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

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

A Company Car, Stipends; What's Next?

Really?  Now, as our tax rate is through the roof the selectmen have voted to give themselves, and the members of the Board of Assessors, Conservation Commission, Planning Board, Board of Health, and the Recreation Commission a stipend?

Meetings are the name of the game.  Suck it up, or step down, and pass the baton to another more willing to give of their time.

Do you  feel that the town should pay them for doing the job they were elected to do without a stipend?  Especially now?

Fiscal Year2013
Residential tax rate17.95%
Residential rank, statewide45
Commercial tax rate21.38%
Commercial rank, statewide79
Industrial tax rate21.38%
Personal property tax rate21.38%

From the Worcester Telegram
April 30, 2013

 - The Board of Selectmen voted in favor of giving stipends for themselves, as well as to the town moderator and all the members of the Board of Assessors, Conservation Commission, Planning Board, Board of Health, and Recreation Commission.
In a 3-1-1 vote, selectmen approved an $850 stipend for each of its members, as well as a $200 stipend for the town moderator and each member of the other five boards.

In all, the selectmen voted to dish out $9,050. The voters will have the final say at the annual town meeting June 3.

At a special town meeting held June 8, 2009, the voters eliminated stipends for all boards, committees and commissions, beginning in fiscal 2010.

Chairman of Selectmen Thomas R. Creamer, who had never taken a stipend before, said the vast number of meetings that he and fellow selectmen attend justifies stipends. Selectmen Priscilla Gimas and Mary Redetzke also voted for the stipends.

“Already this year, the Board of Selectmen has had 20 meetings,” Mr. Creamer said. “At this point right here, I’ve already been to 36 meetings, and we are only a quarter of the way through the year.”

Mr. Creamer said he attended 76 meetings last year and 78 meetings in 2011, with 51 and 53 of those meetings, respectively, being Board of Selectmen’s meetings.

Selectmen Mary Blanchard voted against the stipends, and Selectman Mary Dowling abstained.

“I’m not in favor of the stipends at this time,” Mrs. Blanchard said. “We seem to be reluctant to pay our town employers who work every day, have meetings and also work extra hours. Yet we’re willing to give us a stipend. I think it really should come from a complete study.”

“I’m very much in favor of stipends,” Ms. Dowling said. “But I, too, would like to study it further.”

— Craig S. Semon  


  1. I don't feel strongly either way about the request for stipends. At least the question is getting some attention and will come to a vote at the town meeting. Please vote.

    Regarding the car for the town administrator, I wonder what's in his contract. He is a very pleasant man to speak to, and I've never had a problem with him personally. He appears warm and friendly and smiles easily.

    My concern is that we seem to spend this extra or free (or whatever we want to call it) money without the townspeople being presented with a cost summary, and a vote. What does it cost for gas and wear and tear to drive back and forth from the administrator's hometown? It's minimal, we are told. If it's in the contract, so be it. If it's not, I think we should look at not only at this, but at how many minimal expenses were or might be handled without a vote of what Mr. Creamer calls the legislative branch (we the voters).

  2. I drive almost 30,000 miles per year commuting to my job. I do not have a company car. My salary is less than the town administrator's. I don't think a car was part of the contract when he was hired, and should not be added now. Why should he be entitled to a "company car" for commuting to work like the rest of us? Denise Lachapelle

  3. I do not have a problem with stipends if they are monitored closely. If the members of boards are spending there own money to provide a service for the town i can see them being reimbursed. Most people dedicate a lot of time and effort to the boards they serve on. I would think It is difficult for the town to budget for stipends.

    However, if the people voted to suspend stipends back in 2010 is the BOS within their right to vote to re-instate them? I do not know the answer to that question but it does concern me a bit. The people did speak, is there a statute of limitations on a vote?

  4. Exactly. The people have voted, and would have to come up again in the same venue again for a vote.

  5. The Town budgets for that year deleted the various stipends. The BOS and Fin Comm explained to the voters at the Town Meeting that they were recommending eliminating the stipends until a Committee to be named by the BOS could study and report back with recommendations. The Voters approved the budget without the stipends. No formal vote doinfg away with the concept of stipends was ever taken, only action on the budget. The Committee was never appointed. For what it's worth, the FinComm is NOT recommending that the stipends be approved. It will be up to the voters to decide.

  6. What is Ironic we issue a Fleet Car to the Town Administrator. Notice he came from Ayer which now has the Hollywood style Movie Studio that is going to be built which will bring up to $104 million in investment in that Town.

    How come he never pitched Sturbridge to these people to consider setting up here. He was aware of this and we did not even get to put a good word in for our time to these investors. This is something we need and be a good fit, attraction and complement OSV and bring some visitor's, as we keep saying this is a tourist town and the plus factor the revenue to the businesses and town. We surely could use a 100 million dollar investment that would bring us some big tax revenue to knock down our debt and rising taxes that are coming upon us for sure.

    So far we have not seen anything he has brought to this town outside of hitting the papers and getting paid suspension. Maybe he should go and visit Malloy in Westboro and see how you do it. In the same time on the job as our guy he has brought a lot of investment and tax revenue on teh business side to Westboro.

    This is what we need to keep our taxes down and help our property values to increase. Instead our property taxes are going to go up for sure and people are selling houses at steep fire sale prices. Our future is getting worse instead of better.

  7. You see, our TA has no power. He has been neutered by the BO'S, particularly Tom Creamer. As long as there is such issues in the town hall, there will never be a TA with the kiones to do what Malloy has done in Westboro.

  8. What personal expenses are the stipends supposed to help pay for? Gas money to travel to meetings? No, meetings came with the job. Babysitting fee's? Don't think so, nights out also came with the volunteer, elected position. Office supplies? Naw. That's already covered. I seriously can not think of anything that a stipend would be needed for.

    The use of a Town of Sturbridge Fleet Car (that still sounds really stupid) for the TA is meant for his use while on the job. I don't think it is being supplied to aid in his commute. It is for all the traveling he does in town on town business.

    There is a lot of traveling the TA must do in the course of a day between the Town Hall, Center Office Building, the Town garage, water treatment facility, Burgess School, Senior Center, and of course, lunch. It's a rat race out there on 131, and the use of a fleet car is a wise use of town resources, and funds.

  9. The TA has already had the use of a fleet car for town business. The new "gift" is to allow him to use the car for his commute to his far away home and back.

  10. So, the car would not be to allow him to travel in town, on town business, but to provide transportation from his home to work, and back home again each day. Well, if it is in his contract, and those negotiating this contract were silly enough to offer such a perk, I guess there is nothing we can do, or say about it, since it is a contractual thing.

    It is in his contract, right?


  12. The car would allow him both - to travel around town, etc., on town business, and (with the new plan) also allow him to use the car to travel home and back. The sticky wicket here, as I understand it, is that his contract specifically says that he must provide his own transportation to his home and back.

  13. If it is not in his contract and as the last anonymous poster states that "his contract specifically says that he must provide his own transportation to his home and back. " i would like some clarification from the BOS on this one.

    I really enjoy this site even more so now that there was a suggestion that people use their names, not that it is happening however. It would be great if the BOS and other town officials would chime in here.

  14. They should rename the June Town Meeting to "Casino Night In Sturbridge". The budget is already been increased by our BOS and Finance Committee and TA who are supposed to be the watchdogs of unnecessary spending. Instead its lets suck more money out of our residents, "Why not its not my money, its someone elses"... "And don't worry for tonight we shall dance"...

    But all we are going to be doing is like lowly serfs voting down to see if our tax bill is going up $19.00 plus or minus a few pennies because we shot down a couple expenses. Either way we come out a looser poorer from this meeting. That is why a lot of people do not want to come out, its a loose loose proposition. At least going to Foxwoods you could be lucky and win, here its a stacked deck.

    Just like playing 3 Card Monty on the Side Streets of New York, the residents come out on the short end of the stick. Even voicing your opinion does no good, look last year's meeting what happened the moderator goofed up the vote and did not explain fully as he was jumping around and creating havoc at the meeting. But he gets a Stipend too....

    Then he puts a time limit on everyone speaking, except when Selectman Dowling comes on and starts a filibuster going over 15 minutes and not even proving any points or issues, just plain wasting of time to frustrate the audience who were sitting for almost 2 hours and seeing no progress whatsoever and pure disaster in the making.

    So after this June Meeting your taxes are going to up again its the truth. Do they care about the future of Sturbridge and its residents, the answer is obvious. "NO"

  15. Oh, yes, let's talk some more about our high tax rate and high taxes; but let's support keeping Butch Jackson in his "assistant to the fire chief" position. Butch was on the payroll the whole time the consultant was there working on his report; funny though, no mention of Butch "assisting" the chief with maintenance, repairs, hose and ladder testing, et cetera.

    It's obvious that many commenters here have not served on any town committees, or at least, a town committee that requires writing, printing, and copying of reports and e-mails. And what about the cost of phone calls from residents? Serving on a committee costs volunteers a small chunk of money; serving on the BoS costs quite a bit more.

    During the meeting when stipends were discussed, Mary Redetzke said it costs her $875 a year in ink, paper, phone, etc. I have no reason to doubt that, and I support stipends to cover such costs. Perhaps it's an incentive, hopefully, to motivate more people to get involved with town committees.

    As for Suhoski using a car, I have no problem with him using a car for town business while in town and conducting town business. That's really what it's for; not for commuting. I'd rather that, than have him use his own car and charge the rate per mile to taxpayers.

  16. Don't know if anyone will see this in time but the educational show about town meeting is on channel 11 right now.

  17. Sturbridge Gateways are Openings to the Tax Money Flood GatesSaturday, May 18, 2013

    It is so easy to get both frustrated and disgusted with our town meetings. It does seem that the more we protest the more things come up and get passed sapping our dollars.

    This year there IS one important thing we can do. That is to vote NO or articles 4 and 5, the Sturbidge Gateway articles. Don't let them open up those flood-of-tax-money gates.

  18. Time For Change Elect WallySunday, May 19, 2013


    We have Gimas and Blanchard running next year. You have a great Blog, but need to recruit 2 people who will stop this spending madness.

    You should throw your name in the hat this year its time for them to see someone is going to challenge them and maybe Ms. Desy for the other person. Time for the broom and get rid of this dead wood we have now.

    Wally for Selectman. Sounds Good...

  19. Thank you for your vote of confidence, but everything in life has a time that is best. This is not the time for me to throw my hat in. There are many more, more qualified people in town. In the future, who knows? Thank you again. now, stop talking goofy, and find us a great candidate, or two.

  20. Anonymous like everyone else.Sunday, May 19, 2013

    3,4,5,6 all should go down in my opinion. 3,4,5 to keep spending down, 6 because i think this town is ridiculous with the signs. If people spent half as much time worrying about other things than being sign police i think we would be better off. Would a neon sign at the laundromat really bring the town of Sturbridge to its knees? I think not.

    Article 3.
    We do not need any more town properties, whether its for parking or not. Its just more money spent. I have never been NOT able to find a parking spot at the town hall. (Nobody goes to meetings) So 208K plus costs associated with whatever they plan to do with it. I do not think it is a wise way to spend our tax dollars.

    I just did a bit more reading on article 4. WOW. A very well thought out article. So are all of these restrictions are placed on the business owners and future business owners? Would these kind of restrictions not scare prospective business owners from coming to town? It all sounds rather pricey though. A lot is going to be asked of the businesses and also the DPW. I think they will have a lot more work with keeping things beautiful. I assume we will be on the hook for the sidewalks that are missing in part of the Village Gateway District. They are cheap right. Voting no on 4 will put the brakes on a lot of future spending.

    Article 5.
    I do not know how this will effect us. However, i am concerned that any additional properties that are added to the Gateway district would require more use of tax dollars to fund maintenance and more sidewalks. I could be off on this though, it would not be the first time.

  21. Budget season is upon us.
    Is there anyone out there with a conservative backbone?


Anonymous comments not accepted, and will be rejected. Please use your full name. Choose "Name / URL" and enter your name, and your name ONLY. Leave "URL" blank.