Orange voters to consider new town office building
ORANGE — A year after electing their first new town clerk and treasurer in more than three decades, voters here will be asked in March to replace the tiny office building where Rita Bisson worked for 33 years.
Last week the Select Board ended a months-long discussion, sparked by a three-year-old energy audit, when it agreed to ask voters to let the town borrow up to $300,000 for the project.
Town Clerk Kathie Felch, who was elected after Bisson retired last year and promptly signed on as her assistant, said the proposal will be discussed and decided on the floor of Orange’s evening town meeting March 5.
Assuming voters approve the measure, the current office building — all but its 96-square-foot vault — will be demolished and the new structure will be built a few feet farther away from Town Hall and a little farther back from Route 302.
That’s the plan, according to Felch, who is hoping to temporarily set up shop in Town Hall until a new building that would be a little bigger, a lot more secure, and a whole lot more energy efficient is finished.
Unlike Town Hall, a building that was renovated in 2005, the clerk’s office in Orange is anything but historic. Built in 1975, the modest single-story structure with the then-spacious vault was constructed in anticipation of long-time clerk-treasurer Frank Beard’s retirement.
Beard, whose run as town clerk in Orange was even longer than Bisson’s, had his office at his home.
Construction of the clerk’s office next to Town Hall was an acknowledgement that the arrangement would soon be coming to end, and that there was a need to create secure storage space for the town’s vital records.
The vault in what is now Felch’s office has filled that bill for the past 37 years, but it is rapidly running out of room.
The same can be said of the small meeting room where the Select Board met Thursday night to approve the Town Meeting Day warning, and auditors huddled on Friday to go over the town’s books.
“Things are pretty tight here,” said Felch, who noted the building’s layout is less than optimal for a clerk’s office. Visitors can literally stroll right up to Felch’s desk and easily gain access to the computer system and the vault.
The counter planned in the proposed clerk’s office would cure that problem, creating a barrier that should make the operation more secure.
At 280 square feet, the new vault in the proposed office building would roughly triple the available storage space. And while Felch’s new office would be about the same size as her current one, the meeting room that is used by the Select Board and others would be measurably bigger.
Though the plan is to construct a larger building, Felch said the expectation is that it will cost less to heat. The proposal calls for installing a floor with radiant heat, energy efficient windows, and ample insulation — something recommended by the energy audit that was conducted in 2010.
Felch said the board has discussed taking out a 30-year loan, with voters’ permission, to pay for a project that wouldn’t actually start until the spring of 2014.
The delay, she said, would give the town time to refine the design and obtain the necessary permits this year for the 1,280-square-foot building, and break ground next spring.
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