Friday, December 28, 2007

CASH seeks extended comment period

The CASH press release:

WisDOT withheld records, CASH says;
seeks extended comment period on I-94 project

Dec. 28 – The Wisconsin Department of Transportation’s improper withholding of requested records is blocking a full review of the agency’s plan for North-South I-94, Citizens Allied for Sane Highways said Friday.

CASH is asking WisDOT Secretary Frank Busalacchi to extend until Feb. 1 the time period during which members of the public may comment on the draft Environmental Impact Statement for the project. The comment period now is scheduled to expire Monday.

CASH is a coalition formed to oppose freeway expansion in Milwaukee.

The agency’s failure to provide the records likely is a violation of the state’s Open Records Law, CASH co-chair Gretchen Schuldt said.

“We asked WisDOT on Nov. 30 for certain electronic files so we could closely examine impacts of WisDOT’s proposal on affected properties,” Schuldt said. “WisDOT never provided any files, and then the official we were dealing with went on vacation until after the comment period closes. That’s not the way the law is supposed to work.”

WisDOT suggested that CASH should seek some of the requested information from county governments, but failed to release even records generated by WisDOT staff or contractors.

CASH, in a letter to Busalacchi, also raised concerns with the timing of the comment period – it begins and ends with the holiday season.

“WisDOT couldn’t have chosen a better time to minimize public participation than the holidays, when people are incredibly busy and incredibly pre-occupied,” Schuldt said. “All we are asking for is an extended comment period, which will give interested residents a chance to reengage in the process and will allow appropriate time to resolve the open records issue.”

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