The Confusing "Save the Center" Message 12/262020
To the Heath Select Board.
Although the Town needs to make a long-term decision on the use of its buildings, an immediate decision must be made regarding the best way to continue Town services through the pandemic. You have received much input on what individuals believe you should do. However, I find the active members of the Save Heath Center group often send messages and take actions that I find conflicting and confusing.
They express concern about maintaining the historical value of the center yet never question the impact that solar panels might have on the quaint image they wish to maintain. As members of the Historical Society, they have asked the town to make property available to them in the center to build an environmentally controlled building for their more delicate historical artifacts, yet when asked if they might be interested in the Community Hall which could be modified for that purpose, they stated they could not afford to take on any more buildings. They are against moving town employees out of the Town Hall to Jacobs Road because it would empty the building, but they would support them working from home, which of course would also leave the building empty.
They continually express concern about the tax rate, yet never acknowledge that the real reason our taxes are so high has nothing to do with any of our buildings. The high costs of Broadband, the Mohawk school budget, stagnant property values, protected lands that are not taxable, diminishing support from the state are the significant factors impacting our taxes. They are the same people who supported the use of $200,000 (raised from our tax dollars) from the stabilization fund to help make broadband more affordable, while they complain about the dire tax situation in town. Although verbal promises of repayment were made there is no signed contract to specify how and when that will be repaid. These are emergency funds we could have used to address more pressing financial issues such as the salt shed that threatens a physical and environmental disaster, paying off loans in advance or offsets on the tax rate they express concern about.
They complain that town officials want to destroy the center at the same time they call upon these same individuals who volunteer many hours every week helping to plan and implement ways to improve the buildings they are accused of trying to destroy. They say they want to protect the life of the center when many of us see the energy of the center slowly seeping away and a desperate need to revitalize it. What I see repeatedly in the actions and words of proponents of Save the Center is the impact of Not-In-My-Backyard Syndrome. It is understandable that they want to protect their neighborhood. It is a part of their daily social lives. I get that. I believe there are things that can be done to support revitalization of the center. Taking one’s personal fears and falsely transferring them to the actions of others does not help. Preventing change is not the solution.
Times change, needs change. As our elected officials, the three of you-Gloria, Brian, and Robyn-have a responsibility to serve the best interest of the town not the best interest of one faction. You cannot ignore the safety concerns expressed by town individuals. You have tried a number of solutions that have not been successful. The post office is a complicating factor in the situation. Other towns have been able to close their town buildings to the public. Heath can’t do that because the same building houses the post office. Closing the building puts the post office at risk. Moving the more active parts of the town government to a safer location makes sense in our situation. Once again, I encourage you to act and approve a move to Jacobs Road.
Thank you for your consideration.
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