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First Selectman Messages

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

3/30/2023 - 03/30/2023

Dear Residents,

The West Mountain Sycamore Tree


Since I was elected First Selectman, no issue has inspired as much email as the West Mountain Road sycamore tree. This elegant, healthy tree stands in the middle of West Mountain Road at the intersection of Cherry Brook Road (State Road 179). Last week, the Town put up a notice that this tree will be removed. 

Canton residents are asking why. Here’s what the Board of Selectmen learned last week: 
Since 2011 there have been five documented accidents at the intersection of Cherry Brook and West Mountain where the tree may have been a contributing factor. 
Dean Martel, president of Martel Transportation, asked the town to remove the tree in 2014. “I don't use that road with the big school buses because of the tree. Our drivers have to pull too far past the tree to get a good sight line because the State does not clear back enough. We have had a few close calls." 
Large vehicles, especially trucks outfitted with snowplows, block the entire southbound lane of Cherry Brook Road to gain a sight line when they attempt to turn off of West Mountain Road. This is a significant hazard.  
Canton Fire Chief John Gotaski has said, “If we are responding to that area, we normally go up Route 44 to Indian Hill to avoid making a left turn onto West Mountain from Cherry Brook. This turn requires the apparatus to swing into the oncoming lane of West Mountain. This intersection also slows our water supply operations. A structure fire on Single Mill would require water to be brought in via tanker trucks filled at Cherry Brook School. The West Mountain tree makes the swing difficult for large tanker apparatus.”
As the tree continues to grow, sight line issues and firefighting obstacles will grow with it.

Ultimately, West Mountain Road was built around this tree long before large fire apparatus, public works vehicles and school buses came into service. Liability for neglect or default of maintenance of this intersection falls to the Town if known sight line issues contribute to an accident. 

All of these issues will be discussed at a special public hearing on Tuesday, April 11, at the Community Center, startling at 7:00 pm in the multi-purpose room. This will be a hybrid hearing which will allow the public to observe and participate virtually as well as physically. 

The decision to remove or preserve the West Mountain Sycamore falls to the Canton Tree Warden. The public and the selectmen act as advisers only. One thing is clear: everybody loves this tree. If it were not in the middle of an intersection, we would not be having this discussion. Our hope is that facts will guide public sentiment regarding the West Mountain Sycamore.  

Save a Life

Seconds count when someone has a stroke or heart attack. The sooner CPR is administered to the victim, the greater the likelihood that damage will be minimized. With that in mind, the Canton Fire & EMS will host a First Aid and CPR Training class on April 23 - free to any Town of Canton resident.  We hope this class will provide more members of our community with this critical life-saving skill. To learn more or sign up, call 203-913-5254 or write

Donate Life

On April 3, I will proudly join two heart transplant recipients as they raise the Donate Life flag over Town Green. As I do that, I am reminded that these two people would not be with me had someone not donated life.

Every year, thousands of people nationwide receive donated organs. Sadly, thousands more die on the waiting list. Think about it. Your forethought in promising your organs could make the difference between life and death for someone else. Consider donating life.  

Budget Hearings

The Town is rapidly approaching its budget referendum, now scheduled for Tuesday, May 9 (6am - 8pm at the Canton Community Center). Prior to that date, the Board of Finance will hold two budget hearings in the community center:
Monday, April 3 at 7 pm. At this meeting, the Boards of Education and Selectmen will present their budgets as amended by Board of Finance suggested cuts. The amended Selectmen budget is $12,980,264 which represents a 4.99% increase if approved. More than two thirds of this increase would cover increased costs for police, fire and emergency medical services. 
Monday, April 24 at 7 pm. The three boards - Education, Finance and Selectmen - will present their budgets as one Town budget. This will be the final scheduled meeting before the annual budget referendum on May 9. A flyer that describes the budget approved on April 3 will be distributed to all town residents prior to this meeting. 
All three boards encourage you to attend these meetings and ask your questions about the Town budget. We want to hear from you!

Be well,
Bob Bessel




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

Office Hours:
-Thursdays 10am-12pm  
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Canton Town Hall
P.O. Box 168
4 Market Street
Collinsville, CT 06022