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Editorial: A DPW

Orange Water Department Superintendent Michael Heidorn’s reservations about merging his department under the public works umbrella are understandable. Given the recent history of budget trimming and personnel cuts, who’s to say what might happen should the town go through another round of reductions?

But we don’t share his fear that folding the water and sewer departments under the public works banner will dilute the ability of those employees with specific training to meet Orange’s needs — or that it will result in sending the wrong people to do the work when an emergency occurs.

As Town Administrator Diana Schinlder said, “DPWs exist in other towns throughout Massachusetts and the country. We may have some dedicated water staff and some shared staff ... and still be able to streamline our management structure.”

This is true. By its very nature, a department of public works is often responsible for a town’s infrastructure, from its roads, bridges and buildings to town water and sewer. From new construction to maintenance to dealing with emergencies, DPW professionals take care of it all. And within that one department, there are subdepartments, for roads, parks, water, etc.

In a community like Orange, having one overall department would allow for cross-training for some kinds of work. Therefore, instead of diluting the water department talent, this move to a DPW can be seen as expanding the pool of people who can be called upon.

We do agree with Heidorn that planning and execution are important in merging what are now separate entities into one department. And we urge the water superintendent to be an active participant in the ongoing discussion and development of this move. His involvement will do two things. It will provide the others with his perspective while allowing him to hear first-hand from those who are advocating a DPW.

In the end, this is about trying to do what’s best for Orange.

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