At the conclusion of the public hearing regarding the consolidation study for the Village of Dansville and Town of North Dansville on Oct. 20, a parting statement to the people in the audience was that county officials attended last month’s regular meeting and complimented the committee, but asked why the monthly meeting was so poorly attended by community residents. The implication was that the people of Dansville are apathetic toward such an important venture that may affect the future of our community.

Dear Editor,

At the conclusion of the public hearing regarding the consolidation study for the Village of Dansville and Town of North Dansville on Oct. 20, a parting statement to the people in the audience was that county officials attended last month’s regular meeting and complimented the committee, but asked why the monthly meeting was so poorly attended by community residents. The implication was that the people of Dansville are apathetic toward such an important venture that may affect the future of our community.

Let me assure you that many people in our community have been most interested in the consolidation study even before the Center for Governmental Research was awarded the $50,000 contract to conduct the study.  However, we’ve never really been part of the conversation and have repeatedly been denied access to much of the information throughout the course of this study. On several occasions, I attempted to get information from the committee with no success. The committee’s secretary told me that she didn’t know what information she was “allowed” to give me. Finally, I resorted to submitting a Freedom of Information Law request in July to obtain all the materials that the consolidation committee had received to date and was eventually given limited documentation of very little substance.

CGR’s response to my FOIL request proved most interesting. CGR sought the advice of the Department of State to “assist with this decision” and notified the consolidation committee that CGR is “not a public agency and thus not subject to FOIL.” CGR said it would advise the committee as to what it learned from DOS and “what is required or not” and then “help you pull together what is necessary.” CGR also noted that committees in their past projects have not been subject to FOIL since those committees were working on behalf of the boards and were not comprised of the boards themselves.

I spoke with several committee members and CGR to assure them that I had no intentions of undermining what the committee had been charged to do, and asked again that community residents be given access to the same public information so we can participate in the process and make an informed decision. I explained how difficult it is for community members attending the monthly meetings to fully comprehend what was happening at these “open” meetings when we are not privy to any information. We shouldn’t have to try and piece the data together after the fact and attempt to reason how or why the committee made certain decisions along the way.

A shroud of secrecy in a public project using public funds to study a public issue is unacceptable. Ironically, CGR’s motto which appears on all correspondence is “inform and empower” yet CGR has not been forthcoming with requested information for community residents, CGR has not made any monthly press releases informing community residents of the study’s progress and CGR has not made any of the information pertaining to the Dansville study that it has posted on its website easily accessible. CGR mentioned a few times during the public hearing that the link to information regarding the Dansville consolidation study is “buried” on the homepage of CGR’s website.

Several months ago, a village resident contacted CGR to request more information about the study only to receive a written reply that the “community would be invited to participate at the point in which information becomes available.” So, please know that the people of Dansville care very much about our community.We have tried to be involved and had this been a completely open process, I guarantee you that there would have been better community participation.

Pat Kreiley
Dansville