Hatfield officials frown on extending agreement with cannabis company Treeworks
|Published: 11-19-2023 2:33 PM
HATFIELD — An extension of a five-year host community agreement with a cannabis manufacturing and processing company on Routes 5 and 10 could be in jeopardy as town officials informed a representative from Treeworks LLC that none of the terms of the original deal have yet been met.
At the Select Board meeting last Tuesday, at which a requested extension of the agreement set to expire Dec. 4 was discussed, Chairwoman Diana Szynal said she wouldn’t support renewing the arrangement.
“Honestly, I’m really not inclined to agree to any of this,” Szynal said.
Provisions of the host community agreement included providing the town a percentage of profits as an impact fee and offering education to Hatfield students.
“None of those have been met,” Szynal said. “We haven’t seen any financial records, we haven’t received a penny, and there hasn’t been an education component in the town.”
“Good people honor agreements that were entered into in good faith,” Szynal said. “I’m not feeling good about renewing this agreement.”
MacKae Freeland, a Gill resident who serves as executive officer for Treeworks, said the hope is to continue to talk to town officials about the extension.
“Our goal at the end of the day is to work with the town,” Freeland said. “In no way are we trying to stiff people.”
Freeland is part of a local team that opened Treeworks in May 2020. The business employs 30 people, making cannabis products for retailers and dispensaries, such as edible gummies, a pain salve that is a non-psychoactive cream for achy joints and sore muscles, and tinctures, which are medicinal cannabinoid liquid.
He said a community service commitment is being honored through volunteer opportunities at the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts prior to its move to Chicopee.
“We are trying to dedicate time to being helpful in the community,” Freeland said.
Treeworks has made appeals to the Select Board previously. In February 2022, it requested that the town not collect annual impact fees from the business. The board rejected that, arguing that the five-year, 3% annual tax was part of the arrangement in the deal that allowed Treeworks to open in town.
Select Board member Greg Gagnon said more time is needed to learn why the town isn’t getting what was promised.
“I think the whole contract needs to be followed, all of it, and I am very interested to find out why you haven’t,” Gagnon said.
Select Board member Ed Jaworski said he is bothered that there has been no discussion about what the educational component will look like.
Freeland cited a breakdown in communication. “There is really a lot of moving pieces in what’s taking place,” Freeland said.
Jaworksi said a follow-up meeting to hash out details and get what the town was promised is needed, so he agreed with extending the terms of the deal into early January.
Freeland said he would like to meet again.
“We’d like to explain how things have transpired, and we’re just looking forward to you affording us that opportunity to do so,” he said.
That may include discussing terms of the host community agreement, though Szynal expressed skepticism.
“It’s almost like you didn’t intend to abide by any of the provisions that you agreed to in here,” Szynal said.Scott Merzbach can be reached at email@example.com.