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Second Political Action Committee Formed Around Public Works Facility Project

September 27, 2016 Environment, Government No Comments
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There are now two political action committees that have formed to take a position on the proposal to rebuild the public works facility at its current site.

Updated with links. 

By John Fitts 

A second political action committee (PAC) has been formed surrounding the proposal for a $3.825 million public works facility at the current site of 50 Old River Road.

Filed on Sept. 23, Canton GOES (Canton Garage on Existing Site) is promoting a yes vote for the Nov. 8 referendum.

The town is looking to bond for a facility of approximately 14,217 square feet facility. The plan calls for more than 11,000 square feet of storage with a maintenance area, lift and dedicated wash bay. It also includes lowering the ballfield for floodplain mitigation, a new salt storage shed, partial demolition of the existing facility and a public restroom. 

Canton GOES is in the process of developing its materials but in an initial message sent to Canton Compass stated, “The current garage proposal presents the best practical, balanced solution to the concerns of cost, size and neighborhood location that have defeated previous proposals.”

“We believe in a fact-based, common sense approach that is fiscally responsible, demonstrates appropriate concern for our DPW workers, and protects our environment,” the group continues. “The costs and risks of doing nothing continue to rise for our community in all three of these areas. We now have the opportunity to come together in support of a comprehensive solution.”

Brian First, who is chairman of the Canton GOES, said the group plans to purchase lawn signs, launch a web site, www.CantonGoes.org – which will likely go up later this week, start a facebook page and send at least one direct mailing to Canton residents.

The PAC is the second that has been formed around the issue. Not On Our River, or NOOR. That PAC had formed by early August, in anticipation that the plan to rebuild at the current site would be soon endorsed by selectmen and around the same time, many of its members or fellow supporters had posted, “Garage Yes, but Not on Our River” lawn signs. As previously reported in Canton Compass, the group recently announced that it had launched a web site, www.CantonNotOnOurRiver.org, and facebook page. Additionally, volunteers from the group have delivered flyers.

According to NOOR, staying at the current site minimizes recreational opportunities, leaves no room for future growth, “ignores and disrespect 30 years of town planning,” is counter to recreation-based economic potential, involves an area that partially flood five years again, could come with unexpected costs and runs counter to the opinions of the Permanent Municipal Building Committee, the group charged over the past several years of finding an adequate site off the river.

On Monday, NOOR treasurer David Sinish, said response to NOOR’s message has been positive. He also reiterated his feelings that the town has rushed into this plan.

“The huge take away is it doesn’t have to be decided this year,” he said. Sinish said, adding that the Board of Selectmen members should instead listen to the Permanent Municipal Building Committee’s input, possibly form an advisory subcommittee and develop a plan in conjunction with other groups, such as the conservation commission.

First said he is friendly with many in NOOR and said Canton GOES is a bi-partisan, volunteer group. But while First said the goal is to keep the tone positive, he contends that some of NOOR’s statements have been misleading.

“It was clear there was a need for fact checking and positive conversation on why this site does work,” said First, who said he is speaking as a private citizen, not as chairman of the Board of Finance.

First said one such statement is in regards to the fact that selectmen have not enlisted the PMBC to explore alternative sites.

“I think it’s an unfair and disrespectful representation of a lot of people’s hard work,” he said.

Since 2007, according to town documents, the Permanent Municipal Building Committee has explored more than 60 sites, some of which were defeated at referendum.

In 2010 residents voted 704 to 281 against a plan to purchase 5 Cherry Brook Road for $900,000. Two years later, selectmen nearly went forward with a $6 million plus plan for a project at that location but scrapped it late in the process due to the fact that the purchase price for the parcel was much higher than the appraised value.

In 2013, a $5.4 million project slated for 325 Commerce Drive failed 814 to 454. The next year, a $4.78 million plan for the same property went down by a tally of 2,515 to 1,806.

It was earlier this year that the town began talking publicly about the idea of rebuilding at the current site. In addition to placement and other variables, one key difference in the plan was the size of the facility – some 15,000 square feet as opposed to previous plans

This spring, selectmen asked the building committee to come back with some alternate sites based on the smaller footprint. In a report back to selectmen in May, the building committee listed 7 alternative sites. One of those, 674 (and 684) Albany Turnpike gained some steam but over the summer the town’s  appraisal based offer of $670,000 for the “Satan’s Kingdom” property was rejected by the owners, who were seeking $1.2 million, declined.

The PMBC, which labels the plan to rebuild at the current site “shortsighted” was largely developed at meetings on April 5 and May 3.

Sinish argues that was a woefully inadequate time period to develop a full list of alternatives with a smaller footprint in mind.

“Clearly the town hasn’t done it right,” Sinish said.

It promises to continue to be a lively issue and both groups have promised that its supporters plan to send plenty of letters to Canton Compass.  Already, several have been printed.

On Oct. 26 the town will host a special town meeting at which residents can learn more about the project and offer opinions. It will take place at Canton High School at 7 p.m. That meeting will then adjourn to the Nov. 8 referendum. Election day voting takes place from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. at Canton High School.

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