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Got Any Ideas for the Nichewaug?

On Nov. 13, the Worcester Telegram published a story bearing the headline "Got Any Ideas for an Old Inn?"

The story reports that the town is publishing an "all options" request for proposals in hopes that a white knight with deep pockets might step up with a plan to renovate  the buildings in a way that will please everyone.

This year, 2017, was a banner year for the old place. The town committed slightly more than $500,000 - a half million dollars - to remove asbestos from the buildings. That would make the place more attractive to a hopeful redeveloper. So now the floor tiles and ceiling tiles have been ripped out and -- except for some pesky groundwater in the large auditorium -- that work is nearly done.

For the record, the town accepted ownership of the buildings with the notion that a citizens' committee would be better able to come up with a redevelopment plan than the handful of private owners who had tried since the girls' Catholic school was shuttered in the mid-70s. That two-year effort did not go so well and finally sputtered to a stop.

Residents who want the place demolished took that as affirmation that there is no more to be done. Town voters disagreed and voted NO on demolition.              

Residents are understandably weary of all this. Misinformation abounds. Some voices proclaim that the buildings are decrepit, neglected by their owner (the town) and should be demolished. The facts do not support that opinion. One after another, experts who have looked at the structures report that the complex is in surprisingly good shape despite years of no maintenance and shameful neglect.

A white knight with a magical solution? Magical thinking.

Ideas? Absolutely. Petersham's town offices are presently housed in an antique building that could only be brought up to code at great expense. They could move to the Nichewaug.

The town has no senior housing. A few apartments could be created at the Nichewaug. More than 100 home-based businesses have no place in which to grow. A Boston consultant recommended  considering a few condominiums but didn't really think much about a mixed use project that could blend accessible town offices, senior housing, private housing units and other units to meet community needs and generate income at the same time.

Even the rooftop has potential value. It could host about 3,500 square feet of solar panels and produce new revenue. A redevelopment could even provide some relief to the nearby library by supplying water and sewer services.

The town owns the building. It could continue to do so while working with groups like the Petersham Committee (meeting the needs of our seniors) and others who might want to take on small pieces of what could become a mixed-use facility. The town could create an Economic Development group to serve as landlord for several tenants.

In December and January the town will see whether any developer is willing to take the property off its hands. If the answer is NO, then we go back to square one and the "tear it down folks" will come back in force with a recommendation to spend another million for demolition -- to throw away a building that could meet several needs, a building which the town presently values at $600,000.

That would bring the out of pocket cost of creating a big blank spot in our town center to somewhere around $200,000 an acre.

What's really missing here? Simply put - the town is suffering from a lack of imagination and an absence of willingness to take direct responsibility for a complicated task.

This time, a "Let some other guy do it" strategy is just not going to work.

Where is the Argument?

Putting aside the question of how the Commonwealth might regulate pot shops - and collect staggering amounts of new revenue - there seems to be a contingent in Boston that wants to delay the whole thing.

But here's the deal - with black helicopters hovering and reports of law enforcement swooping down to confiscate small quantities of home-grown pot from people with medical marijuana permits - the people voted YES to allow home-grown pot plants. December 15, 2016 is the date when home-grown becomes legal.

In Petersham, the vote was 465 Yes to 329 No. Pot shops might require a regulatory "infrastructure" and creating that might cause a delay. But statewide, the electorate voted yes for small amounts of home-grown dope.

Our legislators should step back and respect the voters action. Simple as that. There is no need to delay that part of the new law.


Where Are All of You?

The US Census Bureau says 1,234 people live here. Our town government spends a bit more than $3 million each year on roads, schools and all that other stuff.
Eleven people attended the Oct. 21 Selectboard meeting. Three Selectmen, two town employees, two newspaper reporters, the transfer station assistant and the animal control person were among them. Two just plain residents? Where is everybody else?

Drunk - On (Our) Money

The US will overspend its income by more than $1 trillion again in the coming year. You don't have to be a right-winger to work out that most households would be in huge trouble if they spent more than they earned.

So how about Congress and the President? The US spends 10X more than anyone else in the world for weapons and soldiers, billions on aid to other countries, billions for agencies that spend their time writing more rules and more regulations designed to "fix" everything that could possibly go wrong.

Isn't it about time that someone in government realized it is time to re-think, to spend less? To limit the costly rules and regulations that  drain needed dollars from home budgets and small businesses? To recognize that household budgets are straining, people are cutting household spending so they can stay warm and pay for gasoline? Or is government at all levels just drunk on our money?


The System Is Broken - 1

"We are sorry for the delay but all of our representatives are helping other customers. Please stay on the line and someone will be with you shortly." How many times have you heard that and waited 20 or more minutes to get  a simple question answered? Are call volumes "unusually high" or do these companies simply not have enough folks answering the phones? Here's an idea -- hire a few more call center representatives. Answer more calls in less time. Give a few folks badly needed jobs and give the rest of us a little well-deserved relief..

Call or write:
Sen. Anne Gobi 617-722-1540
Rep. Susanna Lee 617-722-2425

                        DAY - D. Tatlock

To find out who your legislators are, visit the Massachusetts legislature's website at . Or just look at the bottom left hand corner of the home page.

Send all snail mail to: The Honorable (name of your state representative/state senator) State House, Boston, MA 02133. Your representatives all have e-mail addresses as well.

Sometimes it is a good thing to live at the top of a hill.





A plan for the Nichewaug



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Letters to the Editor

 Trump Will Undermine Our Democracy

Dear Editor,

President-elect Trump threatens everything I believe in and have spent a lifetime supporting or actively striving for. Hillary was not the perfect candidate, Bernie was, but she will do. Trump has to go, and I hope the Electoral College agrees. Otherwise, he will undermine the fabric of our democracy and all the safeguards that have been put in place over the past 100 or so years...starting with Teddy Roosevelt's protections of the environment through the establishment of the national park system.

Trump has no respect for workers, civil rights, the environment or free speech. His behavior and cabinet selections reveal his game plan. But it is Trump, along with America, that is being played for a fool. He has played into Russia's hands and will do their bidding at a juncture when America is at a crossroad and could maintain its global prominence or rapidly decline and our resources plundered. Russia will be on the ascendancy if Trump is allowed to be president. Our glory days will be long past.

Trump does not uphold American values that have inspired people the world over. His language is that of a bully and degenerate. Fascism is not what made America great, but rather a belief in We the People and a firm understanding that the country belongs to all of us. We look out for one another through safeguards such as environmental and safety regulations, educational opportunities and civil rights protections that respect everyone within a nation of laws, not arbitrary rule by a preening narcissist with a comb-over.


Genevieve Fraser
211 Dana Road
Orange MA 01364

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