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Sue Bush
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Adams Forum To Offer Opportunity

By Susan Bush
12:00AM / Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Adams – A planned Jan. 5 forum is designed to generate an opportunity for residents to meet and interact with public officials, secure insight into municipal entities and operations, and encourage increased resident participation in town matters, according to forum facilitator James Wojtaszek.

In other words, the forum is a chance to be heard and get involved.

“We are hoping to involve a broad range of people at many levels,” he said during a Jan. 4 telephone interview.

The forum is scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. at the Adams Memorial Middle School Auditorium. Wojtaszek is chairman of the Adams Downtown Development Committee, and a member of the town Finance Committee and a Prudential Committee vice-chairman.

The forum will be conducted more informally than meetings such as the annual Town Meeting, Wojtasek said.

“The premise is to provide a forum by which people can interact with those who are elected to do their [municipal] business,” he said, and added that the forum isn’t meant to focus on gripes or grievances but is meant to allow a flow of ideas and discussion.

“[The forum] really is an open ledger,” Wojtaszek said. “We’d like to see what we can do with this.”

Town residents may not be familiar with the various components and nuts-and-bolts workings of town government, he said. Three 10-minute presentations are on the forum agenda; Selectmen’s Chairwoman Myra Wilk, Adams-Cheshire Regional School District Supt. Alfred Skrocki, and Prudential Committee Chairman Edward Capeless are scheduled to offer overviews into the operation of town government, the school district, and the water/fire district. Public input will be encouraged for an about 20-minute period following each presentation, Wojtaszek said.

Wojtaszek termed the forum “interactive,” and said that the hope is town residents will want to become more aware of town operations and more involved with town matters. Those who are uncomfortable speaking in public will be able to express their thoughts in writing using a form that will be available at the forum, he said.

All municipal entities make decisions and take actions that affect every town resident, but entities do not always act in tandem, Wojtaszek noted. For example, the school district creates a budget that is separate from the town budget but does rely on town taxpayer revenue and support.

“People may not always know who all the folks are and what they do,” Wojtaszek said, referring to elected and appointed town officials. “We want to introduce ourselves. And we want people to understand that they have a role in the community, that the days of electing and appointing people and just hoping for the best doesn’t cut it anymore. You so often hear people say ‘I have no way to offer input,’ and we are inviting people for their input.”

Listening as well as communicating is vital to the forum’s success, and Wojtaszek emphasized that people will be encouraged to share their ideas and visions for the town.

“In order to really shake the idea tree, you need a lot of people to do the shaking,” he said.

The time for new voices to speak up is now, he said.

“As creative as we’ve tried to be [with town development and growth], it seems to be the same people most of the time,” he said. "After a while, it becomes the same ideas over again."

The public forum concept was the result of discussions among members of a town Finance Committee sub-committee. Sub-committee members include Selectmen representatives, Town Administrator William Ketcham, Finance Committee representatives, Prudential Committee representatives, and school district officials.

Town taxpayers, retirees, business, civic, and youth group members, parents, and municipal employees are all being asked to attend the forum.

Ideas, comments, and other information offered at the forum will be subsequently discussed and reviewed by sub-committee members and a follow-up forum is likely to be scheduled.

If the forum generates strong participation and productive dialogue, similar discussion opportunities could be scheduled on a more frequent basis, Wojtaszek said.

Susan Bush may be reached via e-mail at suebush@iberkshires.com or at 802-823-9367.
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