From the Desk of the First Selectman: Sprucing up, scarecrows, good eats: What's doing in Wilton?

By now most families are back in town from summer vacations and therefore it is timely to provide a “What’s Doing in Wilton?” report.

It has been a very busy summer! Public Works projects have continued to improve safety and enhance the village center. As most residents have noticed, new curbing was installed along River Road. To take advantage of the lull in summer shopping activity, new curbing on Center Street was installed in the village center in mid-August. Conduits have also been installed during the curbing installation to allow for improved townwide communication and data systems. And this fall, additional sidewalks and repairs are planned for the village center.

The Wilton Road Restoration Program has also jumped off to an excellent start with approximately five miles of roads paved to date. This compares to an average in past years of just 2.8 miles for the entire paving season! In addition, the high school driveway and Clune Center parking lot were also repaved.

The Wolfpit Road Sewer Extension project has also begun and every effort will be made to have it completed by the end of December. Please exercise caution when traveling on this road, as in places travel is restricted to one lane. Also, please cooperate with Wilton Police officers who are doing extra duty work as flaggers to expedite vehicular traffic. Miller-Driscoll School is the only Wilton school not served by a sanitary sewer and the new sewer extension, when finished, will replace the aging septic system at this facility.

At Merwin Meadows Park, three new teak park benches will soon be installed for the comfort of citizens using this facility. The town’s Public/Private Park Bench program has stimulated generous citizen donations of the benches to the community. The town installs the benches and adds a bronze plaque with the donor’s name or other specified wording. It has been a very popular program and if you are interested in donating a park bench, please contact Pat Sesto, director of environmental affairs, in the Town Hall Annex.

Speaking of the town hall, scheduled maintenance and repairs will take place in September, which will include exterior painting of the facility and the flagpole on the front lawn. After considerable evaluation by the police department, new video surveillance cameras have also been installed to provide better security within this municipal building.

Most citizens know a top priority of the Board of Selectmen has been to expand the distribution of natural gas into Wilton Center and to the town’s schools. Long-term potential energy savings for the town are projected to be substantial. Last year, title problems along the proposed route arose that delayed the project. Legal work to resolve the issues has been vigorous and I am pleased to report major progress has been made that should resolve the easement issues over the next couple of months. Currently, town officials are working with Yankee Gas senior management to organize a project review and implementation plan meeting. If no further issues develop, installation of the gas line extension up River Road could begin as soon as the second quarter of 2013. After the gas line is installed, one lane the entire length of River Road will be repaved.

Soon you will see machinery at the Veterans Memorial Green. Unfortunately, the vinca ground cover plantings have not thrived. Many plants have died, creating an unsightly appearance at this special memorial site in honor of Wilton’s war dead. The vinca will be removed and the Wilton Garden Club is designing a new landscape that will complement the memorial site and be easier to maintain in the future.

In mid-July, on a picture-perfect day, Wilton’s Chamber of Commerce organized a highly successful sidewalk sale, creating another annual event for our town. New retail store openings are also on the horizon. A new organic bakery and café recently opened and a new hardware store was announced for a fall opening at the Wilton River Park Shopping Center on River Road. A new pet supplies store is also scheduled to open soon on Godfrey Place. However, the major retail transaction was the acquisition of the Stop & Shop Supermarket shopping center by Kimco Real Estate, a real estate investment trust with the largest portfolio of community shopping centers in North America, over 900 centers nationally! Town officials have met with Kimco management and were impressed with their high-end development business model and property maintenance plans.

For food lovers, it has never been a better time to dine in Wilton! Bon Appétit Café is in the process of enlarging its restaurant at its current location and Portofino’s in Wilton reopened its all new and enlarged bar and restaurant! And the long-awaited opening of Vintage Salsa and Rotisserie at the Wilton Train Station was welcomed by local commuters! Having a food vendor at the station has enabled the train station to be open on weekdays from 5:30 in the morning to 8:30 in the evening.

Looking ahead, the second annual Wilton Scarecrow Fest is planned for October. Approximately 75 lampposts will be available in the center this year to enable all scarecrow entries to be displayed. Details will be published shortly by Wilton’s Chamber of Commerce. Show your creative talents and plan to enter a scarecrow to add to the color and excitement of the village center this fall!

Lastly, the Board of Selectmen organized and appointed an Economic Development Commission comprised of nine Wilton residents with impressive senior management credentials. The commission will meet in September and start the process of creating an economic development plan consistent with the board’s objectives and the Town’s Plan of Conservation and Development.

In summary, lots doing in Wilton! Activity is quickening on many dimensions and if I have not mentioned some recent event, restaurant or store happening — my apologies. Most important, please support our local merchants and businesses by shopping and dining locally.