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
Saturday, March 31, 2012
Are We Really Recovering?
CPA and Long-Term Debt Disclosure
Wednesday, March 28, 2012
Celebrate Earth Day: Volunteer at a trail near you!
April traditionally brings on the first of several trail volunteer opportunities and this year is no different. Celebrate Earth Day, April 21st, by volunteering at one of several area trail projects. Donations and support for this volunteer trail day in the form of drinking water and food for lunch are welcome. Youth groups, families, service organizations are all welcome to participate. Pre registration is requested to allow for proper planning of projects, logistical support and to maximize the work organization. The various contact names and emails are listed below.
The Sturbridge Trail Committee: Trail locator sign post installation at Heins Farm. Trail locator posts need to be installed that will be marked with a special number, much like a street address, that can be referenced if there is an emergency on the trail. The public safety office will have these locator numbers with specific direction so dispatchers can quickly direct the appropriate response.
The Holland Trail Committee: Preparing the Holland / Brimfield Connector trail for final surfacing. Activities will include grading, raking, shoveling, brush cutting, culvert clearing, and litter removal.
The Brimfield Trail Committee: 5K trail race cleanup volunteers will inspect and help clean up and mark the 5K trail race set for the following Saturday.
The Southbridge Trail Committee: Shoulder stabilization and trail tread improvements to a section of the Westville Community trail.
U S Army Corps of Engineers: Lake Shoreline & River trail Cleanup: Much tornado debris was deposited in the waters of the East Brimfield Lake and the area’s first nationally designated Recreation Water trail, the Quinebaug River. Boats and canoes are needed to patrol the shoreline and river trail to pick up any remaining debris.
Meeting locations and contact information to register:
Sturbridge Trail Committee: Heins Farm Parking lot, 197 Leadmine Rd and
The OSV Access Rd trail head parking lot, 10 Old Sturbridge Village Rd
To register: email: Randy Redetzke at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 508-347-6340
Brimfield Trail Committee: 207 Five Bridge Rd., Trail Head parking lot
To register: email: Tony Bys at: email@example.com or call: 413-563-3564
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers: 24 Riverview Ave, Fiskdale Ma.
To register: email: Thomas.firstname.lastname@example.org call: 508-347-3705
Holland Trail Committee: Quinebaug River Trail Head parking lot, Pond Bridge Rd.
To register: email Dick Haller at email@example.com or call: 413 245-7745
Southbridge Trail Committee: Westville Lake Project Office, 200 Marjorie Lane,
To register: email Scott Benoit at, firstname.lastname@example.org or email: Thomas.email@example.com or call: 508-347-3705
Sunday, March 25, 2012
The Sunday Morning Muse
I have had two iPhone 3G's sitting on the kitchen counter for about three months. Just sitting there. I've donated phones to the troops in the past, but I seriously doubt the troops are happy to get five year old cell phones, so donating a very dated iPhone didn't sound like the best thing to do either.
So, there they sat.
Gazelle.com. They commercial stated that if I went to the site, gave some information about the old phones that they would buy them from me.
Woohoo!! Cash money!! Somalians for the iPhones!!
Gazelle.com got a visit from me that day. I answered some questions about the phone, and yes, it was one of the ones they accepted, and yes it it was in good shape they would pay me $43.00 for each one!
$43.00! They only cost me $99.00 two and a half years ago. That means the iPhones were going to end up costing me $0.06 a day for the past 30 months.
Six cents a day!
Gazelle.com sent me a package containing a box , and a postage paid shipping label for me to send them the phones. Once in their hands they would confirm its condition, and if it was what I said it was they would send along a check for $43.00 for each one of the phones. Friday we received the checks.
Now, enjoy your coffee, and after you read this, round up your old cell phones, and go check out gazelle.com. They may have a tank of gas waiting for you.
Saturday, March 24, 2012
How In The World Can The Town Change The Wording Of The CPA Revocation Pettion On The Ballot To Meet Their Needs? Easy, They Can't, But They Did
On Monday nights during Selectmen’s meetings, Sturbridge citizens hear that we should question government, vote at Town Meetings, and participate in citizen’s forums – 'this is the people’s Town Hall.' The political jargon is overwhelming at times – but all those statements ring true to us because they echo our Constitution – it’s what we WANT to hear and believe. But when it comes right down to it – do they REALLY mean it?
The following is the perfect illustration of how our local government has usurped the power of the people – when this kind of stuff happens, it doesn’t matter whether you vote at Town Meeting or question government. In this particular case, two of the petitioners proactively approached Selectmen on February 6th to ask that Town Counsel write the CPA ballot question, now known as Question 4 on the upcoming Town Election. We asked to be placed on their agenda, so they knew we were coming and they had time to research our request. However, they denied allowing Town Counsel to write the ballot question, saying it would “cost money” while also setting a precedent for other petitioners who want to bring ballot questions to Town Elections. They recommended that we find our own attorney and we did so because we had no other choice – we wanted RESIDENTS to decide if they want to revoke or keep the CPA.
Our ballot question was completely NEUTRAL. As written on the petition that 365 people signed, it simply reversed the question asked of voters in the original 2001 ballot question written by Town Counsel when the CPA was adopted in Sturbridge. However, we learned a couple days ago that Town Counsel has REWRITTEN our ballot question; the last two sentences in that rewrite read: "Rescission of the CPA will mean that the Town will not collect the surcharge or matching funds from the state. Note, however, that even after the CPA is revoked, the surcharge will continue to be assessed until such time as any contractual obligations incurred by the Town under the CPA have been satisfied, including the payment of debt service."
That wording above above was NOT included in the 2001 ballot question written by Town Counsel, nor is it mentioned in any other ballot questions used by other communities who have tried to revoke the CPA. There are many underhanded things that politicians can do; but this one is pretty egregious. They’ve spent the money on Town Counsel they said they didn’t want spend when we asked them to write the ballot question; they rewrote our NEUTRAL ballot question without our knowledge; and the rewrite includes that “Rescission …” sentence, which we view as an absolute outright lie. In addition to all that, this rewrite also means that every single one of those 365 residents will get something completely different than what they signed on to – a completely NEUTRAL question on the ballot. The town didn’t tell anyone about this – we just found out by accident, thanks to Paul Roy’s series of articles about the CPA in The Examiner: http://www.examiner.com/tea-party-in-boston/sturbridge-and-the-community-preservation-act-part-1. And what is most sad and pathetic, is when we questioned the Town Administrator as to why our NEUTRAL ballot question was rewritten and on what legal grounds did they do so, we received a precisely imprecise response, which is pasted in below:
From: "Shaun Suhoski"
To: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
Cc: "Lorraine Murawski"
Date: 03/23/2012 02:48:30 EDT
Subject: Ballot Question #4
Dear Carol and Dave,
You have each queried me about the "summary" printed to accompany ballot question #4 (the CPA revocation question). Town Counsel has reviewed the statutory requirements, conferred with appropriate authorities at the Mass. DOR and State Elections Division, and remains convinced the language is proper.
I have also reviewed the language as a lay person and find it to be an unbiased, concise summary. I plan no further action on this matter.
Thank you for sharing your concerns.
Shaun A. Suhoski
Town of Sturbridge
308 Main Street, Town Hall
Sturbridge, MA 01566
(508) 347-5886 (fax)
NOTE: EMAILS MAY BE CONSIDERED A PUBLIC RECORD.
ü Please consider the environment before printing this email.
bc: board of selectmen
Regarding that sentence in the rewritten ballot question that begins with “Rescission…” Following is an e-mail from the MA Department of Revenue, which has regulatory authority over the CPA. It is from Attorney Kathleen Colleary, Chief, Bureau of Municipal Finance Law, Division of Local Services, MA Department of Revenue, dated February 27, 2012:
"If the CPA is revoked, an analysis must be made to determine the fund's obligations and the amount of uncommitted monies available to meet them. The statute provides that the surcharge must continue to be assessed in order to accumulate the necessary funds to meet those obligations.G.L.c.44B,§16(b). In that regard, note that the town will also continue to get state trust fund distributions in any fiscal year after a year in which it assesses a surcharge. For example, if the last year assessed in FY13, the town would get a distribution in Oct. 2013 (FY14) based on the FY13 surcharge collections.
Once the CPA is revoked, the community must wrap up the fund. The CPA is no longer operational except to the extent that (1) fund obligations must be met and (2) any uncommitted monies available after reserving the monies needed to meet those obligations must still be appropriated for CPA purposes. The town's legislative body may appropriate those remaining funds for CPA purposes, alone or in combination with other financing sources, as it determines."
Kathleen Colleary, Chief
Bureau of Municipal Finance Law
Division of Local Services
Massachusetts Department of Revenue
With that statement, the Department of Revenue (DOR), which is the agency with regulatory authority over the CPA, says the surcharge continues, the revenues from the surcharge continue, and the matching funds continue. We got that same information from a couple different sources at DOR, not just a single source.
Remember when Sturbridge citizens adopted the CPA in 2002, we were told we could revoke it after 5 years? Everywhere you look, you will find all kinds of information about how to ADOPT the CPA, but there is no detailed information about how to REVOKE it. We’ve read the Community Preservation Act and the Department of Revenue’s Implementation Guidelines cover to cover; and we’ve made numerous phone calls and e-mails to state officials.
Most importantly, we followed the law and requested that Selectmen hire Town Counsel to write our CPA ballot question as required by the State Elections Division at the Secretary of State’s office. Selectmen denied us that right, they denied our right to due process, and they used sabotage and subterfuge to turn our NEUTRAL ballot question into a confusing, illusory piece of legalese. Therefore, we have come to the conclusion that our rights, our choices, our voices – it’s all an illusion unless Selectmen AGREE with the issue – so much for having the right to choose how we spend our own money; and let’s not even go there about questioning government.
Don't be fooled: if you want to control spending, pay down the debt, and bring the CPA back at some point in the future, perhaps with a lower surcharge percentage, VOTE YES on Question 4.
Tuesday, March 13, 2012
- When a plan is made to purchase a tract of land, or preserve a bit of history, the entire plan is to be laid out. All of it. Every iota of the plan, and every bit of the arguments, explanations, and reasons for every part of the plan. The plan should always include comparisons with other methods in order for the voter to make an informed decision. Single pane vs. multi pane windows, passive vs. active recreation. You know the drill. Surprises should never be the epilogue to the best intentioned plans.
- The plan, and cost, for maintaining the land, or building preservation should always be spelled out with the original plan. Will volunteers always be responsible for maintaining the land, or will the town actually form a paid Parks Department, and proper explanations for both. Again, there should be no surprises later on.
- And, finally, how is the project being paid for? Town funds with 75-100% matching state funds? That's easy. Go for it. Town funds with only 30% matching state funds, and paying for the project with a surcharge on property values over many, many years? One needs to think twice about these choices.
- If the project is worthy, and the money, or method of payment is not there, or feasible, then move on. You may want an indoor swimming pool at your home, or drive a $100,000 car, but unless you have the money in savings, a rich uncle, or a way to raise the cash without costing you a lot more over time, then rein it in, and change your plans.
Wednesday, March 7, 2012
It is now that the sap is running in the maples, and dripping into buckets around town. Although, we aren't a leader in syrup production, we do alright. It's a good feeling to seek out, and buy a local product instead of pulling an imported one off the shelf at Shaw's.
Mud season is exactly that. The frozen ground melting as the suns angle increases, and is more in our favor. Soon, the mud begins to dry, the puddles seep below the turf, and the buds begin to form on the trees.
Be alert. Look for the signs of the change. When you see them, it is like a tonic after a long winter with signs of life mostly hidden from view.
A different bird in the garden, small plants showing themselves through the mud, the smell of wet soil, and later, as the air warms a bit more, the peepers announce the official start of life renewed to us each evening.
A short, and simple season, but one with the most promise.
Be alert. Look for the signs.