Northern New York Newspapers
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Sat., Sep. 5
Serving the communities of Jefferson, St. Lawrence and Lewis counties, New York
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Silence isn’t golden


When the Adams village Board of Trustees agreed Monday to borrow more than $1 million to expand the fire hall, no one in the audience had anything to say.

That’s because the roughly 50 residents who attended the meeting were prohibited from offering their thoughts on the issue. Board members voted 6-1 that night to move forward with the project without accepting any comments.

Perhaps board members believed that opening the meeting to public input would take up too much time. Many residents at the meeting wore Adams Fire Department T-shirts. So seeing how popular the plan was with them, why prolong the meeting with statements expressing the support they knew existed?

It’s not like they haven’t already heard from numerous individuals on this proposal. It appears the trustees had their minds made up and wanted to keep things moving forward.

The problem is that precluding public comments before such a significant vote makes it appear as though opponents of the plan are being ignored. And there are more than a few people who would have preferred to see this issue be put in front of the voters before a decision was made.

It would be good for a project taking on such a debt burden be placed on a referendum. That way the people who put up the money to run village operations could decide if they want to take on this responsibility.

And there are other spending priorities that require the village’s attention. For example, several members of the Adams Planning Board have pointed out that the village must find additional sources of water for residents to use.

People who are opposed to the fire hall expansion plan must now collect at least 185 signatures within 30 days of the board’s vote to place the issue on a referendum. Allowing residents to vote on this will demonstrate the level of support it truly has.

The other interesting part of Monday’s meeting was that Trustee Philip F. Chatterton voted on the motions to approve the plan and for the village to solicit bids on it. As a member of the Adams Fire Department, he had previously abstained from voting on this issue. But he said that he chose to vote on it now because he believed the board had deliberated enough.

Trustee Chatterton should have continued abstaining from voting on this plan. Board members may be thoroughly informed about the project, but that doesn’t make it any less of a conflict of interest for him.

Time will tell if opponents are able to bring the issue to a referendum and if the plan has enough support to win a public vote. But in this instance, trustees look like they’re trying to short-circuit any pushback to this project by silencing critics. They’re not going to win many converts with that attitude.

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