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Orange votes to revitalize its park

ORANGE — After hearing arguments on both sides, voters approved a state grant that will bring over $300,000 into Orange to revitalize Butterfield Park. The town will borrow $95,000 as matching funds.

While selectmen did not make a formal recommendation, both Kathy Reinig and David Ames encouraged voters to approve the grant. Ames said the Capital Improvement Planning Committee he sits on recommended the initiative.

Finance Committee Chairwoman Linda Smith said committee members took a pass on making a recommendation due to a lack of information from town officials about project expenses, including long term borrowing costs.

She said that the town has a bad credit rating on Moody’s, which might impact the town’s ability to get a loan.

In addition, Smith said the grant includes no administrative money for project management.

Finance Committee member Bob Stack cautioned the grant may increase taxes as there will be costs to “cutting the grass, seeding, feeding, weeding” the professional level ball field developed through the park, as well as maintaining restrooms and other facilities.”

“By accepting this grant this park is (no longer) a park for the people in Orange … it becomes a regional park and anyone can use it,” Stack said, adding that Orange users will not have priority for park usage, and may need to pay fees if they are established.

Community Development Director Kevin Kennedy said while he hopes the renovated park will draw people in from out-of-town, Butterfield Park “is still a town-owned parcel. There isn’t an expectation it would be taken over by other towns.”

Kennedy noted the park is in such poor condition, it poses a liability. He told voters that if they do not upgrade it, they must decide what else to do with it, such as allow it to return to forest. He added the upgrades, which include picnic areas, a walking/jogging trail, farmers market shed and ballfields, would attract residents as well as visitors, “to create a sense of community.”

Kennedy said he could not answer all questions about whether staff will need to be hired to maintain the park.

But local plumber Casey Bashaw volunteered to maintain the parks bathrooms, and donate his equipment and services to mow and top-dress the fields.

Ed Cope figured it would cost $15 per person. “That comes to a cup of coffee a month or one beer a month or 3 cigarettes a month. If you give up 3 cigarettes a month and walk around that park, you’re going to feel a whole lot better,” he said.

Planning Board Chairman Bruce Sherer said, “There are always problems associated with every opportunity. If we always did nothing because there might be a problem — what’s the outcome?”

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