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

Monday, September 24, 2012

Prove Me Wrong

As of this morning there have been 23 comments on my last post.  The subject of thinking differently here in town in order to move forward struck a chord with a lot of people.  Changing our way of thinking about just who we are, what is needed, and how to get it done in our live times here in town seems to be something many of us are on the same page about.

One comment mentioned flags and banners on the utility poles around town.  The ones we have are an excellent example of community pride, but most have come down, and need to be replaced with more.  Better yet, a different one.  Some places change them whenever there is something major happening in town, perhaps ours could change them twice a year.  Originally, the town made a deal with Verizon, whose poles they are, that the banners would only stay up for a short time, but they've been left up a lot longer than originally agreed upon. A new agreement, and new banners would be a good thing.

Traffic lights.  Yes, the town can have traffic lights put where they are needed.  It's all a matter of funding. Watch how fast they go up in other towns when a new plaza is built and the builders pay for the traffic lights at their entrances.  Their money speeds the hands of time, our money slows it hoping for some money to fall from the coffers in Boston.  Bottom line, yes, lights can go in, but there is a process, which also takes money.  If they are needed, and they are, it is one more thing for a true grass roots organization to put on their list to fight for.

Can we make this town more attractive, and look like Holden, or Shrewsbury?  Of course.  An official committee with volunteers, the right to appropriate money, and to spend money, and a set plan will do wonders.  However, that would probably be only the "frosting on the cake", it is the cake that needs the work.  Bury the utility lines, install nice street lighting, new sidewalks, and other positive changes to our crumbling infrastructure is needed first. Holden and Shrewsbury renewed first, decorated later.  Again, get those strong, outspoken people in town that need a cause, and get them involved in a grassroots committee to invoke changes that aren't being handled fast enough at town hall.

Sewer service on Rout 15. I wrote how this was needed years ago.  The town wants to attract business to Route 15, but not offer water or sewer service.  No wonder the area has seen nothing happen.  Put in sewer, and water, market the area, and watch what happens.  A Wrentham Outlet type business?  Why not?  Take advantage of our location and those two interstates in town.  Other towns would give anything to be in our position.

We can not expect Old Sturbridge Village to be the sole reason why people come to town.  Give them more, and they will have lunch at the Public House, dinner at the Cedar Street Grill, and then tour the Village.

Who will pay for the sewer?  Those choosing to connect to the sewer will pay the lions share like it has always been done in town.

I do have to agree a bit more with some of the comments regarding Sturbridge having no high end stores, and there is a need.   We are not high end in Sturbridge. There are only pieces of that in town. At one time, those in Sturbridge may have thought of themselves as being upper income, and high end, but that was many years ago, but not today.  The town is not as attractive to the person driving through as is Shrewbury.  The infrastructure has been allowed to go into disrepair, and obvious safety issues such as the intersection of New Boston Road and Route 20 are ignored.  These are all things seen by visitors.  No, we are far from being a Lincoln, Weston, Dover, Newburyport, or even Holden, or Shrewsbury.

Bass Shoes, Van Heusen, both big names, left.  The Gap left.  Old Navy did as well, but not by choice, the lease was the issue this time.  Bath and Body Works, all gone, and many others over the years.  There was a time when we did attract "the big names", even in the 1990's, but not so much today.  Even the new gas station on Route 131 is a "no-name" business.  At this rate we will become Genericville,and dollar stores will begin to spring up.

Now, not only do we need to change our thinking, but we need to change our actions, and not rely on what those in the town hall want to do, but rather what we want them to do for us.  One voice won't cut it, unless it is a loud voice.  Loud enough to speak over the regular bluster, and falderall we witness on cable TV.  Many voices would make a better impact. 

We need to take back control of our town, or stop whining about it.

Let's see what happens.  I am hoping for the best, but inside I know we'll be talking the same talk next year at this time.

Prove me wrong.


36 comments:

  1. What would be good in Sturbridge?Tuesday, September 25, 2012

    Well written Wally.

    All that said, though, a good dollar store would get business even here in Sturbridge.

    It's easy to see that Ocean State Job Lot in Sturbridge, for some reason appears to appeal to more folks in town than I ever would have believed it would. Now, I have always liked Ocean State Job Lot, but some people who shop at at the one here in town never ventured to the one that was in Southbridge for years, and is there still. Strange, yes, but it's the "Sturbridge" name of the location that makes it somehow seem better to certain people.

    Therefore, I assume that the same great little dollar store that is in Webster would suddenly appear to some to have better goods if it opened here in town.

    Yes, some of us think we are just that "special." So,while we speak of high end discount stores for Route 15, please don't discount a lower end little gem in the "right" location.

    'Make sense? No. Could happen? Oh, yeah. And I would like to see it.

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  2. Wish I could prove you wrong, but after last night's selectmen's meeting, it;s obvious that sewer on rte 15 is a long way away. I would like to see a "destination" there. We need something to keep people with families in town and spending money after they visit Old Sturbridge Village. Shopping high end stores does nothing for the kids that are in tow.

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  3. is having outlet stores and rec parks for kids too much to expect or ask?

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  4. I'm not understanding why many posters here think the town should pay for sewer on Route 15. The last $25,000 study that was done, which was paid for by residents, showed the costs for that were huge, like $8 to $15 million.

    On one hand, taxpayers complain their taxes are too high, then posters here think taxpayers should foot that bill for sewer on Route 15? Build it and they will come? No one does business that way.

    Owners who hook to sewer have to pay for it and they do that through betterment and assessment charges. Currently, there are 8 potential sewer users on Route 15. Do the math, folks.

    It's possible that a business may want to locate there and help to pay for infrastructure; that would be great!

    Last night's Selectmen's meeting had nothing to do with sewer on Route 15. Two separate issues.

    The banners: great idea but who will put them up? The last banners were put up were done by a volunteer. Anyone here want to volunteer?

    Lots of great ideas to make Sturbridge beautiful; but those things cost money and labor.

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  5. Almost speechless - almost...Tuesday, September 25, 2012

    Dear Anonymous who mentioned rec parks,

    We have a rec area and lots of ball fields now, - as well as an olympic size pool at the high school. Who do you expect to pay for what you call "rec parks," and with what money? We are soo far in debt now on money that we borrowed, on money we were for which we were SURtaxed on our property taxes. Are you saying we should spend even more?????

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  6. For the poster who said the selectmen's meeting had nothing to do with rte 15...Did you watch until the end???? In discussing the grant for the mobile home park, Tom asked the questions to make the record clear..the answer was sewer for rte 15 was years down the road especially because the town owns the Shepard property which is an abutter, so the town would be on the hook for the betterment of $600,000 for that piece.

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  7. And as for adult sports, set a play date with your friends - in someone's back yard.

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  8. Yikes!
    Anonymous wrote:
    "... town owns the Shepard property which is an abutter, so the town would be on the hook for the betterment of $600,000 for that piece."

    That just goes to show us how much buying up these lands can cost us! Nobody living on them, no businesses on them, and no taxes paid on them!

    The next time we are told just how much we "need" to invest in vacant land .....

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  9. We should ask Tighe and Bond for our $25,000.00 back. They did a study that said sewer was not feasible on rte.15 now they change their mind with nothing else changing on the road the Town should demand the $25,000.00 back from them!

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  10. Remember that sewer was granted to the trailer park several years ago but the trailer park asked the selectman to rescind that vote because of cost.

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  11. It seems that we pay the consultants to say whatever it is "we" want them to say. It often also seems that we pay the town's attorneys to say whatever "we" want them to say. The trouble is that there are times when "we" don't all agree, which seems to leave those we pay not knowing what "we" want them to say.

    Regarding the Sturbridge Mobile Home Community and their thinking several years ago - times sure have changed, so perhaps they've had to change their thinking too. We should at least try to understand their concerns of 2012.

    Also, I get a very strong feeling that someone here is choosing to call the senior mobile home community "the trailer park," because they want it to sound "less than." Times have changed and phrases have changed, too. The senior community up there is home to many wonderful folks, and it would be nice to see everyone respect them.

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  12. I just sigh every time I hear one of the the same persons who is all for spending on more recreation fields up there, crying over the $25,000 we spent for a sewer study on Rte.15. Sigh.

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  13. The Shepard property was purchased for conservation purposes. Sewer is not needed there, nor is it allowed. If there was ever a plan to put sewer there, it's a pipedream...pardon the pun.

    The reason why sewer is years down the road for Route 15 is because of the costs established through that $25,000 study and the fact that millions of dollars would have to be funded by the sewer users, of which there are only 8.

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  14. Is trailer park a bad term ?

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  15. There is some misinformation stated here about the Shepard parcel as discussed at Monday's Selectmen's meeting: it was stated that if the town were to run a sewer line down Route 15, the Town would technically be obligated to pay a Betterment Fee, whether we tied in or not. That would be about $650,000 and given the town's current debt obligations, that would not be happening.

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  16. Some facts that are often over looked and I’m sure will be disputed are ,1) Do to the factions in this town that have stymied growth over the last 20 years, our taxes are higher our water and sewer fees are higher. 2) A split tax rate counter acts growth, making businesses pay higher rates makes this town look less attractive than others, reduces the chances of attracting more jobs. With many communities fighting for business its time for Sturbridge to get off it’s high horse and start being more competitive in the job and industry market. 3) Residents need to be aware and more active in local government and stop electing and appointing ANTI-BUSINESS people to our boards. The current Board of Selectman (barring two Mary’s)
    Has done more harm than good by not being proactive in attracting business , and NO they are not responsible for the Cinema just like they did nothing to try to keep Old Navy. We have some great stores in this town we need to ask ourselves why did they come and go ! I’m sure you’ll find the answer is the local government, between sign restrictions ,higher taxes or arrogant boards ,commissions or agencies that find more reasons to say NO than yes. Just one guys opinion

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  17. Trailers have wheels, and are moved from place to place. Kelly Road has "mobile homes," more akin to regular prefabricated homes, which are delivered on trucks and are there to stay.

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  18. The issue is not that it would be sewered but that it is an abutter subject to betterment wether or not it's sewered. The $600,000 betterment is soaked up by the town and cannot be charged in figuring the betterment for the remaining land owners. Yes some people are offended by the term "trailer park" because it is sometimes followed by the term "trash" We much prefer mobile home. You can well imagine what I think of this complete turn around from Tighe & Bond and our D.P.W. Director.

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  19. If you have frontage on a road that gets sewers, you pay a betterment fee on that frontage. The sewer line isn't going to just disappear in front of your land and start up again beyond it. The value of your land is increased because sewerage is right there should you choose to use it someday. If the town owns the frontage in such an area why should someone else pay a betterment fee on the town's property? Whoops! 'Should have thought of that before we bought the land.

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  20. There are no empty lots on rte.15 so how would new business come to rte.15? What happened to the indoor soccer field and Frisbee Golf that was going to be built on 15 ?

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  21. I'm always amazed by people, like the Anonymous person who writes like Scott Garieri, who place blame anywhere but on themselves. If one is interested in controlling spending, going to town meeting is the place to start because that's where all the spending takes place. Selectmen don't have the power to spend, only the voters do, at town meeting. Also, getting involved with local boards is a good way to make change happen.

    Town meeting is where spending to upgrade the wastewater treatment plant was voted; it's where the Burgess and Tantasqua School renovations were voted; it's where parcels for conservation purposes are voted; it's where water and sewer expansions are voted; it's where the town hall and center school renovations were voted.

    The Selectmen are not anti-business. In fact, the current sign bylaws, in particular, the temporary sign bylaws, were written in part by the businesses in the the community.

    Face the reality of how the debt has grown in this town, by the 200-400 voters at town meetings out of a 9,800 population. It's that small percentage of people that decide how YOUR money is spent. If you don't go to town meeting to vote about how YOUR money is spent, then I'm really not interested in your complaints about high taxes, or your sentiments about anyone being anti-business.

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  22. Just a point it is the elected and appointed boards that voted on split tax rates that affect business it is those same boards that set policy that affect decisions boards ultimately make and it is the boards that appoint these people who find it necessary to enforce the rules with Gastapo personalities.

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  23. It would be helpful, at Town Meetings and at weekly/monthly meetings, if the statements made by those who speak so confidently and claim to know what's best were more careful to be correct and without bias when they spoke.

    If you feel qualified to be in a situation where people can depend on your knowledge and honest goodwill toward your fellow citizens when you impart that knowledge, more power to you. If you don't feel like you understand a proposal or a certain subject and it's possible ramifications, please have the honesty to say so and let someone else speak on it.

    People can be swayed by self-claimed experts, even if they do attend meetings. If a citizen asks a question and gets wool-over-your-head answers coming from town officials don't blame that citizen for getting discouraged.

    Citizens, please don't just accept what you are told without seeking other opinions. Be informed and then go to those meetings armed with the informed questions and more confidence that you will know the truth when you hear it.

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  24. What we want.....Wrentham Mall type shops, underground wires for Route 20, Sewers on Route 15, lower taxes, ball/soccer fields.
    What we don't want......higher taxes.
    Think its a Catch 22.

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  25. Why are are our residential taxes so high considering ?
    I am not an expert but doesn't having outlet style shopping bring more revenue for the town and should lower residential taxes?

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  26. Sewers should be paid for by the people who are added to the sewer lines - the problem may be that the town itself, because of buying the Shepard parcel, is also on the line.

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  27. Buying the Shepard parcel has nothing do with Route 15 because it cannot be developed that way. While the town might think it's obligated to hook that property up to public sewer, it cannot be developed that way. So it's a moot point.

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  28. Why is it a moot point? As far as i know, ALL the land owners along a new sewer line would have to pay a betterment fee for having the line pass by their frontage. The town owns land along the line. Who do you suppose would pay the betterment fee on the town's property????

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  29. The town would not actually have to pay the betterment fee but would have to raise the rate for the sewer fee (quarterly sewer fees) to make up the difference. That would never get past the voters at town meeting. It certainly is not a moot point as evidenced by the comment made by the chair at the last meeting. Rte 15 sewer was lightly discussed in the subject of the grant application for the mobile home park. The very issue of the Shepard parcel was brought up by the Chair. It will always be a factor in the discussions of cost on Rte 15.

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  30. What happened to the indoor soccer field and Frisbee Golf that was going to be built on 15 ?
    What empty lot are you people referring to to build a Wrentham style outlet center?

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  31. Someone (abutters) would have to paySunday, September 30, 2012

    Anonymous wrote:
    "The town would not actually have to pay the betterment fee but would have to raise the rate for the sewer fee (quarterly sewer fees) to make up the difference."
    That makes sense. It cannot be a moot point because someone (we, the town?) will have to pay the town's share of the cost for a sewing line butting the Shepard Parcel. Correct?

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  32. Yes, that is correct. If my memory serves me corectly it is in the $600,000 dollar range. ALL of Rte 15 is crying for development, Wrentham style or anything. It is not an empty town lot that we refer to but the chance to invite the right kind of development that we get jobs, taxes and people staying in Sturbridge for more than just a visit to OSV. The problem is that the water and sewer costs for the developer to put in are astronomical and thus development doesn't happen. This is were the town and it's voters have to weigh cost versus benefit. Unfortunately, Wally is correct..same old story and same old ending.

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  33. "Fair Game?"Monday, October 01, 2012

    Route 15 is one of the reasons I am so darned tired of hearing about more trails and other things we just don't need! Instead of paying a surtax to buy up lands which provide some folks undeveloped buffers for their properties, and to turn some of those, now, town-owned, properties into "regulation" fields, etc., oh, well, you know the rest.

    If that same amount of money had gone into infrastructure on Route 15 ... you know the rest of my thought here, too.

    I'm tired, too, of hearing some of our well-off tax payers say, that they are very willing to pay higher taxes to get what they want. 'Problem is that they are very willing to try to "coax" the money out of everyone else, too, even if it means those others can't afford food, shelter, and health care at the same time.

    Now, some of you, please don't reply by saying that there is a network to provide for "those" people. A huge number of "those" people, who work full-time for a living, often more than one job, earn to much too get any assistance, while still not being able to make ends meet. They certainly cannot afford the "extras" some other people feel "entitled" too.

    Yes, a huge number of that 47% spoken of so much lately (full-time workers and, seniors, etc.) are accused of feeling "entitled" to food, while others feel entitled to get whims and fancies paid for by the rest of us.

    It's time to take our heads out of, umm, the sand, and play fair.

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  34. So you are saying any new development has to buy out a business that is there now ???

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  35. The town, or those who use sewer, would have to pay the betterment fee, which could be about $650,000, and that's just because the sewer would run by the Shepard property.

    When the Shepard property was purchased though, CPA funds were used and that statute requires a permanent restriction is placed on it. So it can't be developed but the betterment would still need to be paid.

    There are alternatives and that area is known to have soils conducive to private sewage systems.

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  36. If we were able to sell the Shepard property, and then Route 15 did get on the sewer line, the buyers would have to pay their share of the cost for the sewer to pass by the land, and we would be off the hook there. But, if there are preservation/conservation restrictions on that parcel, perhaps there would be no buyers - unless they got it at a low price - maybe?
    'Any bird watchers around looking to purchase land?

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