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Fri, Jan 22nd, 2010
Posted in Progress Edition

Canton's watertower after a snowfall. Photo by Jade Wangen

Canton is not the smallest city in Fillmore County (Whalen holds that title), but at a population of 346, it's pretty close. Lolly Melander has been the city administrator since 2004. She also works for Whalan and Peterson.

This past year Canton's major project was putting new streetlights all down Main Street. The city owns all of the lights on that street; the rest of the lights in town are owned by Tri-County Electric.

The most recent business to start up in Canton was TJ's Café, which is located right along the highway. Melander said there is gas available for purchase there, and a restaurant inside that serves daily specials.

Although Canton has avoided receiving any major cuts from the state as far as LGA (Local Government Aid), Melander said they are still feeling the effects of a poor economy. The city has lost a couple of businesses in the last year, and there are more that may possibly close this year.

"We are hoping to get more businesses this year," said Melander. "I wish the bike trail would come through here. That would help a lot."

Melander said there has been talk in the past of extending the Harmony bike trail through Canton and Mabel and down to Decorah, but she hasn't heard anything about it for a while. The city is hoping the project is still a possibility for the future.

As for 2010, Canton is preparing to buy a new fire siren in the spring. They have also received some housing grants from Semcac. According to Melander, the grant is for $392,000, which will be split between Whalan, Peterson, and Canton. "The money is for low-income residents for repairs on their homes such as insulation, shingles and things they couldn't normally afford."

There are no cuts to be made for Canton in 2010, but they are still cautious. "We have to watch our nickels and dimes," said Melander. "There could be cuts in 2011, who knows?"

Melander said the city is being careful not to hire out many smaller, part-time jobs. They cut the position of city administrator to half-time, which saved them some money. They are also doing other things to help keep their finances under control in these hard economic times.

According to Melander, Canton has had students from Mabel-Canton who are in the School-to-Work program help with outdoor things such as mowing, painting, and trimming. There are also people who are working off their community service that are available to help with needed maintenance.

"That's what cities need to do, is to think outside that box," said Melander. "All those little things help the city."

Melander said that Canton is a nice, quiet, little community with very little crime and a lot of retired people. There have been hard times lately with every city in the country, but Canton is still working towards improving their quiet, peaceful town.

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