3 contend for 1 selectman’s seat Monday in Orange
ORANGE — Here’s what the three people who want to be chosen as selectman in Monday’s annual town election have to say on issues raised at a recent candidate’s night. Polling is 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. in the armory.
Former Selectman Richard Sheridan said “I don’t know and I don’t care” is a pervasive attitude among Orange residents.
One way to address apathy, he said, is to act on issues that residents bring forward. Several years ago, residents requested employees use mileage logs to increase accountability. While Sheridan voted for the initiative, he said it was never consistently implemented.
He also said selectmen asked voters to approve more money for certain additional expenses at the special town meeting this week, but the budget was approved by voters in June. Those limits should be respected if officials want voters to feel like they are being heard. “If (a line item) is voted down, we have to learn to live with it,” he said.
Newcomer Bill Cody agreed with Sheridan that respecting budget limits is an important way to make residents feel their votes matter. He said there should maybe be a rule that any issue cannot reappear on a town meeting warrant for a year.
Cody also agreed mileage logs should be implemented as they were requested by residents and would ensure greater accountability.
Incumbent Kathy Reinig said many Orange residents watch televised meetings at home, which shows they do care. However, she said Orange officials need to do a better job at encouraging residents to take time out of their busy schedules to vote.
She argued it is important to be able to revisit budget issues during the year as sometimes expenses are unforeseen or there is unexpected revenue. Selectmen requested new appropriations at the special town meeting because the revenue coming in for this year was over $100,000 higher than expected.
Cody said it is important to regularly review employees, so that expectations are clear and “they know whether they’re doing things right or wrong.” He added training is also important.
Reinig agreed that training is “terribly important as laws change and regulations change” in each field.
She said she supports department heads by listening to their concerns. She also is careful not to “bad-mouth them in public” but take up any problems she has either with them directly or with the town administrator.
She said many departments lack support staff to help get the work done. These employees also need training. When the town skimps on training, she said, “we are not getting the value” out of existing staff.
Sheridan said “supporting (department heads) does not mean giving them everything they ask for.” Currently many department heads “almost run their departments like separate entities … that’s not how it should be.”
Sheridan argued selectmen should leave town operations to the town administrator and focus on setting policies, such as implementation of the mileage logs.
Reinig said she envisions a day when Orange has a vibrant downtown, flourishing agriculture and forestry operations, an abundance of artisans and music on street corners, as well as a host of small manufacturers shipping products around the world.
She said that future is not far off. But to reach it, Orange needs to put much more effort into attracting businesses and supporting entrepreneurial skills in residents of all ages.
Sheridan said he would like to see Orange “get back to … the way it was 40 years ago … the town impressed me when I first came up.” To regain that momentum, officials need to do a better job of listening to voters. He said it’s also important to address the real causes of problems rather than throwing more money at problems by hiring more employees.
Cody said he envisions a town that welcomes and encourages working-age people to get involved in meetings and committees. He said that may mean town meetings may have to move to more convenient times.
He said improving Butterfield Park is a step in the right direction for attracting new businesses.