Autumn in the North Cemetery.

Sixty miles west of Boston, Massachusetts there is the small New England town of Sturbridge. Located at the junction of I-90 (The Mass Pike), and I-84 it has become known as the "Crossroads of New England". The town was first settled over 300 years ago, and like other small New England towns it has grown just enough over the years to be in a difficult place today. How do we embrace the future without forgetting how we got to our present? How do we attract the right kind of growth, and maintain who we are? And, what about our culture out here in Central Massachusetts?

These pages will cause one to think about how to protect what we have, our future direction, and how to move on in the very best way.

Those thoughts, and other ramblings, will hopefully inspire more thought, conversation, action, and occasionally a smile...

...seems to be working so far

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Don't Feed The Unhappy

I received the email posted below from a town official yesterday.  It intended to set the record straight regarding a bit of town business, Article 48.  Many of you may have received the same email.  At the recent Special Town Meeting it was voted to postpone any action on the article until the next scheduled Town Meeting on December 5 at 7:00 PM, but apparently there are a "handful of adults" whose behavior demonstrated that moving the date to act on the Article was a sham.  The article would remain intact, and all that was changing was the day on which to vote on it.  I really appreciate the energy, and need to set folks straight, I really do, but sometimes we go way too far to satisfy the unhappy than we would ever do for the reasonable.


There will always be a few that will feel that no matter what is done it is unfair, against them, and a "sham".  If nothing will change except the date, then they should calm down, take a deep breath, and hold it until the next meeting.  Maybe then those adults will pass out,  miss the meeting, and business can carry on without their whining.

The email went on to acknowledge the "disconnect" was due to emotional, physical, and spiritual distress over the past year here in town due to the meteorological events we have all been slammed with.

No.  I don't agree.  We all experienced the past years events, but we all did not disconnect.  Meltdown, yes, but for the most part we are all stable.

No, it's just that some folks do this.  They feel that no matter what the action is being taken that there must be a reason behind it that does not support their agenda.  These folks have always been here, and always will.  All one can do is offer up the reasons behind the move, hope it sinks in, and move on.  Most often that's all it takes.

Don't feed the fire.  If the group wants to address it more, then they can do so on the floor at the next Special Town Meeting.

Word of caution, though, they shouldn't go on and on, and on about it.  All that will do will extend the night, and who knows, maybe the vote would have to be postponed again to the next night.

Now, that would be something this  "stressed out" town would appreciate a lot, a bit of humorous karma.



Email posted below:

Greetings All, 

Recent correspondence sent to the Board of Selectmen suggesting that the BOS, the Town Moderator, and in some cases the Finance Committee, engaged in collusion to “sham” voters out of an opportunity to vote on a particular article of interest, specifically Article 48, merits my response as one member of the Board - acting solely in my capacity as an individual elected official. This correspondence is not meant to reflect the view of the BOS, nor suggest such. It stems solely from the disquieting behavior by a handful of adults at the most recent Town Meeting, as well as the vitriolic correspondence directed at the BOS, which in my view reflects a disconnect by some from fact or logic.

There is little doubt that for most, though not all in attendance that one could attest much of this "disconnect" to the unrelenting physical, emotional, and spiritual stress we have endured since the challenges of a 52” snow accumulation during a 3-week period last winter, followed by a tornado, a hurricane and ultimately an October Nor’easter, which resulted in power outages lasting 8 days. Clearly, such events play an integral role in testing the patience and adaptability of every one of us; we are all subject to limitations in terms of what we can reasonably withstand. That said it is important to note that we are all still part of a community and the need for balance, compassion, empathy, and reason must not be sacrificed nor jettisoned during times of stress as it provides fertile ground for the birth of illogical and non-factual reasoning.

There now exists a viewpoint that the BOS conspired with the Town Moderator and to a lesser degree the Finance Committee to “rob” voters of an opportunity to vote on Article 48, an article that many in attendance were in favor of, by requesting a 4 week recess. When one considers that the majority vote of the BOS by a 4-0-1 majority favor Article 48 and that the Finance Committee voted 4-3 in favor of Article 48, does it not then defy logic that these two entities whose majority votes clearly support Article 48, would then conspire to rob residents of a chance to vote on something that these two Board’s majorities support? Does it not also defy logic to suggest that if this were a “sham” perpetrated by the Town Moderator and myself that the majority members of the BOS and the FinCom would not have soundly and quickly intervened? To argue that two public bodies, who by majority vote favor Article 48, would engage in collusion to “rob” themselves of something they support, or allow a sole member to do so, clearly defies logic.

Additionally, some have suggested that the motion was pre-determined and secretly decided. Well, the motion itself was "pre-determined" in that the BOS by unanimous consent, authorized me during a publicly televised meeting on Friday, November 4 to offer the motion, which was reported in a news story the following day. Equally, a Public Service Announcement that I emailed to over 700 residents on Saturday, Nov 5, titled Power Outage Update & Special Town Meeting specifically stated that “The Board of Selectmen has voted to support a motion seeking an adjournment (postponement) of this meeting for approximately 30 days”.  Thus, to suggest something secretive or nefarious was afoot in terms of this motion is simply inconsistent with the facts and logic. Equally, to believe this occurred, despite the fact that it was publicly discussed, televised, reported in the news and emailed to over 700 residents, one would have to conclude that the majority viewpoint members of the BOS and FinCom were involved in a level of collusion to defeat themselves. Is this a logical presumption?

As it relates to the allegations that the Town Moderator did not open the meeting consistent with Parliamentary Procedure, this again is inconsistent with the facts. Parliamentary Procedure, of which I am well-schooled, dictates that in order to “open” a meeting, the Moderator must first determine the presence of a quorum and if present “call the meeting to order”. There are no additional requirements. In Sturbridge, there is no “quorum” threshold for Town Meeting beyond the required presence of the Town Moderator and the Town Clerk. Thus, if those two entities are present, the meeting requirements have been met and the Town Meeting may proceed once called to order.

Additionally, some argue that the vote was close and should have been counted on the floor. Though from my position on the stage it was clear the Town Moderator’s declaration was consistent with the vote, the simple fact is that no one spoke to that issue, nor did they challenge that vote until the results had been announced and the meeting adjourned. I specifically heard the Town Moderator ask several times if anyone else wanted to speak before the vote beyond the one resident who did raise her hand and approach the microphone spoke. There was no response, nor any movement towards the microphone. Immediately after the count was announced, I clearly heard the Town Moderator ask if there was “any other business to come before this body”. Again, there was no response, beyond some inaudible grumbling in the rear, despite the fact that there were plenty of regular attendees at the meeting fully familiar with the process and their ability to intervene with a motion or substitute motion. 

With nothing forthcoming from the Legislative Branch, the Town Moderator adjourned the meeting. It is at this point that the yelling, screaming, and vitriolic attacks of a few individuals surfaced and were directed at the Town Moderator and the BOS while children sat in amazement watching this “model” behavior from adult mentors. Sadly, when one considers that this all manifested out of a motion designed to demonstrate compassion and empathy for those on both sides of the issue who had indicated a need for additional time to physically and emotionally recover from this most recent storm, one is left wondering just how deeply this past year has injured our community.

Finally, despite charges to the contrary, the Town Moderator did not have a pre-conceived determination, nor did he misrepresent the count. Though he and I have disagreed openly on issues, I have never witnessed him pre-determine any vote. In fact, his approach is fairly consistent in terms of his Moderation of our Town Meetings. For those residents of this community who feel the need to express misplaced anger or blame for whatever misguided reason one might maintain, then let it be directed at me as I made the motion; thus it began with me. It is illogical and simply wrong to cast dispersions on the BOS and accuse them, the Town Moderator or the Finance Committee of any nefarious acts as the majority of them are in support of Article 48. Any objective and logical consideration of Monday’s meeting could only conclude that there is no “conspiracy”, no attempt to “thwart the will of the people” and no attempt to “steal democracy”. Again, I respectfully request that you direct your anger at me for having the "audacity" of making such a motion; a motion by the way that I have no reservations about having made, as I place integrity, principles, transparency, compassion and empathy above political expediency.  

Now, recognizing that Article 48 will not change in the next four weeks, nor the support it enjoys from the majority of BOS/FinCom members, one is hopeful that we can reflect upon this past Monday and realize that nothing was taken in terms of your ability to address the Town Meeting Warrant; it will all be there for your consideration on December 5, at 7:00 PM. One could argue however that perhaps the pressures of this past year have exhausted some of our patience and compassion; that is certainly understandable. Hopefully, the next few weeks will provide us all the opportunity to recover.



Thomas R. Creamer
Sturbridge Board of Selectmen

Town of Sturbridge
308 Main Street
Sturbridge, MA 01566

Mobile: 774-696-0903
Fax: 615-634-0903


  1. The world according to Tom.......he does put a different spin on it!

  2. I wish to publicly apolgize to the Town Administrator, Town Counsel, Board of Selectmen, Finance Committe, Town Clerk and Town Monderator for my outburst at the November 7th Special Town Meeting. No matter how I felt that the 213 residents who made the effort to attend the meeting were disrespected, it gave me no right to yell at the people on stage. For this outburst I apologize.


    Ginger Peabody

  3. Part 1: I agree with you Wally; there were a few people at Town Meeting who behaved badly. It’s probably a good thing that the meeting was postponed because I believe that bad behavior was just a hint of what will probably take place on December 5. When Ms. Peabody talks about the 213 people who "were disrespected" on November 7th, perhaps she can understand that the voters who attended the 2004 Town Meeting - 138 of them in favor to 5 not in favor - who voted to purchase the Shepard parcel for conservation purposes, are now being disrespected via Article 48.

    As you say, Wally, Article 48 will not change between now and then; it was just delayed a bit, so what’s the big deal? If you will indulge me, I wish to expand on what Article 48 is really meant to accomplish.

    Article 48 paves the way for the Shepard parcel to be converted a different use, that being active recreation. It was purchased in 2004 for conservation purposes using Community Preservation Act funding (that’s the 3% surcharge we all pay on top of our property taxes) and voters legally placed the property under the management and control of the Conservation Commission. In addition, in accordance with the law, all CPA-acquired parcels are required to have permanent Conservation Restrictions on them. The 2/3rds supermajority vote was 138/5 in favor at 2004 Town Meeting, and I was in the audience. During that Town Meeting, never once was recreation fields mentioned; nor was it discussed before, during, or after the purchase, until 2006, when the Shepard parcel was plucked from the inventory of conservation properties and targeted for active recreation. There is not one shred of evidence that the Shepard parcel was intended to be anything except conservation land.

    Rather, Article 48 is an attempt by some town officials to shoehorn in a use that was not originally intended to be there; it completely disregards and disrespects that 2004 vote – residents should be outraged at these actions. Voters should be outraged that none of the parcels acquired with CPA funds have permanent restrictions on them either – we have been led to believe these properties were for natural resource protection and conservation purposes, but in fact, some town officials think they can do with them what they please. Please see Part 2.

  4. Part 2: What kind of “active recreation” are we talking about? A multi-sports complex to the tune of $2,500,000 and that’s just on Shepard parcel. These are not little ballfields for the kids next door; these are expensive tournament-type, regulation-sized fields. The idea behind the aggressive November 7th meeting was to have as many jock-types there as possible, who don’t usually attend town meetings, so their votes can dominate. They don’t give a hang about others in town who may be struggling to make ends meet – they just want those fields.

    There are two parts to this project: the Shepard parcel is only half of the project that is being planned. The existing Town Barn Fields are also being redesigned, and the last cost estimate I heard at a Selectmen’s meeting for both projects was $6,000,000. Can you say “bocce court?”

    Sure, Article 48 seems benign – there’s no mention of a financial burden. But then again, have you heard anything at all about these $6,000,000 fields?

    Most recently, residents have had opportunities to attend public hearings about the PAYT program; the West Nile Virus and mosquito spraying; the $117,000 Master Plan; and even about the Trails Master Plan, which some say can build an ecotourism base in Sturbridge. So why has there been no information disseminated to voters about these $6,000,000 fields? Here’s my forecast for what will happen: there will be no public forums or hearings – I think residents are going to be presented with three warrant articles at the 2012 Town Meeting that breaks the $6,000,000 cost into three development phases, so that the burden of heaping these projects on taxpayers seems not so heavy.

    The last snow storm put the town into deficit spending: $1,800,000 was spent to clean up after the storm. The town will be reimbursed some of that by FEMA. But…what if? What if the town has another natural disaster? Have we planned for that? Can the town afford to spend even $1,000,000 on recreation fields? Where will the funding come from to pay for them? That’s the kind of information that taxpayers should have in advance of town meeting.

    But if that 2012 Town Meeting is stacked and packed with aggressive sports fields fans like the November 7th meeting, you can be sure that Sturbridge will have some new recreational fields, thanks to all of us force-fed unsuspecting taxpayers.


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