Town of Orange challenges mount
ORANGE--After an Orange town board meeting Monday, Oct. 26, Town Supervisor Joanne Randall acknowledged she previously authorized the purchase and took delivery of a $214,000 10-wheel dump truck despite not having board authorization to do so. Along with the truck, Randall acknowledged many vendors are not being paid, the town well has gone dry and taxes need to be raised past the state tax cap.
"At a (previous meeting), I apparently, because we were (talking about purchasing other trucks), so I apparently neglected to call a resolution to buy the 10-wheel dump truck," Randall said. "I thought I had, and after (town officials) got the minutes taken care of, I could see I hadn't. I said but we still need the truck, so the truck was delivered earlier this year. I thought it would be on hold due to COVID, but because there were so many trucks on the bid going to the state they continued to build during COVID and it was delivered (and) sits in our shop right now, unlicensed."
Randall said she doesn't know if the truck would be considered a used vehicle, and therefore can not be returned, and is instead focused on finding a way to pay for it.
"(I am) trying to get the bonding through for it, (the) town attorney (is also) working on it. But two board members think we don't need the truck," Randall said.
Randall said the truck has been minimally insured and added the reason she forgot to hold a vote on the purchase of the truck in the first place is because of the atmosphere of board meetings.
"I (thought) I asked for a resolution, but our board meetings get totally crazy," Randall stated. "The public thinks they have to put their input in after every comment. I have tried to get a handle on it, I finally got a gavel, a huge gavel, and I am hoping that works. But our board meetings since January 2019 have been out of control because (the board members who oppose me) stir up so much controversy outside the board meetings on (social media)."
Board member Norma Burris, who has been on the board for roughly two years, said the town is in a financial crisis.
"Where's the money? The majority of this is mismanagement, not because funds have not been available," Burris said.
Burris added she has heard some vendors have gone longer than 90 days without being paid.
"I have spoken to most of the vendors and they understand, and I said they would be paid as soon as we get some revenue in," Randall said. "We just got our sales tax check and more is coming in (through other sources). There is money in the general fund and reserve funds."
Burris said she has repeatedly asked for financial records for the town.
"Our supervisor is not being very transparent at all," Burris stated. "I am a board member and I ask for balances and bank statements for outstanding debts we have...So far I am the only one saying anything."
Randall, however, said she believes board members opposing her are not doing so with the best interests of residents.
"My job is to look out for the taxpayers and residents of the town. (Board members that oppose me) think it is to stir up hate and discontent," Randall said.
After the meeting, Randall also discussed her desire to raise taxes beyond the 1.56 percent tax cap she says the state set for the town.
"(We are) having problems passing a budget (due to the tax cap)," Randall commented. "And if you know how the prices of things are going up it just doesn't compute. I have two board members that are against anything that is proposed. It's two against two. I have done the best I can with the budget with what I have to work with. I have asked (taxes to be increased by) 2 percent to get closer to where expenses are."
Randall added she has no idea how some people are proposing reducing the tax rate.
"(Some board members) actually want to lower taxes, I don't know how that is possible," Randall said.
Randall also stated prices have gone up during the COVID pandemic for roughly everything, while revenue has simultaneously decreased. Randall added they have yet to see any stimulus funding.
Burris, however, mentioned she was skeptical of using COVID as an excuse, and the issues at the town started before the pandemic.
"On top of all this other stuff, our well at the (town hall) has gone dry," Randall stated. "There is no running water, we have mud in our toilet tanks because it sucked the bottom of the well."
Scheduled to be the town polling place for the Nov. 3 presidential election, the site had to be moved.
"We found a well driller to look at it next week," Randall said. "But this is going to be a fight too, it could cost up to $8,000 which would have to be authorized by the board."