A sincere thank you to everyone who came to our Memorial Day Celebration this week. It was a pleasure to have the opportunity to be able to gather without the cloud of COVID hanging over this annual gathering for the first time in three years.
In case you couldn’t come, we honored our two long-standing town employees, Hazel McGuire and Linda Paviol, who are retiring after long, faithful and productive service to our village. Hazel is leaving us in September of this year after 11 years as our Town Assessor and Linda will depart on the expiration of her term as both the Treasurer and Bookkeeper of the Town of Canaan, having served in her position since 1997. She previously, for two years, was the town’s Tax Collector.
Michelle Hansen was given the Community Service Award honoring her many volunteer positions in the town and for being one of our town’s stalwarts in serving as our Emergency Services Director, rendering aid to our many residents on the ambulance service and her work on both the Ladies Auxiliary of the Falls Village Volunteer Fire Department and as a member of the FVVFD itself.
Tim and Andrea Downs were awarded the Volunteers of the Year Award for their longstanding support of AFS, having hosted so many students over the years from foreign countries that enriched our community and the entire Housatonic High School population.
As of today, we have put the Old Firehouse at 35 Railroad Street for sale at a price of $300,000. The process we are following is outlined in a document that can be found at our website canaanfallsvillage.org. This document is the result of a several month’s long endeavor of the Working Committee of the Planning and Zoning Commission and the Board of Selectmen. I would like to thank the efforts of this group in carefully thinking through the process that we would follow to ensure an open and transparent program that will lead to a final sale. Members of the P and Z who participated were Fred Laser, the P and Z Chair, Ruth Skovron and Vincent Inconiglios. All three of the Board of Selectmen participated, myself, Dave Barger and Greg Marlowe, who served as Chair of the working group. We did extensive reviews of the property including possible septic systems to ensure that the site could support a new system and had a valuation of the property done by a certified appraiser. We also hired a lawyer with extensive experience in this area to advise us.
It is the duty of the Selectmen to recommend to a Town Meeting vote our selection of the winning RFP. It will not be the intention of the Board of Selectman to find the highest bid for the building which is why we established a fixed price for the sale. Our intention is to find the best and highest use for the building that will contribute to the long-term economic health and vitality of the village in accordance with the Plan of Conservation and Development. Further, given that this building is situated within our Historical District, we have asked that prospective buyers provide some architectural drawings to reflect our desire to maintain the aesthetic character of the village center.
Recently, we learned that we have received a grant from Eversource to place a solar array on the land known as the Town Farm, where we also have our pool. The purpose of this array is to provide to the town all the power it needs to run the public buildings in our town. We would have to borrow money to support the building of the solar panels but it would provide enough cash flow to pay off the loan in ten years. The resulting free cash flow would be in the range of $700 to $800 thousand dollars over the 25-year expected life of the arrays.
This will go through extensive vetting by the Board of Finance and the Board of Selectmen before moving this forward to a Town Meeting. Because of recent Federal Governmental actions, we would get an incentive from the U. S. Treasury of at least 30% of the project upon completion which dramatically altered the pay off to the town. If we can utilize all American made panels, the incentive increases to 40% of the project cost. In either case, we would capitalize a 25-year maintenance and repair contract with an outside vendor.
While the panels are reported to be viable for 30 years, we have decided that a 25- year life is a more prudent estimate. Also, if we are successful in selling the Old Firehouse, we could utilize these funds either partially or fully to pay off the debt more quickly and thus increase the free cash flow to our town. The Board of Selectmen have not yet fully vetted this but believe it would be part of making our town more sustainable in the future.
After the latest Town Meeting, where are budgets for fiscal year 2023-24 were passed, the Board of Finance reduced the millage rate from 25.7 mils to 21.0 mils. This does not mean that your taxes will necessarily decrease as the millage rate is based on the town’s Grand List which increased dramatically due to the State of Connecticut’s statutory revaluation this year. Establishing a mil rate is done by taking the funds necessary to support both the Town and Educational budgets combined and finding the number of mils it will take to support these costs. The Board of Finance is also taking some of the large surplus in the Town’s General Fund to support our activities in the next fiscal year. Even taking this into account, our General Fund should end up at the end of the next fiscal year at a comfortable level of about 11 percent of total expenditures. Actual figures may change a bit at the conclusion of this fiscal year which ends June 30th, 2023.
Note that there will be no charge for the Transfer Station on the tax bill this year. We are starting a composting collection at the Transfer Station and we are encouraging everyone to contribute their compostable material to the can set aside next to the door for dropping off cardboard and bottles. If this garners enough material to significantly reduce the tonnage generated by the town in the garbage, which is now exported to outside the state at considerable expense, we will be extremely appreciative to our residents. If not, we may have to resort to a ‘Pay per Throw’ program which would charge for each bag disposed. When you pay your taxes, we will send you a sticker for the upcoming fiscal year. Again, please do your best to reduce our expense.
Henry W. Todd