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, April 8, 2013

Apparently, The Problems Have Been Smoldering For Years

I grew up in a small town a little east of Boston.  The group I spent most of my time with from first grade through high school graduation, and beyond were a tight bunch.  We were townies, and all aspired to serve the town, or the public in someway.  A couple of my friends went on to become state troopers, and local police officers.  Others, became firefighters, EMT's, and paramedics.  I became a nurse.  We all seemed to know from an early age that serving the public was the direction we wanted to take.

Each of those friends found that niche, and became very good at what they loved.  One became an instructor at the police academy, another became the Fire Chief in the town I grew up in followed by another member of the group that became the Police Chief in town years later.

They started off as kids with a dream of where they wanted to be, and to give back to the community.  They succeeded immensely.  They succeed, in part, because they had the respect of those around them, developed an excellent knowledge of what their job required, performed extremely well, and they were held accountable.  If they didn't perform, they would have been let go years ago.

That is how it is supposed to work.

So, how come, after 30 years as chief,  an outside consultant was hired to do an investigation of the Sturbridge Fire Chief, and the the Fire Department?  And, after the 166 page report was published, why are people amazed that both the Chief, and the department , are in such poor repair?

It didn't happen over night.  The issues have been ongoing, according to the report, for many years.  So, why hire the consultant now?  Did it finally come to head, and something just had to be done?

Probably, but it was allowed to fester for decades.  It appears that this department head was not held accountable.  This not only reflects poorly on the Chief, and the department, but on those that the Chief answers to.  They are as much at fault for allowing it to happen for so many years.

Small towns are like this.  Those at the helm are uncomfortable disciplining, correcting, or terminating, someone that could very well be an old friend, or neighbor.  So, the behaviors remain unchecked, and we end up where we are today with our fire department.

However the investigation, and ultimate report came about is important, but more important is the fact that someone, or someones, saw a need for it, and addressed it.

Below are some of the of the items listed in the report:

"• Unkempt conditions in the fire station, including trash piled in fire escapes.

• No vehicle maintenance records.

• Controlled substances stored in unlocked file cabinets.

• “Complete breakdown in communications between the chief and the staff.”

• Lack of standardized policies and procedures.

• Unclear chain of command when chief is not present.

• Inadequate training.

• Ineffective scheduling and staffing, including lack of full-time firefighters assigned to weekend shifts.

• The town's rescue boat being used to store old equipment, making it impossible to immediately use the boat in rescue situations." --- Worcester Telegram & Gazette  April 6, 2013

This report is an eye opener.  Look it over.  Click here

What next?


  1. Wait a minute...Monday, April 08, 2013

    This is such a shame! Lenny has worked for this town for something like 40 years, 30 as it's fire chief. We have always enjoyed good service from the fire department, but now, as he nears retirement, comes this "slap-in-the-face" report, from someone whom it seems not only has time to be his own town's police chief, fire chief, and town coordinator, as well as a person who runs a business where he has time to do things like do up investigative reports of 100 to 200 pages on departments in other towns. I wonder how well he is able to do any of the jobs HE supposedly does.
    We shouldn't be so quick to put down our own fire chief, a man who grew up in this town (in your neighborhood, Wally), a man we KNOW, who we have felt for so many years has served us well. He may not be a great speaker, but we have trusted him for a lifetime, and I think he deserves more credit than he is being given for the $3,000 "we" paid the guy from Mendon.

  2. As I said in the post, "Why now?". If the Chief has been in his position for 30 years, what prompted the hiring of the consultant? The items in report are not imaginary, and the supposed poor climate in the fire house was confirmed. I don't believe anyone is saying the chief is a bad guy, but what I do believe if all the items are true as reported then it goes back to folks not wanting to act on a friends performance for a long time. Some people know their limits, and either improve through actions of their own, or leave if they know they are in over their heads. Others never realize it, or do, and hope things will get better.

  3. Not a good surpriseTuesday, April 09, 2013

    Why this surprising, big, loud, and, to coin a recent media phrase, "scathing" public report now - after 30 years as chief? Where was the oversight? Have quieter efforts failed? This just doesn't feel right or smell right.

  4. Is there an agenda - plans for a big change in the type of leadership when the current fire chief is no longer in the picture? A combination police chief/fire chief position? Why? Wouldn't that be going backwards?

  5. I have talked to Lenny a few times and think he is a great guy and they saved my house from a brush fire a few years ago so i have no complaints about the service. Lenny as a manager on the other hand i do have a problem with. It does not seem like he is a strong manager. I am thankful that the "study" was done and i expect one to be made with the others departments as well. I applaud the honest reporting of the "study".

    As for having a combination police/fire i have no problems with it as long it is managed tightly. I would have a problem with a new dual chief being awarded the salaries of both of them.

  6. Where there's smoke ...Wednesday, April 10, 2013

    This report is about the truth - truth that was left uncovered and unexposed for years by the good old boy network that ran this town for so long. We are lucky to have a Town Government that cares to hire someone to take an objective look at how this department has been run. The information that was collected by this consultant comes from the personnel on the line, working hard to protect and serve this town of a daily basis - personnel that had reason to believe that they could not voice their concerns to the "outside" without fear of retaliatory action by their boss(es). Listen to the report, and listen to your firefighters. The rest of the managers both in the department and above are simply trying to cover their asses by minimizing or detracting from this valid document.

  7. Funny how something like this would've merited the attention of WCVB. This should have been handled at a local level ....... local politics being what they are, I see the Tea Party pot stirring this kettle. There is an agenda and Chairman Creamer is guiding it.

  8. It's odd that the "investigator" complained that we would need to spend big bucks to update the fire gear, as though it wasn't being addressed, when the fire chief had already included that in the budget. We should have saved the $3,000 we paid the "investigator."

  9. The Government Services Study Committee has been studying ALL town departments for about the last year, not just the fire department. That shoots holes in the "why now" question.

    It takes a person specialized in running fire departments to know what's right and what's wrong. Do you send a nurse to administer care and tend to a patient's wounds, or do you send a mechanic to take that blood sample?

    I mean, are you all serious with these comments & questions?

    The consultant's report actually outlines ways to save money in the department, one which would eliminate overtime. The cost of the consultant is paid for just with that one recommendation. Wait...will residents now say the consultant is trying to cheat our firefighters out of overtime? Get real.

  10. To follow the above Anonymous' thinking, we would need to spend more money to study the police department and other departments because to do otherwise would be like sending a "mechanic take a blood sample." Where would this end? Would we need consultants or investigators to coordinate the consultants and investigators? Would we need a detective to tell us when the $3000 for each report was voted on? Get real!


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