Town of Canton will use ARPA funds to make up for money spent on property for sand and salt storage

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Sep. 16—CANTON — The town board voted Wednesday to use American Rescue Plan Act money to replenish funds used to purchase 9 Stiles Ave., which is the future home of a town salt and sand storage facility.

The town entered into a three-year lease-to-purchase agreement for the property in 2019. Since then, the property has been sublet to offset the cost of the lease.

The agreement came to an end at the start of this year and the balance of the purchase, $242,084, came due.

Supervisor Mary Ann Ashley said the town had intended to borrow the money from the highway department budget, which has a healthy fund balance. Any money not repaid to the highway fund this year would be subject to interest, she said.

Recently, Ms. Ashley said, she was informed by the state comptroller's office that such interfund loans were not allowed, forcing her to turn to Canton's allocation of federal ARPA money.

Councilor James T. Smith wasn't happy with the plan.

Mr. Smith argued that because the village also received ARPA money that the town's ARPA money should be used outside the village.

"To me that money belongs to the 'town outside,'" Mr. Smith said. "If it is town-wide money then I would say that the village should not have got any ARPA money."

Councilor Robert J. Washo said that he understood Mr. Smith's position but there were no better options.

"This is the best of the worst options that we have," Mr. Washo said.

The "A" fund (which is the town-wide account) that needs to be replenished, Ms. Ashley said, was running low, and bills, such as payroll, were coming up.

"We need to do something now," Ms. Ashley said.

Village attorney Eric J. Gustafson said the he does not believe that there are any limitations on spending the town ARPA money inside the village.

"We worked really hard to secure that property," Ms. Ashley said. "There was some issues of when we could close because the property owner had something come up. So it wasn't budgeted for and we had to take care of it this year and now we are low."

Councilor Robert T. Santamoor said he agreed with Mr. Smith but felt they needed to move forward.

"In terms of putting us in a position where we can make our expenses the rest of the year, as Bob (Washo) has already said, this is the lesser of two evils and I think this is something that we do need to do," Mr. Santamoor said. "And just because we borrowed from other funds in the past, it doesn't make it OK to do now."

The board voted 4-1 in favor of using the money, with Mr. Smith voting against.