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, February 15, 2012

My Head Hurts From Banging It On The Wall Over And Over Again

Yesterday I received the Board of Selectman meeting minutes for December 5, November 11, October 14.

Not bad.  Those meetings were just  a few months ago.  Typically late, but not bad.

I also received  meeting minutes from July 25, July 18, July 11, July 5, and, wait for it....

...April 4, 2011.

I know.  I have brought this up several times, and you have commented, and commented on how you believe the delay is unacceptable.  We have heard from the Chairman of the Board of Selectman, Tom Creamer,  on December 3rd of this past year, offering his rationale, and his apology, for the repeated, and historic, delays.  I guess he didn't tell the person typing up the minutes.

 "To that point, the release of these finally approved minutes clearly fails to reach the threshold level of reasonable; as such it is in fact truly unacceptable that this situation has manifested. As one member of the Board, I fully accept my share of responsibility for the delay as I could have pressed much harder, much sooner, but quite frankly, I allowed other Town matters - tornadoes, hurricanes, Town concerns that arise daily, Town Meeting preparation, an October nor'easter, etc, to dictate my focus. As all of our meetings are televised, recorded, and replayed daily, I have not been as assertive on this issue as I could have; and for that I will accept full responsibility and no level of other demands upon our time can alter the fact that we failed to ensure the release of the minutes in a timelier manner.
I can say unequivocally that the delay in these meeting minutes being presented to the Board for final approval has been publicly raised on a number of occasions over the last several months - though clearly not in as assertively as it could have been - at least in terms of my approach, as I and another member of the Board have raised this issue publicly and have both characterized this situation during these public discussions as "unacceptable" and one that needed to be corrected "immediately". 

There has been however a lapse of more specific focus on this issue - at least on my part - as I have allowed other Town concerns and challenges to distract my focus away from the minutes. For that, I apologize to you and all residents."

                                                                   Chairman of the Board of Selectman,
                                                                                     Tom Creamer

Today is February 15, 2012.  It has been months since any appreciable snow fell.  More months since the hurricane rolled though, and the tornado hit town.  Although,  much work still needs to be done to recover from those insults, much more has already been done.  The excuse / reason that those storms have distracted the Chairman from following through on timely dissemination of the minutes is no longer valid.

If one cannot keep ones house in order, it is difficult to believe they can keep much else in in order.  Just because we discussed this issue a few times, and a rationale, and apology were offered, it does not mean it is finished.  Not if the same issue continues to go uncorrected.

Take this bit of advice from someone that knows all too well its meaning, 

"Choose your words carefully; they can come back to bite you on the ass."

Mr.Chairman, you may want to put a pillow on your chair today.


  1. They're still asking the TA, who makes a huge salary compared to most of us, to please come in on time, too. Is this a case of just being too nice to people who aren't doing as they should? Should the tax payers be asking why it takes so long to finally get these issues resolved? It seems so.

  2. It's an election year. We don't yell and stomp our feet anymore, or bang your head, Wally! We just vote. If they want to re-elected they will listen to us. If not, goodbye.

  3. Wally, thank you for such a thought provoking post; I am truly appreciative of your concerns regarding local government and our failures, or more specifically, my failure, which I will certainly accept responsiblity for. I would like to add a little feedback in terms of this issue. To be clear, I did not suggest that the weather issues were the only “excuse/reason” for the delay in the minutes being finalized by the Board’s secretary, but rather some of the reasons impacting one’s focus. In addition, I noted that “Town concerns that arise daily” also dictate not only my focus, but that of other Board members and the Board’s secretary, who while reviewing the videos of our meetings, must also address a number of daily town-specific priorities, such as official correspondence, hundreds of licenses, permits other requests, meeting reqests, phone calls from residents, etc. This is not to suggest that we, or more specifically I, have been as diligent on this matter as I could be, but to simply state that the Board is aware of the issue and the Board’s secretary has been diligently reviewing the videos to a point to where she is now nearly caught up.

    continued below...

  4. ...continued from above

    Our meetings, which run 4-5 hours, 4-5 times a month as opposed to 1-2 hours, 1 or two times a month, are quite comprehensive, dealing with a number of issues. To that end, the Board’s secretary has a significant challenge in catching up in terms of final minutes – made much more challenging by the year’s disasters and the amount of work this Board has undertaken on behalf of the community. While the minutes are extremely important in terms of information dissemination, I again must point out that draft minutes are available upon request at the end of each meeting. Those draft minutes – as is the case with all minutes – whether draft or final - need only contain, motions made, votes taken, those Board members present, and a brief summary of discussion. Our final released minutes - as one can attest - are quite detailed and lengthy – well beyond what is required by law as we endeavor to have as full an accounting of our meetings as possible. Additionally, our meetings are televised and rebroadcast repeatedly at our direction so that residents have as much access to our deliberations as possible. For those without cable, requests of the meeting videos are always welcomed and fulfilled. My point is that there is no mystery to what we do and in fact there is greater transparency with this Board than any other public body – locally or otherwise.

    This does not excuse the delay in final minutes, nor am I intending to do so. I will accept full responsibility for the delay as I could be at the office every day demanding they be completed by the next meeting. Instead, I have allowed myself to be distracted by research on the purchase and implementation of a town-wide communications system, economic development, interagency disaster management response, senior issues, requests from Veteran’s, calls from residents about drainage issues, tax bills, water and sewer bills, review of the Open Space Plan, the Master Plan, and Commercial Tourist Revitalization Plan. This in addition to review of solar initiatives, research on municipally-based power options, as well as issues related to each of the committees I serve on or as liaison to, such as the Public Lands Advisory Committee, the Sturbridge Tourist Association, the Planning Board, BOH (Board of Health), Cable Advisory Committee, Conservation Commission, the Trails Committee, Design Review Committee and the Town Clerk’s office. In addition I am the Board’s representative to the Central Massachusetts Regional Planning Commission and the Western MA Casino Task Force. All of this entails a great deal of research on issues facing the town so that one can be as informed as possible in the deliberative process. Other members of the Board equally have an incredible balancing act with their committee/liaison assignments requiring their full attention as well.

    Again, this is not to suggest excuses for not making meeting minutes the highest priority, but merely to provide valid reasons why I and others can be distracted in our focus as it relates to what is the highest priority of any given day. As I am the Chairman, I accept full responsibility and will direct an email to the Board’s secretary aimed at further expediting the process. In terms of the “pillow”, I hope you won’t be offended if I pass on that, as I believe that no pillow is required when one is honest, open, accessible, and maintains accountability, even when it results in periodic failures.

    Thank you.

  5. Tom, as always, thank your for your quick response.

    I believe you are confusing administrative duties, and the duties of a selectman, which are many. You are not the one recording the minutes, typing them, and submitting them for approval, but you must be sure all of that is done as chairman.

    This is a simple fix for a very simple matter, Tom. Minutes should be out within 2 weeks of the meeting. Not ten months. Recorded, typed, and approved. It is part of the process. The amount of other work before the selectman does not delay, or replace work that is an integral part of the board, it only adds to it. If there is not policy in place to insure it, then write one, and put a procedure in place to insure it is done effectively.

    No one ever said what you do is easy, but when something is broken, it must be addressed , and fixed. Period. Absolutely no excuses. None. Otherwise, if something this simple, is not attended to, what are people to think when bigger issue are taken on?

    Thanks for responding, Tom.

  6. The Selectmen's Secretary doesn't even attend meetings anymore. She used to be there taking the minutes but now she transcribes them from the dvd. Maybe she should start attending meetings again because what she's doing now doesn't work.


  8. Thanks Wally,

    I might add though, as previously stated, the issue has been addressed with the administrative staff and they are working on this issue. Important to note however, is that I did not offer any "excuses", in fact, I clearly accepted full responsibility for my failure to prioritize the minutes to the same level of other pressing concerns. Equally, I offered reasons that have impacted my prioritization on the administrative aspect of meeting minutes, while offering reasons as to the delay on her end.

    As it relates to your concerns about the larger issues, I am fairly confident that I and other members of the Board are clearly addressing those larger issues in a very exhaustive and substantive manner. We are fortunate to have an incredibly engaged Board that turns not away from challenges, but rather directly engages them as evidenced by the number of issues we have brought to closure during one of the most demanding periods in our town's history.

    At any rate, I have emailed the Board's secretary as promised and once again, as I stated earlier, she is nearing the closure point on outstanding minutes. Thus, to suggest the issue has not been "attended to" when - as I stated earlier she has been focusing a significant amount of attention on finishing them - is less than fully accurate.

    Your concerns are important ones and duly noted. To that end, I will continue to endeavor to see this issue brought to closure. I believe there is nothing further I can add to the issue and again thank you for your concerns in terms of any failures on my end.

  9. If Tom talked less at the meetings the minutes would be shorter and therefore done faster !

  10. Oh, come on. Have you watched the meetings in the past year or so? One of the women on the BOS talks more than all of the rest of them combined, including Tom.

  11. I watch the meetings and the reason theyre long is cause stuff gets done. Every selectperson gets time to talk. And some like Mary Doweling talk and talk. But mostly the reason is every resident gets to talk without getting shut down. Who can forget Mary Blanchard shutting up everyone she didnt agree with. Now residents can go with no fear of Queen Mary telling em its time to move on when she doesnt agree.

  12. Tom,

    Currently, I have no concerns about the larger matters. They are being handled. My concern today is for a petty matters that is being overlooked, and repeatedly not being addressed.

    When we receive April 2011 meeting minutes in February 2012 it doesn't take a genius to see that the issue has not been addressed, and if it was, it wasn't done well.

    Thanks for your attention to the matter, Tom.

  13. Tom Creamer is a "right" fighter. He'll take full responsibility and then adds "but" and continues on with excuses. I truly believe that he thinks he is the only Selectmen who does anything, read his blog on some of his "accomplishments", makes you wonder why we have a TA and 4 other Selectmen. Does Tom have some good points, yes many as long as his ego doesn't get in the way.

  14. What wrong with this picture? One guy would rather bang his head against the wall than simply ask for minutes. Why? Call me crazy but usually if people want something bad enough they ask for it. If you’ve got time to write about something so minor why not write an email asking for drafts? Guess it’s easier to complain than do something that works. Same nonsense we’re getting from the occupy wall street people? Want everything hand delivered to them without working for it. Then we get 2 someones called “anonymous” that say just about the same thing. 1 with caps, 1 without caps and we’re supposed to think it’s 2 different people. SURE, I BUY THAT - NOT. Who cares how long the meetings are? They don’t get paid a penny for what they do so it’s not costing you any. You can always watch something else can’t you? Watch MSNBC or replays of last year’s high school graduation. Let these people do their jobs for cripe sakes…things are going pretty darn good in this town for once and it’s no accident.

  15. Well, that's a leap!Thursday, February 16, 2012

    Enough already said: "...Same nonsense we’re getting from the occupy wall street people? Want everything hand delivered to them without working for it..."
    WHAT? Does he or she really believe that the folks who are attempting to represent a huge majority of the people in this country are themselves nothing but a lazy lot of losers waiting for a handout???

    Well, fair is fair, so I guess I should feel justified to say that the very high earners in this world make their money off the backs of the multitudes of working stiffs.
    Let's face it, there are rich cheaters and poor cheaters. There are also honest rich people and honest poor people.
    This from the Bible: "Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." King James Bible (Cambridge Ed.)
    Who is doing what to whom in this country? The Occupy Movement people have every right, as well as a sense of obligation to ask for fairness for all.

    What does this have to do with Tom Creamer, who as I see it, does work very hard for this community. Wally merely asked a question about the minutes from the BOS meetings. It's a fair question, to which he got a reply. They are both well-intended gentlemen, and I have never heard either of them paint every member of a group with the same brush - as "enough already" just did. To "enough already," I say too much, already!

  16. No, I wouldn't rather bang my head. It's an expression. What I would like is meeting minutes from the same year as the meeting. I have "asked" for the minutes by subscribing to them, but there lies part of the problem.

    Anyway, it's a simple thing. I am sure it will be worked out.


  17. The lack of available meeting minutes is not just a Selectmen issue. If you look, there are no meeting minutes since October 2011 for the Community Preservation Committee. The Conservation Commission stopped posting public minutes in July 2011. The last time meeting minutes were posted for the Finance Committee was November 2011.

    There needs to be a TOWN POLICY, which says that all minutes must be completed, posted and turned into the Town Clerk within two weeks, three weeks maximum, of the meeting in which the minutes represent.

    Tom, can Selectmen do that please? And if employees or volunteers do not want to abide, then please, go work or volunteer elsewhere - NO MORE EXCUSES.

  18. The good thing is that written meeting minutes are available. The bad thing is we have to wait so long for them to appear. The good thing is the meetings are recorded live and played back many times during the period until the next meeting. The bad thing is the audio is of such poor quality that it's generally impossible to hear/understand much of what is said. And any visual aids presented are solely for those who attend the meetings in person as they do not display well, if at all, in the meeting video. At that's just for Selectmens meetings. The video record of school board and other commission meetings are really a waste of video recording staff and resources as they aren't worth watching for any understanding of what's transpiring.

    Seems like we need better microphones, better sound engineering (room acoustics leave a lot to be desired), and a way to display visuals either by linking Power Points directly into the video recording or have a dedicated video camera that is a capable of capturing maps and drawings set on an easel.


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