Brian DeVriese, Select Board Candidate
Dear Heath Voter,
As you know I am running for re-election to the Select Board. In view of some recent signs and communications I would like to take a moment to dispel some misunderstandings.
Closing the School
Closing the building will not decrease our taxes and it is misleading to imply that it will.
Last year the town voted by a majority not to move forward on the sale of the former elementary school. Unless or until there is a 2/3 vote to sell or otherwise dispose of it, the town has a responsibility to maintain it. Whether we use the building as we have in the past year, or leave it empty, the cost of heating and maintaining it have been shown to be about the same. Meanwhile, the cost of vacant building insurance is projected to be $24,000.
Closing the building simply means denying ourselves the ability to use the building we own and pay for. It means getting no value from the money we are spending and allowing a $4million dollar asset to deteriorate. It precludes getting any rental income from the building to offset costs and could prevent us from having important options for conducting town business in a time of COVID-19 and the need for social distancing.
Keep in mind that the Finance Committee estimates the cost of operating the building at $56,000. Because of money we have from the Mohawk settlement, the Select Board is projecting $15,000 for the school maintenance budget line item. This is about 0.6% of the town's total FY2021 budget.
Saving the Center
In the last year I have used my architectural skills to help the Historical Commission go after grant money to pay for a restoration project on the Old Town Hall. Over the years I have assisted the Historical Commission, the Historical Society and the Town of Heath with many projects to preserve, develop and maintain the buildings in Heath Center. I believe Heath Center has historical and cultural value that we need to work to preserve and develop.
If I am re-elected I will continue to work to maintain the Center and keep it as a vital hub of community life.
Using the School Building to Heath’s Advantage
In the last year, I have also used my architectural skills to help the Heath Firefighters develop a plan for using a portion of the school building as a Safety Complex. This plan will allow us to go after the $1 million dollars in the Governor’s Capital Budget designated for Heath for this purpose. If approved it will help us replace the school roof and provide our First Responders with accessible, safe and healthy space at minimal or no cost to Heath taxpayers. In addition, I supported long term rentals of the school building that brought in $10,000 in rental income. I believe the former school building offers us opportunities to generate revenue through long term leases and rentals AND provide much needed space for our essential services.
If I am re-elected I will continue to work to maximize the benefits to the town of owning the school building while minimizing its costs.
The Heart of the Community
As much as we treasure them both, neither the center nor the former school building is the heart of our community.
The people are the heart of the community.
A town divided cannot stand. We need to find ways to work together to preserve our history, meet our challenges and take advantage of our opportunities now and into the future. We have to be honest about the challenges and opportunities we face and find ways to meet them together.
There are many challenges and opportunities facing us right now. If I am re-elected I will continue to work to help the town