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Editorial: Hamburg stiff-arms its residents in refusing to provide details on a big, public project

The secretive manner in which a sportsplex is being discussed and presumably delivered to Hamburg residents is insulting.

Apparently, town officials – and specifically the town supervisor – did not get the memo on the need for open government. It matters, especially on a deal expected to run into the tens of millions of dollars. Supervisor Steven J. Walters continues to spurn the public and the board is going along with it by working in the shadows. What is it that they fear?

Last Monday evening, board members got an update on the proposed $25 million to $30 million sportsplex but neither they nor the supervisor were willing to share any insights on the public-private venture.

Only this from Walters about the meeting with Marty Starkman, president of Sportstar of Toronto: “The board has directed him to provide information that he has not provided.”

That cryptic comment is similar to other nonsubstantive utterances made on the project. An announcement will be made once there is a signed agreement to purchase the property. And a public meeting to explain the proposal. And more information in two weeks.

This slow-drip strategy is rude and inappropriate for what should be a transparent public process. The same could be said for the behind-closed-doors executive session discussion that took place before and after hiring Sportstar for up to $140,000 to undertake a feasibility and financial analysis of the project.

And if the town does not go forward with the proposal, the town (read: taxpayers) would still have to pay for the work the company did up to that point.

It gets worse. As The News reported, a representative of Rink Management Services Corp. of Virginia carried a packet with the title “Hamburg Sportsplex Feasibility, Including Memorandums of Understanding.” The rep met with the board and Starkman for roughly a half hour before its regular meeting Monday evening.

The town is stiffing its residents by refusing to share much in the way of details, other than being “close” to identifying a parcel of land for what is supposed to house twin ice rinks, a fieldhouse, gyms, a pro shop and restaurant. That’s a project that the public should have a role in influencing. It’s not enough simply to present it as, more or less, a done deal.

The supervisor and Town Board continue to insult voters by failing the transparency test. In the meantime, the town received a proposal for a $15 million competing private facility. The Kaleta Group, with Liberatore Management Group and Ellicott Development, presented a sketch plan of its proposed twin rinks at the site of the former McKinley Park Inn.
Town officials should get back to residents. There is much to discuss.

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