The need to replace the Canton Municipal Building is obvious.
Ariel L. Snyder and Bryan T. Cowell, architects from BCA Architects and Engineers of Watertown, presented a proposed plan March 23 during a joint meeting of the Canton Town Board and the Canton Village Board of Trustees. On that evening, it was raining. Water seeped under the three steps that lead up to the courtroom where meetings are held.
The structure is not Americans with Disabilities Act compliant.
A chair lift from the main staircase gives people who can’t navigate the steps access to the basement and the second floor, but wheelchair users are stranded unless they have help getting their chairs to their destination. The building was completed in 1964, and it looks like it.
In 1964, the Beatles had six No. 1 hit singles sold on 45 rpm records. The moon had yet to be visited by humans, and the historic Civil Rights Act was passed.
It was a very different time. That building replaced the Town Hall and Opera Theater, which was destroyed by fire in 1962.
The Opera Theater has been described as a showplace and architectural masterpiece. Its bell tower looked over the village. High school and college held graduations there.
The price tag of the building proposal received by the Town Board and Village Board is a bit of a shock at first glance. The architects estimate the new complex will cost nearly $26 million.
It will have about 2.5 times the square footage of the current building, have secure corridors in both the Police Department and courtroom and provides multiple options for public meetings. The building will be accessible to people of all abilities, be energy efficient and blend in with other downtown structures.
The current building has outlived its usefulness. It is beyond a remodel. The town and village governments have grown to meet the needs of the 21st century and no longer fit in the 60-year-old building.
Canton Town Supervisor Mary Ann Ashley admitted the price tag was huge.
“I think the people [who] work in the building are worth more than that,” she said, according to a story published March 26 by the Watertown Daily Times. “We need to think about that cost and how we are going to get there.”
Mayor Michael E. Dalton said that remodeling the building was impractical.
“This is a sick building,” Dalton said, the article reported. “It is not accessible. There is water running across the floor. We looked at remodeling this building, and the expense was very high.”
A large part of the cost of the proposed building is driven by a need to meet state requirements for the courtroom and to enlarge the space for the Police Department. Dalton reminded board members and members of the public that while discussions and research began in 2018, there was still a lot of work to be done before any decisions are made.
We encourage the boards to do the planning for the new building to remain a priority. Hopefully, a new building will be constructed not just to meet the needs of today but also well into the future.
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