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First Selectman Messages

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2/22/2021 - 02/22/2021

Dear Residents,

A Shot of Hope
Last Friday, my wife and I received our first dose of the Pfizer vaccine to prevent COVID-19. It is truly the “shot of hope” that Canton and the world need now to stop the spread. 

The much-maligned Vaccine Administration Management System (VAMS) worked well enough to match my age with the rules of vaccine eligibility and present available appointments within a 20 mile radius. Could it have been better? Of course. But the shot was delivered, and that’s what counts.

Canton continues to hold steady in the pandemic.  According to the Farmington Valley Health District, we have had 363 confirmed cases in total. This is quite a jump from 12 cases in April, 2020 when we lost our first neighbor to COVID. Canton’s tragedy compounded after that, reaching 29 deaths in June. 

Since that time, COVID cases have continued to rise, but the death toll slowed. We have lost a total of 35 Canton residents to this pandemic. We could have lost more if not for mask wearing and social distancing. 

Now it’s time to get vaccinated. If we can add this step to social distancing and mask wearing, we can help the businesses and their employees that have been decimated by the pandemic. 

Would you like to hear some live music or watch a ball game in a stadium? How about enjoying a restaurant? Taking a vacation? How about sending your children to school for in-person learning? It’s all possible if we accept these simple “asks.” 

Together we can stop the spread.  When you’re eligible for the vaccine, please sign up. It’s time to get back to normal.   

3-5 Cherry Brook
Nothing attracts attention like excavators at work on a hole in the ground. So it goes with 9.25 acres immediately north of Petals & Paws. The year-long project will result in two buildings:  a 99,500 square foot apartment complex set back from the road and a 20,000 square foot medical office building at 3-5 Cherry Brook Road. 

The project was first proposed in 2016 and approved in 2017. It will add 93 apartments intended for singles and couples – a younger demographic than the average town resident. Half of the units will have one bedroom, the other half will have two. 

Developer Ron Weber and his financial backers believe that Canton needs more housing for young people. Their belief is supported by multiple appraisals of real estate needs in Canton, the Farmington Valley and Connecticut overall. 

Anyone who knows a recent college grad also knows their difficulty in finding apartments. Many of the young people who leave Canton cite the lack of housing as a major driver of their exodus. A high percentage of these people wish they could remain in town. 

The development at 3-5 Cherry Brook should begin to turn the exodus around. Instead of losing young people, these buildings could attract them – a welcome change for a community where the average age is 47. In fact, housing studies show that Canton could support 500 market rate apartments, adding still more vitality to our town. 

Completion of the complex is expected in 2022.
Less than a year ago, the deaths of George Floyd, Breanna Taylor and too many others sparked a nationwide conversation about equity. Burlington and Farmington started a diversity, equity and inclusion initiative. Simsbury declared systemic racism a public health emergency; 23 communities throughout Connecticut have done the same.

Canton schools have been actively involved with these issues since 2012, and this year kicked off a new phase of the work, bringing parents, principals, Board of Education members and town officials into monthly discussions.

Our town can be proud of the high numbers of Open Choice Program students that we welcome to our community every year. Canton has stood out for its Open Choice Program efforts for nearly 30 years. Recognizing the need for affordable housing, Canton zoning regulations have made it easier to construct these units so that more people who work here can live here as well. 

The Canton Police Department is now pursuing Tier II accreditation, which brings their current Tier I accreditation to the next level of accountability. Next year’s town budget includes body and cruiser cameras plus a video archive to store footage. Diversity training is also contemplated for town staff. 

These initiatives are an important continuation of Canton’s longer journey into equity, inclusion and diversity. This journey will benefit from the efforts underway in surrounding towns. Canton’s Selectmen have been meeting with leaders in these towns to learn about the challenges they face, what is working and what can be improved.

One of the takeaways from these meetings is that we need to understand what equity and inclusion really are. Knowing where we are going will help us map the way to achieving equity and whether we are making progress.

If you would like to participate in this effort, please contact me directly

Stay well,
Bob Bessel




Kevin Witkos
First Selectman
Phone: (860) 693-7847

Office Hours:
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Canton Town Hall
P.O. Box 168
4 Market Street
Collinsville, CT 06022