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Letter to the Editor: Canton Garage Proposal Is Shortsighted

October 25, 2016 Government, Opinion, Referendum No Comments
To the Editor,
I am writing to tell you why I am voting no on the referendum for the new town garage. I think that I agree with most residents that we must address this vital need, but i am very concerned that the plan proposed will not meet the long term needs of the town.
In full disclosure, I am not a member of the “Not on our river”organization, nor have I spoken to any of their members in any detail. Ihave voted yes on all three of the previous garage referendums. I voted for the first one  (Cherry Brook Rd.) with some trepidation about the price, but I strongly supported the two votes on the Commerce Drive location. I felt that they were right sized and priced appropriately.

I am especially concerned that the current proposal has been pared down in size and scope to both reduce the cost and fit the site to such an extent that it will not meet the town’s needs. The town has admitted that this site will not allow for any future expansion. I work in municipal government and am fairly familiar with public works functions and operations. The nearby town that I work for has a public works department of approximately the same size and functions as Their town garage was recently expanded to about 20,000 square feet (not enough room). In spite of this they still require three or four additional buildings and locations to store materials and seasonal equipment. During previous Canton referendums garage opponents have made unfair comparisons to towns with much smaller public works operations than Canton. Even if the garage currently proposed will hold all of the town’s equipment, if the town were to add additional equipment or add new services such as servicing police and fire department vehicles in house, there would be no room to expand for those services.
Several other things concern me about the proposal before us. It is planned to preserve and incorporate the so-called horse barn portion of the existing garage, This portion of the building has documented structural problems. There is also a plan to have a public restroom in the building. Although this would be a nice amenity for the Rails To Trails users, the place where we desperately need public restrooms is in downtown Collinsville. Businesses on Main St. have become the de facto public restrooms for visitors and special events.
If we are really building a facility to last for the next 50 years, we need to think long and hard about this proposal. Nobody wants to see their taxes increase, but building a modern, adequate public facility comes at a cost. The garages proposed in the most recent referendums were not Taj Mahals. Paring the garage down to 14,000 square feet and shoe-horning it into a site that would allow for no future expansion is extremely short sighted. If the garage is rebuilt on the current site and needs to expand in 10, 15, or 20 years we are going to be faced with the same problem we have today. That’s not a legacy we should leave to the next generation of Canton taxpayers.
Bill Volovski
Canton

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