Brunswick police station panel addresses transparency, public information

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BRUNSWICK — The Police Station Subcommittee met Tuesday to determine how best to address people who claim the group has not been transparent enough or made enough information publicly available.

The committee was formed in December in response to opposition to the site selection process for a new police station and requests for citizens to be included in that process. Since then, the committee has continued to be accused of not providing enough information to the public and reaching conclusions about site selection before hearing arguments.

As a result, the committee decided on Tuesday to post on the town’s website and submit to local newspapers an eight-page document that explains the purpose and accomplishments of the committee and its decision-making process.

“Everyone felt it was necessary to really answer a lot of those questions and explain what we’re doing,” said Town Councilor Ben Tucker, a subcommittee member.

“If someone writes a letter, we aren’t agile enough to get together one night and immediately respond to that question. This fills out and reiterates what we’ve been doing,” he added.

Bernie Breitbart, a citizen representative on the committee, said “people have questioned what we’re doing and how we do it.” He said the point of the document is “to list the various sites and try and explain how we arrived at our decisions and to hopefully be unbiased about it.”

The document the committee created explains how it arrived at its decision to eliminate certain sites and keep others. It outlines the pros and cons of each potential site, and explains when and why sites were eliminated from consideration.

“The result of our meeting discussions, site visits and criteria analysis brought us to the following conclusions,” the document says. “The Subcommittee has given careful and serious consideration to all comments it had received and recognizes that multiple, sometimes conflicting, factors must be considered as it deliberates and makes recommendations.”

The document also explains the charge of the subcommittee, lists its members and gives an overview of the reasons a new police station is needed in the first place.

Although subcommittee members hope the document will help address many of the concerns members of the public have had, many are frustrated that more citizens aren’t taking the time to read news accounts and look through information that is already available on the town’s website.

“You’re getting a lot of opinions from the community, but they’re not taking the time to watch the meetings or going online to read the information that’s there,” Louise Ansari said in the Tuesday meeting.

Other citizen committee members say that receiving criticism from the public is a new experience for them.

“Recently there have been a couple of attacks that I feel were unwarranted, and I’m not used to that,” Breitbart said. “We are trying to look at (the site selection process) through most angles and no matter what we come up with, people are trying to disagree with us.”

While the document was primarily created to inform the public about the subcommittee’s decision-making process, Town Manager Gary Brown said the writing of the document was spearheaded by the citizens on the committee, who he said “have been caught up in a situation that is controversial and they’ve been on the receiving end of some criticisms and they’re feeling the need to defend their actions.”

“It’s a new experience to be doing something as public and open as they have been, making public decisions, and then reading the stuff they’ve been doing wrong (in opinion pieces in the newspaper),” he said.

As for the town councilors on the panel?

“I’m used to it,” Tucker said.

Emily Guerin can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or eguerin@theforecaster.net

Brunswick Interim Police Report-02.22.11

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