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Letter to the Editor: Current Proposal is a Lose/Lose Proposition

October 24, 2016 Government, Opinion, Referendum No Comments

To the Editor:

Our town needs a new garage.  The current proposal puts price ahead of value and is a lose / lose proposition with an inferior building, and a poor land use that forgoes a major opportunity to improve the town.  The cost savings of $900,000 do not offset the shortcomings.

At 14,200 sq.ft. this garage is 25% smaller than it was in 2014 (18,900 sq.ft.), which only saves 20% ($3.8 vs. $4.7million).  The original space assessment recommended a 25,000 sq. ft. building.  The river site does not permit the building to be expanded, so for the next 40 years the town will operate out of a facility that is 55% of the size recommended.  The town has presented a “storage area” graphic showing all the vehicles stacked three to six deep without snow plows and sanders.  Getting the vehicles in the garage as shown will take time, planning and careful maneuvering.  Getting them out will be more difficult.  The Barkhamsted garage and the previous Canton garage designs have doors on both sides which makes those buildings more efficient to use.  Site constraints make this configuration impossible.   The river site is still a flood plain.  Raising it out of the 100 year level only makes it legal to build on the site.  The director of Public Works stated that the town’s vehicles would be parked remotely in the event of another storm like Irene.  The access road remains in the flood plain, so the garage could be made inaccessible even if it does not flood.  However remote the chance, the garage can and should be sited to eliminate this possibility.

Sixty years ago, the river was used for industrial power and the garage location made sense.  Now, the river is used for recreation and is a major asset of the town.  Successive town plans have recommended that river land be given over to this use.  Many people now come to town to enjoy the river and the surrounding scenery.  There should be public access to the river.  This opportunity comes once in a lifetime and should not be squandered.  A boat launch, park, and parking at the garage site would be a spectacular addition to the town.  The parking area would actually create a chain of parks along the river, because it would provide access to the “Bicentennial Park” south of the sanitary plant.  It is a buy one, get one free scenario.

The sanitary treatment plant is an issue for those who make it one.  Planting a row of trees as a screen is obvious.  Many waterfronts have incorporated these facilities with recreational uses.  An example is Chicago’s Navy Pier on Lake Michigan which was redeveloped into a recreational and entertainment destination.  It is the most popular tourist destination in Chicago despite being next to the City Sanitation plant.

This town has long sought industrial and commercial development to offset the high property taxes paid by homeowners.  These efforts have largely been futile, probably because Canton is an inconvenient location.  The Canton Commerce Park remains almost vacant, and the Axe Factory appears to be closer to collapsing than redevelopment.  Building the town garage on an industrial site in the Canton Commerce Park  may jump-start further development there.  Building and promoting lifestyle amenities in a town situated on a pristine river is an opportunity to attract business and industry.  The bicycle path has helped turn a forgotten little village into an active and vibrant destination.

The extra $900,000 to build at different location should not be a substantial number when bonded over 40 years.  Cost savings can be made by building the garage in phases, the first phase could be kept to a fixed budget and the project completed later.  The current garage site could be subdivided with the River Road frontage sold, shared parking in the middle and a small park and boat launch on the water.  Rebuilding the Collinsville Fire House with the garage would be more economical than separate projects.  Canton and New Hartford could consider sharing a large facility on the Albany Avenue property on the border of both towns.  The town could free up money by rebuilding roads at a slower pace.   There are plenty of options for a better solution that could be studied.

An option that would not have to be studied would be the resurrection of 325 Commerce Drive garage.  Plans, studies, cost estimates all exist.  This option was suggested by 114 people (27%) as a comment to optional Question 9 (any other comments?)  This garage vote has gotten way more attention than the previous ones.  What are we getting for our money?  The only advantage of the proposed river site is that it the cheapest possible solution the town can come up.  At $3.8 million, it is not cheap.  Everyone has bought the cheapest thing and come to regret not buying the far superior one that cost slightly more.  This garage is a multimillion dollar, forty-year investment in the future of the town, but it is the same issue; do we want to spend a little more money and get everyone a lot more?

Donald Tarinelli
Collinsville 

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