Heath considers selling closed school to pot grower

  • The Heath Elementary School building. RECORDER STAFF/DAN LITTLE

Staff Writer
Published: 2/21/2019 11:27:35 PM

HEATH — The town is edging closer to selling its former elementary school – to a pot farmer.

Residents can vote to permit the Selectboard to sell the school at a Special Town Meeting Wednesday at 7 p.m.

Heath received one bid for the property — a $250,000 offer from Carnegie Arch LLC to cultivate, manufacture, and possibly sell cannabis.

If Carnegie secures the sale, it would need to get a special exception from the Planning Board and forge a community host agreement with the Selectboard.

The Selectboard and Finance Committee said Tuesday that selling the building would benefit Heath financially. The town would receive sale proceeds of $250,000; an estimated $10,000 in tax revenue per year; plus $100,000 of leftover funds from the school district, which agreed to pay Heath three annual installments of $80,000 to maintain the building. The town would also receive between 1 to 3 percent of the business’s profits, under state law. Also, the bidder would be creating about 20 jobs.

When the building is not in use, it costs about $60,000 to maintain, town officials said.

Town officials said the school sale may elicit emotional reactions due to the building’s significance to Heath, as well as the nature of the proposed business.

“People have high feelings on both sides of this, and we need to respect each other’s opinions,” Selectboard Chairman Brian DeVriese said.

As an alternative to selling the former school, some residents asked whether the Town Hall and Community Center could be moved there, town officials said. The former school is about three times the size of the Town Hall and Community Center: 25,400 square feet compared to 7,436 square feet. DeVriese said the town did not need the extra space.

Some residents also asked whether Heath may need to reopen the school if the population increases, town officials said. Finance Committee member Kathy Inman said reopening the school was unrealistic as Heath didn’t have the population to support it. Inman said Heath School’s closure represented a regional trend, as several of the state’s rural schools are currently considering shutting.

Heath’s local public elementary school is now Hawlemont Regional School. The town currently pays tuition to send students there while it forges an agreement to join the Hawlemont Regional School District.

“We have a school — it’s Hawlemont,” Selectboard member Gloria Cronin Fisher said.

Heath Elementary School closed in 2017 due to consistently low enrollment, which had by then dwindled to about 30 students. The school opened in 1995 after an influx of families caused the population to temporarily increase.

Heath will hold a public informational meeting in the Community Hall Saturday at 9 a.m. to discuss the sale.

The Special Town Meeting is scheduled for Wednesday Feb. 27, 7 p.m. at Heath Community Hall. Six total items are subject to a town vote. All items require a simple majority to be approved, except the article that would permit the Selectboard to sell the school – this needs a two-thirds vote to go ahead.

They are:

■To see if the town will vote to transfer $39,999 from Free Cash to Mohawk Trail Regional School District to pay off school building debts

■To see if the town will vote to transfer $2,175 from the Assessors’ Deed Project Consultant account to the Assessors’ Stabilization account.

■To see if the town will vote to transfer $43.15 from the Roadside Mowing account and $1,034 from the Summer Temporary Help account to the Town Garage Maintenance and Utilities account.

■To see if the town will vote to permit the Selectboard to sell, lease or otherwise, the school building.

■To see if the town will vote to transfer $100,000 from Free Cash to purchase a new highway backhoe, or take a related action.

■To see if the town will vote to transfer $25,000 from Free Cash to purchase a new highway multi-purpose truck, or take a related action.

You can reach Grace  Bird at:


413 772 0261 ext. 280


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