Fresh Starts & New Beginnings in Clinton
(Photo by Kephyr, LLC )
Residents and visitors alike routinely compliment Clinton because of its gorgeous waterfront location and classic small-town feel. Besides the physical attributes, visitors can also count on running into people who Cathy Wagner remarks are "very helpful of one another and good people." Local non-profit Families Helping Families President Miner Vincent agrees.
"There's a willingness to help and support each other in town," says Vincent, who also pointed to the variety of recreation and culinary options available in town as a characteristic of what makes Clinton great.
"It's a very quaint town that retained its character. Unpretentious, that's us," Wagner says. While that quaint small-town feel isn't going anywhere, big changes are on the horizon for Clinton's political, educational, and business centers that are sure to add a vibrancy to the town.
Effective Nov. 19, Clinton will switch from the current Board of Selectmen (BOS)-style of government to a town manager-style of government. With a town manager form of government, there will no longer be a BOS. Instead, a professional, accredited town manager, answerable to a newly formed seven-member town council, will act as the town's chief executive, taking on many of the duties handled by the current first selectman. The town council that will hire and supervise the new town manager will be elected in the November 2019 elections.
In early 2019, the BOS formed the town manager search committee. With the assistance of a professional head-hunting committee, the committee will help interview potential candidates for the initial town manager. A final list of candidates will be submitted in the fall and it is expected that the new town council will interview and then hire the new town manager shortly after taking office.
From a chamber of commerce perspective, Executive Director Paul Orsini says of bringing in a town manager, "I think it's a good deal to have an independent decision maker to help move things along."
Another high-profile change coming to Clinton is having to say goodbye to one of the town's most familiar faces: The Abraham Pierson School will be shutting its doors after 87 years. The decision to close Pierson in light of enrollment and fiscal issues was made in late 2018. While the closing of the school may be a sad occasion for some, it also presents the opportunity for change.
Control of Pierson will be turned over to the town once the building is no longer needed for educational purposes, which is expected to happen in November. Orsini says that the development of the Pierson School is a big opportunity for the town, whether it turns into a business center or is used to provide more housing. The town has formed the Pierson Future Use Committee, which will work to help find what the space could be used for down the road.
While the town figures out what to do next with the Pierson School, the redevelopment of the former Morgan School is well underway. The Indian River Landing Project calls for the site of the former high school to be turned into a mixed-use development consisting of retail, restaurants, a large-scale grocery or retail store, and townhomes.
Excited by the potential of the development that is close to the highway entrances, Orsini says, "I think that's what's really missing from this town. You want people to stop there."
The project is estimated to take several years to complete.
Ken Navarro, a member of Greylock Property Group, which purchased the property from the town, says, "I wanted to share how impressed we've been by the warm reception we have received from the town of Clinton. Government officials have been responsive and supportive. Local residents have been encouraging. We have a long way to go but we feel optimistic and excited about a future in Clinton!"
Not far from Pierson is Clinton's downtown, which is also at the forefront of some exciting changes coming to town. Improvements to Clinton's train station such as a pedestrian bridge over the tracks with stair towers and elevators, increased parking, lighting improvements, a pickup and drop-off zone, and a bike shelter are scheduled to begin this year and be completed in early 2021. Besides the physical upgrades, the station should also see six to eight more trains added to the schedule as well, which would allow for even more people to be transported directly into Clinton's downtown.
A new addition to Clinton's downtown is the freshly formed Arts District that spans west from the Liberty Green Historic District to North High Street, as well to Hull Street and the Unilever Factory to the north. The area was established due to the density of artistic assets in the location and to potentially encourage more collaboration between the different arts groups.
"We have a very nice reputation outside of Clinton in the arts community. If you walk through town and see sidewalk displays it gives the town its charm," says Orsini.
The district came to be out of discussions within the town's Sustainability Committee.
Paul Gebauer, the chairman of the committee, says, "The Arts District was formed to help promote the local artists and at the end of the day, the downtown."
Gebauer noted the variety of artistic endeavors present in the district, such as art galleries, performing arts groups like the George Flynn Concerts, live music venues like Scottish Dave's, and stage productions like Kidz Konnection.
"Anything that gets people downtown is a good thing. There's good things going on," Gebauer says.
The end of summer is always a bittersweet time. However, Clinton folks and their friends will be able to end summer with a bang at the Clinton Summerfest on Saturday, Aug. 31. At two separate locations—town hall and the town beach—the day will feature food vendors, live bands, a kids' activity area, and a beer garden. At night, a fireworks display will mark the true end of summer in Clinton.