Clarification/Retraction on Bethel’s Stance on ECFiber.net

On Tuesday morning I posted information on this blog which was inaccurate. I wrote that Bethel had opted not to sign the EC Fiber Network’s inter-local agreement, and indicated that 20+ other towns had. This was not true on Tuesday, and as of today, still is not. As of Tuesday evening, only 12 towns out of 25 had signed the agreement due to questions.

This morning, selectman Joe DeFreitas stopped in to my office to review what I had written, and what came out of Monday night’s meeting. I received inaccurate information from the meeting, and was led to believe that Bethel was in a small minority of towns who had not signed the agreement. The truth is that fewer than half of the towns have yet to sign it. I heard from several sources that the Select Board gave no reason for not signing the contract. After further discussion, I was able to get an explanation from Joe as to what some of the Board’s specific concerns are.

Clearly, I did not get the whole story before my short blog posting on Tuesday morning. However, I maintain that this is largely because there has been a serious lack of communication between the town’s officials and the community at large. The only way this is going to be addressed is for the town officials to be more open with their communications. Residents of Bethel should not have to try to pry information from the Select Board – it should be given freely. This will not only “get the word out,” but it will stop the annoying game of “telephone” and allow people to get information directly from the source, without having to worry about being misquoted or misrepresented. In this day and age, there is no excuse for that. The town has all of the tools necessary to disseminate information, and I do not mean meeting minutes, I mean public statements. I have offered the town the use of forums or blogs on bethelvermont.com, and a space to post meeting minutes to make them more accessible. While the Board’s minutes are being published regularly, they hardly get the full story.

In the past, the response to the lack of communication has been that if people want information, they should attend the meetings to hear for themselves. Unfortunately, adjourning to executive session does absolutely nothing to foster this behavior. Why would anyone want to go to a meeting where the crux of it will be held behind closed doors? The final paragraph of the board’s minutes reads as follows:

“After reviewing the legal advice on the subject contract, the Board finds that additional time is needed to address questions brought forth by the legal consultant. The Board feels strongly that the initiative to provide broadband services should be moved forward, first by addressing questions as have been raised, and resolving the most appropriate means by which to proceed in a timely fashion.”

Regardless of how the Board feels toward the project, I maintain that this statement does not address any specific concerns and is not sufficient to appease most of the concerned citizens of this town.

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