"We should not be looking at this as residents of Mohawk Estates or North Heath or Heath Center. We should be insisting that all of us seek what is best for all of Heath. Instead of simply crying for short-term ways to save money, we should be evaluating and determining our needs and finding fiscally responsible ways to meet them."
From: Sue Lively
Heath Select Board,
On June 16, 2020, the Facilities Task Force formally submitted their final report to the Select Board. Five months have passed. The report has been listed in the agenda numerous times over the last 5 months. Yet there has been no focused discussion by the three members of the Select Board on the content of the report. There has been no plan on how to encourage widespread dissemination of the report to the townspeople. There has been no completed plan on how to solicit and respond to questions from the public. There have been high-priority safety issues still not addressed.
Where does that leave us? In my opinion it leaves us in an ever-deepening hole which will soon become impossible to climb out of. A small group of people have circulated information that suggests that the Task Force “were recruited and handpicked to insure a particular outcome”, that the goal is to destroy the Center, that the financial information is incomplete and incorrect. For many months, the residents of this town have been hearing a total misrepresentation of intent and content. But look at the introduction on page 4 of the Task Force Report. It says, “It was also our sincere desire to create plans that retained all of Heath’s buildings and put them each to their best use.” The report then goes on to explain why we chose the route we did. The report contains far more than a suggestion for how to use the buildings. It includes a summary of the histories of our town buildings, an assessment of the conditions of those buildings and repairs needed, basic building requirements we identified as crucial to decision making for the future, costs analysis. It contains two possible plans at either end of the spectrum. Yes, we did recommend the plan that just uses the school over the plan that just uses the Center because our research showed that of those two options, it offers the best bang for our buck, now and well into the future. The introduction acknowledges that there are compromises within those plans if Heath wants to choose that route.
These last few months have been difficult. Covid, Broadband. Education. Budget. The load on the Select Board is enormous. But allowing misinformation and half-truths to be endlessly circulated without a firm and clear rebuttal is not acceptable. I am well aware that as a Board and as individuals you have been on the receiving end of some very unpleasant interactions. Moving forward will not be easy. However, continued delay allows more misrepresentation to occur and has the effect of misleading many townspeople who are hearing only what is being circulated. Nothing is offered for those individuals politely waiting for the Board to clarify how they will proceed. It leaves unheard those people trying to play by the rules. And it leaves the task of making an informed decision based on real facts almost impossible.
As a member of the Task Force I worked hard to be objective, separating my personal feelings from my responsibility to the town. I would not have accepted the appointment if I was not confident in my ability to do that. I do not expect everyone to agree, but I do expect everyone to make that same effort. We should not be looking at this as residents of Mohawk Estates or North Heath or Heath Center. We should be insisting that all of us seek what is best for all of Heath. Instead of simply crying for short-term ways to save money, we should be evaluating and determining our needs and finding fiscally responsible ways to meet them. The report should be considered with all seriousness. If there is disagreement with its recommendations, the viable alternatives should be put forward. Nothing positive can be achieved by simply repudiating the Task Force’s findings. It is time for the Select Board to take action.
Thank you for your time,