I Applaud Robyn's Courage 12/9/20
To the Select Board:
I applaud Robyn’s courage at the meeting yesterday for laying out the real issues that confront the way we are operating as a town, both immediately with respect to COVID-19 and into the future. She made it clear that current municipal spaces for our town employees are not functioning well for working and safety, nor for all our residents who need to interact with them. Sawyer Hall in particular is not working
for the social distancing required. It is evident to many of us that the obvious solution to these needs is to move town offices to 18 Jacobs Road. The former school building has all the space, ventilation, other requirements, and accessibility needed, not to mention outdoor recreational functions and parking availability. It makes sense to me that the Community Hall should be closed during all the renovation and construction planned, especially given the curtailing of town activities because of COVID-19.
I found it interesting that in her objections, Gloria made no mention of the town nurse working alone in her office in Community Hall when she expressed concern over Charlene being alone in the Post Office. To my mind, that is absurd on the face of it. Not just because, as was pointed out, library personnel and Tim are around, but because the courier comes twice for drop-off and pick-up of mail, and town residents are continually dropping by to pick up their mail and conduct business with her during the four hours she is at the office. In response to Gloria’s concern over costs, Brian pointed out grants are designed to cover COVID-related needs that would include moving the offices.
I was also glad that Robyn made the point of wanting to ensure that we keep all of our town buildings. None of us want to “lose” the Historic Center. As the Facilities Task Force pointed out in their report, keeping all buildings is the preferred but more challenging route to take because of our town financial situation. Are we not up to the challenge of finding better ways to use the Center buildings and to make our town fiscally viable? Doing nothing is not an option. Nor is it an option to seize upon short-term band aids like selling a building.
We should take the opportunity COVID-19 has given us to spend this time to create a strategic plan, both short- and long-term, that will put us on a sounder financial footing. To my knowledge, while several studies have been done over the past years on the status of our buildings and town needs, Heath has never so far engaged on creating a strategic plan for the town to cover usage and costs now and in the future that could then be implemented. I trust that our newly formed Building Use Committee will be able to look at the big picture and seek suggestions from the entire Heath Community as to what they would like to see concerning future development and bringing in resources to the town we love. And then develop such a plan for doing so.
Please be assured that I will support the Select Board in such a positive move forward on all fronts and be happy to help in any way I can.
Margaret H. Freeman