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New Stonington/North Stonington Facebook forum starts in wake of uproar

There’s a new Facebook forum for residents of Stonington and North Stonington. Former Stonington Selectman Stephen Bessette started the “Town of Stonington Connecticut Community Forum” page on Facebook earlier this month, and it had 335 likes by Friday afternoon.

“The response has been very positive,” Bessette said.

Recent posts include Stonington Planning and Zoning Commission news, a local food drive request, and traffic conditions.

Although some Stonington residents have been asking for an official town Facebook page, this isn’t it.

“This is not meant to be a replacement for a Town Hall page,” Bessette said. “This page is meant to be more about the town itself.”

Bessette, who has experience managing other Facebook groups, said he was approached by a few people to see what was available for a town Facebook forum. Finding nothing already established, he set up this page in about 15 minutes.

“Facebook makes it very simple and easy to manage,” he said.

He invited people from both towns to join the forum, including town officials. Some joined, some did not. Although Facebook requires him to approve anyone before they can join, Bessette said the page is open to all, and anyone can post. He is also open to suggestions on what to with the page.

Bessette is the page administrator, although he’s hoping that a few other people will join him and help out. As the administrator, he said he will remove all inappropriate content, such as spam, or discussions about issues that devolve into personal attacks and finger pointing.

“You can do that on your own page,” he said about arguing.

Bessette decided to include North Stonington partly because the two towns form a single state assembly district, District 43, represented by Rep. Diana Urban.

“We are all one big community,” he said. “It’s really about helping our community grow and be a better place.”

Some Stonington residents had grown accustomed to receiving town information through First Selectman Edward Haberek Jr.’s personal Facebook page. Haberek had developed a reputation for posting useful information on his page, particularly during storms, that was open to all.

But after some residents complained about the mix of both personal and private information on his page, Haberek made the page private. Although Haberek has said he will accept all friend requests, at least one Stonington resident has mentioned being bumped from the friend list.

The town’s budget for 2014-15 includes money for a new town website to be unveiled this spring, which Haberek has said will be integrated with a running feed from an official town Facebook page. Haberek also included what he said is “a couple extra thousand” dollars in the budget to pay for someone to administer the Facebook page. It will be a new function for a Town Hall employee, he said, and the union will require the extra pay for the extra work.

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