The Fourth of July in Warren is always a great opportunity to appreciate the importance of participatory democracy – regardless of the statement, stance or position you're taking.

Revelers of all political stripes are welcome and their views are welcome whether they are universally shared or not. But, for citizens in a democracy, participation needs to go beyond one day a year and one parade.

It is our responsibility to pay attention to what our leaders do in our names. It's our job to inform ourselves. And it's our job, if we have opinions, to let them be known, because it's not fair to ask our leaders to make decisions in a vacuum.

And here is a perfect opportunity. The Waitsfield Select Board decided this week not to renew the option the town has to purchase the Flemer Barns property in the village for $250,000. The town has not abandoned the idea, but the board was reluctant to spend the $6,000 to renew the option without checking in with voters about what should happen at the site and what degree of involvement the town should have there.

The Flemer Barn Task Force is preparing a community-wide survey that will be widely distributed from Warren to Waitsfield to Fayston, Duxbury and Moretown asking all community members – not just Waitsfield taxpayers – for their opinions on if and how the barn property should be developed, whether it should be publicly owned or privately owned or a combination of the two.

At least three local groups, Open Hearth, The Valley Arts Foundation and the Mad River Valley Rotary, are interested in seeing the property used as a combination community center and cultural facility.

What is needed now is for Valley residents from the north to the south to take the time to answer the survey and to be as candid as possible about possible uses and potential costs.

While the Waitsfield Select Board answers to the voters of Waitsfield, strong survey responses from our neighboring communities will send a strong message to the other Valley select boards about willingness to help fund and/or use such a facility.

Give them the benefit of your opinion.