Fairgrounds discussions should more actively involve public

To the editor:

Like many people, I have not yet offered a public opinion on the new fairgrounds issue. That is because I lack the data needed to make an informed decision. I won’t reach any final conclusions in this writing, but I do want to discuss the process.

Several years ago, community meetings were held to inform the public about the Mt. Comfort Road and County Road 300N roundabout. Two elected officials attended but quickly departed when the presentation began.

Like the public meetings on the new fairgrounds, no public questions or input was allowed.

Following the roundabout presentation, the audience was invited to go to one of several stations to ask questions. I got the same answer to all three of my questions — “I can’t answer that; I’m only the consultant.”

Commissioner Tom Stevens was quoted in the paper as saying everyone he talked to was in favor of it. This was after he attended a public meeting at the Mt. Comfort Elementary School where 44 out of 45 people spoke against the roundabout, including the school system school board members, local businesses and adjacent and nearby property owners.

Again, speaking of the new fairgrounds, commissioner Stevens is quoted as saying everyone he talks to is in favor of it.

Some of those generally perceived as being against the new fairgrounds project have publicly stated they are not against it but don’t like the process being used to formulate the planning for it.

Our elected officials have said they will eventually allow public questions and input when the process is more developed. I feel we have reached that point.

Plans are formulated and estimated costs have been projected. It is time for transparency and eliminating conflicts of interest.

It is time for our elected officials to step up and do that which they were elected to do, and that is govern with the consent of the governed and not hide behind a pseudo-official appointed board that includes several of their own members and a board that is not subject to the laws and regulations the legislature enacted to ensure the public would be informed and their voice would be heard.

I have spoken privately with some of our elected officials, and they readily have the answers that would address and allay many of the concerns being expressed by the public.

So why not bring the discussion into the public realm?

They are making this a much more contentious issue than it needs to be, and to continue down this path serves no purpose other than to unnecessarily further divide the community.

Shelton Oakes