By BELLA LEVAVI
Staff Writer, Greenfield Recorder
Published: 8/5/2022 3:45:10 PM
Modified: 8/5/2022 3:42:04 PM
HEATH — Informed by an abundance of survey responses, the Selectboard voted this week to move the Senior Center from Community Hall to a room in the former Heath Elementary School that now houses town offices.
The Council on Aging brought the request to the Selectboard after a group of volunteers collected more than 200 responses by phone from senior residents to assess their needs. They divided the data into age brackets.
Council on Aging Chair Victoria Burrington said about 80% of the town’s seniors participated in the phone survey.
“The most surprising result of the survey is how many people participated,” she said.
With data in hand, the council then considered location options. The former school at 18 Jacobs Road and Community Hall at 1 East Main St. were weighed against each other.
Council on Aging and Selectboard member Susan Lively said there are safety and accessibility issues at Community Hall, which currently houses the Senior Center in the basement. The former Heath Elementary School, however, is fully accessible, which Lively said is vital to accommodate seniors who have mobility issues.
“The old school had more opportunities for growth and collaboration,” Lively added, noting that the third most-requested activity based on the survey of seniors is intergenerational activities.
The Council on Aging hopes to partner with the library, municipal offices or the Fire Department’s office for future activities. All of these entities are in the former school building, except for the library, which plans to finish its move in early September.
Burrington also said she favored 18 Jacobs Road because the Senior Center would have access to the cafeteria and a larger kitchen.
“The school is a much brighter location,” she noted.
The room at the former school that the Senior Center will move to is currently being used to store science equipment, small chairs and cubbies leftover from the school. The Selectboard is offering the equipment to nearby schools.
Once the room is cleared, the Council on Aging will start planning how to use the space for activities for seniors. A timeline for the transition is currently unclear.
Heath offers tai chi classes, a monthly community cafe and a foot clinic for seniors, and plans to expand programs now that a space has been chosen and the survey has been completed. With all members of the council being new to their positions, they say they are building programs back slowly following COVID-19 pandemic-related disruptions.
Lively said the council received a grant to hire a Senior Center coordinator who would work five to six hours weekly planning activities.
“We are excited to have a place that people can get around,” Burrington said of the upcoming move to the former school, “and we will be looking back to the survey to see what activities to run.”
As for Community Hall, where the Post Office will be the only operating entity remaining, Lively said a fire safety evaluation was conducted and town officials plan to have an Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliance evaluation done soon. She said the town will seek grants to bring the building up to code once the evaluations are done.
Contact Bella Levavi at firstname.lastname@example.org or 413-930-4579.
Heath Selectboard candidates
Published: 4/23/2021 2:47:06 PM
Heath is lucky to have two candidates for Selectboard who have chosen to run positive campaigns, Sue Lively and Karen Brooks. The campaigns have been respectful, focusing on what is important to each for the long-term quality of life and fiscal future of the town.
Unfortunately, no candidate can control the negative narratives intended to bias the electorate. One such narrative is that one candidate would be a “yes, man.”
Anyone, like myself, who knows both Karen and Sue, can state with assurance that this is not true of either one. These are two independent thinkers who are not afraid to speak their minds and to vote their conscience.
I hope we can follow their positive example and avoid buying into negative characterizations. Thank you.
Published: 1/11/2023 10:38:40 PM
Modified: 1/11/2023 10:35:32 PM
The Recorder is once again blatantly and shamelessly taking sides in its coverage of the apparently endless controversy over the former Heath Elementary School.
In your front-page story of Jan. 9, you report that our Selectboard received “roughly 30 emails from residents denouncing the board’s decision to call [the former school] the ‘Heath Community Center’.” You cite these at considerable length. You do not cite even one email in support of this decision. I am reliably informed that there were several, including mine.
Sheila Litchfield may believe that in its renaming decision, the board “attempts to deny Heath’s historic past,” but that is only a belief and is unsupported by any facts. Noy Holland may still believe that 18 Jacobs Road (the former school building) is “a property that townspeople neither want nor need.” But the “townspeople” have expressed themselves unambiguously on that subject, voting not once but twice at town meetings not to sell the former school.
I find it disheartening that some of my fellow Heathans appear to have adopted the Trumpian view that if you don’t like the outcome of a democratic election you question its legitimacy and that of its consequent policy decisions on the sole basis of fact-free assertions. But I find it dismaying, to put the matter no higher, that my local newspaper seems to need yet another refresher course in Journalistic Ethics 101. That lesson is: in reporting a local controversy, dig hard to get facts and opinions from both sides. In its coverage of this issue, the Recorder continues to fail its readership.
October 5, 2022
Dear Select Board
In the years I have been in town, the most recurrent theme I have heard is that our taxes are too high. The Select Board has been fully aware of this and continually makes tough decisions with the taxpayers in mind. One of these decisions currently pending is whether to winterize the Community Hall for the four coldest months of the year. As everyone should be aware, fuel costs will be rising significantly this winter, and anything that can help save tax dollars is important.
We heard the argument that closing Community Hall for the winter would trigger a setback in healing our social fabric. Rather than being location dependent, healing needs to come from open and honest discussions where both sides of an issue can be aired respectfully. If winterizing Community Hall makes sense, one way to avoid triggering a setback is to demonstrate a true desire to heal by holding these discussions and supporting events at Jacobs Road during that four-month period.
I laud the efforts of the Cultural Council, Select Board, and others to bring the Community Hall to life. At the same time, I recognize that we need to be able to make practical and common-sense fiscal choices. A good example is the one recently demonstrated by tax-conscious community members in moving the town library at no expense to the town. If winterizing Community Hall would save additional tax dollars, then it is the fiduciary responsibility of the Select Board to see that it is done.
In closing, I would like to see us get to the point where we as a community can support decisions based on facts rather than emotion or conjecture.
Thank you for your dedication on behalf of our town.
October 4, 2022
Division in Town
RE: Community Café This AM
Thanks, Pat, for the clarification. There was a community picnic in Heath Center— I thought it was just a last minute thing. Thanks again, Karen
On Jun 26, 2022, at 2:15 PM, email@example.com wrote:
This was a COA thing planned some time ago. What else was taking place?
From: KAREN BROOKS <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Sent: Saturday, June 25, 2022 9:06 AM
To: Heath Connects <email@example.com>
Subject: Re: Community Café this AM
Wow, do we have to always have dueling, separating events? Very sad! How about we schedule things at different times and encourage getting together instead of more division?
On Jun 25, 2022, at 8:17 AM, Heath Connects <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
Come and enjoy some coffee, baked goods, and neighbors at the community café from 10 to 1 PM at 18 Jacobs Road. The flyer is attached.
<Community Cafe June 25-R2.pdf>
Article: Heath voters back rising education budget, school district charter changes
Heath voters back rising education budget, school district charter changes
By DIANE BRONCACCIO
For the Recorder
Published: 5/8/2022 12:59:30 PM
Modified: 5/8/2022 12:57:50 PM
Then voters got down to business, with 23 articles on Saturday’s warrant.
Residents approved the $992,662 operating assessment for the Mohawk Trail Regional School District, which represents a 7.2% hike above the current year’s budget. While Heath’s high school enrollment is declining, its elementary enrollment is going up, said School Committee member Budge Litchfield. He pointed out that fixed costs are rising, while the amount of state aid offered is “flat.”
“This budget represents level services,” Litchfield said. “And our children are coming back from one and a half years of COVID isolation mode.”
Mohawk Trail Regional School District Superintendent Sheryl Stanton pointed out that the district is using one-time grants to support the social/emotional needs of students. For instance, the district has strengthened its elementary music program.
Finance Committee member William Emmet said his board had recommended not supporting this assessment for fiscal year 2023 “because of some discrepancy with the numbers.” There was discussion on getting clearer, more consistent numbers during future presentations — including more information on all the grant money received by the school district.
School Committee member Barbara Rode said she would like to see more detailed Heath enrollment figures and student-to-staff ratios. Stanton said the student-to-teacher ratio is 11 to 1, but Rode said she felt “increases in staff were disproportionate,” which was why she didn’t back the Mohawk Trail budget at a February hearing.
“We’re in a rainy day,” Rode said, adding that she wants “the best education for our children that we can afford,” but it has to be affordable for “people deciding between buying food versus buying fuel to heat their houses.”
Voters ultimately supported the Mohawk Trail assessment, as well as an $88,707 Franklin County Technical School assessment, in which Heath’s enrollment is increasing from seven students to nine next school year.
Attendees also backed the district-wide regional charter changes that say Heath children are to be schooled at Colrain Central School. The charter amendment spells out that Heath’s share of any capital improvements at Colrain Central School will be allotted in proportion to the ratio of Heath’s five-year enrollment average there. For instance, if 25% of the students over five years come from Heath, then Heath would pay 25% of capital costs. The new amendment language linking Heath to Colrain Central School is similar to that of the school-sharing agreements between Buckland and Shelburne, and between Plainfield and Ashfield.
Also among education-related articles, voters approved spending up to $278,400 to repave Colrain Central School’s parking area and sidewalks. Rode said the sidewalks pool water, which creates icy conditions in winter.
“There have been slips and concussions,” she said.
The approved operating budget for the town itself came to $1.5 million, representing a $78,564 hike over the current fiscal year’s budget. The largest town budget increase was a new “broadband note” line item for $69,444, to pay for the town’s broadband network. The loan has an 18-year repayment schedule.
Similarly, residents also voted to establish an Internet Technology Stabilization Fund, which would set aside money for future repairs to the town’s broadband infrastructure, should they be needed.
ElectionOf the town’s 567 registered voters, 176 (about 31%) came out on Friday to elect new officials and re-elect incumbents.
Incumbent Finance Committee member Alice Wozniak was re-elected by a 92-81 vote over her opponent, Gloria Cronin Fisher.
Wozniak also won an uncontested three-year term on the Board of Assessors.
In a contest for library trustee, Donald Freeman received 93 votes to Robert Gruen’s 78 ballots.
No one ran for a three-year seat on the School Committee currently held by Barbara Rode. Rode received 20 write-in votes, but she declined to accept a second term. At Saturday’s Annual Town Meeting, Rode thanked everyone who voted for her, but added, “I need a break.”
These unopposed candidates were elected to the following posts:
■Selectboard, three-year term — incumbent Robyn Provost-Carlson.
■Planning Board, five-year term — William Emmet.
■Municipal Light Board, three-year term — incumbent William Fontes.
From: Kenneth Rocke <email@example.com>
Sent: Tuesday, March 8, 2022 3:49 PM
To: Heath Connects <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Cc: Kenneth Rocke <email@example.com>
Subject: Re: I Need Your Help with Communication
I have great respect for all of the work that our current members of the Select Board do on behalf of the Town of Heath.
I think that they strike a very effective balance between the sometimes conflicting ‘goods’ that they must consider: i.e., what is good for the town as a whole, now and in the future, and what is good for a particular group of people within our town.
This balancing act – if done well – can only be achieved through countless hours of work mastering the details (and broad implications) of many situations; endless hours of careful discussion and consideration with board members, members of other boards, the general public, outside agencies and vendors, and so on; and finally the willingness to come down on one side or another of an issue, and then stand strong for what they have come to believe is in the best interests of the town as a whole.
All of this takes energy, intelligence, and a kind of moral courage that can only be found within.
I appreciate their service to our town.
P.O. Box 16,
Heath, MA 01346
From: Heath Connects <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Monday, March 7, 2022 at 5:36 PM
To: Heath Connection <email@example.com>
Subject: I Need Your Help with Communication
Dear Fellow Heathans,
I am writing to you because I have been dismayed by what I have recently witnessed in Select Board meetings during the public comment period and read in the recorder. I am not talking about whether people agree or disagree about hot topics such as the possible library move or the AT&T tower. Expressing disagreement, differing opinions, different ideas are all part of living in a democratic society. But what has been extremely troubling is the rude and accusatory treatment of the Select Board. I had created a page on Heath Connects so that people could express thoughts about the AT&T tower, but had to replace the content. Along with abusive public comments and Recorder articles, are emails with more of the same. As one Select Board member said, “I feel beaten up.”
We need to send the Select Board a different message. Below is an excerpt of the content that replaced what had been written about the Select Board in regards to the tower.
It seems that we have lost the ability to have disagreement in Heath without attributing nefarious motives to dedicated public servants. I have been attending Select Board meetings for over two years. I know how hard these folks work outside the Select Board meetings putting in their time to meet with engineers, electricians, plumbers, FRCOG members, attending several meetings both with town bodies and outside committees. They do this public service, which is sometimes thankless, for a love of Heath.
I am grateful to a Board that has a strong desire to do what is best for all the Heath community, are dedicated, and willing to sacrifice personal and family time on our behalf. I also know from my experience attending Select Board meetings how much thought and personal angst goes into decision making to do what’s right and best for the town. . . . From my personal experience our board members are dedicated, trustworthy, respectful of all Heathans, and I am grateful they are guiding us.
I am asking that you write a comment in support of the Select Board as public servants that deserve respect and appreciation for the work they do.
All you need to do is reply to this email with a short comment of appreciation and I will post yours along with others on Heath Connects under a newly titled page, Communication.
Please take the time to give these folks some positive feedback,
PS Email to Heathconects@gmail.com only goes to me.
From: Bill Lattrell <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Sent: Tuesday, February 22, 2022 1:16 PM
Subject: Re: Select Board Notes for Feb 18 2022
I agree totally with sentiment that Selectboard Members are under valued and under apreciated. There is a stipend, however. I once did the math when I was a member and figured my compensation came to about $1.50/hour! People do this job because they love the town and want to contribute. That does not mean that they are beyond critique or crticism but it does mean thst they should be treated with respect and people should tone down the negative rhetoric. We all recognize that there are differing points of view on every topic. Some will agree and some will not. Personal attacks are NEVER acceptable. We live in a representative democracy where we get to choose our government. That comes with the responsibility of supporting those who choose to serve and are chosen by the voters. If you can't support those elected than disagree with respect and let your truthful views be known. It really is simple and does not have to be devisive.
Sent from the all new AOL app for Android
On Mon, Feb 21, 2022 at 4:23 PM, Heath Connects
The Select Board notes for Feb 18 are available at
https://www.heathconnects.org/sb-notes/meeting-notes-feb-18-2022SB Notes, Feb 18
There were many items discussed along with follow up from previous weeks. Some topics:
Keep library in Heath Center
Published: 2/15/2022 6:35:30 PM
Modified: 2/15/2022 6:33:41 PM
Reading the article about the Heath Library last Thursday one might think that moving the library to 18 Jacobs Road is a good idea. In fact, the majority of citizens of Heath want to keep the library in Sawyer Hall in Heath Center. Our current library is perfectly adequate for our small town of 700 souls. The primary excuse being used to promote the move is that the space is not ADA compliant. Sawyer Hall is ADA compliant and there is a plan in place to further improve the current library space, and the money to implement this plan.
The Library Trustees have prematurely voted to recommend this move without consulting the Friends of the Heath Library, the patrons of the library, nor the citizens of our town. A small group of people who hold power are promoting this imprudent move. At the last annual Town Meeting we voted to keep the town offices and library in Heath Center and the Select Board is ignoring this fact. The Select Board has refused to do any surveys of the desires of the community because they know the results will not confirm their agenda. It’s past time for them to listen to the community. The citizens of Heath deserve to have a say in this hugely impactful decision.
Heath Center is the heart of our community. Heath Center is a meeting place, centrally located, where we see our neighbors on a daily basis. 18 Jacobs Road is far removed from the heart of our community in so many ways. The lack of responsiveness by the Select Board to our concerns has split our beloved community. The move of the town offices and now possibly the library will only serve to deepen this division.
Opinion: Bray Road Construction
Opposed to new construction on Bray Road in Heath
Published: 7/15/2020 11:53:11 AM
I am writing in response to Lisa Diane Stowe’s op-ed published June 23 [“A pipe dream in Heath”]. Lisa wrote: “I do not know what misguided entity convinced the tiny town of Heath with a dwindling population and only part-time or volunteer personnel that a $4,000,000 Safety Complex was necessary for a town battling historical financial shortcomings. This was a contentious proposal and the purchase of the Bray Road property and subsequent architectural plan should not have proceeded.”
I agree with you, Lisa, and continue be opposed to new construction on Bray Road. The entity you speak of was the Municipal Complex Committee. It was chaired by Bob Bourke, and Sheila Litchfield was the chair of the Selectboard at the time. Other committee members were Bob Viarengo, secretary; Ken Gilbert, Jeff Simmons, Mike Smith and Brian De Vries.
A scope of work was developed by the committee to assess existing and future needs for highway, fire, police and emergency management facilities. Voters allocated $20,000 for a design consultant, but as you know, voted down the Bray Road construction. [Error, this was not voted down. Governor Baker took away the funding.]