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

Friday, April 12, 2013

Excuse Me, I'm A Bit Confused.

I am only following this whole thing as any other resident of Sturbridge is, and the more I read, the more confused I am becoming.

First things first; I have some questions:

  • Who's idea was it to hire a consultant to review the Fire Chief, and his department?

  • Why was the consultant hired?

  • When was the consultant hired?

Simple questions, but knowing the answers to them could help explain some of the back peddling being done now by the town administrator.

What prompted hiring the consultant?  Was there a specific action, or a history of them that needed further documentation, and corroboration?

Who's idea was it?  The TA?  The selectmen?  A joint effort?

Finally, when was this consultant hired?  If they were hired last year, then the inclusion of certain corrective measures mentioned by the TA may not have been in place at the time of the hire, but are only presently being worked on.  If they were hired more recently, while those corrective measures were being implemented, then I see a problem.

Why bring in a third party while the issues were being "fixed"?

In the article posted below, written by James Russell of the Telegram, the TA states that the report has inaccuracies.  An example given is that the report indicated new turn out gear for the firefighters was needed, however a grant was applied for by the Chief, and was awarded in January.  The money came in last month, and the firefighters are currently being fitted for their gear.

This covers a period of at least four months, not including the time before the actual awarding of the grant when the grant was written, and submitted.

This is a huge discrepancy in time.  Was this report just submitted last week, or was it submitted before the grant was applied for, or received?  Why was there no mention of the grant, or the new gear in the report?

Is it me, or is any one else having a hard time with the information, and timeline?

Maybe it's all much ado about nothing.


Suhoski finds holes in report
List of fire chief’s faults has errors


STURBRIDGE —  A consultant’s report that blasts the way Fire Chief Leonard Senecal does his job is not entirely accurate and failed to account for steps under way to fix problems, the town administrator said.

And any talk of discipline against the chief is premature and would not occur until after he meets with selectmen next week, Shaun Suhoski said.

The report cited myriad alleged deficiencies about the chief’s leadership — among them morale problems, out-of-date equipment, unclean areas and poor or nonexistent recordkeeping on some matters.

The consultant, Ernest Horn, is now the acting Mendon town administrator and fire chief and has been the police chief there for years.

Although Sturbridge selectmen are alarmed, and the administrator is concerned about the consultant’s 116-page report, they also are giving Chief Senecal an opportunity to respond at a public meeting next week.

“There are observations that need a little more attention to detail,” Mr. Suhoski said when asked if the consultant’s operational review was accurate.

The fire chief “and I are working on an update, which is to let selectmen know about the progress.”

One area of dispute in the report involves the gear firefighters wear during emergencies.

Chief Horn said in the report that the equipment, known as turnout gear, was outdated — more than 10 years old. He said Sturbridge needs to pay $100,000 to equip the firefighters with proper gear.

But Mr. Suhoski said Chief Senecal had already applied for grant money to properly equip the firefighters.

“This year the Fire Department received an $82,000 grant to replace all the turnout gear,” Mr. Suhoski said. The award was announced in January, the money was received last month and firefighters are being measured and fitted for the new equipment, he said.

“We had a third party peer review that we were all on board with it,” the administrator said. “That tells me we are looking at how to improve operations. I know Lenny’s a bit under the gun now and a lot needs to be done. But after next Tuesday’s public meeting, we will have a balanced picture, through the chief, and then if there are areas of disagreement, they can be weighed out and resolved.”

Mr. Suhoski said Chief Horn is expected at the meeting along with Chief Senecal. The report cost $3,000.

On the matter of possible discipline, Mr. Suhoski said: “I can’t discuss personnel action publicly, but those actions would not be considered prior to the April 16 meeting with the chief.”

Selectmen released the Horn report during a special meeting on Friday. The board had met behind closed doors on April 1.


  1. The town entered into a contract with this guy on January 28,2013. Yes, there are many questions to be asked regarding the investigation itself. The report is on the town website.

  2. Another Prime Example of Wasteful Spending By our dear Town Government. A Consultant Report in lieu of a job that is part of the Town Administrator & his staff. There is no excuse for this expense to authorize this complete joke report that the tax payers pick up the tab on..

    This is Prime Example of why we need the 5 Year Budget Freeze, to stop wasteful spending like this. We have a guy making $100,000 plus and this nonsense is done and paid for and now he has to finally step in to address it. What a fiasco.

    Now just made the our Town of Sturbridge look like a bunch of Fools on the Boston TV Stations and all the newspapers and internet..

    We need a Total Budget Freeze here is example to support it.

  3. Did you read this statment in the Telegram Story.

    "The consultant, Ernest Horn, is now the acting Mendon town administrator and fire chief and has been the police chief there for years."

    So this is telling us the Town of Sturbridge that our Town Administrator is not capable of doing his job and we had to go to Mendon to a Town Administrator & Fire Chief for a report.

    Shame on the Selectman for allowing this to happen. No wonder its on TV....

    Selectman should pay this out of their pockets...

  4. Fuzzy, Foggy FindingsFriday, April 12, 2013

    I would like someone to tell me when we voted to spend $3,000 on this investigative consultant person, and exactly what he was asked to do for $3,000. Oh, yeah, and what recourse we have if information he gave us was incorrect, causing people to believe that we still needed to come up with about $100,000 for the gear, for which we had already acquired the funding.
    Who spent the $3,000?

  5. It looks like the committee discussed this in mid Dec. but didn't contract with the consultant until Jan.28.
    The below is from:

    Government Services Study Committee (GSSC)
    Minutes of December 14, 2012

    The following members of the Committee attended the visit.

    Ms. Gimas

    Ms. Redetzke

    Mr. Levine

    Mr. Arndt

    Mr. Suhoski, Town Administrator
    The Committee was very impressed with the
    camaraderie of
    the Mendon Safety
    Complex, and Chief Horn’s expertise regarding how he changed the departments to run
    more efficiently.
    The Committee discussed with Chief Horn having him conduct an evaluation of the
    Sturbridge Fire Department.
    The Committee
    agreed that the purpose of this study, and the expected results, will
    provide the BOS, Chief Senecal and the residents of Sturbridge with a comprehensive
    review of the current administrative and operational status of the Fire Department.
    Ms. Gimas stated
    that Chief Senecal is in agreement that his department needs better
    organization in order to run more efficiently.
    The Committee’s next step is to bring this proposal to the BOS and to Chief Senecal.
    Ms. Gimas stated that the methodology utilized during
    this evaluation will include a
    comprehensive physical examination of the department assets including, but not limited
    to, all apparatus, protective gear, department records, budget processes, and expenditures.
    Additionally, in-depth interviews will be con
    ducted with every member of the department
    (part-time and full-time), Sturbridge town officials, and neighboring town officials, as
    well as residents of Sturbridge.
    Ms. Gimas stated that Chief Horn’s fee is $3,000.00
    Made by Mr. Levine to accept
    Chief Horn’s proposal for review of the
    Fire Department and bring forth to the BOS along with Chief Senecal.
    Ms. Redetzke

  6. I understand questioning when the money was appropriated for the study. However, i have a feeling that we will see more than 3000 dollars in savings hopefully just with scheduling changes that lead to a reduction in OT that is running rampant in both the FD and PD.

    There is no doubt in my mind that there are some serious issues with the leadership in the FD. If people are just assuming that the study is flawed and that everything is fine and dandy in the FD i would recommend having someone help pull your head out of the sand.

    Its about time we have something like the GSSC. It is not a bad thing having some over-site of our government. I wonder how long things were not being run properly at the FD and also how long it would have continued without the GSCC and the study that they brought on? I will take fuzzy foggy finding over no findings at all any day of the week, at least someone is looking...

    Last thing kudos to the poster who mentioned
    "So this is telling us the Town of Sturbridge that our Town Administrator is not capable of doing his job and we had to go to Mendon to a Town Administrator & Fire Chief for a report."

    That's a good point. I dont hold the BOS accountable for the state of the PD as they are basically volunteers to the community. The person who is running the town i think should be held accountable for over seeing all departments, i think that's what he gets paid to do...

  7. The Town Administrator is supposed to manage the departments within the town. However, this is Sturbridge. There are some in "volunteer" positions that do not feel that is the case. The power associated with the TA is undermined by others. This type of thing will happen again.

  8. What I find most interesting is that everyone complains about wasting taxpayer money. Then, when the town becomes proactive by forming the GSSC, which by the way, stands for Government Services Study Committee, and finds there are inadequacies or needs, residents complain that $3,000 was wasted hiring a very qualified consultant who wrote a topnotch report?

    What have I missed?

    Shaun Suhoski does not have a background in running a fire department, so why would he be expected to be competent for such a task? That's like sending a milkman to take out someone's kidney.

    But what I find most annoying in this string of comments is that no one in this string seems to have actually read the report, which is online at the town's website; no one attends or watches meetings so they have accurate information; and worst of all, people complain but don't vote or attend town meetings.

    If you really want to know the answers to these questions, inform yourself first by availing yourself of the information available, then the conversation can progress and there will be a worthwhile information exchange.

  9. The info and links to it are in the above comments! Some of us have indeed read them, and watched meetings, but judging from the comments of the last anonymous, he or she hasn't bothered to read all the comments about which he or she has complained.

  10. That was an interesting meeting last night. I can't help but think that Mary B seems to think this was just a witch hunt. I have no reason to doubt that Chief Horn is qualified to do a study of this nature. I feel that she was angry that the study was done at all. I am glad the study was done and the deficiencies were brought to light. A lot of the things are safety related, it is hard to make a defense for many of them. I am also glad that Creamer is knowledgeable in firefighting. I learned a lot listening to the meeting last night. I did not like how Tom was talking to the Chief at times but you could tell he is passionate about it. If it was someone who did not know what he was talking about i would have been angered. I cant wait for the comments bashing Creamer on this one, it should be interesting.


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