Break-ins prompt minor building repairs in West County towns

The Heath Municipal Building was broken into in February. The main repairs necessitated by the break-in entail fixing a broken door and a broken window lock, and replacing the safe.

The Heath Municipal Building was broken into in February. The main repairs necessitated by the break-in entail fixing a broken door and a broken window lock, and replacing the safe. STAFF FILE PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

By BELLA LEVAVI

Staff Writer

Published: 03-01-2024 12:52 PM

HEATH — A series of break-ins targeting schools in western Franklin County — and in Heath’s case, a school turned into a municipal building — have left towns coping with minor building repairs.

Ashfield’s Sanderson Academy and the Heath Municipal Building were both targeted in February. According to Heath Town Clerk Hilma Sumner and Ashfield Police Chief Beth Bezio, it is believed that these incidents are likely connected to a series of break-ins in southern Vermont.

A total of $150 was taken from the Town Coordinator’s Office and the Town Clerk’s Office during the break-in at the Heath Municipal Building on Feb. 11. The individual — video surveillance of the building’s exterior recorded only one person at the scene — also forcibly opened a small safe in the financial office, but it is believed that the safe was empty before the break-in.

“It appeared that all they were seeking was cash,” Sumner said. “We hardly keep any cash here.”

Sumner stated that the main repairs necessitated by the break-in entail fixing a broken door and a broken window lock, and replacing the safe.

Given that the municipal building used to be an elementary school, police believe the suspect likely assumed it still operated as an educational institution. At least two similar break-ins have occurred at schools in western Franklin County since November.

Police were contacted on Friday, Feb. 2, at 8:50 a.m. regarding a break-in at Sanderson Academy in Ashfield. Security camera footage revealed a male subject entered the school office by prying open the front window at 3:32 a.m., according to Bezio.

No items were stolen in this break-in, though Bezio reported that many objects were knocked over. The individual was unable to exit the front office to access the rest of the school due to locked doors.

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“Unfortunately, we have no identifiers for this person,” Bezio said. Crime scene investigators responded, taking photos of the scene and discovering footprints the suspect left in the snow.

The Rowe Elementary School was also broken into in late November. According to Principal Bill Knittle, the individual accessed the school overnight by breaking a window lock. The suspect damaged a filing cabinet and stole about $100 from the school office.

This incident is also believed to be connected to the series of burglaries in Vermont. Knittle said police have increased patrols since then.

Reach Bella Levavi at 413-930-4579 or blevavi@recorder.com.