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, October 30, 2013

You're Kidding? Really?

Here's a thought, who else thought this would ever  happen?
Took me totally by surprise.

Article published Oct 29, 2013

Sturbridge fire official quits, rips chief, town leaders


STURBRIDGE — The Sturbridge Fire Department is "being run by fear and intimidation by a misdirected, unpredictable police chief," according to the temporary deputy fire chief, who resigned, effective immediately, on Tuesday.

In his resignation letter, Edward G. Bourassa said he refuses to be part of "further destroying the morale, firefighters' confidence and departmental readiness any more."

Retiring in 2007, Mr. Bourassa had 16 years of command experience in the Sturbridge Fire Department, serving 14 years as captain. In a 3-2 vote on June 3, selectmen appointed the retired fire captain as the town's temporary deputy fire chief. Selectmen Mary Blanchard and Mary B. Dowling both voted against the appointment.

He was to serve through Jan. 17 at a salary of $64,299.

Police Chief Thomas J. Ford III has been serving as acting fire chief since April 25. He replaced Chief Leonard E. Senecal, a 35-year veteran of the force, who was placed on paid administrative leave April 22 after a consultant's report critical of his management. Chief Senecal retired May 17. Town Administrator Shaun A. Suhoski said he estimates that Chief Ford will serve as the acting fire chief through Dec. 1.

Not only did he have unkind words for Chief Ford, Mr. Suhoski and Selectman Thomas R. Creamer, his board's chairman, but Mr. Bourassa said in his resignation letter that he is relieved to be out of the "pressure cooker" that has become the Sturbridge Fire Department.

"I wish I could say that it is with great sadness, but it is not," Mr. Bourassa wrote in his resignation letter. "I am relieved to be out of the pressure cooker the department has become under the supervision of your police chief."

Mr. Bourassa griped that Mr. Suhoski and Mr. Creamer clearly told him that Chief Ford would only handle administrative tasks while Mr. Bourassa would deal with the "day-to-day operations" of the fire department.

Instead, at the Public Safety Complex, Mr. Bourassa alleged, "in-fighting and backstabbing" are "out of control," and everyone in the department lives in fear of being "the next one on the police chief's hit list" amid "constant threats of investigations on just about everything that goes on."

Mr. Bourassa wrote that every group of fire professionals he is aware of has said a police chief should not be allowed to manage a fire department for even a short time, and he added that he could not agree with them more.

Chief Ford "has absolutely no fire, rescue or emergency medical service experience and yet has been allowed to do whatever he wants, behaving like a 'subject matter expert' which he is not," Mr. Bourassa wrote. "The bottom line is that police and fire services are very different and need supervisors who understand and know what they're doing."

Mr. Bourassa also said Chief Ford has locked every cabinet in the Fire Department, and fire personnel need permission to access any fire documents.

"It's ridiculous. This is a travesty, and ultimately where is the big, secret disgrace left by the former chief? Nowhere because there was none," Mr. Bourassa said. "This is a fire department being run by fear and intimidation — by a misdirected, unpredictable police chief."

He claimed he was not allowed to make "one real decision" and was "kept in the dark" on the selection process of all of those hired or promoted during his time as temporary deputy chief.

"Why have someone with more than three decades of fire service experience come in just to have a police officer with no fire experience tell us how it needs to be done?" Mr. Bourassa said. "If this type of strong-armed leadership is so successful, why are police officers leaving or asking for demotion?"

In his "exit interview" from 2007, Mr. Bourassa said his attempts to reform the Fire Department had all been "a waste of time," since his suggestions were either "brushed off" or he was told to "go ahead" only to have any follow-up attempt ignored.

"This individual left the department six years ago because of too little management accountability. Now he leaves because there is too much management accountability," Mr. Suhoski said. "I think anyone can understand that it is difficult to transition from a work environment with minimal accountability to one that seeks greater accountability. I remain confident that the next permanent fire chief will work closely with our dedicated employees and continue the substantial progress that has been made over the past six months under acting Chief Ford's leadership."

In Tuesday's resignation letter, Mr. Bourassa, who refers to himself as a "proud retired member of the once-strong Sturbridge Fire Department," offered his "sincerest apology" to those in the fire department who had come to him in hopes that he could change what was happening.

Mr. Bourassa chastised current and previous selectmen for causing the problem that existed with Chief Senecal and now.

"When all of the members of the board ignore the issues and look the other way while only listening to the person causing the problems, there is no way for changes to be effected," Mr. Bourassa wrote. "This is the exact situation that created the original problems under the former chief, a board who only listens to the one person who is creating the problems or trying to cover up his own ineffectiveness."

Mr. Bourassa, Chief Ford and Mr. Creamer did not return calls.

Craig S. Semon can be reached at

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Copyright 2013 Worcester Telegram & Gazette Corp.


  1. Why does this not surprise me??????????????????

  2. This Pandora's box, opened months ago, was filled to the brim, wasn't it? How much longer will it take to for it's contents to fly out? Does hope linger long at the bottom of this box as the mythical Elpis?

  3. And the beat goes on

  4. Walley: Still waters run deep..... as the current (but for how long???) longest serving Call member of the FD I can openly say I agree with almost all of the statements made by Deputy Chief Bourassa. I can also state that if one looks at the Horn report, and the items addressed, nowhere have any of those items been as costly to fix or change as had been estimated in his report or town leadership. Promotions have been made, given to some with no real firefighting experience, except to say they are FF1/2 Qualified. We are setting up a real challenge, not making it easier, as has been the official line of the town, to whomever our new Fire Chief will be. Unfortunately for both the taxpayers and the members of the FD itself, once a new chief is installed, this will still be far from over.

    Tom Chamberland

  5. Wally: Thanks, however, the "small town" fire dept is now gone forever in Sturbridge..... it started when we moved into the "new" safety complex back in the late 80's, so I can't say I did not see this day coming.... and that's what hurts the most.
    To us long time, call, volunteer Firefighters, we know that this change today, will not increase safety to the residents of Sturbridge, it will just cost them more in the name of "professionalism"

    Ok to post this too.

    Tom Chamberland


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