're all over them.

We have been looking for a new washer and dryer for sometime.  Each time we are in Home Depot, or Sears,  we look over what is offered, and remember the prices.  We don't intend to buy a big ticket item there, but will take the information with us, and shop locally.  I did that on Friday at Whitco in Spencer, and yesterday Mary and I went over there again to check out my choices.

She was pleased.  (whew)

Sometimes a local business can't compete with Sears for big ticket items like a snow blower.  The local dealer may be able to offer a snow blower for less than what it usually sells for if offered on sale, but you can be sure that the big store will offer it for far less.

What does one do?  $1250.00 vs. $825.00 for similar machines.  As supportive of local business as I am, the answer is clear, I will go with the significantly lower price, provided the quality is similar.  Last month, I did just that, and went to Sears and bought a Craftsman snow blower on sale.  This time the national guy won my business.

Keep in mind, I'm a yankee, frugal by nature, and although supportive as all get out for the local guy, I am a bit more supportive for the little guys in my wallet, like Franklin, and Jackson.

Yesterday, after leaving Spencer we planned on driving up to Gardner, Mass, to check out the furniture stores in "Chair City".  Gardener, long known for furniture manufacturing, sells a lot of furniture as well.  This would be my first time shopping in Gardner.

We had been to all the local shops, Charlton furniture, Sturbridge Furniture each time it opened and "closed forever" over the past couple of years.  Rotmans in Worcester, Bernie and Phyl's,  Bob's, and Jordans Furniture we hit last, and sometimes several times, but we still did not find what we were looking for.

So, off to Gardner, an hour north.  The drive was nice, and the first store, Rome's, was easy to find.  Family owned since 1945, our salesman, Bob, was very helpful, answered our questions, and stayed in the background as we looked for the items that had been eluding us forever.

First up was a living room chair, a Queen Ann type, that slightly reclined.  Most that we had seen were ugly, too big, and offered in only one color.  This store had several, good looking ones that came in any fabric or color we wanted.  Choice, quality, non-ugly furniture, and it was a family owned small business!  We found one, put it on the list, and then went looking for an upholstered chair for a bedroom.  Not far away, and after several months of looking, we found not one, but two!

We were striking gold.  The variety, amount of inventory, and choices this store gave were beyond what is offered in Worcester, Shrewsbury, or Natick.  Amazing for a small business.  The big ticket item was a dining room set.  Rotmans had mostly, if not all veneer top tables, and although they are pretty to look at, they aren't meant for everyday use, and could be easily damaged.  The solid wood tables were priced beyond reason, and the store offered little choice.  Same at Jordans, and Bernie and Phyl's.  This store, Rome Furniture Center,  offered many sets, and although we found two excellent ones, the price was a bit beyond our budget.  The salesman then referred us to another store in town, The Factory Coop, their sister store around the corner.

At the Factory Coop we found a solid wood set made by Amish furniture makers in Ohio, and the price was half of that offered by the large stores.


We spoke to the salesman, Kevin, and the stores manager for a long time, and they assured us that our preferences for color, wood, and style would be adhered to, and they went to extraordinary lengths in writing up the order.

So, this weekend we supported the small business person very well.  Our choices were better, and our prices were much better.  Quality, and service were just as good, if not better than the big boys.  All in all, we were very pleased, and I strongly recommend Gardner to anyone looking for furniture to check there first, and Spencer if you are looking for appliances.

Word of mouth can either grow a business, or ruin it, especially small businesses.  When all things are good, and separating ones self from ones money isn't painful, and filled with remorse, then the word of mouth can only be good.

One more thing.  We worked up an appetite  shopping most of the day, and were talking amongst ourselves about looking a place for lunch after we closed the furniture deal on the table and chairs.  The salesman overheard us, got up and walked across the office and returned with a brochure for a local restaurant in Westminster, The Old Mill.  Each of the people in the office said it was great, and run buy the same family that started it in 1946 just after WWII.

We went to the restaurant, and the ambiance with the brook running around the building from the mill pond right outside its front door, to the excellent food within were well worth the trip.  Put The Old Mill in with those other recommendations.  You will not be disappointed.

Local small business supporting local small business, and both reaping the benefits, and both very successful.

It works for the consumer as well.

Friday, November 25, 2011

A Better Deal At Dawn

We had a hard frost last night, and this morning the evidence was everywhere.  The blades of grass, the shrubs, and the yet to fall leaves on the Rose of Sharon all showed the thick, white frost that had settled on us overnight.  After I awoke this morning, with  cup of coffee in hand, I watched the world awaken through the kitchen window .   The suns rays played with the frost crystals on the trees, and Mary readied herself for the day near me at the counter.  

I watched as dawn turned into day.

That little bit of time in front of the kitchen window was far more pensive, and sedentary than rushing out blindly hours earlier to wait in line at Target in order to save 30-60% on a Blu-Ray player.  It was also more rewarding.  I saw things this morning that others may not have.

No, I didn't save 80% on an electronic book reader, or 52 inch LCD TV.  No, I did not save any money at all, but  I am a lot richer now than I was before getting out of bed this morning.

Starting off ones day a bit wealthier than the previous day is a great goal.  Well worth the effort, and if you do it right, it doesn't cost a thing.

And, that's the whole point.  This morning I did it right.

                "When the Frost is on the Punkin"

James Whitcomb Riley. 1853–1916

When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder's in the shock, 
And you hear the kyouck and gobble of the struttin' turkey-cock, 
And the clackin' of the guineys, and the cluckin' of the hens, 
And the rooster's hallylooyer as he tiptoes on the fence; 
O, it's then the time a feller is a-feelin' at his best,         5
With the risin' sun to greet him from a night of peaceful rest, 
As he leaves the house, bareheaded, and goes out to feed the stock, 
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder's in the shock. 
They's something kindo' harty-like about the atmusfere 
When the heat of summer's over and the coolin' fall is here—  10
Of course we miss the flowers, and the blossoms on the trees, 
And the mumble of the hummin'-birds and buzzin' of the bees; 
But the air's so appetizin'; and the landscape through the haze 
Of a crisp and sunny morning of the airly autumn days 
Is a pictur' that no painter has the colorin' to mock—  15
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder's in the shock. 
The husky, rusty russel of the tossels of the corn, 
And the raspin' of the tangled leaves as golden as the morn; 
The stubble in the furries—kindo' lonesome-like, but still 
A-preachin' sermuns to us of the barns they growed to fill;  20
The strawstack in the medder, and the reaper in the shed; 
The hosses in theyr stalls below—the clover overhead!— 
O, it sets my hart a-clickin' like the tickin' of a clock, 
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder's in the shock. 
Then your apples all is gethered, and the ones a feller keeps  25
Is poured around the cellar-floor in red and yaller heaps; 
And your cider-makin's over, and your wimmern-folks is through 
With theyr mince and apple-butter, and theyr souse and sausage too!... 
I don't know how to tell it—but ef such a thing could be 
As the angels wantin' boardin', and they'd call around on me—  30
I'd want to 'commodate 'em—all the whole-indurin' flock— 
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder's in the shock.


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Reasons For The Day

I think it is a good idea to have one day every twelve months designated for giving thanks.  Government initiated, or not, we need it.  Of course, we need to give thanks whenever the moment calls for them to be given, but a national day of thanking is one way of ensuring that it doesn't become something taken for granted.  As humans we have a tendency of taking things for granted, and that leads to them becoming less important, and eventually ignored.  Knowing that about our selves is why we appoint special days to somethings.  Another reason is we like celebrations.

© 2011 W.J. Hersee
When we think about the circumstances in our life, and thank the powers, and people that be for the good ones, it is also acknowledging the things that aren't the best, and we may even give thanks that they aren't worse than they are.  When we do that, we acknowledge the need for change as well.

Making changes can only only be done when we acknowledge what needs to be changed.  It's that simple.

So, a day for giving thanks accomplishes two things.  One, the intended purpose of giving thanks, and another, more stealth like purpose, the acknowledgement of things that we would like to change.

Anytime we can focus on the good in our lives, acknowledge them, and the need to improve the things that aren't so good, it is a great thing, no matter the day, or the reason.  Having a special day is just a way of getting the majority of us all on the same page at the same time for all the right reasons.

And, for that, I am thankful.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Thanksgiving Traffic Will Be Heavy As Usual; Plan Ahead

"The state Department of Transportation warned drivers to plan for congestion and to be courteous and respectful when out on the road. Interstate 90 Exit 9 in Sturbridge connecting I-84 to Connecticut and New York experiences heavy traffic and busy toll plazas. To avoid delays on Wednesday and Sunday, drivers are encouraged to consider travel during the early morning or after 8 p.m."

Learn How To Map Your Neighborhood

“Map Your Neighborhood”*

Train-the-Trainer Session

DATE: December 8. 2011
TIME: 7 – 9 p.m.
PLACE: Sturbridge Public Safety Complex

What is a disaster? Disasters, by definition, are events that overwhelm police, fire, and medical 911 emergency responders.

Why MYN? MYN (Map Your Neighborhood) helps us organize a timely response to disaster when 911 services are unavailable. All of us, working together, can reduce the serious consequences of disasters in our neighborhoods.

What will we do?

We will learn a 9-step Neighborhood Response Plan that immediately helps us know what to do – both at home and in the neighborhood – to respond to power outages, injuries, fallen trees & building damage, and assisting people with special needs or who may be alone and frightened. The process is proven, fun, and easy.

We will identify the skills and equipment each neighbor has that are useful in an effective and timely disaster response.

We will know what resources are willing and available in our neighborhoods to respond, taking much of the burden off Public Safety in the initial hours following a disaster.

*“Map Your Neighborhood” (MYN) was selected by FEMA as the best program for neighborhood / community preparedness out of 188 submittals in 2011.

The reality for the Sturbridge area is that neighborhoods may need to respond to floods, tornados, snowstorms, power outages and other disasters. This meeting will help you to prepare, organizae your neighborhood and respond. Please join us.

To register for training or for more information contact:

Sgt. Kevin Mercier
Map Your Neighborhood Coordinator
Sturbridge Police Dept.
Phone: 508-347-2525 Ext. 117

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Phone Hoarding

I hate letting go of somethings.  I am far from being a hoarder, but in a cultural way, I guess I am guilty of hoarding bygone things.  The thing I am having the hardest time with is letting go of our land line telephone.  We each have a cell phone, but pay $60 per month on a land line that is barely used.

My reasoning for keeping the line are good.  I want to have a telephone line available in an emergency.  Often when the power goes out the phone line will still work since it does not get its power from the house.  The phone company also has the lines wired in a way that if a line to the north of you is down, the line to the south of you will still carry your calls.  The damaged area is just circumvented; not true with the electric company.

Another reason to keep the land line was a fool proof way to contact 911 especially with enhanced 911 we have here in Sturbridge.  Enhanced 911 gives the callers address to the dispatcher if they cannot answer on the phone.  This is a very important lifesaver.

Cell phones can call 911, too, but most often the calls are going to a State Police barracks, and being rerouted to the police in your location.  All this does is eat up critical time, and I prefer not to use that system unless I have to.

Until recently, Reverse 911 calls were not available for cell phones.  Reverse 911 calls are very useful in an emergency, and being without that information would not be our best interest.  Now, the Reverse 911 calls are available for cell phones, and that has eliminated a big concern.

So, what to do?  Do I continue to have redundant services because I can't give up the house phone, or do I step up, and just rely totally on cell service?

Well, this most recent storm, and the hurricane before it, knocked out cell service in our area for a few days, so that rules out going completely without a land line.  So, it looks like I would need to keep a lesser version of Verizon.  There are a couple of less expensive plans available, one for a little under $20 per month, and one for around $12.00 each month.  Each has a different cost per call, and free calling area, but that area is not listed online, and the site advises you to call and talk to a representative to determine the exact area for free calling.

A pay per minute plan would be ideal since we hardly use the phone, and it would still link us to emergency services if ever needed, or when the cell service goes out.

Always good to have a an option, a Plan B.

I plan on calling Verizon, and getting more information in the next few days, and when I do, I will be sure to share the information with you.

Letting go is never easy, but changing it up a bit is something I can handle.

Now, next thing to consider is to let go of trash pick-up at the house.  Is it really worth $100 every 3 months?  Would I really save a lot by using the recycling center?

Something else to think on.  Any input from those of you who have taken the plunge to abandon the trash man, and are only using the Recycling Center would be appreciated.  Let me know how you are doing.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Cell Phones Can Now Receive Reverse 911 Calls

Message from the Sturbridge Police Department:

The Sturbridge Police Department would like to make residents aware that the Worcester County Sheriff’s Office has now obtained the software necessary to include cellular phone numbers for Reverse 911 notifications.

Residents can to go, click on “Jail and House of Correction,” then scroll down and click on “Reverse 911.” Follow the instructions to enter your address and cell phone number.

Please know that the “Fiskdale” section of Sturbridge is not listed and therefore residents residing in that section of our community should simply list Sturbridge as their primary town. This will not impact the cell phone notifications.

Thank you,

Lt. Mark Saloio

Old Sturbridge Village Hosts Christmas By Candlelight

Nostalgic look at favorite holiday traditions, music, and food
Nine evening celebrations set for December 2-4; 9-11; 16-18

STURBRIDGE, Mass. (Nov. 17, 2011): Visitors to Old Sturbridge Village’s Christmas by Candlelight celebrations can experience the sights and sounds of a traditional holiday as they stroll the magical candlelit 19th-century village, enjoy a horse-drawn sleigh ride, meet Father Christmas and Santa Claus, and hear Victorian holiday carolers. OSV historians will show the origins of favorite holiday traditions like roasted chestnuts, Christmas trees, Yule logs, gingerbread houses, and sugar plums. Now in its ninth year, Christmas by Candlelight will take place from 4:00 – 900 p.m. on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday evenings Dec. 2-4, 11-13, and 16-18. For or 508-347-3362. Tickets purchased now through November 20 will be discounted up to 50%.

Old Sturbridge Village’s “Christmas by Candlelight” allows visitors to escape the frenzy of the modern Christmas season, enjoy the old-fashioned spirit of the holidays and learn how today’s favorite traditions originated. At Christmas by Candlelight, visitors can actually see “chestnuts roasting on an open fire,” hear why they were a favored treat in early New England, and also learn the origins of candy canes, mistletoe, and how poinsettias were introduced to this country.

Visitors can vote for their favorite entry in the annual OSV Gingerbread House Contest and take part in a rousing Christmas carol sing-a-long, and learn a dance from Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Hands-on activities include making a Christmas keepsake while learning about the history of Christmas cards, and making a tin ornament while finding out the history of Christmas tree decorations. Visitors of all ages are invited to tell Santa Claus what is on their holiday wish list.

Live performances include Punch and Judy puppet shows, Victorian carolers, five different holiday-themed readings, including ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas, Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and nativity stories, and on select evenings Bob Olson’s Holiday Magic and Andrea Caspari’s shadow puppet theater. A model train display is new this year, and other Christmas by Candlelight exhibits include an extensive nativity set with hundreds of pieces and a miniature New England village.

Musical performers include a wide range of professional, student, and community musicians, including Full Gael Celtic Christmas, Worcester Men of Song, Quintebrass, Boston Jazz Voices, and the Old Sturbridge Village Singers. Three different hand bell choirs will be featured: the Merrimack Valley Ringers, Elm Street Handbells, and the Tantasqua Faculty Handbell Choir. Student musicians from Worcester State University and a number of area high schools will also perform. A current schedule is listed below, but for the most up to date information, go to

The museum gift shop and Oliver Wight Tavern will be open for holiday shopping and dining during Christmas by Candlelight, which is sponsored by Fallon Community Health Plan, Savers Bank, and Bollus Lynch.

In order to focus on the evening holiday events, Old Sturbridge Village will be closed during the day from November 28 – December 25. The Village will be open for Christmas by Candlelight on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday evenings from 4:00 – 9:00 pm. Dec. 2-4; Dec.11-13, and Dec. 16-18. The Village will return to a daytime schedule for its popular school vacation week activities Dec. 26 – Jan. 1.

Old Sturbridge Village celebrates life in early New England from 1790 – 1840. Located just off the Massachusetts Turnpike and Routes I-84 and 20 in Sturbridge, Mass., OSV is open year-round, but days and hours vary seasonally. For details, visit or call 800-SEE-1830.

Old Sturbridge Village
Christmas by Candlelight
Performance Schedule
(As of 11/17/2011. For complete list, see
Friday, December 2:
Bob Olson's Holiday Magic
Full Gael Celtic Christmas
Old Sturbridge Village Dancers
Tantasqua High School Choraleers
Woodstock Academy Hill Singers
Saturday, December 3:
Andrea Caspari and Firefly Shadow Theater
Geoff Brown ~ A Mandolin Christmas
Lynnfield Pioneer Singers
Shepard Hill "Mystique"
Sunday, December 4:
Bob Olson's Holiday Magic
Jaques Ave Five
Old Sturbridge Village Singers

Friday, December 9
Bob Olson's Holiday Magic
Brookfield Elementary Band & Chorus
Full Gael Celtic Christmas
Hickory Strings
Old Sturbridge Village Dancers
Saturday, December 10:Andrea Caspari and Firefly Shadow Theater
Full Gael Celtic Christmas
Stow Fife and Drum
Treblesome Barbershop Quartet
Sunday, December 11:Bob Olson's Holiday Magic
Old Sturbridge Village Singers
Prolatia Choir
Worcester State Chorale
Friday, December 16:Bob Olson's Holiday Magic
Full Gael Celtic Christmas
Merrimack Valley Ringers
Old Sturbridge Village Dancers
Stafford High Madrigal Singers
Tantasqua Faculty Handbell Choir
Saturday, December 17:Bob Olson's Holiday Magic
Boston Jazz Voices
Elm Street Handbells
Pawtuxet Fife and Drum
Tantasqua Brass Quintet
Worcester Men of Song
Sunday, December 18:Bob Olson's Holiday Magic
Leicester Town Band
Old Sturbridge Village Singers
Oxford High School Band
Rose Thorn and Fiddle

The Process Preserved

This evening a comment was left in the comment section under yesterdays post.  The post was concerning an article in the Telegram about the school committee being in a tizzy because their article for the town meeting was not included in the warrant for the special town meeting.  They blamed the Selectmen for withholding the article.

The Worcester Telegram article had only one side to the story, the school committees, and not the selectman's.  Well, as expected, that particular board responded last night.  Tom Creamer left an explanation as to why the article was not included in the warrant.

It was good to read Tom's explanation.  Now, we have both sides to the story, and the information to decide which side of the road we will want to travel:  the school committees, or the selectman's. 

Agreeing with Tom, or the school committee, is not what matters most this evening.  What matters now is that both sides have shared their opinions with us in order for us to make an informed decision.

All part of the process.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

2nd Annual Winter Tree Scavenger Hunt

2nd Annual Winter Tree Scavenger Hunt

Town of Sturbridge 
Conservation Commission

What is this you may ask?

The object of the hunt is to find 10 decorated trees, take your
photo with each tree and email all photos to the Conservation
Commission between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day.

Submit photos with all 10 decorated trees to which will be entered
Into a drawing for the GRAND Prize.

All participants (teams or individuals) will receive a certificate of

Experience and value: Priceless and Fun


• Hein’s Farm Conservation Land, 200 Leadmine Road, Sturbridge
• Free family event that everyone can enjoy at their own pace
• People are introduced to Open Space
• Something fun and unique to promote in Town
• Basically a win-win-win


“Count the Rings Tree” sponsored by the Trails Committee
A cross cut slab section of a large pine tree has been placed at the entrance to the Heins
Farm property. To the person that supplies the correct answer as to how many rings there
are, the Trails Committee will supply a “Trek Sturbridge T Shirt” and a “$100 Gift Certificate
to Bicycle Concepts”.
Keep in mind to use caution on the trails. 
The maps of the trails are available on our Town website at:

One Side Does Not Make A Story; Let's Hear The Rest Of It

I've seen this kind of behavior in town before.  At the moment I don't know exactly who is  at fault, if anybody is, or is it just left over emotional collateral damage from this summers appointment to the School Committee by the Board of Selectmen against the wishes of the School Committee.

According to the School Committee they submitted an article that was to be placed in the town warrant that would have changed the procedure of how vacancies on the school committee would be filled from now on.

“The Board of Selectmen can put it on the town meeting warrant,” School Committee member James P. Ehrhard said. “They did not do it this time. There is no reason to think that they will in June.

The above quote from the Worcester Telegram  was included in an article by Craig Semon.   The article referred to the appointment of Ms. Waters to the school committee by the BOS, and that that particular action, against the school committees wishes, may be the reason the article, submitted to the selectmen for inclusion on the town warrant, was not placed on the warrant.

So far, it is a lot of he said, he said.  What's missing are some facts, and some other voices.

Was the article for the warrant submitted on time, and in the correct format?  Who submitted it?  Was the article written by one person, or by all of those on the school committee?  Who was the article submitted to?  Was it submitted via the mail, in person, faxed, or email?

See, if one is going to make an accusation that the BOS did not add the article to the warrant, and they may not later in 2012, then it lends a nefarious air to the matter without it actually being said, and maybe that is on purpose.  One school committee member did state that in all his years as a selectmen in Wales he could not imagine the BOS denying any other board the right to place an article  on the a warrant.  We don't really know if the BOS denied the school committee from the information we have thus far.

So, the School Committee is upset that their article was not included in the Warrant, we get it, but we still don't have answers to the questions above.  Those answers will add much more to the story.

Oh, and another thing, the article does not have:  an interview with the Sturbridge Selectmen.

Seems that the article was written without completing some basic interviewing.  It is almost as if someone was ticked off, called the reporter, vented, and the reporter wrote the story way too late in the evening to corroborate it, and then, simply emailed it to his editor.  The result was what I read this morning.  A one sided, incomplete story without a word from any member of the Sturbridge Board of Selectmen.  Very obviously one sided.  Intentional or not, still poor form.

In all fairness, no matter how one feels about the situation now, or last summer, we need to hear from the BOS before we can get a true feel for just what happened.

Now, that being said, if the BOS does explain themselves well, then fine, let's move on, and take it the next step in the process.  If the BOS doesn't want to talk about it, gives reasons that are not acceptable, some multi-paragraphed double speak, or just silence, then we can all be a ticked off,  do some venting to the press.

Getting pissed off is only therapeutic, and beneficial,  when all all the facts are in, otherwise one just looks silly.

Believe me, I don't need any outside help in that department.

For the entire article click here.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Tree Lighting On The Common


Sturbridge Recreation Presents

Town Common Tree Lighting

Friday November 25, 2011
6:00 PM


Sturbridge Fire Department


Winter Tree Scavenger Hunt Kick Off

Music by Hart and Harrington