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

Saturday, April 13, 2013

More Puzzled Than Confused

In December of 2012 the GSSC committee met, and decided to hire the outside consultant, Chief Horn, and placed his services under contract at the end of January.


And, we have learned that the grant that was applied for to buy new "turn out gear" for the firefighters was awarded in January 2013, too.  The money came in March.  The obvious missing piece was when was the grant applied for?  Well, before January 2013, and well before that meeting in December, too.  It takes a while for these things to happen.

Now, two of the matters mentioned in the report was the lack of adequate "turn out gear" for the firefighters, and another was the lack of communication in the Fire Department.

OK, now stay with me now.

Why, did the consultant bother to mention the lack of adequate turn out gear in his report, when money had been applied for, approved, and received for it?  When the consultant discussed the matter with our Chief, didn't this come up in the conversation?  Why didn't the consultant know this?

Now, the other matter:  lack of communication.  Seems that there were more people affected by that than just our Chief, and his department.


  1. Could it be that there is some overstating of the problems because it would promote the plans some people already have to change the command structure at the safety complex by hiring or promoting someone to be a coordinator as well as heading both the fire department and the police department? If that's the case, isn't it a shame that some people would be willing to ruin the reputation of one man close to retirement after working for this town for 40 years (thirty years as a department head) to get their way, rather than to quietly bring forward a proposal at a more opportune time?

  2. Money is the root of all evil.

  3. You are spot on, Look in the report and see the picture of the "original" oil filter on the truck since it was built. This would lead one to think there is NO maintanence on these trucks, but he did not point out that its on a brand new truck with apx. 2700 miles on it. it is not even due for an oil change yet. I would rather have a chief that is not a good public speaker or his records are not exactly the way they should be, but rather he can fight and command a fire scene when the chips are down. You are right there is smoke here, soon to be fire lets see if the chief puts water on it, or just lets it burn itself out. this report is for sure manufactured for a purpose,Don't be fooled by its contents

  4. The report was released around noon time on friday to the public, channel 5 is at the fire station with cameras rolling before 1 pm. questions were asked of the chief which were in the report and the reporter seemed well versed in its contents. ARE WE GETTING THE MESSAGE HERE STURBRIDGE? Who is taking us on a mystery ride? and where will we end up? When we needed our fire dept. they were there and every single time as they continue to do today. If we have problems lets fix them as other towns do. Most you never hear about and go on with life. To throw a 30+ year professional fire chief under the bus for a political agenda is just not right. I have never seen or heard of a complaint on the service of the fire dept. in 30 years as a resident.

  5. Has anyone asked why this particular person to do the study? I know he is a fire chief....but why him? It would be interesting to see if there is a connection there...just sayin'

  6. 'Tis a PuzzlementMonday, April 15, 2013

    There should be another way to name the people who get to be on some of these committees. The two selectmen on the committee voted to appoint the other people on the committee. How familiar are these folks with Sturbridge, and the lifetime our chief has worked here, and the good service we've gotten from the department through those years? Did anyone else apply to be on the committee? Just askin.'


    Tuesday, April 16, 2013

    Official questions report on fire dept.
    Consultant said to be unqualified

    By James F. Russell CORRESPONDENT

    STURBRIDGE — A town selectman is calling into question the qualifications of a consultant whose report accuses Sturbridge Fire Chief Leonard Senecal of myriad failures — including “deplorable and negligent” equipment maintenance. The 166-page report was completed on March 28 and includes a massive list of corrective action.

    Selectman Mary Blanchard said Sturbridge in essence provided the consultant, Ernest Horn, founder of Municipal Consultants of New England, with on-the-job training.

    In addition to his consulting business, Chief Horn is Mendon’s police chief and fire chief. He has also been the acting town administrator for nearly two years, a position he will relinquish on May 1.

    Asked how he is able to perform the duties of a fire chief, police chief and town administrator and run a consulting business, Chief Horn said: “I have a tremendous amount of vacation time that I have not taken and now” am trying to use.

    He said the $3,000 Sturbridge was charged for the study was “a very good deal” and the market rate is much higher.

    “My understanding is this is the first town he’s looked at,” Mrs. Blanchard said Friday.

    “I don’t think Chief Horn has had the experience investigating and analyzing. He is just starting a business,” she said.

    She said a copy of his résumé did not list any previous communities where Chief Horn provided a comprehensive report on public safety operational preparedness.

    “There is no backup on some of the statements made. … I am not sure Chief Horn has done a report before,” Mrs. Blanchard said.

    Asked about the selectman’s concerns, Chief Horn said the Sturbridge project is the most comprehensive he has completed to date and said his findings are a wakeup call for the town.

    “I have done other reports,” Chief Horn said. He said his consulting work has included assistance with hiring police chiefs, consultations on operational inefficiencies and evaluations of policies and procedures.

    Asked for which other communities he has consulted, Chief Horn said he “cannot comment” and declined to identify any.

    “I did not list any on my résumé,” Chief Horn said.

    Mrs. Blanchard said a reference in the Horn report about Sturbridge Police Chief Thomas Ford makes no sense.

    “While we were not tasked with reviewing the Police Department or Chief Ford’s management skills, we did form the overall opinion that Chief Ford is a well-organized, skillful manager,” Chief Horn says on page 97.

    According to Mrs. Blanchard, Chief Horn’s “reference to the police chief has no significance into the Fire Department, in my view.”

    The Central Massachusetts Law Enforcement Council includes a five-person Executive Committee of area police chiefs. Chief Ford and Chief Horn both sit on that panel.

    Chief Senecal, 61, joined the Sturbridge Fire Department in 1975 as a volunteer, became full-time two years later and was appointed chief 29 years ago.

    In an interview, the chief said the only fatal fire since he has been commander involved a 2-year-old girl who perished in a blaze on Bates Hill Road in 1984, his first year as chief.

    Chief Senecal said no firefighters have been injured during his tenure because of equipment failures.

    Asked if there have been machinery failures, the chief responded: “Not at the scene.” He said that either he or Capt. John C. Marinelli are present at all major fires and do not take vacation at the same time.

    Contacted last week, Selectman Mary Dowling said she has many questions but declined to comment — but plans to ask them at tonight’s meeting. Board Chairman Thomas Creamer did not return calls.

    Sturbridge selectmen meet today to discuss the Horn report with him and the fire chief.

    “All I can say is, in terms of personnel, we are going to handle it in a professional manner in terms of the law,” Sturbridge Town Administrator Shaun Suhoski said Monday.


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