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St. Lawrence County considers consolidated highway facility with Canton, state DOT

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CANTON — St. Lawrence County legislators have dusted off a one-time plan for a consolidated highway facility with the town and village of Canton, along with other agencies including the state Department of Transportation, as a way to share services and cut down on traffic in the village.

A new facility would solve a number of problems and could be a way to qualify for the state property tax rebate program, said Legislator Donald A. Peck, D-Gouverneur, chairman of the Legislature’s Highway Committee.

The tax relief program would offer rebates to property owners whose taxing jurisdictions meet certain guidelines, including making efforts to consolidate and share services.

“This would be an ideal pilot project for the governor,” Mr. Peck said. “It’s all preliminary. We’re really just in the talking stages.”

It is a discussion others are eager to join.

“We’ve really wanted to pursue this,” Canton Supervisor David T. Button said. “This makes a lot of sense, not only for cost savings but for getting truck traffic out of downtown Canton. We think this could be a model program.”

The village is also supportive, Mayor Mary Ann Ashley said.

“The current village board decided in late December as part of our strategic plan to examine more opportunities for shared services. That’s already on our radar,” she said. “For this particular issue, the village board fully supports the conversation that has already started. Our DPW building is in dire straits.”

The county Highway Department building on Park Street is inadequate for present and future needs, Mr. Peck said. Walls are cracking and the doors are not big enough for some equipment.

“Sooner or later, the county has got to move out of that facility,” Mr. Peck said. “It’s inconvenient for the neighbors.”

The town Highway Department is on Stiles Avenue. Although it may be in better shape than the other highway buildings, sharing services still makes sense, Mr. Button said.

“Do we want to pour money into old buildings that are energy inefficient or start fresh?” he said.

St. Lawrence University spokesman Ryan P. Deuel did not return a call for comment, but SLU was interested in the county property in the past — if the price were right — as it is near a number of other university buildings.

The state DOT — which has a primary facility on Route 11 between Canton and Potsdam, and several secondary facilities throughout the county — might be interested in participating if the new structure for logistical reasons was on the Gouverneur side of Canton, Mr. Peck said.

“Anytime we can look to upgrade our secondary facilities, we would enter that conversation,” DOT Region 7 spokesman Michael R. Flick said.

Other agencies could include the state police, St. Lawrence NYSARC and Community Development Program, Mr. Peck said.

A cost is not known but would likely be at least $9 million, he said.

A potential site has been identified that Mr. Peck would not identify. Legislators could discuss it in party caucuses soon.

A possible location could be the former Canton drive-in movie theater on Route 11, which is for sale.

The site at 5779 Route 11 is 16.6 acres with underground electricity and private water and sewer. The CSX railroad borders the back of the property, which has an asking price of $150,000.

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