First selectman shares revitalization goals with Griswold NOW

By Janice Steinhagen - Staff Writer
Griswold - posted Mon., Feb. 21, 2011
Griswold First Selectman Philip Anthony (right) fields questions from Griswold NOW members (from left) Kevin Trahan, President Anna Zubkova and Vice President Jamie Caporaso. Photo by Janice Steinhagen.
Griswold First Selectman Philip Anthony (right) fields questions from Griswold NOW members (from left) Kevin Trahan, President Anna Zubkova and Vice President Jamie Caporaso. Photo by Janice Steinhagen.

Sprucing up Main Street and finding ways to attract people to downtown Jewett City are top priorities for Griswold NOW, an organization of local business professionals which formed last year.

That’s right in line with the plans of First Selectman Philip Anthony, who told the group Feb. 15 that he’s lining up grants to make Jewett City a more enticing place to shop and do business.

Anthony told the group’s members that their willingness to be proactive is something new in town. Griswold NOW, he said, is “not a social entity - it’s interested in the betterment of the town. Your input is welcome. Your opinion is welcome.”

The 20 or so member businesses range from gift shops to attorneys, from bankers to cookware retailers. NOW President Anna Zubkova said that the group hopes to find ways to promote local business and encourage civic engagement.

The group has just instituted membership dues to fund the development of a Griswold NOW website, she said. The website will provide links to member businesses, as well as to the town’s website. That will make it easy for new residents “to see what businesses are around, to get familiar with the area,” Zubkova said.

Griswold NOW is also teaming up with Griswold Youth Services Director Ryan Aubin, according to the group’s vice president of public relations, Jamie Caporaso. She said that she discussed with Aubin the possibility of raising funds to assist the town’s recreation program, as well as offering a street fair to familiarize people with local businesses.

Anthony said that the town has already received a $200,000 state grant toward downtown revitalization, but that amounted to “a drop in the bucket, so we’re going another round.” The next grant application to the Office of Policy and Management would net the town $500,000 if approved. About $55,000 of that sum would go toward hiring a consultant to draw up specific plans for the money’s most effective use, he said.

“We’re already talking about what we’re going to do,” said Anthony. Among the possibilities: new facades for downtown storefronts, rotating loans to small businesses, and the installation of planters, benches and trees to make Main Street more inviting.

Anthony said he has also been pursuing the installation, at no cost to the town, of solar energy panels on public buildings like the senior center, town hall, the town and borough fire departments, the public nurse building and the wastewater treatment plant. “It would save 25 to 30 percent of our energy bill,” he said. “Am I cautiously optimistic? Absolutely.”

The first selectman also spoke about development at the town’s exits from I-395. A gas station is already up and running at exit 85, soon to be followed by a Friendly’s restaurant and a 92-room Hampton Inn. The Stott’s property across the street, however, is languishing. “There’s no sign of activity there,” he said.

On exit 86, the lack of a sewer line is “the only missing piece of the puzzle” before businesses can sprout up near the highway. Anthony said that grant money sought by the town to install sewer service along that route was diverted into state projects instead.

“You want thoughtful development,” he said. “You don’t want your town to become an ugly strip mall.”

Zubkova offered the services of Griswold NOW members to conduct a spring clean-up day and help plant flowers on Main Street. “That could be a great project,” she said.

“That’s a major plus,” Anthony replied. “We’re open-minded. Nothing’s written in stone. This is just the start [of revitalization].”

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