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Editorial: Let Duanesburg voters have say on town hall site

Editorial: Let Duanesburg voters have say on town hall site

Honor citizens' petition for referendum on purchase of old Jehovah's Witness facility
Editorial: Let Duanesburg voters have say on town hall site
The former Jehovah's Witnesses Kingdom Hall at 2240 Western Turnpike in Duanesburg.
Photographer: Courtesy Google Maps

The citizens seem to want to have a vote on whether to purchase a building for a new town hall.

Why not let them?

In October, the Town Board in Duanesburg voted to buy the old Jehovah’s Witness site on Western Turnpike for $250,000 to replace the current town hall, which they say they’ve outgrown.

But after the board voted, a group of citizens filed a petition hoping to force a referendum on the purchase.

They say they’re concerned that there’s no money set aside for the purchase in next year’s town budget and that the potential costs of renovating the 4,000-square-foot building could be higher than town officials expect.

The citizens behind the petition apparently got more than the required number of signatures to force a referendum. So that’s not an impediment to a public vote.

But Town Supervisor Roger Tidball says the petition is invalid because it came in one day beyond the 30-day deadline for filing it after the Town Board vote. One day.

So the citizens and the town will go to court later this month to hash it out.

If town officials were truly willing to listen to their citizens, they would honor the petition and hold the referendum.

No court battle. No legal expenses on either side’s part. Just let the people vote.

It’s not unreasonable for the citizens to want to have a say in such a potentially large expense. Not only would the town have to find money for the purchase, but also would have to get the building ready to host court and other town functions.

The supervisor says it would only cost about $100,000 to fix it up, and that the money could come from grants and borrowing. But some citizens fear renovations could add up to $250,000 to the purchase price.

By forcing the town to hold a public vote, town officials will have to answer the questions about the financing and the renovation costs in advance.

That could mean getting an engineer and an architect to go through the building and provide an estimate. That’s an expense the town ultimately would have to undertake anyway, so why not do it?

And if the Town Board has to re-vote on the land purchase in order to extend the petition deadline or perform some other legal maneuver, it should do it.

Remember who uses the town hall and   who ultimately will have to pay for the new one — the taxpayers of Duanesburg.

If the citizens want to vote, and they have a valid number of signatures to force one, then town officials shouldn’t stand in their way jut because they missed a filing deadline by one day. That’s just being petty.

Let the citizens have their say. And however the vote turns out, abide by their wishes.

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