By Ike Parrish
The Orange Town Council unanimously approved an amendment to its fiscal year 2022 budget to add more than $2.6 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds, following a public hearing Sept. 20.
ARPA funding was obtained from the American Rescue Plan Act, an effort to lessen the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic by distributing $65.1 billion to counties and localities nationwide. The first block of ARPA funding for the Town of Orange amounts to $2,643,592 with a similar amount coming in a second allocation.
“Basically [the ARPA funding] is going to be tied up in water, sewer and broadband projects,” town manager Greg Woods said.
Those funds, most visibly, will go toward replacing the town’s standpipe with a new bulb-type water tower at the same location.
Other funds will be applied to water treatment plant improvements and town broadband infrastructure.
During the summer, Woods presented the town council with three potential solutions for the 110-year-old standpipe, including replacing it as is, replacing it with a new 300,000-gallon tank (on the same site) or a 1 million-gallon tank. The first two options would maintain the in-ground 1.75 million-gallon water storage facility, but the third would need to eliminate that reserve to accommodate the larger tank’s construction.
The current standpipe holds 300,000 gallons.
The council ultimately decided to pursue the new bulb tank which Woods said has a 100-year life expectancy. As part of that project, the town will refurbish the underground storage tank as well, he said.
Woods estimated total costs, with engineering and construction, could total more than $3.5 million.
Originally, the town considered a $0.02 increase per month on town water customers in addition to borrowing funds to replace the tank. However, with the stipulation that ARPA funds be spent on infrastructure improvements and broadband, the town won’t have to pass the standpipe replacement costs on to town residents and water customers.
Woods noted that the iconic star atop the standpipe would transfer to the new water tank.
In other action at the Sept. 20 meeting, the council unanimously approved to add funding to the budget for improvements to the old town maintenance shop lot located on Montevista Avenue. Funding would go toward converting the property into a paved lot with roughly 100 parking spaces and a tentative plan to include a basketball court.
“It’s also for economic development reasons and for additional parking for the growth and expansion of local businesses,” said councilmember Donna Waugh-Robinson.
Additionally, the lot will offer parking for high school graduation and Friday night football games at adjacent Porterfield Park.
The current estimate to pave the lot is $175,000 with an additional $63,000 to be added the following year for the addition of fencing, lighting and curbing.
Orange Mayor Martha Roby noted that the council’s decision was strictly to amend the budget, not take action.
In other council business, the town set June 11, 2022, as the date for the town’s sesquicentennial anniversary celebration.
Additionally, the council voted to designate trick-or-treating within town limits on Saturday, Oct. 30, instead of Sunday, Oct. 31, as it had done in year’s past.