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First Selectman Messages

Town of Canton >> Boards and Commissions >> Board of Selectmen >> First Selectman >> First Selectman Messages

9/22/2022 - 09/22/2022

Dear Residents,

Still Speeding?
Six months into the Town’s StopSpeeders program and we still have a long way to go. About half of the traffic on town roads obeys the speed limits. The other half treats speed limits as suggestions. Some even accelerate. 

The current tally of dollars spent, accidents impeding traffic and causing injury – even death - continues to rise. The Board of Selectmen allocated $20,000 last fiscal year and $30,000 this year for additional speed enforcement patrols. The Selectmen allocated another $30,000 to install speed tables on Case Street. Our schools just spent $18,000 for video cameras to document vehicles that pass stopped school busses (yes, we have enough incidents in Canton to justify the expense!). This week, the State of Connecticut deployed 15 traffic engineers to design more effective traffic calming measures for Bridge Street, Maple Avenue and Dowd.
The point is, Canton is spending real money to prevent aggressive drivers from endangering themselves and others. This money could go many other places in town – sidewalks, food and fuel banks, improved lighting, better recreational facilities, better services for seniors. Instead, we are trying to stop an epidemic of aggressive driving. Let’s face it. Speeding and aggressive driving are personal decisions that can have staggering consequences. If you’re still speeding, I have one question for you: Why?

 Mental Health Initiative
As our towns emerge from the COVID pandemic, we can all see its impact on the mental health of our communities. This public health emergency manifests in many ways, from domestic violence to bullying, road rage and other destructive behaviors. 

Recognizing the crisis before us, the Farmington Valley Health District (FVHD) has prioritized the development and deployment of preventative programing that will quickly equip our communities with the lifesaving skills to begin to address the mental health crisis.
Thanks to the commitment of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds from the FVHD member towns, two programs are now available to address this public health emergency: 

Mental Health First Aid (MHFA)
This evidence-based, in-person training program teaches individuals to recognize and respond to the warning signs of mental and substance use disorders and link people with appropriate treatment and resources. The program increases the community’s understanding that mental health issues are real, common, and treatable. This training is delivered in either a single 8-hour training or can be split between two 4-hour trainings. The nationally recognized certification is valid for 3 years.

Question Persuade Refer
Question, Persuade, Refer is another evidence-based program that teaches individuals how to recognize a mental health emergency and how to get the person at risk the help they need. Much like CPR, this 90-minute training is appropriate for anyone in middle school and older.
For more information on these programs, please contact the FVHD. 

The Ax Factory
Once again, a prospective developer has ended his quest for the Collins Ax Factory. It’s a vivid reminder that this project is complex and requires a unique combination of vision, experience and financing. Happily, several prospective developers have recently expressed interest in the property. I am confident that one of them will succeed.

Why am I optimistic? Because the Town of Canton has worked very hard for many years to remove obstacles to success at the Ax Factory. 

The first obstacle cited by prospective developers is contamination. The Town has addressed that by developing a comprehensive remediation plan. This plan, paid by three successive grants from the State of Connecticut and Federal Government, gives a developer a two year head start on their own planning process.

The second obstacle is utilities. Power, water and sewer have challenged developers for some time at this site. The Town has worked with Eversource, the Water Pollution Control Authority and Connecticut Water Company to clear the way for a developer to move forward. 

The third obstacle is financing. Canton was one of the first towns in Connecticut to establish a Tax Increment Financing plan. In fact, our plan was written for the Collins Ax Factory! To recap, a tax increment financing plan offers the developer a percentage of the increase in property taxes incurred by improving the factory. The only source of funding for the plan is paid taxes. Most importantly, the Town must approve the plan before it can go into effect. 

Finally, I want to note the broad support of this community for developing the ax factory. Every First Selectman I have known has contributed their effort and insight to this project. Residents and businesses alike can see the potential and are willing to help the right proposal succeed. I am confident that we will, together, see the Collins Ax Factory rise again.

Be 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