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By Chris Pierson
When did the search for fact become so confrontational? At last Thursday's Waitsfield Select Board meeting, the board was presented a petition requesting a reconsideration of the town office bond vote held on July 30. Upon receiving this petition, I requested a clarification of the facts from Community Development Block Grant (CDBG), the granting agency, because I, like others, was unclear on the limitations of the grant as they pertained to potential site locations. I found the grant agent's responses to our questions at the June 10 select board meeting to be contradictory, as well as his responses to an email seeking clarification from Bob Burley and Ellen Strauss, that was presented at the special Town Meeting prior to the vote. In fact, I found one supported the other adding to the confusion, and I voiced my concern at that meeting.
Initially, I supported putting the bond vote before the voters because I did not feel determining the importance of the grant to the community was the board's decision to make or mine. When the recent petition was submitted it forced the select board to move forward on a reconsideration of the vote. While the Farm Stand site is not my first choice, neither is yet another vote on the same issue. I was prepared to move forward based on the outcome of the July 30 vote. State statute mandates the bond vote must now be reconsidered – making it the select board's job to make sure it is done and done fairly.
Due to the confusion, I thought it best to seek clarification. I felt if I allowed the vote to move forward without gaining a full understanding of the grant's limitations, it would only perpetuate further distrust and resentment in the community regardless of the pending vote's outcome. Upon my request for clarification, fellow board member Bill Parker jumped down my throat for seeking the facts. When is it okay to not seek out the facts? When is it okay for one member to question the effort of another member seeking the facts? I contend had Bill not created an uproar and simply consented to a request for clarification nobody would have questioned what should have been a simple procedural matter, let alone allowed the editor of this paper to make assumptions concerning my intentions.
It has been asked, why didn't I simply seek an opinion outside the scope of the board? What would the allegations be if the response were all sites would be considered? Only then it would be at a later date creating more confusion and contention closer to the pending vote. It has been stated my motivation for seeking the facts is to muddy the water. I find it pathetic that people could twist the desire to possess the facts as a political ploy.
I guess some are more politically savvy than I, or perhaps they possess agendas. I don't know, but I do know the search for the facts and the truth as a select board member is my greatest responsibility.
I would like to thank Josh Hanford at the CDBG for being receptive and giving of his time and his understanding of the importance facts play when voters make decisions and the importance of this project in particular.
I have since concluded my fact-finding mission and I am happy to report the facts are that the current grant is only good for the Farm Stand site. If we vote it down, we lose the current commitment. We can re-apply for an alternative site, but there are no guarantees that the money will be available.
Now it is time for you to decide. Get out and vote!
Chris Pierson lives in Waitsfield and is a member of the select board.