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Funding Proposals for Pool Improvements, Portion of Fire Engine Replacement Go to Canton Electors This Week

At Special Town Meeting Wednesday, electors will decide whether to tap into town’s reserves for funding.

On Wednesday night, town electors will have the chance to decide whether the town should use its reserves to fund $400,000 in pool improvements and $275,000 toward the package purchase of two fire engines. 

For the pool, the funds would provide funding for a new concrete deck, drainage improvements, partial shell repair and modernized, above-ground mechanical systems. Read more about it in this earlier story

With the fire engines, the town of Canton Volunteer Fire and EMS Department recently advocated replacing two over the next year, rather than the scheduled one. Department officials said it would save some money in replacement and maintenance costs and get the town back on track with its replacement plan. The entire plan is a little less than $900,000 but the town already has the rest set aside in a capital fund for apparatus replacement. Read more about the plan in this earlier story

The boards of selectmen and finance have already approved the plans. If voters concur, the money would come from the town's undesignated fund balance, commonly known as reserves, and not directly impact taxes.

Bond attorneys and auditors recommend having 10 to 15 percent of a town's annual budget expenditures in the fund. Late last week, finance officer Amy O'Toole estimated the current balance at $4,948,354, about 14 percent. 

At a recent meeting, first selectman Richard Barlow said that over the past several years the Board of Selectmen has returned money to the fund by spending less than its approved budget. In the last fiscal year, that amount was approximately $500,000, he said. 

On Wednesday night, registered voters and those over 18 who have at least $1,000 in assessed property taxes can vote on the proposals. 

The meeting will take place in the Community Center at 7 p.m. on Dec. 12, 2012. Residents will also decide whether the town should accept a $500,000 grant for improvements at the 21 Dowd Ave. housing complex for seniors and the disabled. See the legal notice here

After the town meeting, selectmen will hold a public hearing on a proposed amendment to the property tax relief program. That agenda can be found here. The proposed amended ordinance can be read at this link

Following that, the Board of Selectmen will hold its regular meeting

Wyatt December 11, 2012 at 03:19 PM
I wish Canton residents could vote online instead of having to go to these special meetings. I don't like the idea of having such important decisions made by very small groups of voters, and it is often very hard for people to get to these meetings - many don't get home from work that early and many have family responsibilities.
John December 11, 2012 at 08:21 PM
If its such an important topic to you, then you should be able to find the time to come out and vote.
Wyatt December 11, 2012 at 09:10 PM
@John. It is an important topic for me and I plan on being there to vote. However, my post wasn't about me. I'm old, retired and have plenty of free time, so I post on the Patch and I go to town meetings to vote. Rather, my post was about increasing participation in town decision-making. When I go to these special town meetings, it is disturbing how few people show up. I remember when I went to vote "yes" on purchasing the carpenter property a few years back. Out of over 10,000 residents, maybe 50 showed up. This is true for virtually all of these town meetings. Here is why I would like to increase participation by making voting easier: - decisions should reflect the will of the people. These town meetings are sparsely attended and tend to reflect only hard-core elements (those strongly in favor of a specific project, or those strongly opposed to any spending). You get extremes on both ends. - If the town government wants to leave such decisions up to the people, they should create mechanisms by which as many people as possible can participate.
John December 11, 2012 at 10:46 PM
Wyatt I'm glad to hear that you are going to vote, unfortunately you cannot satisfy everyone. Hopefully everyone comes out to support the towns Volunteer fire department.
Fred December 11, 2012 at 11:15 PM
@John, Lofty comment, it is nice that you have the ability to attend a 7 p.m. meeting every time the Board of Selectmen wish to call one. Your's is a typical response when someone suggests a change to better the process. Not everyone is able to attend these special meetings. I work second shift to earn money to afford the taxes that will be spent as a result of a minority of interested people showing up. In this era, the days of rustling up the town's men folk for a "show of hands" after dinner following a day of farming or work at the ax factory are long gone. If you think the friends of the parks and rec and fire departments won't be out in force, you're being naive. Many aren't able to attend due to child care, work, or other commitments. No one can deny that the results of these meetings might be dramatically different if everyone had an opportunity to vote, you must admit the fact that only a small minority attend these meetings. Perhaps it is by design to pass the proposals. It has become too easy for our Town leaders to use the un-designated fund and allow the department heads to propose un-budgeted raids for their pet projects. I am not a fan of using bond or un-budgeted money for maintenance unless it is an emergency. Neither are. We don't need two new fire trucks. One is funded, buy it and maintain the other. Budget and perform maintenance on our pool. I would vote "no" on both proposals. We do need a better way to vote on these things.
Craig December 12, 2012 at 02:33 AM
Wyatt and john, appreciate your concerns. The real downside to the town meetings is unless people have the time to make all the previous bos and bof meetings, they don't have the opportunity to hear the entire story. Just to elaborate a few points regarding the fire engine. First, there is a plan for replacing these trucks. Unfortunately the capital improvement line has been shorted the past 4 years. Had it been funded as planned, their would have been money July one to purchase the second truck, with no special appropriations. Instead, with the current money allocated, if the truck is not replaced via the general fund, it will be another 4 years. In turn, that pushes all of the other apparatus back. The trucks had a planned lifespan of 23-25 years. We are looking at the possibility of pushing multiple trucks to over 30 years. If this passes, the next piece will still be 28 years old by the time there are adequate funds to replace it. If not, it goes to 31-32 years. Both pieces in question where recently out for repairs for 30 days (each), as locating parts was difficult due to Age. At some point, we need to make up the shortfall of the past 4 years. The longer we kick the can, the bigger the shortfall will get.
Patti December 12, 2012 at 02:56 AM
Why weren't all the upcoming budget issues put on the November ballot? Who set the priority of where the money gets spent first?
Ryan December 12, 2012 at 03:37 AM
Craig said it right. These trucks are getting to the point where it is more economical to replace than to keep fixing, just as any other car or piece of equipment will experience. Also by not replacing both it would push more trucks to that same point. While i agree that going to the undesignated funds for everything would be a bad plan, this is exactly what it is for. This is a public safety issue. When it is an issue of the safety of the public, it should be made a top priority.
Fred December 12, 2012 at 04:01 AM
That echos my point Patti. These are not do or die matters. They should be part of the regular budget cycle so everyone has a say, not just who appears to be the fire guys chiming in here. It isn't that the town people don't support the efforts of the fire department it is that we want the town's fiscal house managed properly. While it may not have been properly managed, this does not mean we have to go into crisis mode. Withdraws from the undesignated fund like this are not displays of proper management. It suddenly sounds like a slush fund for issues when the boards don't have the guts to say no.
Wyatt December 12, 2012 at 02:27 PM
Of course we cannot satisfy everyone - though that is no reason to oppose ideas to make the process better. Instead of attacking ideas to make the process better, why not embrace them or try to provide your own? sometimes I'm surprised how satisfied people are by the status quo.
Betty December 12, 2012 at 03:37 PM
Agree, it would be nice to know the big picture we are facing and be able to voice our opinion at the polls. For me it is not about equipment or structures it is about knowing the entire needs and desires we face and having a voice.
Canton Taxpayer December 13, 2012 at 06:57 PM
This is a sad joke perpetuated by this town.....they have these town meetings where people opposed to the unfunded, unplanned raids on our emergency fund for pet-projects are intimidated into not voting....try being a no-voter at one of these meetings and you'll know what I mean....so Wyatt has a point, it would be nice to be able to vote some other way than in a hostile town meeting by a 'show of hands'.....

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