At special town meeting Wednesday night, Canton residents overwhelmingly approved the acceptance of a $387,000 Connecticut Main Street Investment Fund Grant as well as taking $40,000 from town reserves for design work.
The funds are for improvements in downtown Collinsville.
During a brief presentation of the plan, selectman Tom
Sevigny emphasized that while a concept drawing was prepared for the process
there are no final plans and that public input will be gathered before work is
The ideas, he added, were taken from the1997 Scenic Corridor
Management Plan, a 2006-2008 Pedestrian and Vehicular Safety Committee
and a 2011 Upper Mill Pond
"This is a conceptual plan,” Sevigny said. “Were going
to prioritize what exactly we want to do.”
Sevigny added that the grant would not fund all the ideas.
Collinsville is an increasingly busy hub and investments are
needed to fix sidewalks, increase signage, improve safety and more, Sevigny
"This is really economic development," Sevigny said.
Many residents spoke in favor of the grant while a few asked
questions or opposed accepting the funds on principle.
Gary Miller, who is a past president of the Canton Chamber
of Commerce and has been active in Farmington River Trail advocacy, said it’s
an exciting opportunity for business, residents and visitors. He said the
chamber has been committed to the idea of kiosk directing visitors to
“We’re very excited about doing this,” he said.
Ben Holden spoke in favor of the idea for businesses and
also said that too many people forget how hard it can be for people with
mobility issues to get around. Level sidewalks and curb cuts are important to
such users, he said.
Jeffrey Schlichter, who owns a business in Collinsville,
said he had concerns about the grant. He witnessed a similar situation in
Torrington and the work was never done, he said.
He also said that if you look at the Main Street grants that were awarded to 14 towns, it came to some $5 million that will potentially be expended. Taxpayers are still funding such grants, he said.
“There is no such thing as free money,” he said. “The state is not in a good place.”
First Selectman Richard Barlow said he understood that it is
a philosophical position but said the board has felt it appropriate to accept
“Unfortunately if we don’t take this money, somebody else will,” he said.
Barlow also addressed the concept of the project lingering.
“I assure you we’re not going to wait five years to get this done,” Barlow said.
Larry Minichiello said while he chaired the Vehicle and
Pedestrian Safety committee he also opposed the use of grant funds.
“It leaves me in a very strange position,” he said, adding
that perhaps the state legislators in the room could begin conversations to
change the way government works.
Jim Keane said he understood there would be opportunities
for input but questioned the idea of using a consultant to help with design.
“I still have this nagging feel that our outside experts going to come in and screw up a good thing,” he said.
Later in the meeting Neil Pade, the town’s director of
planning and community event said that is on everyone’s mind.
“That is the top priority of everybody in this room,” he said.
Others also questioned how exactly the input process would
unfold and Sevigny said that hadn’t been fully worked out. Barlow also reminded
people that selectmen would have the final decision on the grant spending.
Eric Jackson, who serves on the Collinsville Historic District
Commission and was a member of the Pedestrian and Vehicular Safety
Committee, said that Collinsville “is what it is because of its history” but
also said that some improvements are needed to keep it vibrant.
“If it deteriorates, it’s not a good thing,” he said.