TOWN HALL TALK
Avalon Appeals Too
Avalon Bay has decided that they weren't content to have the town appeal Judge Curran's ruling. Three of the five counts were found in the town's favor, including one declaring that the town had not violated the Federal Fair Housing Act. Avalon has decided to see if that decision can be overturned and has thus filed an appeal of Judge Curran's ruling as well. This will undoubtedly bring our insurance carrier back into the case as monetary damages are at risk. We will continue to uphold our belief that we have acted properly.
I am disappointed in a recent vote of the Board of Selectmen. Orange had an excellent opportunity to apply for state funding under the Open Space and Watershed Grant Program to receive up to $450,000 to assist in the purchase of the D'Amato/Russo Property overlooking the Housatonic River. This failed on a 3-3 party line vote. I don't understand why the Republican Selectmen feel that only farmland is worth preserving and that it is too expensive. We have negotiated this to under $2Million for this magnificent parcel of 60 acres, yet instead of allowing us to apply for some state assistance; this was stopped in its tracks.
This was a shocking development after hearing all of the cries for open space preservation during the last election. The Town Plan and Zoning Commission, the Inland Wetlands and Water Courses Commission, the Conservation Commission, and the Orange Land Trust all gave this parcel their unanimous endorsement. The President of the Orange Land Trust, Dr. Ed Tucker, called this the "number one priority piece of property that the town should acquire".
Mr. D'Amato may now apply to our various commissions to build 22-30 single-family homes on a road that will connect Quarter Mile Road and Cedar Grove. I have tried meeting with Board members one at a time to explain the negotiations, but unless someone who voted against this proposal will change his/her mind, we may lose this opportunity forever.
At a recent Board of Selectman meeting, we saluted all of the volunteers in our community. Additionally, we honored "Volunteers of the Year" who were nominated by the chairman or members of boards and commissions.
I also want to congratulate a few volunteers who are often overlooked. They are the Chairmen of our major political parties. Both Democrat Joseph Lembo and Republican Karen Arnold were recently re-elected as chairmen of their respective parties. I hope that all of your efforts continue to be what is best for the Town, while trying to promote your parties.
Senior Tax Relief
The Senior Tax Stabilization Committee made its report recently to the Board of Selectmen who voted to go to Public Hearing on April 25th. The Board of Selectmen's proposal varied from the original proposal by not including any income cap and requiring Orange residency for 5 years.
Without an income cap, the amount available to each eligible household will be lessened. Since the Board of Finance has only allocated $100,000 for this program, those in true need may not benefit as greatly as they would have with an income cap. Also, it should be understood that this will not be a tax freeze, but rather some relief to a population who may then be able to remain in their homes longer.
I am confident that by the time this is published that there will be some form of property tax relief for some or most seniors this coming year. Anyone who thinks that they may qualify should fill out an application available at Town Hall and submit it immediately.
New Elderly Housing
Also, with regard to elderly in need, the Board of Selectmen approved a contract with New Samaritan Corporation. This will allow us to apply for a Housing and Urban Development Grant to build approximately 20 units of affordable housing for seniors adjacent to Silverbrook Estates. If the grant is approved we will hope to have a new structure built by 2002 as affordable apartments for seniors. I am excited about this possibility of additional Senior Housing being promoted by the Town of Orange.
Annual Town Meeting
Orange's Annual Town Meeting is scheduled for Monday, May 8th. Residents will decide whether car taxes will be in one or two installments and we will vote on a number of land conveyances and other items. We need to have a minimum of 100 people at this meeting and I hope that those interested in our governmental process will be in attendance.
Now that the budget hearing is over, a townwide referendum to be held on May 18th will determine whether the budget is passed. Voting will be at High Plains Community Center from 6AM until 8PM.
Orange will be the first town in Connecticut to have wireless internet access based on our agreement with Metricom, Inc. They will be placing devices on streetlights to transmit the signal to subscribers and paying the town 5% of their gross revenues from Orange customers. This is an excellent opportunity for the town to gain revenues, including taxes, without using any of our land. Metricom is also trying to determine if they can put their main transmitter on our cell tower at High Plains, which would result in further revenue.
I attended the Mosquito Control Training Conference in Shelton recently, along with our Director and Assistant Director of Health, our Superintendent of Schools, our Town Sanitarian, and our Inland Wetlands Officer. Obviously the town is taking the potential threat of West Nile Virus very seriously. We learned about mosquito breeding, diseases, and also different methods of containment and control. The state has informed us that we will be receiving over $5,000 for our mosquito control efforts, which will be primarily used for larviciding town-owned properties. Homeowners must help by reducing pockets of standing water, including cleaning gutters and discarding old flower pots and tires or containers that might collect water. Orange Government Access Television on Channel 73 will be broadcasting a special program with more information.
The Town of Orange once again led the Third Congressional District with the highest percentage of Census Forms returned by the April 11th cutoff date. Our 77% return was a bit below that of 81% achieved a decade ago, yet still the best in the area. All forms must be returned so please do so if you have procrastinated. We need to count you for accurate information about our town and to receive the proper funding for state and federal grants
Bulky Waste Pick-up
Our first Spring Bulk Pick-up will begin on May 8th. Please follow the instructions printed in the local papers. Despite earlier reports, you may leave bulk items by the curb beginning the weekend prior to your street's pick-up. Make sure you know which week you are being picked-up. There will be no returns to any streets. We need everyone's cooperation in order to make this a yearly event.
The BOW Task Force on Violence has started a program to distribute a limited number of GunLocks to Amity region residents. This program kicked off at 9:00AM on April 25th with a Press Conference at the Orange Police headquarters with 100 locks per community provided free from GunLock, Inc. If you own a gun and would like to secure it please come to Police Headquarters to get your free lock while they last. You do not have to be registered nor do you have to provide any personal information to receive a lock. All that is asked is that you are a resident and will use the lock.
Organ and Tissue Donor Awareness Week
I have issued a proclamation declaring this week as National Organ and Tissue Donor Week in the Town of Orange. If you have not already filled out a donor card, you can contact Karen Goldberg at 891-2122 Ext. 738. You may someday safe someone's life, or possibly someone may save yours by this simple act.
Since he decided not to run for re-election as our First Selectman, there has been speculation about the political future of Bob Sousa. Bob has decided not to seek another elected office at this time, but I'm sure the residents of Orange will hear from him again in the future. Bob has too much to offer, not to continue to be involved in some form of government service.