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Archive for April, 2009

The area in question to be rezoned commercial.

The area in question to be rezoned commercial.

STURBRIDGE – Land along the southernmost portion of Route 15 remains zoned residential after voters at Monday’s town meeting struck down an article that would have made it commercial.
The land’s owners, Michael Bergeron and Anthony Grossi of New England Land and Lumber, brought the article forth by petition as they seek to develop adjacent commercial property in Holland and Union, CT.
At last week’s Board of Selectmen meeting Bergeron persuaded the board to overturn their previous recommendation to oppose the change.
During the debate Selectman Harold White fought that move strongly. “With no advance notice to the public, with no item on the agenda, the proponents showed up…it was very one-sided,” he said. “The Board of Selectmen did not do itself any favor – with a 3-2 vote – with no pubic input, to reverse the earlier vote.”
Michael Cimini, chair of the Economic Development Committee, favored the article and said it was time to abandon the “failed Route 20 policy” and let the town send a positive message to businesses looking to locate here.
“You can’t force business to open on Route 20…You can’t force these folks to Route 20, they don’t own land there…If we want business we must put it where it’s willing to go,” he said.
Town Administrator James Malloy was against the change too. He said the town would not see much benefit. He noted in Fiscal Year 2010 the town’s tax rate would become a single tax rate and would lose the benefits of a higher tax on commercial property after that.
Also, Malloy asked Bergeron point blank if he had access to the commercial property through Sturbridge. Bergeron answered no.
Many residents of the Route 15 area spoke out against the article citing concerns related to pollution, traffic, wetland degradation and other quality of life issues.
Bergeron noted he could still develop the land as residential and would make plans to do so. He also said this would not stop the commercial development in Holland and Union.

Hamant Brook

Voters split the vote 62-62 on a non-binding question to gauge public opinion on the future of the dams at Hamant Brook.
The debate centered on the aesthetics of the three ponds and their recreational and historical value versus the need to remove the dams for safety and ecological reasons.
A grant to remove the dams would be available from Millennium Power Plant in Charlton. The town would be fiscally responsible for the dams repair and upkeep if it decided to retain them.

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Bliss in limbo

Principal Steven Bliss

Principal Steven Bliss

STURBRIDGE – The abrupt departure of Tantasqua Regional High School (TRHS) Principal Steven Bliss left many students and teachers wondering, “What happened?”
Bliss, whose contract ends June 30, said previously it was over winter break he decided to pursue his doctorate degree and move on to a superintendent position.
Tantasqua/Union 61 Superintendent Daniel Durgin said he was appreciative of Bliss letting him know of his intentions early in the process.
“It was a combination of feeling like the school has a great momentum and the fact that the market is replete with superintendent positions,” Bliss said. “It is very important to me to come into a district to make changes, to get momentum moving and move on. It’s kind of my MO. And everyone knew that coming in.”
Bliss was unanimously approved by the Joint School Committee of Dover-Sherborn Regional District as their recommendation for assistant superintendent March 24, effective July 1. Bliss accepted their offer that evening.
“The signing of the contract was accelerated because [Dover-Sherborn] knew I was a finalist in other districts,” Bliss said. “Out of respect for everyone involved, it happened quickly.”
Bliss said a contract typically takes about three weeks to negotiate. But as of March 24, two other districts were setting up plans to do site visits at TRHS, which Bliss describes as an intrusive procedure where the search committee enters the school for the entire day and meets with upwards of 50 people. Bliss said he didn’t want to waste the time of the TRHS community or the search committees.
In an e-mail Bliss sent to TRHS staff March 25, hours after he accepted his new position, he wrote, “As promised to Mr. Durgin, I continue to serve the Tantasqua community until June 30th and beyond as needed. The school community will continue to receive 100% of my time and attention, even if that means working longer hours so as to begin my transition to Dover-Sherborn while concurrently fulfilling my responsibilities here. Ensuring a smooth transition remains a chief priority.”
In keeping with his word, Bliss met with Durgin March 25 to discuss his transition.
“I had seven weeks of vacation time accrued and [Durgin] made it clear that the district was not in a position to cut me a check [for the owed vacation time],” Bliss said.
Bliss said Durgin suggested he use that vacation time as soon as possible, and that Associate Superintendent Theodore Friend would immediately be repositioned to the school as acting principal to perform its day-to-day operations.
“It wouldn’t have made sense, given that I would be out three to four days a week, to have had me go in [to the school],” Bliss said. “[Durgin] had to put somebody in there to handle day-to-day operations. This was the best option.”

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(l-r) Scott Garieri, Francesco Froio, Tom Creamer, Ted Goodwin and James Ehrhard campaign during Monday’s town election.

(l-r) Scott Garieri, Francesco Froio, Tom Creamer, Ted Goodwin and James Ehrhard campaign during Monday’s town election.

STURBRIDGE – Voters in Monday’s annual town election overwhelmingly chose a retired Marine and Planning Board member as their newest selectman.
Thomas Creamer, of Leadmine Road, won 953 votes to take the seat of departing Chairman Steven Halterman who did not run for re-election.
Incumbent Edward Goodwin, earning a second term, narrowly held on to his seat despite strong campaigning from challenger James Ehrhard, a School Committee member and attorney.
Fourteen votes separated the two. Goodwin had 837 votes to Ehrhard’s 823. Priscilla Gimas came in fourth with 513 votes.
Creamer – who was “stunned” by the outcome – credited his win to a grassroots approach that included an ambitious door-to-door campaign where he visited 2,327 residences.
“I’m very surprised to be frank,” he said. “I didn’t really prepare for myself. I didn’t imagine myself being in this position.” Creamer said many voters approached him Monday to say they don’t normally turn out for local elections, but his personal visit persuaded them to show up.
“It was an incredible journey for me. A remarkable opportunity to meet residents throughout this town,” he said.
Ehrhard said he had the utmost confidence in the ability of Creamer and Goodwin. “Both are highly capable and intelligent. I’ll sleep easy knowing the town is in good hands,” he said.

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