The following article (in its entirety) was written by News Staff Writer Christopher Tanguay and appeared in the Southbridge Evening News 12-24-09.
BY CHRISTOPHER TANGUAY
NEWS STAFF WRITER
STURBRIDGE — While the Town Administrator Search Committee dives back into the pool of candidates, hoping this time to come up with three candidates acceptable to the Board of Selectmen, members of that board shared their opinions on why the process has been further halted — and what they’re looking for as it continues.
Although members of the Board of Selectmen did not reach a consensus of support for any of the three finalists — John D’Agostino, Pamela Nolan and Donald Crawford — two of the five members came to the Monday, Dec. 21 meeting prepared to take a vote, while the other three were unimpressed with the candidates.
Selectman Scott Garieri, who is the only person to be part of both configurations of the search committee, said he was, and still is, prepared to support D’Agostino for the position, and that the lack of support for that particular candidate is based in one factor. “I can tell you first-hand that he’s the most qualified,” Garieri said. “He’s run big projects before, he’s overseen building of wastewater treatment plants, he’s overseen buildings under renovation, he’s built schools. We’ve got wells going in, we’ve got all this stuff, so obviously we need somebody who has the ability to do all this stuff, and he does.”
Additionally, Garieri said D’Agostino’s track record for successfully bringing new and emerging businesses into his previous town of Mansfield is just what Sturbridge needs. “Tax bills on people’s houses are going to be going up and up and, in order to stop, this we need to get some industry in, we need to get some more businesses in here and that’s one of the things he was able to do when he was in Mansfield,” Garieri said. D’Agostino was the recipient of the 2007 Tri-Town Chamber of Commerce President’s Award for just such efforts for introducing seven new industries into Mansfield’s economy during that time.
In Garieri’s eyes, his colleagues’ opposition to D’Agostino is simple. “They’re anti-growth, they don’t want to see it,” he said. With a vision for future development of Route 15 and enhancing Sturbridge’s attractiveness as a tourist town that garnered him support from Garieri and Selectman Thomas Creamer, and the credentials to suggest he may be able to accomplish it, D’Agostino’s plans sounded too grandiose to Chairman of the Board of Selectmen Mary Blanchard, who declined to endorse anyone Monday night.
“I just didn’t feel comfortable that any of the three would do the best for Sturbridge,” Blanchard said. “Mr. D’Agostino, certainly he has a wealth of managerial experiences, and he did address some of the ongoing projects in town, but some of the statements are what I might consider political statements.” Blanchard said D’Agostino’s ideas about securing grants for Route 15 and bringing colleges or research facilities to town might be a little far-reaching.
“These sound wonderful, but are they realistic?” she questioned. Furthermore, Blanchard said she was concerned with D’Agostino’s past, which includes a 2007 lawsuit in which D’Agostino was initially ordered to pay $500,000 in punitive damages to a former town employee for retaliation against her after she claimed D’Agostino sexually harassed her. That judgment was vacated in 2009, alleviating D’Agostino of the responsibility to pay, though Blanchard is not satisfied that issue is truly in his past.
“The judge set aside the judgment, but if you read the ending [of the memorandum and Order], he recommends a second trial,” Blanchard said. “[The search committee] should have considered some of the issues these candidates have swirling around them,” Blanchard said, “because they are definitely out there.”
Selectman Ted Goodwin also chose not to endorse any candidates Monday night, but said his decision to do so was based on what he saw as an imbalance in personable versus the knowledgeable. “You need to have somebody who can resolve conflicts, keep the peace; you’re the face of Sturbridge, so you have to represent us, kind of be an ambassador,” Goodwin said. “You also need to be able to roll up your sleeves and be the back up for your department heads.”
While Goodwin explained he has no doubt in the ability of any of the candidates to administer the business of the town, with some of them coming from larger towns and all coming from different backgrounds, he questioned how well the candidates would balance successful completion of their duties with their role as mediator to all issues in town.
Goodwin said, for example, the town administrator should have the ability to fill in for a department head who may be out of Town Hall for a period of time, and said an administrator coming from a larger municipality, where they could delegate a job like that, may not be comfortable in that position.
“The town administrator’s got to be the person who can back up all those people,” Goodwin said. “[Former Town Administrator James Malloy]’s a good example, Jim was a work horse, he did a lot of the work that got done in Town Hall. Jim was very productive in the day-to-day.”
“I just don’t think they meet exactly what Sturbridge needs right now,” Goodwin said of D’Agostino, Crawford and Nolan. “I don’t necessarily think that Sturbridge gives them a steeping stone to something else. I don’t think it’s really a step beyond where they’ve been.”
Creamer said he has full faith in D’Agostino’s ability to lead Sturbridge, but said that if any other members of the board wanted to support another candidate he would have gone along with their suggestion, as all three of the candidates, he said, would have been able to handle the job.
“To me, John D’Agostino was the complete candidate,” Creamer said. “I thought that he hit all of the points that I feel would have made him a good town administrator, as well as the fact that he talked about building coalitions, bringing people together, being a consensus builder.”
“I think we’re a listing ship right now,” Creamer said. “We need someone to come in here with the breadth of experience that John D’Agostino has, to hit the ground running.” Creamer said that to him, Garieri’s endorsement of D’Agostino, as someone who served on the search committee, lends further credence to the idea that he would be the best for the job.
“I was encouraged that he took a stand on behalf of one of the candidates last night. That speaks volumes of his sense that the process and the vetting was done very objectively and thoroughly,” Creamer said of Garieri.
As for his other fellow board members, Creamer said, “Though I disagree with the position taken by Hal White and Ted Goodwin, I believe that both of them are honorable individuals and that their determinations were based solely on general reservations that they held.”
“I have no doubt that those two individuals were very honest and very forthcoming in deciding not to support any of them because of their reservations,” Creamer continued. “I do however have serous doubts as it pertains to the chairman of the board.” “I am left to conclude that Mrs. Blanchard’s refusal to support any of the finalists stems solely from the absence of her husband’s name among them,” Creamer said.
The candidacy of Blanchard’s husband, Charles Blanchard, town administrator of Paxton, became a point of contention throughout the entire town administrator search process leading to multiple accusations of ethical misconduct from both sides. As a result of the board’s inability to reach a consensus on Monday, the Town Administrator Search Committee must now reconvene for the purpose of producing a new list of three finalists for the selectmen to choose from.
The new list of three may or may not contain the names of any of the finalists previously presented. “I would like to see three different candidates,” Blanchard said. “Obviously I didn’t feel comfortable enough with either of the three that were presented. I can’t imagine what new information would be brought forth that would make me feel comfortable.” Should any of the same names once again appear before the selectmen, Blanchard said, “I would have the idea that [the search committee] really didn’t listen well last night, but still, it’s their choice.”
Goodwin said he trusted the search committee to provide the best possible candidates, but that he hopes they understand the concerns some of the selectmen about the recent finalists. “I would want them to take into some consideration that we did not vote for them,” Goodwin said.
Garieri however, still confident in D’Agostino, said he will suggest that individual be considered for submission as a finalist once again when the search committee meets after the first of the year. Likewise, Creamer said he would have no problem seeing any repeat names, but that he trusts the search committee to hand over the best possible candidates. “I will be completely satisfied that those candidates, whether there’s two of them or there’s one, are still the best out there,” if they show up on the new list, Creamer said.
Goodwin concluded that while the search process for the next town administrator is certainly a test in patience, the events that transpired Monday are an example of government in action. “I think the thing to remember too, is this is how the process is supposed to work,” Goodwin said, explaining the research options available to the selectmen are far greater than those available to the search committee, as the candidates’ identities cannot be made public until they are handed over to the selectmen, allowing that board the ability to contact current and former coworkers without violating confidentiality Laws. “We have extra vetting capabilities they don’t have,” Goodwin said.
Phone calls to selectman Hal White were not returned as of press time.
News staff writer Christopher Tanguay may be reached at (508) 909-4132, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Monday, December 28, 2009
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
Recently, the Friends of Fiskdale-Sturbridge Seniors demonstrated yet again their comprehensive approach to supporting our seniors by way of a significant donation to the REAS Foundation. Citing the growing need among seniors within our community, Friends President Josephine Kaitbenski said that " The board members of the Friends of the Sturbridge/Fiskdale Seniors are pleased to have donated $500 to the REAS Foundation. We feel that this is what community is all about, people helping people".
Friends Treasurer Claire Cook echoed Ms. Kaitbenski's comments saying that "The Friends of the Sturbridge/Fiskdale Senior Center count it a privilege to help our seniors in whatever way we can. We appreciate what the REAS Foundation is doing to provide essential energy funds to seniors. REAS is filling a need in our community and this kindness has a great impact on all Sturbridge and Fiskdale citizens".
Jennifer Morrison - REAS Foundation Chief Administration Officer - thanked the Friends for their "generous contribution to the health and welfare of Sturbridge seniors and their tireless efforts on behalf of our senior community".
REAS Foundation Executive Director Thomas R. Creamer conveyed his "deep gratitude on behalf of the REAS Foundation for the generosity and support of the Friends of Fiskdale-Sturbridge Seniors" citing the "significance of Seniors helping Seniors".
Photo: Left to Right - Sally Ballard, Josephine Kaitbenski, Kathy Ashton, Jennifer Morrison (REAS Foundation), Barbara Search (REAS Foundation), Claire Cook, Aline Girourd, Lucy Vanderhoof, and Tina Galati.
The REAS Foundation is the Residential Energy Assistance for Seniors Foundation, and is built upon the belief that the greatness of a community is ultimately judged not so much by the beauty or magnificence of its structures, but rather, by its compassion, contributions, and care for its most vulnerable members. Rising energy costs, which in turn drive the costs of many associated items, coupled with fixed incomes, have placed many of our seniors in difficult,and dangerous predicaments. Their incomes are now fast outpaced by escalating energy prices. Choices between fuel, food, and prescriptions medications are becoming all too common for many of our seniors.
“The Board of Trustees and I are happy to help contribute to such a worthwhile organization,” the Bank’s president and CEO, Phil Pettinelli (center of photo, flanked by Linda Cocalis (L) REAS Foundation Board of Director's and Jennifer Morrison (R) Reas Foundation Chief Administration Officer), said on offering Southbridge Savings’ donation. “Our Bank is committed to helping those in need in the areas that we serve.”
REAS Foundation Executive Director, Thomas Creamer, said, “To date this is the most generous donation our organization has received. The support provided by Southbridge Savings Bank to our senior community has and continues, to dramatically change the lives of local seniors.”
If you want to find more information about the REAS Foundation’s visit them at www.REASFoundation.org. Inquiries may be sent to info@REASFoundation.org or to P.O. Box 737, Fiskdale, MA 01518.
For more information about Southbridge Savings Bank, call 800-939-9103 or visit them on the Web at www.southbridgesavingsbank. com.
Sunday, December 6, 2009
One of the fundamental tenets of the Merchants of Sturbridge is that of Shopping and Buying Locally. To the end the Merchants of Sturbridge have introduced the 6.25 discount card which entitles card holders to a 6.25% discount at nearly 40 participating locations. These cards make great stocking stuffers for the holidays and are valid until December 31, 2010. They can be purchased at several locations in town (The Brier Patch Designs, The Visitor Center, The Bird Store and More, and the Sturbridge Scrapping Corner). More information is available at www.merchantsofsturbridge.com.
Below are stories of two Buy Local programs, one in Providence R.I., the other in Portland, ME. In reading them, simply substitute the name Sturbridge where the sponsoring towns are listed and consider the impact we can all have by Shopping and Buying Locally.
‘Buy Local’ campaigns help fight bad economy (Worcester Telegram & Gazette - Sunday, 12-06-09)
By Michelle R. Smith THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
PROVIDENCE — A lot of things have helped Deb Dormody and her partners turn their annual holiday crafts show, Craftland, into a year-round permanent store: a growing appreciation for handmade, unique goods, a desire to support the arts, and — surprisingly — the bad economy, which she says has pushed people to examine how they spend their money.
“People can feel really good about what they’re purchasing,” she said. “Being able to say to the recipient … ‘I know the person who made this. This person lives here in town.’ ”
Providence is among many cities and states that are pushing a “buy local” philosophy this holiday season, with Mayor David Cicilline saying the businesses are critical to the economy of the city, capital of a state where unemployment stands at 12.9 percent. New Mexico Gov. William B. Richardson urged residents of his state to spend $25 at each of two local stores this month, saying it could have a $27 million economic impact, and cities including Cambridge and Somerville, Mass., and Portland, Maine, have similar pushes.
A survey of independent retailers earlier this year by the Institute for Local Self-Reliance found that independent stores in cities with Buy Local campaigns saw a 3.2 percent drop in holiday sales last year, compared with a 5.6 percent drop in cities without one.
A second and fairly comprehensive program, is one on Portland Me sponsored by the Portland Independent Business and Community Alliance
Why Support Locally Owned Businesses?
Our top ten reasons! You can also download this as a PDF flyer that you can print and distribute.
1. KEEP DOLLARS IN PORTLAND'S ECONOMY
For every $100 spent at a locally owned business, $45 stays in the local economy, creating jobs and expanding the city's tax base. For every $100 spent at a national chain or franchise store, only $14 remains in the community.
2. EMBRACE WHAT MAKES PORTLAND UNIQUE
Portland is a city of neighborhoods. Where we shop, where we eat and hang out—all of it makes our neighborhood home. Chain stores are growing more aggressive throughout Portland and threatening to change the unique character of our city. One-of-a-kind, independent businesses are an integral part of what makes Portland a great place to live.
3. FOSTER LOCAL JOB CREATION
Studies show that locally owned businesses create more jobs locally and, in some sectors, provide better wages and benefits than national chains. 
4. HELP THE ENVIRONMENT
Local business owners tend to set up shop downtown and in walkable neighborhood business districts, rather than developing on the city's fringe or in suburban strip malls accessible only by automobile. Having a diverse array of businesses within walking or biking distance reduces the amount of driving Portland residents must do to shop for goods and services. It also helps to conserve land, limit sprawl and lessen traffic and air pollution.
5. NURTURE COMMUNITY
Independent businesses are owned by people who live in this community and are committed to investing in Portland's future. Studies have found that locally owned businesses contribute more than twice as much of their revenue to charitable causes as corporate chains do. And advocates of local causes find that local business owners are generally much more accessible than executives of large corporations based in other states. 
6. CONSERVE YOUR TAX DOLLARS
Small neighborhood and downtown businesses require less public infrastructure and make more efficient use of city services compared to sprawling big-box stores and shopping centers, which are far more costly in terms of road work and police services, according to studies. 
7. HAVE MORE CHOICES
A marketplace of thousands of small businesses helps to ensure more innovation and competition, and lower prices over the long term. Independent businesses, choosing products based on what their local customers need and desire, not a national sales plan, guarantees a more diverse range of product and service choices.
8. BENEFIT FROM LOCAL OWNERS' EXPERTISE
Local business owners and employees often possess a level of expertise and a passion for the products they sell that is unmatched by employees and managers of national chains. They also tend to have a greater interest in getting to know their customers—who are, after all, also their neighbors. Simply put, local owners and employees take a special pride in their trade.
9. PRESERVE ENTREPRENEURSHIP
Entrepreneurship fuels America's economic innovation and prosperity, and serves as a key means for families to move out of low-wage jobs and into the middle class. Plus, the success of locally owned, independent businesses provides real-life inspiration to our young people, proving that they can stay in Maine and prosper on their own terms.
10. ENSURE PORTLAND STANDS OUT FROM THE CROWD
In an increasingly homogenized world, communities that preserve their one-of-a-kind businesses and distinctive character are more likely to attract entrepreneurs and new investment. Portlanders place a high value on individuality and consider our homegrown enterprises a source of pride. They are also an attraction to visitors.
 Institute for Local Self-Reliance and Friends of Midcoast Maine, "The Economic Impact of Locally Owned Businesses vs. Chains: A Case Study in Midcoast Maine," Sept. 2003.
 Civic Economics,"The Andersonville Study of Retail Economics," October 2004; Civic Economics, "Economic Impact Analysis: A Case Study," December 2002; David Neumark, Junfu Zhang, and Stephen Ciccarella, "The Effects of Wal-Mart on Local Labor Markets," Public Policy Institute of California, April 2006; Arindrajit Dube, Barry Eidlin, and Bill Lester, "Impact of Wal-Mart Growth on Earnings throughout the Retail Sector in Urban and Rural Counties," Institute of Industrial Relations Working Paper Series, 2005.
 Institute for Local Self-Reliance and Friends of Midcoast Maine, "The Economic Impact of Locally Owned Businesses vs. Chains: A Case Study in Midcoast Maine," Sept. 2003; Patricia Frishkoff, Business Contributions to Community Service, Small Business Administration, 1991.
 Randall Gross, Development Economics, "Understanding the Fiscal Impacts of Land Use in Ohio," August 2004; Tischler & Associates, "Fiscal Impact Analysis of Residential and Nonresidential Land Use Prototypes," July 2002.
Saturday, December 5, 2009
Holiday Wreaths, Christmas Trees, Illuminaries, and other decorations are ever so slightly contributing to a small, but visible sense of "magic" along Main Street. Surely as the years pass and our efforts grow, it is our fondest hope to re-establish Sturbridge as a must see destination during all holiday periods. The establishment of "new" traditions will no doubt take time and the aggregate efforts of an entire community. But therein lies the beauty of our collective endeavors, as the work of many hands is the very basis of what community stands for. To that end, we all have a great deal to look forward to.
Our most recent efforts in support of the 12 Days of Christmas is reflective of the community involvement required to establish and nurture traditions. Thus, we take a moment to recognize those who have contributed to this latest effort.
As many are now aware, residents and visitors are being welcomed by the Holiday Wreaths adorning Main Street from Town Common to Route 148. This simple element of the 12 Days of Christmas required a rather significant level of support. To that end, on behalf of the Merchants of Sturbridge and all Sturbridge residents, let me extend our deep gratitude to Phil Cambo of Northern Tree and his technician Dana Demetrius. Phil donated the truck and manpower at no charge to the community. This was an extremely generous donation on Mr. Cambo's part, as Dana spent 6 solid hours (non-stop) hanging the wreaths while I prepped them for him. The monotony of repetitive stops, boom lifts and lowering did nothing to dampen Dana's spirits as he was extremely pleased to be part of this effort. So too, we are indebted to Chief Thomas Ford who ensured the safety of workers and travelers via traffic management that came at no deficit to the community, either financially or service wise.
As well, we extend our generous thanks to Alex Pifer (The Seraph/Home) who lead and coordinated the Events Committee in support of the 12 Days of Christmas. Alex's enthusiasm and perseverance were critical to this effort. So too, we extend our thanks to Sandra Carroll of The Brier Patch Designs, who provided the 30 double-sided, 40" wreaths at wholesale cost; a remarkable savings to all. Sandra hosted a Wreath Decorating Party this past Wednesday attended by Sarah Hiser (Savior-Donner), Patti Affenito-MacConnell (Sturbridge Country Inn), Leslie Wong, Autumn Wong, Alex Pifer (The Seraph/Home), Emma Thorpe, Kim Toto (The Brier Patch Designs), and Bob Grant (The Brier Patch Designs). These individuals spent several hours preparing the wreaths and affixing the Believe ribbons to same, as well as weeks of planning and preparation; we are indebted to them for their hard work and commitment to this project. In addition, Ms. Wong has been coordinating the Luminary project on behalf of the Tantasqua Jr. High Student Council.
Special kudos as well to Cindy Howard of The Center for Hope who manufactured the Believe ribbons affixed to the wreaths, along with the soon to be decorated Christmas Trees. In terms of the Trees, we extend our thanks to Sarah (Salli) Greene of Velvet Greene who provided these beautiful trees at an exceptionally competitive price, along with Chris Rovezzi (Rovezzi's Ristorante) for his assistance with tree preparation and delivery. We also thank Tom Chamberland for his guidance and support in the tree stabilization aspects of this project. We were struggling in terms of appropriate mountings until he volunteered his services.
We also extend our gratitude to the following people who provided direct project support to the 12 Days of Christmas initiative over the last weeks and months, in addition to those previously listed; they are Peg O'Connor (New England Graphics) Brenda Higgins (The Handmaiden), Susan McDonough (Susan's Secret Garden), Julie Schutz (Sturbridge Scrapping Corner), Maryann Thopre (resident), Chris Tieri (Smith & Jones), Jeannine Creamer (resident), and Joni Light (The Copper Stallion).
Last and by no means least, we are eternally grateful to those individuals and businesses who provided the funding for the wreaths via sponsorship. Without their dedication to the community and image it conveys, we would not have had the opportunity to adorn our Main Street in this fashion. Kudos to the following in no particular order:
Nicole Barin (Romaldo's)
Jasmine Bell (Sadie Green's)
Jeff Bonja (Resident)
Sandra Carroll (The Brier Patch Designs)
Mike Cimini (Yankee Spirits)
Jeannine Creamer (Resident)
Penny Dumas (Resident)
Wally & Mary Hersee (Residents)
Brenda Higgins (The Handmaiden)
Sarah Hiser (Savior-Donner)
Susan McDonough (Susan's Secret Garden)
Jennifer Morrison (Sterling Engineering)
Peg O'Connor (New England Graphics)
Alex Pifer (The Serpah/Home)
Chris Rovezzi (Rovezzi's Ristorante)
Julie Schutz (Sturbridge Scrapping Corner)
The Friends of Fiskdale/Sturbridge Seniors
Maryann Thorpe (Resident)
Michael Thorpe (Resident)
There are several other residents who sponsored wreaths through Sandra Carroll and others whose names I do not have. I apologize immensely for posting this out without those names and I trust that I will be able to provide them shortly.
We are thankful as well to the Tantasqua Town Common for their comprehensive coverage of the 12 Days of Christmas.
I'm certain I've forgotten to appropriately recognize the efforts/support of at least one or more individuals. So many have done so much to assist with this event that one becomes convinced of a memory lapse on my part. Please forgive and please notify me immediately of any omissions on my part so that they may be corrected.
With that, some of us are now off to erect the trees so that they may soon be decorated in honor of ALL Sturbridge residents.