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Selectmen Delay Decision to Set Referendum Question for Public Works Project

The latest plan borrows heavily from the Barkhamsted facility, gets the facility to one level and brings the price below $4 million

The latest plan borrows heavily from the Barkhamsted facility, gets the facility to one level and brings the price below $4 million

Special Meeting to be Held Aug. 31

By John Fitts

CANTON – While it’s a near certainty that a proposal to rebuild the Public Works Facility at its current site will go to voters in November, selectmen on Wednesday deferred the decision another week.

And while selectmen briefly touched on the merits of the project and the process, the real controversy of the evening came during the public comment portion of the Board of Selectmen meeting.

The town is looking to construct a 14,140 square foot building at the 50 Old River Road site with approximately 11,500 square feet of storage space, 2,640 square feet of office space, a new generator, a new salt shed, revamped parking and relocated fueling station. The current facility consists of an old horse barn, a couple small bays and small office area.

On Monday, the Board of Finance approved forwarding a plan to voters for $3.825 million – $3.75 million for the project and $75,000 to cover the costs associated with bonding, the town’s method of borrowing for the project and paying it over time through a yearly tax levy. Selectmen now need to take final action to set a question, due in early September, for the November ballot.

There has been much discussion in town about the concept of rebuilding at the current site. Earlier this year, town staff came up with the plan for a garage that was smaller – and potentially less expensive – than previous incarnations. Most recently, in May of 2013 and November of 2014, voters defeated $5.4 million and $4.78 million plans for 325 Commerce Drive, at sizes of 19,000 feet or more.

In a public hearing earlier in the summer, numerous residents spoke against the plan to rebuild on site. Several have continued to do so and recently, the registered Political Action Committee Not On Our River  has continued to fight the idea, stating that it compromises valuable riverfront, doesn’t adequately deal with floodplain issues, is short-sighted and leaves virtually no option for future expansion.

On Wednesday some of the strongest public opinion, however, came from someone who is supporting the project and passed around a paper he feels “debunks” the arguments of NOOR, stating, for example, that the current site is actually least expensive, will meet the needs for the DPW, conforms to land-use standards and received a positive referral from the town Planning and Zoning Commission.

In his comments, Lans Perry went as far as to refer to some opponents as the “Chablis-swilling” elite” and his handouts take aim at “the river nuts,” “self-interested Satan’s Kingdom residents,” Canton Land Conservation Trust, Inc.”, “Self Interested land Speculators, developers and brokers” and more.

In his remarks, Perry referenced his family’s long history of activism and called this issue one of social justice.

“The brothers have suffered long enough,” Perry said. “They won’t complain because they are tough. But they suffer, too. We pay for it in rusting trucks and higher taxes.”

He later called the idea of those who say they will support it elsewhere a “worthless promise” and said neighborhoods will always fight if the project goes anywhere else.

“The current site is the cheapest and has a very real chance of passage with your support,” he said. “We need that support. Please help our suffering brothers now.”

David Sinish, who is treasurer of NOOR and has supported past Public Works proposals, spoke briefly at the meeting and addressed the comments, particularly ones that mentioned first names and streets.

“It’s not often that one gets attacked personally in a public meeting and I’m quite offended at that as well as I’m sure are the people I’m sitting with,” he said. “So I want to have that on the record.” … Continue Reading

Public Works Facility Plan For Current Site Is One Step Closer to November Vote

The concept of rebuilding at 50 Old River Road.

The concept of rebuilding at 50 Old River Road.

By John Fitts 

With Board of Finance approval Monday night, a plan to rebuild a 14,140 square foot public works facility at its current site near the Farmington River – and bond for the project –  is one step closer to a November referendum.

On Monday, in its second meeting on the issue, the finance board approved a resolution for a project not to exceed $3.825 million, First Selectman Leslee Hill said. (Canton Compass editor John Fitts was out-of-town for the meeting). The town is looking at a $3.75 million plan to build a new facility at the 50 Old River Road site. The additional $75,000 would be to cover the costs associated with bonding, essentially the town’s way to pay for the project, with interest, over time.

The project is designed to cover final design, construction and equipping of a new facility, the partial demolition of existing facilities, lowering the ball field on site for floodplain mitigation, and potentially improving the existing access road that serves as both the roadway and Farmington River Trail.

… Continue Reading

DEEP Announces Closure of Portions of West Branch Farmington and Farmington Rivers to Fishing

August 19, 2016 Environment, Outdoors No Comments

PowerPoint PresentationWarm temperatures and low stream flows impacting fish

Connecticut’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) announced today that it is closing portions of the West Branch Farmington River and the Farmington River to fishing because of the impact drought conditions and extended periods of very warm temperatures are having on fish in those areas.

“High daytime temperatures with limited nighttime cooling – combined with a lack of rain and low stream flows – are causing fish in these rivers to suffer from heat stress,” said Deputy Commissioner Susan Whalen.  “The stressed fish – particularly trout –  are seeking refuge by congregating at the mouths of a number of tributary streams, where cooler water is entering the West Branch Farmington River and Farmington River.”

“Fishing for these trout would put additional stress on these fish, and could lead to increased mortalities,” Whalen said.  “To protect these fish, we are establishing refuges where fishing is prohibited on portions of the West Branch Farmington River and Farmington River around the mouths of several tributaries.”

These areas, listed from upstream to downstream tributaries, include:

  • East Mountain Brook (Hallock Brook), New Hartford
  • Cherry Brook, Canton
  • Rattlesnake Hill Brook, Canton
  • Burlington Brook, Burlington
  • Hawley Brook, Avon
  • Unionville Brook, Farmington
  • Hyde Brook, Farmington
  • Pequabuck River, Farmington

“This is the first time in memory that we have found it necessary to take action like this to protect our fisheries on these rivers, and it is not a step we are taking lightly,” Whalen said.  “The West Branch Farmington River and Farmington River are very popular and well known to anglers, who are attracted to the area from around the world to catch both wild brown trout that spawn in those waters, as well as fish stocked by DEEP.”

DEEP is posting these refuge areas with closure signs. All water within 100 feet of these signs are now closed to all fishing. This closure is scheduled to continue through September 15, but may be shortened if conditions improve sufficiently.  Violation of the closure is an infraction with a fine of $154.

High temperatures the past few weeks have had a significant impact on the waters of the two rivers.  During the past week, daytime temperatures have been well into the 90s – and nighttime temperatures have remained above 70 degrees.  These temperatures have led to some fish kills along the river.

While some portions of the West Branch Farmington River and Farmington River remain open to fishing, DEEP asks anglers to consider avoiding being out during the hottest times of day and to consider fishing upstream of the Collinsville impoundment, where the water temperatures are cooler and the fish are less stressed.  DEEP also asks the public to avoid swimming, wading, or boating in the refuge areas – as those activities would also disturb fish there.

Canton Selectmen Endorse ‘Concept’ of $3.7 Million Public Works Facility at Current Site

The town's Public Works Facility at 50 Old River Road.

By John Fitts 

CANTON — On Wednesday night, Canton selectmen endorsed the concept of a $3.7 million, 14,140 square foot public works facility on the location where the town’s aging structure sits today.

The 4-1 vote forwards the concept – and in particular the financials – to the Board of Finance but does not yet put a plan on the November ballot. Selectmen will meet once or more to further discuss the issue and potentially vote to bring it to voters.

Working off a plan developed by town staff earlier this year, officials have worked with Fuss and O’Neill over the past several weeks to tweak the concept for 50 Old River Road – an idea that has met with some resistance.

The latest plan refines the concept in several ways, adding more storage space while reducing office area, changing the building to a one-story pre-engineered structure while lowering its proposed height from 34 to 25 feet and doing away with a proposed new access road from Route 179 the access road.

Storage space, specifically would be at 11,500 square feet and office space at 2,640. The concept earlier this year called for 9,742 square feet of storage and 4,080 square feet of office space.

“We put a premium on storage space,” Canton Chief Administrative Officer Robert Skinner said.

River amenities are only left as an option not included in the price estimate but the plan calls for public restrooms to be built in an office area facing the river and some improvements to the ball field on site, which would also be lowered for floodplain “compensation.”

Under the current plan the original horse barn part of the structure would remain, possibly to be used as storage for parks and recreation or other town departments.

The lowered height of the proposed storage building would necessitate pillars in the middle but officials said that would allow a wall to separate a three-bay cold storage area from a two-bay work area, providing the chance to save on heating costs. A building generator would sit in the area between the office and the old horse barn, with the storage area behind it. … Continue Reading

Canton Group Formalizes Opposition to Rebuilding Public Works Facility on River, Selectmen Defend Idea of Letting Voters Decide

The town's Public Works Facility at 50 Old River Road.

The town’s Public Works Facility at 50 Old River Road.

By John Fitts

CANTON — A group of local residents have formed a Political Action Committee designed to oppose a plan to rebuild the Public Works facility at its current location.

The PAC, “Not On Our River,” is a response to an anticipated referendum question that could be placed on the ballot for the Nov. 8, 2016 election.

Earlier this year, following years of frustration and failed referendums for a new facility to replace its outdated structure, the town came up with a plan to rebuild the facility at the 50 Old River Road site.

The concept involved an approximate 15,000 square feet building, a new access road from Route 179 and enhanced river access. On Aug. 10, the Board of Selectmen will review additional data from Fuss & O’Neill, the firm reviewing and potentially modifying the town’s initial plan. It’s possible the board could vote that night to place a project on the November ballot.

The idea of rebuilding at the current site has met with some resistance from people in town. Many spoke against the plan at a public hearing earlier this summer and several have continued to voice their opinions at meetings, through emails and letters to the editor.

Several residents have also posted lawns signs reading “Garage Yes But Not on Our River,” designed to show support for a new facility but opposing the idea of rebuilding at the site. … Continue Reading

DEEP Bans Alcohol at Nepaug State Forest, Satan’s Kingdom Recreation Area

Submitted Release

Connecticut’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) has banned the possession and consumption of alcohol at Nepaug State Forest and Satan’s Kingdom Recreation Area, to address public safety issues at these locations.

“I have exercised my authority to declare a ban on alcohol at Nepaug State Forest and Satan’s Kingdom from July 29, 2016 through October 26, 2016 due to numerous incidents of unruly behavior by large groups consuming alcohol – that is not a combination conducive to public safety and enjoyment of our state’s natural resources,” said DEEP Commissioner Robert Klee.  “The ban I have issued means no alcohol at Nepaug State Forest as well as Satan’s Kingdom. Environmental Conservation Police officers from this agency will vigorously patrol the park to enforce this.” … Continue Reading

Local Couple Continues Applegate Farming Tradition

By John Fitts 

CANTON — For Karen and Robert Bahre, Applegate Farm is a truly labor of love. Three and a half years ago when other family members moved on to other projects, they decided to take over.

“I just love this farm,” Karen Bahre said of the Lawton Road land.

“I just don’t want to see it go away,” Robert Bahre added. “You have to do it and hope people support you doing it.”

In the early 1970s, Karen’s parents Jean and the late Andrew ‘Pete’ Bouchard purchased land on Lawton Road. In addition to Mr. Bouchard’s Canton printing business, the couple were land lovers, keeping horses and later getting more into farming. A former printing business employee suggested the name Applegate due to the apple trees along the sides of the driveway where the house was built.

In the early 1980s, Karen’s brother Peter started a roadside vegetable stand.

… Continue Reading

Owner of ‘Satan’s Kingdom’ Property Declines Town’s Offer

The town's Public Works Facility at 50 Old River Road.

The town’s Public Works Facility at 50 Old River Road.

Firm to Review Plan to Rebuild Public Works Facility at Current Site

By John Fitts 

The owners of the so-called “Satan’s Kingdom property” have declined the town’s offer to purchase approximately 39 acres for a public works garage, open space and perhaps other amenities.

The town had offered $670,000 for the land at 674 and 684 Albany Turnpike (Route 44). In a letter to Canton Chief Administrative Officer Robert Skinner, Daniel K. Bahre, a member of New Hartford Market Place, LLC thanked the town for its offer but stated that it was “At this time we will not be entering into a purchase and sale agreement with the town of Canton as we feel the purchase price offer of $670,000.00 is not in our best interest.”

Bahre did not immediately return a message left at his office.

The owners were seeking $1.2 million for the property but at its most recent meeting, the Board of Selectmen voted to offer the $670,000 based on appraisal done for the town. The town’s offer also came with some conditions, such as voter approval and an open space grant.

In addition to a letter obtained by Compass, first Selectwoman Leslee Hill confirmed that the Route 44 properties were off the table – at least as of now. She said it was declined with no counter offer.

“Therefore, at this point, we cannot consider that location as a viable one for a new DPW facility,” she wrote in a message. … Continue Reading

Canton DPW Garage: How We Got to Today

Guest Commentary by Sarah Faulkner

 The purpose of this article is to clarify the work being done to develop a new Department of Public Works (DPW) facility and provide some facts and data to help folks understand the issue and sentiments in town.

For over six months the Canton Board of Selectmen has been working to develop a plan for a new town garage.  There is no debate about whether or not the town needs one.  It is the highest need of the town and every year that we don’t replace the old one we’re losing money through damage to equipment and deterioration, nevermind awful working conditions for our town crew. The town also must spent money every year to shore up the deteriorating building until a new one can be constructed, pouring “good money after bad”.  The Permanent Municipal Building Committee (PMBC) has long identified the town garage as the town’s top need and has done extensive research on over 80 properties, evaluating and ranking them.  The town has held three referendums on two different sites, turning all of them down.  Each time, the size and scope of the proposed garage has grown smaller and more efficient, but has also lost some functionality (such as drive-through bays).

The Plan to Re-Build on the River

In January, the town DPW presented the Board of Selectmen with a draft plan they developed to re-build the DPW garage on the current site at 50 Old River Road.  This site is on the Farmington River next to the sewage treatment plant.  The proposal is for a greatly scaled-back, more fundamental garage than proposed earlier, designed to fit on the current site space of 1.5 acres, approximately 15,000 sf in size.  It is more than three times the size of the current facility.  Because of site limitations the design calls for an L-shaped building, two stories high along Route 179 including a two-story-tall salt shed, and one story running east-west where the current building is located.  A new access road would be constructed just south of the salt shed and all trucks and cars would enter directly from Route 179 across from the fire station. The old building would be demolished and the new one built in its place. … Continue Reading

Canton’s DPW Garage: What did the Public Say?

Guest Article/Commentary by Sarah Faulkner

The purpose of this article is to summarize and clarify the current status of the Town of Canton’s work toward constructing a new Department of Public Works (DPW) garage.

The last six months have seen an upwelling of urgency to move the town forward in building a new DPW facility.  The Board of Selectmen has identified the need to reconstruct our garage as our top priority, and has solicited public and commission comments to guide selecting a location and design plan.  There have been many meetings, research by the Permanent Municipal Building Committee (PMBC), a public comment meeting, and a public online survey to gather information.

On July 13 the Board of Selectmen voted to make an offer to purchase 674 Albany Turnpike for the new garage.  There are conditions for the purchase and if this site does not proceed, they voted to move forward with the current river location instead.

What did the Public Say?

Comments received from the public came from three sources: written comments to the Selectmen from March through July 2nd; comments; and town-wide electronic survey data and comments which closed on July 7th. … Continue Reading

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