It’s amazing what you can accomplish with a little reason, understanding and cooperation.
A group of Duanesburg citizens were on their way to taking the town to court over a decision by the Town Board in October to move ahead with the $250,000 purchase of a former Jehovah’s Witness hall for use as a new town hall.
The citizens, led by former town Supervisor William Park and resident Richard Hoffman, had collected enough signatures to legally force a public vote on the purchase, but their effort was rebuffed after town officials said they had turned in the petitions a day late.
We editorialized that despite their tardiness, the Town Board should have accepted the petitions anyway and given the citizens their vote.
We’re happy to say that before they were forced to hash out their differences in a courtroom, the two sides forged a compromise that was better than the path they were both headed in and better than our recommendation that they move right ahead with the referendum.
Recognizing that this process was going to take more time, the Town Board agreed to reconsider its original vote to purchase the property. In exchange, the citizens would hold off on their effort to force a referendum ‑ for now.
The board kept its end of the bargain by holding another vote on the purchase last week, this time agreeing to enter into a non-binding purchase agreement.
This accomplishes several things.
First, it gives town officials more time to consider the purchase more carefully and to have an engineering firm evaluate the town’s space needs for its courts, meeting rooms and storage.
In a recent letter to the editor of The Gazette, Supervisor Roger Tidball said that once the details of the project come into focus, the board will hold a public hearing and a walk-through of the property. Transparency is always welcome.
The delay also will give the town more time to evaluate the condition of the building and determine how much it will cost to do the renovations. Some residents disputed the town supervisor’s projected renovation estimates, saying they were unrealistically low. Taking time to take a closer look will help resolve any disagreements.
As for the public getting its say, the non-binding resolution negates the requirement that the town hold a referendum. But the agreement leaves open the possibility that the citizens could re-present their petitions to the Town Board again when it makes its purchase agreement binding. This gives the citizens more time to organize so they don’t run into deadline issues again.
And with the threat of litigation out of the way, no one has to incur any more legal expenses related to the dispute.
Town officials and the citizens in Duanesburg all deserve credit for diffusing what was likely going to be a very contentious, lose-lose situation for all.
We hope they’ll move on from this and maintain an open dialog on the purchase.
This is an example of what can be accomplished in government when all sides recognize the interests and needs of the other.