Orange still looking for quorum

Hoping to hold meeting tonight

ORANGE — After several failed attempts in recent weeks to hold a special town meeting, officials are hoping to finally draw a quorum tonight.

The meeting has been rescheduled twice due to lack of a quorum and once due to snow.

Last week, the assembled crowd waited in vain for just a dozen more voters to show up. Moderator Chris Woodcock finally made the call at 7:30 p.m. to reschedule.

Selectboard Chairwoman Kathy Reinig said she hoped this would prove a better time for voters as last week was school vacation week and many voters may have been out of town or otherwise busy with family commitments.

Selectman George Willard was less sympathetic. “I have a problem with people grasping at any reason to not come out and vote … they have a myriad of excuses …. (such as) I have a hangnail.”

“We have such a gift in Massachusetts … to be part of our own government,” said Reinig. “But self-government involves you being there even to do the dull stuff such as appropriating money for everyday expenses.”

She said one of the agenda items involves money transfers that will allow the continued consolidation of the highway and cemetery departments. “Anyone who thinks things have improved over the past few weeks (since the consolidation began) should vote so we can continue to pay (Public Works Superintendent Josh Knechtel) and hire the foreman he needs” to help manage the new department.

Willard suggested putting a controversial discussion at the end of every special town meeting to help draw voters.

Several agenda items have sparked controversy between finance officials and the Selectboard members about whether to add new money into the budget for operating and capital expenses.

Two of the three finance-related articles on the warrant have not been approved by the Finance Committee.

The board’s first request is for appropriation of $62,000 to this year’s budget for operating expenses, short debt interest, and deposit to the town’s stabilization account.

Reinig said the request will be funded by tax base growth estimates of $220,000 which is $145,000 more than original estimates.

Finance Committee Chairwoman Linda Smith told The Recorder Committee members voted not to recommend the request as the state has not yet certified the town’s new growth estimates.

But even if the state doesn’t certify the entire estimate, Reinig said there will be enough to cover the requested expenses.

Smith added the absence of revenue and expense reports since last May has kept committee members in the dark about the town’s financial picture.

“We can’t in good conscience … recommend townspeople spend money we don’t know we have,” Smith said.

The Finance Committee also voted not to recommend a $15,000 request for technology upgrades as committee members did not feel there was a coherent plan for software and computer purchases.

The meeting will be at 7 p.m. at Town Hall.

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