Riccio: "Forward Thinking"

"Build a state of the art waste water treatment facility as a for profit town enterprise."

This letter is written by Tom Riccio

Recent headlines of “surprise” by elected leaders over Unilever closing are poppy cock.  Those with their heads out of the sand knew the decision to move was only a matter of time for the past decade.  I find local government guilty of not having a contingency plan in place and ready to implement the day Unilever announced its shutdown.  If such a plan was in place, actions would already have begun to find a solution for this property.  We obviously did not learn our lesson from Stanley Bostich.

So how can Unilever closing be turned into a positive.  The town of Clinton is currently under order from the State to fix waste water treatment problems in town.  This ongoing debate has lasted over twenty years at a cost of nearly half a million dollars.  We are now at the point of facing stiff daily fines if a solution is not reached soon.  I offer the solution that Unilever be made to decontaminate its property and either sell it to the town at a discount or donate it to the town.  Clinton in turn builds a state of the art waste water treatment facility as a for profit town enterprise. 

Waste water conjures up ugly images.  But consider this.  The current sewage runoff into Clinton Harbor from failed or antiquated septic systems pollutes Clinton’s shoreline 24/7, and even more so after a heavy rain.  The advantages of having a high tech treatment facility are numerous.  First, economic activity in Clinton could blossom.  Ever wonder why we have no chain restaurants in Clinton?  Not enough septic space available.  Secondly, our gems, Clinton Harbor and the Town Beach would become even more of an attraction for tourists, yes, those people we want to come to town, spend money and then leave.  Commercial and residential shellfishing could be opened.  Third, revenue could be generated by taking in wastewater from surrounding towns, and possibly selling the clean water produced.  The site is centrally located and large enough for such an operation.  We could possibly get the Connecticut Water Company or some other private firm to join in a venture. 

Sound silly and pie in the sky?  Maybe, but crying over the loss of Unilever is living in the past.  Bold ideas are needed immediately for this property or else the household budget in Clinton will get a whole lot tighter.

- Tom Riccio

Bradford J. Sullivan August 13, 2011 at 12:33 PM
Tom, Your post evokes memories of the debate surrounding the downtown revitalization and West-End improvement proposals. A couple of years ago the committee for the revitalization project presented a comprehensive and expensive plan to, among other things, bury the electrical lines in the center of town, create attractive spaces for strolling, walking, shopping and essentially upgrade the town center. No money was appropriated. Your ideas are good ones but there is no true desire to take action in Clinton because the majority of voters do not want to make the capital investments necessary to move forward. I urge you to call Doug Traynor, who is chair of the Economic Development Commission, or Larry Oullette of the Downtown Revitalization Committee. Your energy and ideas are sorely needed. One way we can start the ball rolling is insist on the reinstatement of the Town Planner position. A full time town employee whose job it is to plan and execute the much needed long term, development of our community would be a huge first step.
Bradford J. Sullivan August 13, 2011 at 12:36 PM
I love this idea. What's the first step? I think it is getting the Economic Development Commission some working capital and a town planner.
Steve Bristol August 13, 2011 at 02:31 PM
Mr. Sullivan, I think the first thing that needs done is to finally come up with a comprehensive wastewater treatment plan. It does little good to plan for center of town and West End if it's got to be all torn up and done again or if it's so expensive for the town that we truly can't afford the proverbial pot to p in. Guesstimates floating around for several months have been in the mid-eight figures, with questionable amounts coming from the State. If WPCC minutes are accurate, they haven't even begun the planning stage.
Tom Riccio August 13, 2011 at 04:35 PM
Hi Brad, I enjoyed your piece on capital investments and agree in planning and funding for the long term. The revitalization of downtown is a good idea, but as Clemson points out, the foundation needs to be put inplace first. I like to think of it as a wagon wheel. The center hub is our view of what we want in Clinton. Each spoke is a critical need to make the want happen, and the rim or outside of the wheel ties everything together. Wiithout one spoke or the rim, the hub is useless. The wastewater treatment solution is one of the critical spokes and must be solved prior to Clinton reaching for the next rung on the ladder. I agree with funding future projects and needs at 3-6%, but I also know this means short term expenses such as salaries/benefits, equipment, and other items wll need to be curtailed or minimized as much as possible. I understand how the BOF is caught in the middle. Three or so years ago, I attempted to get the RTC ahead of this problem with an idea lamely called Project 21. We were to do a survey of the town to see what citizens wanted Clinton to look like 15-20 years down the road. Tiny tourist town, big box mecca, quiet rundown armpit of the shoreline? What spokes woud then be needed to support the vision? Sadly the idea went nowhere. I agree the town planner is a self paying position as long as it generates income from grants and promotes economic development. Hope your summer is going well. Tom
Steve Bristol August 13, 2011 at 05:21 PM
Tom, I had a whole analogy prepared to post about wanting an M-B S63 AMG, hiring a broker, being denied for building a garage, and on and on, but I'll go with your foundation, wheel and ladder. Call me crazy but I like to know what I'm able to plan on before I actually plan--and certainly before I PAY to plan. I'm sure most realized my Utopia U-P project was more than a little tongue-in-cheek. The DEP has thousands of pages of reports on materials shipped in, shipped out, produced, spilled, discharged, etc. at Unilever-Pond's over the past few decades. No telling what went on before then. In any case, neither there nor Stanley-Bostitch will be a cheap fix, if and when they are fixed. Of course, we still have the new/renovated/repaired school hanging over our heads, a State economy in shambles....and an unpredictable electorate with an unbelievably wide spectrum of ideas.


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