In recent weeks, the national news spotlight has turned to Hanover because of the eagles out by Codorus State Park. I think we have something else that could make headlines – municipal agendas that seem to grow on their own.
Last week, a committee agenda was posted on the borough website with 11 items. The agenda available at the meeting has 20 items. Last night’s borough council agenda had seven items added since it was posted online Monday.
Now I know some of these things are inevitable – three of the items added to the council agenda were event requests that came in after the original agenda was printed. Those are examples of good stewardship. But what changed between Monday and Wednesday to add an agreement about potentially vacating the alley between the borough office and 34 Frederick Street and an agreement about LED traffic lights and about getting a recycling grant and, most importantly, about amending the sales agreement for the property next to the Tanger Building?
Yep, that situation once again comes up last minute – the original Tanger purchase was approved as a late-minute agenda item because “someone forgot” to add it to the agenda. And when these last-minute items come up, there is no explanation as to why they are late or what the items mean. Remember, once the public comment portion of the meeting ends at the beginning, the veil of secrecy is dropped and sharing information with the public doesn’t matter anymore.
Which reminds me, water rates are going up both in and out of the borough. How much? No one knows. Well, I guess Barb Krebs knows, but the agenda item is the standard Hanover Borough legalese with no mention of what the rate will actually be. God forbid you tell the people how much they will be spending. I guess the outside the borough rate is the one they asked the Public Utility Commission for, but that agenda item was so vague, it prompted one council member to ask, “what is this?” And if the borough manager isn’t being clear with the people voting on items, how can we expect her to actually share information with us lowly citizens.
Sure, I could have asked, but I didn’t feel like getting treated like a leper. Or getting kicked out for actually requesting information in the middle of a meeting.
I don’t expect nothing to change once the agenda is printed, but these shenanigans have to stop. If people had known that the future of the amusement tax was going to be discussed in committee last week, they may have come or shared their thoughts with members of council. Instead, the public agenda shows very tame items to discourage people from coming so that more meaty topics can be added at the last minute. I’ve seen this movie in Hanover before. It’s getting old.
The borough website should be a living, breathing entity. It is possible to change a PDF once you post it. It is possible to list agenda items as they are added and put some sort of notification that allows people to see the new information. It is OK to have an ongoing dialogue with residents.
Because if you don’t keep people updated regularly, it certainly looks like you’re trying to pull the wool over our eyes. Especially when you do it again and again and again and again and again.