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COG UPDATE: Is Storage of Regional Equipment in Goshen Driving the Need for More Storage Space?

The Goshen News - Staff Photo - Create Article
Goshen Public Works Storage Facility
Also: New Staff, MIRA Replacement, Affordable Housing Initiatives
Staff Writer

COG-Owned Equipment

The issue of the Goshen Public Works Department’s storage needs and the acquisition of property at 190 Sharon Turnpike for the purpose of constructing a new storage facility has been the focus of a great deal of attention and debate in Goshen, over the past year. A key argument for the new facility is that Town equipment being stored outdoors is deteriorating more rapidly because there is inadequate indoor storage capacity. Philips told The Goshen News that four pieces of equipment currently housed in Goshen, and mandated by contract to be stored indoors, are actually owned by the COG:

2008 Aqua Tech CB10 Catch Basin Cleaner. Cost New: $252,141.
2013 KM International T-2 Asphalt Recycler. Cost New: $66,765
2013 KM International 4-ton Asphalt Hot Box. Cost New: $27,397
2013 Bowie MG30 Straw Blower. Cost New: $9,200

Total Assets as New: $355,503

According to Phillips, the Goshen storage and rental agreement is part of a Public Works Equipment Collaborative that provides “regionalized, shared resources” and several towns host COG equipment. Goshen receives a discounted rental rate when using the equipment it stores. The COG provides funding for routine equipment maintenance.

When Phillips took over leadership of the COG, not quite 3 years ago, he found all the previous staff had left and faced the formidable task of rebuilding the organization. The most recent addition is former 1st Selectman of Kent, Jean Speck, who has taken the role of Senior Regional Planner for Economic Development. Speck is credited with the execution of a major Streetscape project in Kent on her watch, and also has a background in Public Health. She is currently working on Cybersecurity and Pollution Control grants.

Regional Waste

One of the challenges facing Goshen and multiple other towns is the dissolution of MIRA, the Materials Innovation and Recycling Authority, which currently operates a transfer station in Torrington. Waste picked up at curbside in Goshen is trucked to the Torrington site, where ordinary waste is consolidated and shipped to a landfill in Pennsylvania, while recyclables are sent to a private processing facility in Berlin, CT. MIRA will close in 2027. “From a climate, pollution aspect that is not the smartest, most efficient way to handle trash, to be trucking it across the country,” Phillips said. “We are, as COG, currently exploring…the prospect of creating a Regional Waste Authority.” The Authority would take charge of solid waste and its disposal, which Phillips hopes will include reduction and diversion strategies to reduce the volume of waste.

Affordable Housing

We asked Phillips about the COG’s current role in Affordable Housing initiatives. Prior to his tenure, COG employee Jocelyn Ayers played a major role in the development of Goshen’s 2022 Housing Plan, which was widely opposed by Town residents. Plan critics asserted that Ayers produced a biased survey that misrepresented needs and support for Affordable Housing in Goshen. The survey was only answered by 1.6% of Town residents, an inadequate number to justify a conclusion of broad town support. Furthermore, data incorporated in the Housing Plan ignored the facts that only about half of Goshen homeowners have mortgages and 25% of Goshen housing units are seasonal and are therefore not counted, resulting in a significant overstatement of housing cost burden.

Ayers, no longer with the COG, has recently re-emerged as Director of an affordable housing advocacy group, the Litchfield County Center for Housing Opportunity. “She’s got her own organization”, Phillips said. “We’ll partner where we see a need to partner, but we’re not actively working with them on anything in particular. Nothing in Goshen.”

Phillips acknowledged that having housing choices is part of the COG mission, and affordable housing is a component of economic development for the region. But he said: “I do believe the towns have to plan for themselves. You can’t have a ‘one size fits all’… You can’t try and fit a square peg in a round hole. Every town is different. You have different demographics, different attributes, constraints. Different housing stock. It has to be local.”