A special meeting of the Town Council of North Hatley is to be held on July 4 at 5:30 p.m. at the Municipal Office to discuss, or so it would seem from the vague agenda, not the legal opinion the Town has obtained in relation to locking the gate at the town beach, but only the policy of the Town regarding disclosure of this opinion. This is what the agenda seems to state, and if this is in fact the case, then according to the Municipal Code only this subject (the policy) can be discussed at the meeting. In fact, this imprecise agenda raises more questions than it answers.
Question 1: Why discuss the policy as to whether to disclose the opinion, when the opinion itself has been obtained at taxpayer expense, at our expense – and likely at great expense, even if the lawyer is on a retainer from the Town – and concerns an issue of public safety? Why isn’t the opinion in its entirety being presented, discussed, and made available? Does it not fully support the decision taken by the administration of the Town?
Question 2: Why hold a special meeting — at additional public expense — on this issue only five days before a regular, scheduled meeting? Are our taxes being spent unnecessarily? Is the Town is such a good financial situation that it can afford to spend our money foolishly? Or is this some manœuvre on the part of the administration to limit public discussion and accountability at its regular meeting? As previous stated, the agenda, in its lack of specificity, raises more questions than it answers. And this is a problem, since it serves to prevent citizens from raising pertinent questions, from questioning the administration of the Town in a meaningful way.
Question 3: Why has our money been spent unnecessarily on yet another legal opinion, when one was already obtained by NHRS and communicated to the Town? The NHRS obtained an opinion from a lawyer whose specialization was precisely in the field of law that applies when it comes to barricading the beach. That opinion stated there was no need to lock the gate when swimming was unsupervised—indeed, that doing so made the Town (i.e., it’s taxpayers, i.e., us) more liable than if it simply left them open 24/7. The Town’s insurers have also stated, several times, that there was no need to lock the gate. So why has more of our money been spent on yet one more opinion, from yet one more lawyer, one whose specialization is very possibly irrelevant to this area of law (this lawyer might well possess a specialization in Municipal Law, for example, and the question of responsibility is not covered by the Municipal Code). Why has this legal opinion not already been made public in its entirety, since it had been obtained by June 22, if not before? And why is the Town Administration acting only now, at the beginning of July, without being willing to provide its taxpayers all the information in its possession?
These questions and others can and will be raised by citizens attending the special meeting, but only before the item on the agenda is actually discussed (there will be only one question period). If access to the ‘public’ beach is of interest to you, and if you are able to attend the special meeting, it would be important that you do so and bring your concerns to the attention of our officials, both elected and unelected.
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