Orange voters OK funding for Community Development Office

ORANGE — Applause filled the Ruth B. Smith Memorial Auditorium as residents voted to continue funding the Community Development Office and the work it has been doing in town. Since word was received that Orange will not be receiving the Community Development Block Grant this year, the fate of the department was unknown. Salaries and wages for the positions of Director Kevin Kennedy and Administrative Assistant Wendy Johnson had been paid out of money the town received from the CDBG grant received in years prior.

The special meeting article proposed that Orange use surplus money from an unexpected overage in state transportation reimbursements for Mahar Regional School, the $97,000 surplus being more than enough needed to fund the Community Development Office this year. It will only require $77,000.

Taxpayers were at odds over the vote, reasoning against funding the Community Development Office by citing poor town roads and the recent closing of Butterfield School. Chairman of the Board of Selectmen George Willard spoke out with his opinion against the use of money, saying the town created the positions with the understanding that they would be supported by the CDBG grant and not the town itself.

Selectman Kathy Reinig spoke in favor, pointing out small steps in the right direction the town has been making since the implementation of the office. She also pointed out that as an employee of the town, Kennedy will not be pigeonholed to CDBG work only and can do much more for the town. Several community members spoke highly of the impact Kennedy has had on the town in his short tenure alluding to projects like the Solstice Riverfest, the Tree Sculpture Project and the Boat House. Admitting that while Kennedy and Johnson were not primarily responsible for the projects, their support and cooperation added to the success.

The vote was carried through by a majority and though not unanimous, a show of hands was enough to tell it was approved. Other articles on the agenda that passed were the town’s acceptance of an altered parcel of land in regards to the new Tractor Supply store and a unanimous vote to have the Board of Selectman stand in opposition to the Kinder Morgan/Tennessee Gas pipeline. One article not approved was a request to have a standalone Cemetery Department budget which currently stands within the Department of Public Works budget.

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