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Letter to the Editor: Rebuilding Town Garage on River Contradicts Town’s Vision

September 19, 2016 Government, Opinion, Referendum No Comments

To the Editor:

Still on the river?

This contradicts the Town vision for enhancing our famed resource.

Yes. We need a new Town Garage.  Our fine staff works diligently to keep our roads safe.  They and their machines are currently housed in a disintegrating building which does not protect them or the Town’s investment in very expensive vehicles.

But where should we put the new facility?  Some say, Well, it has always been near the river and that hasn’t been a problem.

Just because we have not properly cared for our valuable natural resource – our river – in the past, is no excuse for continuing to encroach on it and diminish it from being used as a recreational treasure. … Continue Reading

Letter to the Editor: Not an Option

September 14, 2016 Opinion, Referendum No Comments

To the Editor

NOT an option.  The Farmington River should not be compromised because 50 Old River Road is perceived to be the only site for the town garage.

I can think of two iconic images that frame the upper Collinsville Pond.

Picture Town Bridge at dawn with the mist rising off the river as a great blue heron takes flight.  On the opposite end, picture the spillway of the dam framed by the red ax factory buildings of the Collins Company. This section of the river is what defines our village. … Continue Reading

First Selectman’s Corner: Staying Safe and Walking for Food and Fuel

September 14, 2016 Community, Government, Opinion No Comments

Dear Canton Residents,

I hope you are enjoying these last days of the summer season. I wanted to share a few important community items with you.

This Saturday, September 17th is FOCUS on Canton’s 7th Annual Walk for Food and Fuel. The walk starts and ends at Canton High School, and registration is at 8:30 a.m. You can get more information and register on-line at www.FocusOnCanton.org. All proceeds will go to the Canton Food Bank and Canton Fuel Bank, which provide important assistance to our neighbors in need. I hope to see many residents there!
… Continue Reading

Images of Canton: Pooch Plunge

Photos by John Fitts

Some 30 dogs and their owners came out to enjoy the second annual Pooch Plunge at Mills Pond Park pool on Tuesday evening.

“I thought it was very successful,” said Courtney Hewett, who is recreation supervisor/aquatics director for Canton Parks and Recreation. “I’m glad the weather held out. We look forward to doing it in the future.”

The event, held one day after the pool closed residents, benefitted The Friends of Canton Dog Park, a group that is in the process of obtaining non-profit status and will begin fundraising for a dog park they are hoping to build on Commerce Drive. Approximately $300 was raised.

For a contact sheet view or full-screen version of this and other galleries, visit https://johnfitts.smugmug.com. Prints and/or digital downloads can also be purchased at that link.

Readers can also help keep Canton Compass sustainable by donating at https://www.gofundme.com/canton-compass or via 15 Colony Road, Canton, CT 06019.

It’s Official: Latest Public Works Facility Proposal Will be on November Ballot

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

By John Fitts 

CANTON — With a 4-1 vote Wednesday, selectmen officially voted to put a $3.8 million proposal to build a new Public Works facility at the current site on the Nov. 8 ballot.

The plan calls for the final design, construction, construction and equipping of an approximate 14,000 square foot facility at the 50 Old River site as well as 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. The proposal is broad enough to include other improvements, such as formal river access, should there be sufficient funds or other income sources, such as grants.

Town officials said the plans are conceptual in nature, with the ability to tweak details in the final construction.

Approximately $75,000 would be used to cover costs associated with project selling municipal bonds, the town’s way of borrowing funds and paying back the project over time.

According to documents released before the vote, the first year payment would be the highest at $328,875 and raise taxes .3 mills, or a $72 increase for the “average” homeowner. Payments would then decrease over the 20-year payoff time, according to the town.

After years of attempting to find a new location for the facility and failed referendums, the Board of Selectmen has discussed rebuilding at the current site since January. The proposal was forwarded by town staff after they were instructed to re-evaluate what could be done at the current site a few months earlier.

On Wednesday, first selectman Leslee Hill said she was approached by town staff shortly after taking office.

“More could be done there than previously thought and that was a game changer,” she said. … Continue Reading

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

Work Begins on Traffic Light in Collinsville

August 24, 2016 Community, Government No Comments
Workers with A. M. Rizzo Electrical Contractors, Inc. perform some initial work for the traffic signals at Bridge and Main Streets in Collinsville. Photo by John Fitts

Workers with A. M. Rizzo Electrical Contractors, Inc. perform some initial work for the traffic signals at Bridge and Main Streets in Collinsville.
Photo by John Fitts

By John Fitts 

COLLINSVILLE — Work on the traffic light at Bridge and Main streets began this week and town officials expect the project to be completed some time in October.

Anchoring the span wire to hold the lights will be two, diagonally placed, black-powder coated, octagonal light poles with spires on top, said George Wallace, Canton’s project administrator.

Additionally there will be a four-way crosswalk at the intersection and the islands that came with the downtown improvements will be partially raised with some granite curbing to enhance pedestrian safety.

The area is a popular one, particularly as part of the Farmington River Trail. According to town data presented at a recent meeting, 507 people crossed the intersection in a two-hour period on a weekend day in September of 2015.

Several pedestrians have been struck at the crossing and changes were recommended in 2008 by  a Pedestrian and Vehicular Safety Committee.

Wallace said it was good to have the project underway.

“It appears to be well on its way,” Wallace said Wednesday. “I think it’s much-needed.”

The light has been a long time coming. In 2009, the town received $165,000 state grant for the signal and in 2010 residents voted to accept the funds, some of which was spent on design costs. However, the project was tied up due to various factors, including the process of getting abutting landowners to agree on easements and infrastructure placement, and the state to sign off on a final design. Wallace said the state also asked for a reconfigured plan after the streetscape improvements in 2015 changed the Main Street side of the intersection.

The cost of the project is approximately $260,000. In late 2015, electors at town meeting approved taking $130,000 from the town’s reserves to cover the additional cost of the project. Danbury based A. M. Rizzo Electrical Contractors, Inc. is the contractor for the project.

Additionally $15,000 was approved as part of the 2016-17 budget for the island improvements.

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

Cherry Brook Garden Club Beautifies Rear Garden at Canton Public Library

August 11, 2016 Community, Government No Comments

By John Fitts

Along the back side of the Canton Public Library once sat 125 feet of daylilies but today there is much more variety, ornamentation and color in that strip

Conifers, shrubs, and perennials, along with decorative stones, now adorn the area thanks to the Cherry Brook Garden Club, with some assistance from the Canton Public Works Department.

While the daylily certainly offers beauty in its own right, members of the Cherry Brook Garden Club felt the area had so much more potential (They were also able to give away those day lilies to members of the community).

“Daylilies on a sunny day like this get scraggly and unappealing,” said club member Betty Stanley.

So last December club members began hatching a plan to beautify the area while utilizing plantings that  appeal to all five senses. There’s a variety of texture, senses and color. Plantings were also picked based on their ability to draw in the passerby and perhaps even encourage further research.

“We wanted it to be educational,” said garden club member Karen Berger. … Continue Reading

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

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