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

August 11, 2016 Community, Environment, Government 2 Comments

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.

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.

While it would be bigger, the concept is similar in style and look to Barkhamsted’s facility on Route 44.

Selectman Larry Minichiello questioned the lack of river access, something the town has talked about for several months. It’s drawn on the preliminary sketches for the latest plan but not funded in the proposal.

“I’d like to see some numbers for the river access,” he said.

First selectwoman Leslee Hill, however, said people have made it clear they want to see a project that is as lean as possible.

“I think it was very important to bring this forward with just the garage,” she said. “So much of what we heard about is cost.”

“It’s got to do the job and not cost a nickel more than it needs to,” she later added.

Selectman Elizabeth Kandrysawtz said she was pleased to see more storage space in the plan and said, that while she understands there are those opposed to the idea of utilizing the current site, felt the modifications are good ones.

“I think it addresses a number of concerns we heard from people,” she said.

The plan is by far the most economical the town has suggested in recent history.

The two previous incarnations, defeated in May of 2013 and November of 2014 referendums, involved plans of $5.4 million and $4.78 million plans for 325 Commerce Drive and sizes of 19,000 feet and more.

In late 2012, a garage plan for 5 Cherry Brook – slated to be $6.75 million – never quite made it to referendum after property appraisals came in well below the purchase price for the parcel. Prior to that – in 2010 – voters rejected a plan to purchase property at 5 Cherry Brook Road for $900,000.

Previous plans also called for details such as much larger salt sheds and greatly increased fuel capacity.

The garage history is a long one but the idea of further improving the current site is not a brand new one. In 2006, town officials made initial plans to add eight bays to the facility.

But it wasn’t long after that the town made it a priority to move to a new site, avoid floodplain issues and further develop a park idea at the river. The town said it has worked out several issues, notably the notion of compensating for building part of the facility in the 100-year floodplain. Previous consultants told the town that could not be done on site but officials said current professional and the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection have confirmed it can.

The recent idea to rebuild at the current facility has met with a fair amount of criticism from the public although other residents have defended it.

Critics say it shortchanges the concept of a park at the river site, is too small and doesn’t solve the issues that could arise in a serious flood or other disasters.

At selectmen’s meetings, members of the public are able to speak at the beginning. So while the public session came before the tweaks were announced, several residents chose to speak on the idea of a facility at the current site.

Gil Small said the many are trying to recapture their riverfronts while Canton is willing to compromise its best asset.

“Here we are talking about taking away one of our most valuable assets,” he said. “(The cost) does not take into account the value of what you’re going to destroy by doing it.”

Dave Hudon said that while he has not been a big proponent of leaving the facility on the river, he also said the town needs to give the DPW crew the “respect they deserve so that they don’t have to work in this piece of crap building anymore.”

“We need to stand up and do something and put this issue to bed and either put it on the river or across the street,” he said.

The reference to 51 River Road wasn’t the only one of the night. Site selection and debate over where the garage should be has been fierce in the past several years. Officials said 51 River Road site had several issues including the closest neighborhood impact of any property the town has considered.

Another speaker brought up 325 Commerce Drive but selectmen have made it clear they have no plans to try and go back there with another proposal.

Resident Sarah Faulkner, another fierce opponent of rebuilding at 50 Old River Road, urged the town should pay the $1.2 million asking price for of $1.2 million for 674, 684 Albany Turnpike. Earlier this year, the town offered $670,000 for the 39 acres known as “Satan’s Kingdom,” which was turned down by the owners. Selectmen have said they wouldn’t support an offer of that amount and feel the residents and Board of Finance would not either. But Faulkner said the town would easily make up the cost by saving the taxpayers money to educate the additional children in town if homes are built on the property.

She was also one that urged selectmen not to go too “cheap.”

Glenn Barger echoed that sentiment of the plan to build a compromised facility at the river and with no real expansion potential.

“Its kind of penny wise and pound foolish,” he said.

David Sinish, a member of the Political Action Committee entitled “Not on our River,” also again spoke in opposition to the idea of rebuilding at the current site.

He also cited several cities that are recapturing their riverfronts.

“Are you willing to cast our waterfront and the possibilities aside?” he asked.

Sinish also argued that the idea that the facility isn’t close to area residents isn’t true. He and others are in close proximity, Sinish said, adding that 12 residences within a quarter-mile have an assessed value of nearly $2 million.

“We all hear the coming and goings of the Police Department, the Fire Department and the beep, beep, beep of DPW trucks,” he said. “There are several neighbors who are involved with the PAC, Not On Our River. Once a plan that is on the river is finalized you will hear more than a beep.”

Sinish also urged selectmen not to rush a decision on Wednesday night.

After the meeting, he said many of the changes in the latest plan addressed some concerns but he felt the fundamental location on the river was still there.

“They have done a lot of work but it’s still not compliant with our needs,” Sinish said.

With a Sept. 8 deadline to get a project on the November ballot, selectmen decided to forward the proposal to the Board of Finance for its meeting next Monday but only endorsed it as a “concept,” and plan to discuss the idea further and its Aug. 24 meeting – and possibly on Aug. 31 and/or Sept. 7.

All members agreed they should spend more time digesting the concepts.

Selectmen Hill, Kandrysawtz, Minichiello and Canny voted to forward the “concept” to the Board of Finance. Selectman Tom Sevigny voted against.

See the town’s powerpoint presentation on the latest proposal below. It can also be viewed at https://www.scribd.com/document/320902502/50-Old-River-Road-Proposal-2


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