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First Selectman’s Corner: A Public Works Project Update

August 2, 2016 Government, Opinion No Comments
Canton First Selectman Leslee Hill

Leslee Hill

Dear Canton Residents,

I am writing to update you on the status of the Public Works Facility issue. In the last month, a few significant events have occurred.

First, the BOS gave consideration to the possibility of relocating the Public Works facility to 674 Albany Turnpike (also known as the “Satan’s Kingdom” property), which is on the market for $1.2 million. After survey results indicated that there was support for that location, the BOS voted to obtain an appraisal of the property. Several members of the town staff and I walked the property as part of several meetings with the sellers, and we expressed our potential interest in purchasing the property. The appraisal valued the property at $670,000. Based on that appraisal, the BOS submitted an offer of $670,000. That offer was rejected by the sellers, and when asked, they stated that the property had significantly greater value to them and therefore chose not to make a counter-offer. This effectively ended negotiations on the purchase of that property.  Second, the town has heard informal presentations from a developer working with FAVARH, a non-profit organization that provides services to people of all ages with development and physical disabilities, and the largest occupant of property in the Commerce Drive industrial park. Several months ago, FAVARH contracted to purchase 100 Commerce Drive for construction of a proposed educational center. They now are presenting a concept for residential units on Commerce Drive, as part of a planned expansion of the FAVARH campus. Even if certain lots on Commerce Drive were to remain in an industrial zone, there are also restrictions and covenants on the properties, including a prohibition on unscreened outdoor storage and outdoor operations and a requirement that all property uses receive prior approval by the owner. The restrictions would have to be waived by the owner to allow a Public Works facility to be built, which may not be consistent with the currently planned residential development. Considering that a proposal to build a Public Works Facility on Commerce Drive was twice rejected by the voters in recent years, coupled with the current proposal for residential development, Commerce Drive appears to be a less viable location for a Public Works Facility.

In order to continue evaluation of rebuilding at the current site at 50 Old River Road, the BOS voted to obtain professional services from Fuss and O’Neill. They are preparing a conceptual site plan and floor plan, a cost estimate, and evaluation of the flood mitigation plan. They are working with the plans prepared by town staff, and they have also been instructed to make recommendations for reducing costs wherever possible. The BOS will receive their reports for discussion at our August 10th meeting. At that time, the BOS will consider whether to vote to send the proposal to the Board of Finance for their consideration.

The current facility is dilapidated, unsightly, and does not come close to meeting the needs of our Public Works department for storage and maintenance of the trucks and equipment that are paid for with our tax dollars. Until we agree to construct a structurally sound, appropriate facility, we will continue to deal with the costs of repairs to the building and shortened equipment life span, trucks that don’t start on a frigid winter morning, long wait times for engines to warm to get the trucks on the roads doing their jobs, inability to properly wash and maintain our equipment, and unsuitable work space for our staff. The BOS and town staff are working diligently to find a reasonable, practical, and fiscally responsible solution to this decades-long problem, which we can then present to the voters for consideration. There is no perfect answer, and this will only get resolved through compromise.

As always, I welcome your thoughts and comments, and can be reached at lhill@townofcantonct.org. I hope you and your families are keeping cool and enjoying a safe and fun-filled summer.

Best Regards,
Leslee B. Hill
First Selectman

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