By John Fitts
CANTON – While there were exceptions, many residents who attended a public hearing Wednesday spoke against the concept of rebuilding the Public Works Facility at the current site along the Farmington River.
Speakers touted the idea of reclaiming riverfront, avoiding any and all floodplain issues and the limited chance for expansion at the current site.
“The greater sense to me of what our stewardship over the river entails is that we take the devil out of the river,” said Ben Holden of Boulder Ridge. “We don’t want a garage (at the river), however you jimmy crack into making it appear like it’s not in the floodplain. I do not like that. I object to that. I think it’s wrong minded.”
For years, the town has struggled to replace its aging, 600-square-foot site at 50 Old River Road. The municipality has looked to find a suitable location and plan that would serve the needs of the Public Works Department and pass muster with voters.
A plan to purchase property at 5 Cherry Brook Road, and two complete projects proposed at 325 Commerce Drive, have all failed at referendum.
For much of the history of the project, the town has focused on getting away from the river but earlier this year drew up a concept for the current site.
Town officials acknowledged it was a compromise but said the site could work by reducing the proposed footprint, burrowing the structure near Route 179 and creating a new access from the state highway, all while creating additional public parking, restrooms, increased recreational amenities and river access. The town said they’ve also cleared up questions about floodplain compensation at the site.
The town has received two estimates but no final price tag has been assigned. Town officials said Jacunski Humes’ estimate of $6 million included a 21-percent contingency and Millennium Builders plan of $2.9 million was only for the building.
On Wednesday, Chief Administrative Officer Robert Skinner’s presentation (available below) reviewed current conditions at the site, project history and information about the current location, the idea of rebuilding at the current site and several sites recommended for reconsideration by the Permanent Municipal Building Committee, the group that over the years has investigated potential locations. Those discussed Wednesday included 325 Commerce Drive as well as a few others on that road, 51 River Road, 225 Cherry Brook and the “Satan’s Kingdom” property at 674 Albany Turnpike.
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