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Letter to the Editor: How Canton Finally Proposed A DPW Facility Voters Liked

November 8, 2016 Government, Opinion, Referendum No Comments

To the Editor:

What appears below is a brief political history of the recently-approved garage proposal that is based upon available source documents and conversations. It may be inaccurate in some details but arguably presents an accurate take on the feelings of many of those cited.

After eight years of discussions, huge bills from expensive consultants and three lop- sided defeats of DPW facility proposals developed by Canton’s Permanent Municipal Building Committee (PMBC), an increasingly frustrated DPW and town staff completed their own analyses of community preferences and DPW’s actual needs. They designed an economical facility to serve DPW’s needs for the next 60+ years. They kept it at the current site to save money and avoid the “Not In My Back Yard” protests that had doomed previous proposals.

Town Staff presented their locally-developed design to PMBC. After the meeting adjourned and the recording devices were turned off, they were told in no uncertain terms that they should immediately cease any efforts to further develop their design concept because, if it made it to referendum, it had a very real possibility of being approved by Canton Voters and PMBC didn’t like it.

This warning from PMBC didn’t stop DPW and Town staff from continuing to pursue their quest. They ran it further up the chain of command where it got traction.

At the Board of Selectmen (BOS), the entrenched PMBC was coming to be recognized as the problem not the solution. BOS encouraged Town staff to pursue their locally- developed DPW facility plan independent of PMBC if necessary. Engineering and architectural consultants were hired to work with Town staff to optimize the home-built design from a cost and functional-effectiveness perspective. Further consultants did a professional cost analysis of the optimized design.

This process of working around the PMBC got the project proposal ready for referendum: A professionally-designed facility that meets DPW’s needs that has been professionally-estimated to be able to be built at a much lower price than anything PMBC’s members had produced during their long tenure. The BOS also increased PMBC membership and appointed new people to try to jump start PMBC’s performance on the DPW issue.

These actions by the current BOS brought on the condescending wrath of the old guard PMBC members—and former BOS and Zoning bigwigs–who felt slighted that their judgment had been questioned and that their vision of how things should work had been turned on its head by the current BOS and Town Staff. The old guard found support from special interest groups like the Farmington River Watershed Association and CARE.

This powerful coalition of opponents tried kill the locally-developed DPW facility plan at BOS and deny Canton’s citizens the chance to vote; but, by a 4-1 vote BOS put the proposal on the ballot. Ultimately Canton’s citizen voters shared the considered judgment of the current BOS and approved the locally-developed DPW facility plan.

Lans Perry 



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