By John Fitts
By a tally of 3,219 to 2,550, Canton voters approved the proposal to build a $3.825 million Public Works facility at the present 50 Old River Road site near the Farmington River.
The plan had been a controversial, and often polarizing one in town, and two Political Action Committees, Not on Our River and Canton GOES (Garage on Existing Site) had formed around the issue.
The proposal was a 14,100 square-foot facility, salt shed and new fueling station at 50 Old River Road, where the town’s current, approximate 600-square foot Public Works garage sits today.
The town has struggled with the issue for years. In 2010, voters rejected a plan to purchase property at 5 Cherry Brook Road for $900,000. Two years later a $6 million plus plan for that property never made it to referendum after property appraisals came in well below the purchase price for the parcel. In May of 2013 and November of 2014, rejected $5.4. million and $4.78 million plans for a facility at 325 Commerce Drive.
This project was also controversial. Some called it a sound economic proposal that would provide safer work conditions and further protection for the river. Opponents said it is a negative for the river to keep the garage at the site, diminishes recreational opportunities and was too much of a compromise and negated all possibility of future expansion.
“I’m very disappointed with the vote,” said Sarah Faulkner, a strong opponent of the plan. “I think it bodes ill for the future of protecting the environment in Canton, future recreation and the economy of Collinsville.”
First Selectman Leslee Hill offered a different take.
“I’m very pleased that the voters were heard on this and now the community needs to come back together and we need to move forward and get this done,” she said. “I’m pleased for the DPW staff. I certainly thank everybody for their hard work”
“We want to first thank everyone that came out and voted we’re very fortunate that we work for a wonderful community,” said Public Works Director Robert Martin, adding that he looks forward to working through the approval process on a safe structure that affords better protection for the river and improved aspects of public safety.
“We’re extremely excited,” Martin said. “We’re thankful, we’re appreciative and we’ll get this right for the town.”
David Sinish, treasurer of Not on Our River PAC, said the vote was not a good one for the river, the town or the DPW.
“It’s very disappointed because I think that people really disrespected the river and we only have one Farmington River,” he said. “In addition to that, I know that there can be a better garage built than what’s planned and a better garage would provide a safer workspace and it would also be more efficient because it would be larger.”
But Sinish hopes the town does keep the river in mind in its planning and said he and others will follow the issue, as it goes through the regulatory process and other steps.
“We hope the town would understand that a large percentage of the people in town really do want to honor the river and that any further plans would reflect that,” he said. “I think it’s important to note that just because it passed doesn’t mean it’s built there are a lot of hurdles to jump over. We obviously will be following that.”
Brian First, chairman of Canton GOES, also expressed thanks to the Canton community.
“The Canton GOES team of volunteers is grateful that our community delivered a convincing majority vote in support of this garage project,” he said. “We believe voters responded to our consistent, fact-based and positive message pointing out the many merits of rebuilding our garage where it already is with important and much-needed building and site enhancements. We thank our community for coming together in support of this solution and also thank our DPW staff for their patience as so many people worked hard to help address this issue.”
Other Canton results were
President and Vice President
Clinton and Kane (D) – 3,100
Trump and Pence (R) – 2,601
Johnson and Weld (L) – 187
Stein and Baraka (G) – 100
McMullin (write in) – 10
Basiago (write-in) – 1
Castle (Write-in) – 2
LaRiva (Write-in) 1
Richard Blumental (D)- 3,387
Dan Carter (R) – 2,391
Richard Lion (L) – 64
Jeffrey Russell (G) – 66
Representative in Congress
Elizabeth Esty (D) – 3,241
Clay Cope (R) – 2,576
David Pena (D) – 1,888
Kevin Witkos (R) – 3,984
Tim LeGeyt (R) – 4,613
Registrar of Voters
Lynn Homan (D) – 2,477
John “Jack” Miner (R) – 3,102
With Election Day Registrations, 6,085, or 79.8 percent of the 7,617 eligible to do so in Canton cast a ballot.
According to the Hartford Courant, Witkos was re-elected to his state senate seat.
Turnout in the past few years.
2,198, or 31.41 percent of 6,998 registered voters
4,374 or 62.45 percent of 7,004 registered voters
1,342, or 19.25 percent of 6,973 registered voters.
5,768, or 81.48 percent of 7,079 registered voters cast ballots.