North Carolina Town Refuses Mediation over Public Records Dispute
Wednesday, December, 3, 2014
A dispute over a proposed water intake project in Boone, North Carolina will not be headed to mediation. The town flatly refused a request for voluntary mediation made by a coalition of citizens seeking information about the town’s water system.
The city council and mayor have insisted the new water project is necessary because the 2004 Water System Analysis and Master Plan demonstrates that the town’s existing water system will reach maximum capacity in a very short time. Opponents of the project banded together and formed New River Advocates Inc., a nonprofit organization designed to request and distribute public information.
However, New River Advocates claims that the town has been very slow to respond to their request for the Master Plan, and has placed oppressive restrictions on the group in regards to the documents, including setting a very high cost of making copies, redacting much of the applicable data, and forbidding any photographing or copying of the documents. New River Advocates requested the voluntary mediation to settle these issues.
The town, however, has responded that it has fulfilled the records request, and therefore sees no reason for mediation, thus it refused the request. The town also stated that staff offered to make any copies the coalition needed at the standard and publicly posted rate of 25 cents a page, but the coalition’s representative refused to pay the cost.
Voluntary mediation must be explored prior to any court actions, according to North Carolina law.