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      Last Night's Heated Board Meeting

      Tempers flared last night as Orange residents asked questions of the two remaining Select Board members, Pat Mercer and George White.  Here's a brief summary of the concerns expressed:

      Delay in appointing a new Board member: Since Bob Ells resigned, citing "continuous hostility" on the Board, the remaining members have delayed appointing a new member. Last night Pat Mercer pointed to a legal pad, saying residents were welcome to sign up. She and George White announced that they were attending a state training session this week. They promised to hold an open meeting before selecting a new member.

      Clerical problems: Since Sandi Pierson resigned as Board secretary, citing "animosity and backbiting," a new secretary has not been found. Sandi used to send us minutes to post online. Jay Heinrichs requested an electronic copy of the last two meetings' minutes, and Pat said they were only available in paper form. The minutes of May 12 failed to record a crucial 2-0 vote by the board to allow former Treasurer Tessa Michetti to examine the town's books. When asked to explain the absence, George White said, "I can't keep track of everything." At the May 12 meeting, Pat Mercer promised that the position of secretary would be posted the following morning. As of today that still had not been done.

      Financial concerns: The Town has not made any FICA payments since March 2014. Nor have the Town's required payments to the school district for April 1 and May 1 been made. Tessa Michetti offered to do that and to present her findings; that presentation was supposed to happen last night. However, Treasurer Cathy Bean must first appoint her as deputy treasurer. So far that has not happened. 

      We were saddened that some residents--understandably upset--raised their voices more than they should have. Please try to attend Select Board meetings; we'll alert you before each one. The Town needs you.


      Selectman Bob Ells' Resignation Letter

      Bob Ells submitted his formal resignation from the Select Board last Friday, and we just got hold of it. While Bob doesn't name names, his letter speaks to "poor decisions" that have created problems for the town. More disturbingly, he lists "contiuous hostility on the Board" as a reason for resigning.

      It's now up to the remaining Board members, Pat Mercer and George White, to appoint a replacement. Meanwhile, please try to show up for the meetings, 7 pm on the second and last Tuesday of the month.

      Here's Bob's letter in full:

      I have served in many capacities and for many years, the most recent as a Selectman. There are many problems that the town is presently dealing with, many brought on by poor decisions. Last year there was continuous hostility on the Board instead of working together. Unfortunately I have not seen a sincere effort to resolve these issues and still memers of the Board are determined to take actions and make decisions that most of the residents are opposed to. Because our job is to work for the people of Orange and not for our own agendas, I cannot follow along in this manner in good conscience; therefore I am resigning from the Board of Selectmen effective immediately.

      Sincerely, Bob Ells




      Update on Last Night's Meeting

      Here are some notes from a participant; I (Jay) wasn't able to attend. Let me know if you see any inaccuracies or would like to comment publicly; just reply to this message. Don't forget, Board Meetings take place on the 2nd and 4th Tuesdays, 7 pm, Orange Town House.

      Twenty three town residents including 5 former Selectmen, the current and former Town Moderators, the town clerk, members of the planning board, the tax collector and other concerned citizens attended last night’s selectboard meeting.

      Selectboard Chair Pat Mercer and Vice Chair George White were unable to confirm whether the third selectboard member, Bob Ells, had resigned or if the town Secretary, Sandi Pierson, had resigned. Bob was not present, Sandi was. Sandi has not submitted a formal letter of resignation. 

      George White read a lengthy job description for the town secretary position, a description Sandi Pierson has been requesting for more than a year. With no discussion, Pat and George voted to approve the description.

      Many citizens then expressed their support for Sandi mentioning her pleasant, helpful  manner, the fact she has provided vital continuity over the past five years as each year’s board composition is different.  It was emphasized that she has literally saved the town thousands of dollars as she has worked to update the decades old veteran’s exemption lists, elderly exemption lists and the current use lists.  The Town, thanks to Sandi’s diligence, is now in full compliance.

      Nonetheless, Pat Mercer and George White refused to say that Sandi had the job. In fact she will have to apply for it and the job will be posted as of today.

      NOTE: since Sandi was not acting as secretary, former board secretary Pat White offered to take minutes. 

      Conversation then shifted to the growing concern over the Town’s finances. The Town apparently faces a $5000 fine from the state Labor office because wages haven’t been paid on time. FICA payments, due to the IRS, have not  been paid since early in 2014. The Town faces fines for that as well. Pat Mercer sought to reassure residents that there would be no fine for FICA issue because she  had ‘talked to the IRS”. Judith Lindhadl pointed out that only written communication from the IRS is valid, not phone conversations.

      Betty Fulton asked if the town was now up to date in paying all its bills and Pat stated emphatically that it was, that the only two unpaid bills were sitting in front of her with vouchers to be signed last night.  Betty Fulton followed up by asking if that meant that the late FICA payments had been paid. Pat Mercer said ‘no’.  Betty asked if the labor department fine that been paid, Pat said ‘no’.  Town Moderator Dan Hazelton expressed his embarrassment that those who he recruits to work on election day called because they still hadn’t been paid a month after the election.  Dan said it is difficult enough to recruit the number of election staff needed without worrying that they won’t be paid in a timely manner.

      Deputy Treasurer Tessa Michetti offered to undertake a total review of the Town’s finances. Dorothy Heinrichs asked the board to vote immediately to accept Tess’s offer, to have Tess provide her findings in an open public selectboard meeting, and to do so at the next meeting which will take place May 26th. The board voted to accept Tess’s offer.

      Sharon Proulx, the tax collector, mentioned that 8 items that were tabled at the April 14th board meeting because George was away had not been placed on the evening’s agenda. Some of the actions the board needed to take were crucial to the execution of Sharon’s job.  She also mentioned that the   treasurer mislabeled a check to the US Post Office, sent it without postage and that the Canaan Post Office staff noted that things aren’t running smoothly in Orange.



      Bob Ells Resigns from Select Board

      I (Jay) am traveling and couldn't confirm the news, but Bob has apparently given verbal notice that he intends to step down from his post as member of the Select Board. The remaining Board members, Pat Mercer and George White, will be responsible for choosing a replacement. 

      Bob's departure follows the resignation of Sandi Pierson as Board Secretary. I had held off posting the news after talking to Pat Mercer, who'd said that Sandi had not yet submitted her formal resignation. But at last night's meeting, Pat reportedly mentioned publicly that Sandi had resigned.

      I'll be talking to those who attended last night's meeting and will report the facts as I get them. I'm told that the Board was asked about the state of the accounts, including alleged failure to write timely checks, and the printing of un-numbered vouchers. 

      Feel free to comment or add any information you like, either by emailing me (o.speech at Gmail) or commenting directly on the site. If you want, I'll set up a discussion board. Meanwhile, let's hope these problems get cleared up as quickly and transparently as possible. 


      Orange Wind Ordinance and Public Meeting

      The Planning Board has submitted a draft Ordinance for Large Wind Energy Systems (LWES), based on ordinances that have been successfully adopted by other towns in New Hampshire. Click here to read a PDF of the draft. Besides being part of an issue critical to our town, you'll learn cool terms like "blade glint" and "octave draft."

      The Board has scheduled a public meeting on the draft ordinance:

      7 pm Tuesday, May 19

      Orange Town House