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, July 26, 2012

This Time, I'm Stumped

The simple act of pulling someone aside, having a few words in private with them, and then moving on, could solve so many problems.

The act of speaking to another, without an audience, and to lay the issues on the line, shows that the need for correction is important enough to mention, and it is not being mentioned for the benefit an audience would give the person in charge.

This can be called sincerity, and it is a very effective, and essential part of leadership.

Seeking an explanation, offering a warning, and laying out a plan of correction is always Plan A.  When it does fall onto the pages of the local paper, then something has gone awry with one of the parties involved.  Initially, it should never get that far unless the problem is very severe.

When the person with the most power in their pocket wants to remind folks of that fact, then grand issues are made of smaller ones.  It also happens when the person being reprimanded is resistant to working with those in charge.

Now, there are times when one is left without much of a choice, and a punishment must be handed down, and if done appropriately, it should correct, and prevent future issues.  If done inappropriately, or in a way as to exert ones authority, or if the person at fault is just pissed off at being spoken to, then it will end very differently from what both parties want.  Termination, or quiting, just opens up another problem, and that is filling the void left by the exit.

It happened here in town recently.  I don't profess to know anything more than what I have read in the papers about this specific issue, but what I do know is that the manner in which an issue is handled is the key to a successful conclusion.  It may have been handled in a good way in the beginning , and evolved into what looked like something else in the papers later on.  We'll never know.
Unless the public is made aware of ALL the history behind an issue, the public will listen to rumor and innuendo, half heard conversations, make up reasons on their own, and place the blame where they feel it should go, not where it should go.  Whether the powers that be are right, or wrong, without full disclosure, that is just how things go.  Always has.

It would be nice to know for once what the real issue is when it was first discovered, and how it was initially handled.  Sometimes, the action at the end does not fit the picture, and  in this case the action was quitting.

That's what I'm thinking this morning.  What would cause one to quit ones position after a one day suspension?  Was it the way in which they were treated in regards to the issue, or was it only the tip of the iceberg, and getting out while the getting was good was the only way?

Now, I don't think we will ever really know, because personnel matters aren't discussed in public here in town I've been told, they're simply hinted at in the newspapers.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

It's Time To Break The Cycle

"Groundhog Day" is a classic Bill Murray movie that shows just how ones life can be repeated over and over again until that person finds the secret to breaking the cycle.  Each day is the same as the last.  Every conversation is the same.  Anticipating what is about to happen, or be said, and then throwing a wrench into the works is the only entertainment Bill Murray's character has for the longest time until he realizes that a significant change had to be made in himself.

Tom Chamberland, our Tree Warden, is not like the Bill Murray's character, but he sure knows how it feels to be preaching the same thing over, and over for years, only to see his words not heeded, and his prophecies come true time and time again.

Below is a newspaper article from December 17, 1996, not Halloween Weekend of 2011.

When a town has an expert in it's midst, an expert that they hire, they need to take seriously the opinions for which they pay that expert, and take the information to the next step.  If that had been done consistently, with a well drawn out plan between the town and National Grid, the power outages of last falls storm would have been minimal, and for significantly less than the week it was.

Listen to those that know more, and act accordingly, otherwise you may spend each day celebrating the groundhog.

(Click here if the image below is unavailable)

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Finally, Renovation Land Is Closed

I alluded to a bit of trouble in Renovation Land last month.  The dumpster was in the driveway for so long many of you assumed that it had become a permanent part of the house.  Today I am able to report that despite all the trouble, screw ups, and snafu's that the project is now complete.

I think.   Well, I hope so.  Yeah, it's complete.

We would not even be finished today without the assistance of the Town of Sturbridge Department of Inspectional Services.

You see, the first plumber the general contractor, Sturdy Home Improvement, had hired was a nice guy, but after a couple of days he never showed up again, and I think I know why, he screwed up the works but good.  He also told me that he had to get a rough plumbing inspection, and they only inspected on Wednesdays and Fridays, and he was waiting for a call back.  He told me he had left several messages.

So we waited.

A couple of days stretched into a few.  A call or two to the general contractor without any results.  A week went by, and then two.  The project was stalled.  Without a rough plumbing inspection the framing could not be inspected and completed, and that meant the drywall could not be installed.  Finally, I had had enough.  I drove up to the Center School Offices to inquire about the inspection myself.  Why was it taking so long?

It was the Friday before Memorial Day, and the office was closed.

I was bummed beyond belief.  I moped home, and delivered the news to Mary when she got home.  She was not happy.  (shudder).

The first business day, after the holiday, I returned to the Center School Offices, and met a lovely person at the office, her name is Lesley Wong.  I asked her what the hold up with the inspection was, and she looked at me as if I was crazy.  Most people do.  Lesley knew nothing of the inspection.  No calls were ever received, and they do inspections every day, not just two days per week.

I had been had by the Disappearing Plumber.  The job was stalled for two weeks because of a plumber that had been leaving messages at an old telephone number for a former inspector.

Did the General Contractor follow up?  Of course, not.  There was little communication between the general contractors office and us.  I don't think they have a company phone, and only use whoever's cell phone has the most minutes left.

Lesley called Peter Starkus, the new plumbing and gas inspector for Sturbridge.  He had been on the job for about seven months, and he confirmed that no inspections were ever called for.  I guess the dejected, puppy dog look I was giving was enough for Lesley to ask the inspector when was the soonest he could inspect the plumbing.

"I'll meet him at his house in an hour", he said.

That fast, and the issue was settled.  Peter Starkus arrived at our house in less than an hour.  He took a break from a job that he was working on to take care of our needs.  He inspected every inch of the plumbing.  In just about an hour from the time I had walked into the offices and met Lesley, I had the inspection completed, and we were ready for the framing inspection.  A new plumber was now on the job, a new permit pulled, the new plumber spent his time correcting all the mistakes the first one had done, and I ordered new parts to replace the ones Plumber Number One had ruined.

If only the missing plumber had not kept calling the wrong number, and had called the Wong number we would have never lost those two weeks.

A few days later I stopped by the office again and asked about the framing inspection.  Dave Lindberg, the Building Commissioner, and I talked for awhile.  He was understanding about how the delays affected the job, and wanted to do what he could to get us back on track.  He came out to inspect the framing that day, and the drywall guys were given the OK to start.

Back on schedule.  Well, really not all the way back on schedule.  The job was delayed a month because the folks at Sturdy had forgotten to order the tub.  It takes a month to get one. The owner of the company called me and asked me how he could make it up to me.  What I asked for was to finish the job quickly, and correctly.   What I got was they forgot to  forget to order the vanity.  It would take another three weeks to build it and deliver it.

But, wait, there's more.

They ordered the wrong window, in the wrong size from the wrong company.   The one that was delivered looked like it was for a storefront.  Not appropriate for in front of the bathtub.  The correct window arrived three weeks later.

I had only one word for the owner of this multimillion dollar company based in Springfield, MA with offices in Connecticut, and Worcester:  Duh.

So, the job ended this past week, a little over a month late.  We would still be waiting for inspections if Dave and Peter did not step up.  We were also very fortunate to have an excellent second plumber, Jeff Warren of Worcester.  He was patient, knowledgeable, and professional.  He didn't let the mess he had inherited affect him he simply fixed them.

Our electrician, Jeff Masi, was also excellent.  He was also very knowledgeable, and patient, and not at all afraid of a working.  I highly recommend them both.

As far as the general contractor goes, well, maybe our experience was just a bad one for them.  Maybe the same person that forgot the tub, the vanity, and the correct window was having little neurological events that prevented him from functioning fully.

Naw, its stupidity.

The good thing about this whole debacle was how the Sturbridge Department of Inspectional Services bailed us out.  They were professionals with a great deal of understanding.  If it wasn't for them I'd still be bathing in the corner sink in the half bath, and that was not a pretty sight.

Friday, July 6, 2012

A Sturbridge Mystery Photo

The above notations are from the rear of the Chicago-SunTimes photograph shown below, and  above.  Do you when the photo was taken.  The original source of the photograph gave 1972 as the date of the photo, but he photo appears older.  Do you know when it was taken?

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

There Was Something In The Air Last Night At OSV

Last night the family , and I, went to Old Sturbridge Village for the fourth annual 4th of July celebration, and the fireworks.  This has become a great new family tradition.

We pulled into the parking lot about 5:45, and were led to the far back lot, and instructed to park in such a manner that would make for an easy egress when the fireworks concluded.

That easy egress didn't happen.  We waited 45 minutes, in one spot without moving more than 20 feet.  The event may be top notch, but shuttling thousands of cars out of one exit makes for a bottleneck of massive proportions, and this year was no different despite the Sturbridge Police, and the OSV employees directing traffic. 

The fireworks never disappoint, and this year was no different.  The show was fantastic.

The village opened its gates at 6 :00 PM, and since we did not have a cooler in tow, we were allowed to enter at the entrance next to the security office.  This turned out to be quiet a bonus since we arrived in front of the meeting house a minute or so before the Main Gate was open, and the crowd was lead into the village by the huge campaign ball, soldiers, and musicians.

We settled our chairs on the Common, in front of the stage where a blue grass band played, and listened to the music before wandering off to watch the juggler, and listen to Senator Steven Brewer deliver the Declaration of Independence from atop a wooden platform as was done 175 years ago in villages, and towns around the country on The Fourth.

After the reading, I made a detour to one of the tents set up on the Common, and introduced myself to Sam Adams in a plastic cup, and to Pinot Grigio on behalf of Mary.

The road leading to the fireworks viewing area in the back fields near the Freeman Farm were scheduled to open at 7:30.  We lined up in about 15 minutes before, and bought a few ice cream cones at the window conveniently located beside us.  Cherry Amaretto Chocolate.  Almost as good as the Sam's.

The back fields were freshly mowed, and filled up quickly.  There were several porta-johns, but after awhile, judging from the long lines, they were far too few.  I took my grandson back to the Bullard Tavern to use the restroom there after waiting in line for 15 minutes at the restrooms near the blacksmith.

At 9:15 the fireworks began, and flew into the sky over the  village for 30 minutes of multiple volleys, and singular gargantuan explosions over the fields of corn.

The crowd loved it.  We loved it.  There was a few times I caught myself "ahhhing" with everyone else around me.  It is easy to be taken in by fireworks.

At the conclusion of the fireworks display, was the finale, which is always the grand cap to a wonderful evening at OSV.  This year was no different.

Next year I hope they have two entrances leaving the parking lot, and allow folks to park at the OSV education parking lot off Old Sturbridge Village Road, and direct the traffic out towards I-84, and Old Route 15 at the end of the evening.  Sitting in ones car longer than the fireworks display lasted was certainly not the highlight of anyones night.

Thank you, OSV, again, it was a great evening.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Spare Them The Drama, Just Remove The Stumps

Willard Road the morning after the tornado.
After one year the stumps on Willard Road are finally being addressed.  Why after twelve months is the BOS so worked up?  Why not immediately after the tornado as the clean up was being done, or a few months after?  

And, why all the drama?  

Because, the stump removal was forgotten, overlooked, and the stumps were out of sight.  There is no way that the BOS was not aware of the stumps still being on Willard Road. The issue was brought up, and outrage was feigned at the June 25th BOS meeting.  

A little late for that.  As Greg Morse, Director of the DPW stated that night,  “We need a little guidance on our end. Where do you want us to start? Where do you want us to stop?”.

Great questions.  A little leadership, and some guidance would be nice.  It would have been nice twelve months ago.  In fact, it should have been asked for twelve months ago if none was being offered.

The stumps are on town land.  They are town stumps, and regardless of the tornado turning trees into stumps, the town owns them, and needs to remove them.  The trunks, limbs and branches that once were a part of those very stumps have long since been removed.  There was money for trunk and limb removal, but none for the rest of the tree?

One of the alleged stumps seen here still attached to the
rest of itself.  The rest of the town owned tree has long
since been removed.
The town has the equipment to remove the stumps.  They have the employees, and the know how.  Now, this has become maintance of town land project; an ongoing process.  Do we really need a Special Town Meeting to seek funds to dig up the stumps, load them into a dump truck, or flatbed, and haul them off?  Isn't this something that our DPW can handle, should have handled, and should have been instructed to handle long ago?

Close the curtain on all the drama.  Just remove the stumps, and give Willard Road back to the folks that live there.  They already had their fair share of hot air last summer.

Article published Jun 26, 2012

Sturbridge selectmen frustrated by pace of tornado cleanup

• Tornado cleanup stalls

STURBRIDGE —  The chairman of the Board of Selectmen, Thomas R. Creamer, chastised the town administrator for the delay in removing three tree stumps on Willard Road, more than a year after the tornado that felled them hit.

In a 5-0 vote last night, the selectmen directed the department of public works director to develop a plan for “immediate removal” of the stumps, which are in the town's right of way, and to have a plan ready for the board's review by July 9.

During Department of Public Works Director Gregory H. Morse's monthly report, Mr. Creamer expressed his frustration with what he called the lack of attention being paid to Willard Road.

“Twelve months after the tornado, we still have three tree stumps that are owned by the town and are on town property,” Mr. Creamer said. “And those individuals who are trying to move on with their lives and, in some cases, sell their homes that have been repaired and rebuilt, are being challenged to do so because of that.”

Mr. Creamer said no amount of explanation could ever satisfy him as to why residents on Willard Road are still dealing with the stumps.

“If we would not accept those (stumps) being left on Route 20, then we should not accept them being left on Willard Road because that was the epicenter of the tornado,” Mr. Creamer said. “I cannot reconcile in my mind that the residents of Willard Road are stuck with town's trash on their street, and that's what it amounts to.”

Mr. Creamer made his complaint to Mr. Morse, but said he did not hold him responsible for the delay because the DPW director takes orders from the town administrator.

Mr. Morse said last night that two days after tornado hit, he told them that cleanup could cost anywhere from $500,000 to $8 million. And today, the town could spend $1.5 million on stump removal.

“It depends on what conditions are selected and how far or how big or how small it gets. And the stumps are no different,” Mr. Morse said. “We need a little guidance on our end. Where do you want us to start? Where do you want us to stop?”

Town Administrator Shaun A. Suhoski told the selectmen that the curbside collection of 15,000 cubic yards of tornado debris took a month to six weeks. He added that the Federal Emergency Management Agency's eligibility response is for public safety, not aesthetic issues and, at the time, the town didn't have a project to address the former.

Mr. Suhoski said the plan for further cleanup is to tap into the governor's supplemental funds grant, which was announced June 1. If the town strikes out with the grant, Mr. Suhoski said the town would have to go to a special town meeting to seek money for stump removal.