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Council needs to trust, share information

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By The Staff

In the past we praised Fort Lawn Town Council for doing an excellent job presenting public information to to the public.

If you attend a meeting, waiting for you is an agenda, a financial report and minutes of the meeting immediately prior to the one you are attending.

It's something all governmental bodies should take as an example.

Freedom of Information is as much a habit and a state of mind as anything else. Doing it right can be learned, but it can take time.

Last week, we saw a great example of this, again at a Fort Lawn Town Council meeting.

One council member said the council should consider holding a public meeting to inform town residents what is going on with the sewer situation.

Springs is shutting down its treatment facility at the Grace Plant, and the town is working to be a part of a regional plan that would continue to send its waste to Lancaster County, to be treated in the city there.

It was a great idea.

Unfortunately, it won't happen, not soon anyway.

As soon as the one council member presented the idea, other council members came up with what they said were valid reasons not to hold the meeting. Or to not let the public know exactly what is going on.

The council members basically talked themselves out of doing a good thing.

As we have noted in the past, some of the concerns about the release of information can be valid. But the response to those concerns has to be weighed.

There may be one or two facts about this that need to be withheld. But the council's decision now is to not say anything. Withhold it all. That goes too far.

The public needs to know what is going on with the sewer situation.

Make no mistake. The townsfolk of Fort Lawn need help to maintain a basic service they have had for decades.

Some agencies and businesses are being asked to kick in money and other contributions to make this plan work.

There is a concern that revealing how much is already pledged will dry up other possible donations.

The concern is valid. But spiking a public meeting is not a valid response. It's overkill.

The council can talk to its residents and let them know where the project stands without giving up every possible grant and donation.

We also need to know if the town is exploring a private option. There is a development that wants to come into the town of Fort Lawn, specifically because it wants to offer municipal sewer to potential homeowners.

The developers need to chip in, we think.

Most importantly, the council needs to trust the public, and fill them in.

This editorial first appeared in The Lancaster News' sister paper The Chester News & Reporter.