Bethel Action Committee Petitions to Overrule Decision to Demolish Old Town Hall

Bethel Action Committee Petitions to Overrule Decision to Demolish Old Town Hall
Editor’s note: The following letter to the editor was sent in from Billy Michael, founder of the Bethel Action Committee, Bethel, CT. The opinions expressed in the Letters to the Editor column are the viewpoint of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoint of Bethel Buzz or its editor.
Bethel residents opposed to the way their Board of Selectmen are disposing of the Old Town Hall should be aware that the Bethel Action Committee is petitioning to overrule the May 30, 2012 authorizations that would demolish this public building.
Whether viewed as an asset or a liability, the fact remains that David Jepsen, the library project architect, assured voters at the Town Meeting on December 5, 2000 that the “Old Town Hall will remain” and that “parking as required by zoning would be provided nearby offsite.” The Library supporters approved this plan!
Since the basic premise of the library project is now being drastically changed it would seem only natural that Selectmen operating under town meeting form of government would want to ensure that the assembled citizenry at town meeting agree with the substantive changes they are proposing.
However, this is not the case. By voting to authorize demolition outside of a referendum, the Bethel Board of Selectmen are catering to the Library constituency at the expense of the taxpayers-at-large, as well as circumventing Bethel’s Town Meeting form of government.While not illegal, their actions are inconsistent with the spirit of our town meeting form of government.
First, how well-publicized was the May 30th Special Selectmen’s Meeting? How many of those reading this letter were aware that demolition of the of the Old Town Hall was on the agenda? Shouldn’t an issue that generated a citizens’ rally and a sharply divided Public Hearing deserve a modicum of publicity? Although the meeting complied with all legal notification requirements it was essentially unknown to the citizens at large.
Secondly, those who would argue that a referendum is not necessary because we elect representatives to make these decisions for us might  be reminded that the elected  Board of Finance unanimously voted to preserve the building in question!
There is simply no consensus of support for the demolition. There is only a transparent attempt by the Selectmen to wrap the decision-making process in a protective cocoon, thus insulating them from taxpayer scrutiny.
Thirdly, how does the use of State grant money exempt this project from the oversight of the Board of Finance and the Town Meeting? Doesn’t the fact that these grant monies are derived directly from Bethel’s 8000+ state income tax filers as well as other locally paid state taxes and fees in reality make this local money? What precedent is being set here? Does receipt of State grants  henceforth allow the Selectmen to do whatever they want for the benefit of a favored voting bloc, and thus free from the oversight of both the Board of Finance and the town citizenry?
Fourth, isn’t it reasonable that in a Town Meeting form of government, disposal of a public building should require the consent of the public? We do not give unbridled power to our neighbors at election time – the founding fathers were adamant about diffusing power over the many in order to deprive excessive power to the few.
The right to petition this decision to as wide an audience as possible is one of the safeguards provided by our Town Charter.
To partake in this most fundamental exercise of democracy please visit www.bethelaction.com for information on signing the petition online. We will then find you for an in-person signing of this Petition to Overrule Decision to Demolish the Old Town Hall.
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Posted on June 15, 2012, in Home. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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