Berkshire Eagle, The (Pittsfield, MA)
Christopher Marcisz Berkshire Eagle Staff
WILLIAMSTOWN — The debate over whether to extend the town water main down Cold Spring Road has gone online, as the town prepares for a second special town meeting on the contentious issue Dec. 2. Residents with Internet access can use their time between Thanksgiving meals and holiday shopping to visit several Web sites that have popped up this past week with reams of primary source documents about the issue, along with a site to post comments on the issue.
Over the weekend, the town put online a page of files related to the project, after it was suggested at a recent Selectmen’s meeting that voters needed access to more information.
While the town site focuses on official documents, another one that went online yesterday morning includes opinions and comments from other sources as well. The site was set up by Bill Densmore, and is the product of a group of about 10 people called Williamstown Citizens for Informed Decisions.
Densmore described his group as “a fact-gathering group with a point of view,” which he said was “skepticism about the need for the water line and some lingering concerns about the process by which it has been advanced, and about its potential effect on the pace of development in South Williamstown.”
He said he is intrigued by the “process of discovery” the community is going through, and the way the debate has captured the town’s attention, with implications for matters as varied as education, health care, zoning, the environment, tourism and business.
“It wraps everything up into one decision,” he said. “And that’s why it is not an easy decision to make.”
Elsewhere in cyberspace, resident David Langston over the weekend created a community discussion forum on the water line. It includes relevant documents, as well as opportunities for users to post comments and pose questions. Langston is serving as site moderator, and it is being hosted by Williamstown-based Brainspiral Technologies, a computer services business run by Hunter Greene.
“With a second town meeting in front of us, I thought it might be useful to collect as many of the basic documents and attendant arguments in one place online so that people could look them up and offer opinions and ask further questions,” Langston wrote in the site’s welcome message.
The site is organized around major topics of the debate, and he admits it is being done “in a hurry and in our spare time,” so some relevant materials may not appear right away.
“The water line question is complex, and it has a number of interested parties and moving parts,” Langston wrote. “So if what you see here does not match your view of events, please be patient because we are building this boat while we sail it.”
Panel discussion on TV
Meanwhile, part of the discussion will be televised. Densmore and resident Daniel O’Connor have organized a live panel discussion on the issue for Monday, Nov. 29, on WilliNet, the local access channel. Viewers will be able to e-mail or phone in questions on the issue, which will last an hour and be rebroadcast several times before the meeting.
Former Town Moderator William Dudley will serve as panel moderator. The panel will include Tim Kaiser, Ralph Bradburd, Donald Dubendorf, Andy Hogeland and Thomas Jorling.
On the Web: town of Williamstown, at www.williamstown.net/csrwl.htm.
Williamstown Citizens for Informed Decisions, at www.newshare.com/williamstown
David Langston’s online forum, at http://forums.brainspiral.com
Christopher Marcisz can be reached at email@example.com or at (413) 664-4995.