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First Selectman Update

Posted on
September 22, 2021
First Selectman's Office
The end of summer is approaching and fall will start on the 22nd of the month.  Hopefully, we will have a drier period ahead and, given all the rain we have had this summer, our fall foliage will be unusually colorful.  

Our COVID problem is still wreaking havoc throughout the nation.  While our state has high vaccination rates and a smaller number of cases than the national average, the Delta variant has proven to be much more contagious and virulent so exercise caution to protect yourself and others.  We do ask that visitors to our offices in town hall wear a mask even if vaccinated.  

We have instituted a program that all town job vacancies will be posted on our website, advertised in the paper with full job descriptions.  Vacancies on town committees will continue to be handled on a case-by-case basis by the Board of Selectmen on recommendations by the committees themselves.  If you have interest in being on any town committees, please contact the committee chairs.  We are always looking to get new volunteers to fill positions that routinely occur.

During our meeting last week, we accepted the resignation of Tracey Wilson as Transfer Station Coordinator but she has subsequently decided to stay on in this position.  She will no longer be the attendant on Tuesday and Peter Roussis will take on the additional day as he is the current attendant on Fridays and Saturdays.  This assures continuity at these vital roles.  We are very pleased with this outcome.

During October, the Board of Selectmen will advertise for the position of Town Clerk because Mary’s role as the elected Town Clerk ends in January.  The decision to have this position be appointed was made by the previous Board of Selectmen and was enacted in a Town Meeting on September 6, 2017.  Note that the Town Clerk is a sworn officer of the town and not a civil service position.

For informational purposes, we have removed the pile of dirt at the gas station in town.  This was done with a donated truck from Century Aggregates, thanks to Greg Marlowe, with the assistance of a loader supplied by the town.  This material is completely free of any contaminants and was tested for that by a certified service.  This has been stored at the transfer station and will be used to cover the bulky waste material per state code.  Consequently, we were able to help a new local business while concurrently preparing for the potential closure of the bulky waste section at the transfer station saving the town money in the future. It also removed an unsightly mound on the entryway to the town.  Also, note that this is a quiet period for the town crew so freeing up a loader for the dirt did not divert attention from other tasks.  Bottom line-this saves the town money and that this was done at the request of several citizens.

The CDBG (Community Development Block Grant) application that the town has made for the benefit of the Falls Village Housing Trust continues to be a bone of contention in the town.  As many of you know, I was out of the country for the month of August for a much-needed vacation.  During the proceeding period, there had been conflicting opinions from experts in the affordable housing arena as to whether the Town of Canaan, acting as fiduciary for making sure the money was properly spent, had any liability for repayment of the money.  Most of the experts said that we had none.  However, due to my absence and acting on their own behalf as concerned citizens, Lou Timolat and David Barger had a long telephone conversation with Miguel Rivera at the CT Department of Housing.  In this conversation, Miguel did say the town had some potential liability due to the wording of the grants given from the Federal Department of Housing and passed on through the state to the town.  Incidents of liability are rare but they have happened.

Consequently, we have found ways to negate this risk and a committee of the Board of Finance consisting of Dan Silverman and Dick Heinz has been formed to study the various alternatives and make a recommendation of the best way to eliminate any potential town liability.  

In any case, we have not been awarded with the grant as that won’t be done until late November or early December, 2021 according to the last information given to the town by the CT DOH.  Obviously, if we don’t get the grant, this is a moot point but, if we do, we will be prepared with a solution to any liability, no matter how remote.

One of the many reasons that we support the FVHT plan for the River Road Homes is that group is made up of people who live in the town and their plan reflects a desire to create a right-sized project that fits the needs of our community.  Under current state law, the town could not stop a for-profit group from out of town from building a project that does not fit the town’s needs by right.  By right means they would not go through the scrutiny we have been able to devote through Planning and Zoning to the FVHT project plans.  We do not believe that this possibility is a risk that is worth taking.  We want Falls Village, the Town of Canaan, to be able to make those important decisions itself without outside interference.

Cardinal Engineering is moving ahead with the study of possible remedies to the Cobble Road problems.  As many of you know, this road is subject to frequent flooding and the one culvert under the road has failed.  Further, the bridge over the Hollenbeck River must be replaced.  Consequently, when we close the bridge for replacement, those families living on the northern side of the river will have no way to access their homes if the road north of them is impassible.  We hope to have the results of the study by later this year so we can start planning for the bridge replacement.  This bridge is covered under the federal program because of its length being greater than 20’ which will cover 80% of the cost.  

Concurrent with this, we are planning limited work on bridges in ‘fair’ condition to lengthen their useful lives.  This will be done mainly be the public works employees of the town.

Finally, we are putting together a survey which will be available on the town website as well as through the post office.  This survey will seek out community ideas on what we should do with the money given to the town through the American Rescue Plan Act.  Our town was granted about $309,000, with the first half of the money already dispersed in the amount of approximately $154,500. These funds by law must be held in a separate account. The balance of the money will be disbursed in the second quarter of 2022.  We did utilize about $42,000 for the septic system for 107 Main Street.  This is an authorized use of the funds.  

After we get the survey results, we will hold a Town Forum to discuss those ideas we have received.  Note that, under the terms of ARPA, the Board of Selectmen, with the advice of the Board of Finance, is conferred by Federal law with the duty of deciding the funding decisions. However, we are anxious to get the ideas of our citizens on what we should do with the ARPA money.