Plan to distribute cannabis cash approved by Selectboard

  • Construction work continues at 1 Exchange St. in Athol, as seen Thursday morning. A special permit was approved last year for the 1620 Labs LLC company to operate a recreational cannabis cultivation and processing facility at 1 Exchange St. (formerly Agway). An existing tool shed was replaced and two greenhouses have been added. Looped razor wire and high arched anti-climb steel fencing has been installed around the perimeter of the property for security. —Athol Daily News/Deborrah Porter

  • Construction work continues at 1 Exchange St. in Athol, as seen Thursday morning. A special permit was approved last year for the 1620 Labs LLC company to operate a recreational cannabis cultivation and processing facility at 1 Exchange St. (formerly Agway). An existing tool shed was replaced and two greenhouses have been added. Looped razor wire and high arched anti-climb steel fencing has been installed around the perimeter of the property for security. —Athol Daily News/Deborrah Porter

  • Closeup view showing the looped razor wire and high arched anti-climb fencing installed at the 1 Exchange St., Athol, property. —Athol Daily News/Deborrah Porter

For the Athol Daily News
Published: 11/7/2019 3:00:26 PM
Modified: 11/7/2019 3:00:16 PM

ATHOL – A plan for the allocation of revenues generated by marijuana-related businesses, as specified in the Host Community Agreement signed between the town and each establishment, was approved by the Selectboard at its meeting Tuesday night. The proposal was authored by Town Manager Shaun Suhoski.

“We’ve talked about this a couple of times, both the Finance Committee and the Board of Selectmen,” said Suhoski, “the fact that there will be likely revenue flowing from the marijuana establishments.”

He said there are now six locally approved establishments. There are two retailers, three cultivator/manufacturers, and one microenterprise – on Daniel Shays Highway, which is also cultivation and manufacturing. There is a pending applicant for a site off of Route 32 at Route 2.

Suhoski said it had been determined that a binding allocation plan be enacted with the support of selectmen and the Warrant and Finance Advisory Committee. One that would allocate the revenues to one-time stabilization-type expenses, and not to the recurring operational budget.

“What I had suggested to the board was 30 percent to OPEB (Other Post-Employment Benefits) liability,” said Suhoski. OPEB liability was mentioned as having an impact on the town’s most recent bond rating.

“It was still AA-,” he explained. “That’s something they’re looking at and considering, otherwise we might have been in line for an upgrade on our bond rating. It is a liability that we need to address. Part of the rationale is the impact of marijuana, though it’s legal, we don’t know what the impact might be down the road, and it could have an impact on healthcare costs or the cost of health insurance for our retirees.”

Suhoski said he was also recommending that 30 percent of the revenues be funneled into the Capital Stabilization Fund.

“So, we’d have this five-year period of revenues,” he continued. “We could build that or utilize that in conjunction with the five-year capital plan process.”

Another 30 percent would be targeted to infrastructure. He said those revenues would be “married” to grants and invested in the downtown planning effort.

“We do have MRPC (Montachusett Regional Planning Commission) working on the outline for a potential urban renewal plan,” said Suhoski. We have the BSC (economic consulting) Group plan, and if we can merge some local funds into Complete Streets, MassWorks, or other grants, we might be able to get some of that downtown infrastructure done.”

“The logic is,” he continued, “if we’re doing work that touches the very properties that are hosting these marijuana establishments, it makes a stronger case that we’re really trying to mitigate the impact and make it a better overall environment for (everyone).”

The final 10 percent in HCA revenues would be committed to drug prevention education, training, and enforcement programs.

The Town Manager pointed out that the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Boston has recently issued subpoenas to a large number of communities, including Athol, for information on Host Community Agreements.

“I don’t know if it’s a result of the corruption charges in Fall River,” Suhoski said, “where the mayor of Fall River is charged with taking cash bribes (from applicants for cannabis businesses), or whether it’s related to community agreements...being reasonably related to impacts on the community. I don’t know what they’re fishing for.”

“But let’s get a plan in place before the revenue starts flowing,” he said.

In documents conveyed to the board, Suhoski said that “by way of example, if local enterprises generate a combined $10 million in gross revenue, the town would receive $300,000 per year to allocate.” He stressed the figures were, again, simply examples and not predictions of likely revenue.

Following a brief discussion, the board approved the allocation plan on a unanimous vote.


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