CLINTON — After being passed the mayoral torch from John L. Crossley, who served his community for almost three decades, Mayor Steven J. Bellona said he’s “keeping the home fires burning” as he looks ahead into the new year.
Bellona recently sat down and reflected on his last year as mayor after Crossley announced his retirement back in March. He admitted that with most projects, the groundwork was laid by his predecessor, but that progress in his village continues. Bellona served as a village trustee just a little more than a year before being elected mayor in 2019.
Bellona has been a part of the Clinton community since being hired back in 1997 as associate vice-president of facilities and planning at Hamilton College.
• What was your most proud accomplishment as mayor this past year (such as Clinton being named a Green Community, LED lights and the Run for the Fallen held in June)?
“A lot of this stuff I have to give credit to John Crossley for and his board,” as for the Green Community designation, Bellona said. “I just basically took that on and sort of worked through that and made the effort to implement it. It just happened on my watch, but it’s John’s accomplishment more than it is mine, so that to me, is really a credit to him.”
• What about the Honor Run (Run for the Fallen)?
“I have to give credit to my son. I’m proud of him and the folks who have taken on that responsibility — and taking on a load afterwards — and making it continue in that process because it really is something that’s quite needed. It’s always important to remember those gone before us who made the ultimate sacrifice. We talk about the previous larger wars like World War I and II, and the Korean Conflict, Vietnam...and I don’t think we’ve lost sight of the most recent wars, but those (recent) wars were fought by a professional military service.”
In wars past, “They were drafted, but at the same time...we have a duty and responsibility as a public to continue to think about and remember those who have served, and honor those who gave the ultimate sacrifice. And we do it with honor and respect for one another…I’m proud of my son, and to at least be able to be part of that,” was an honor.
“I’m a veteran myself I served in the Coast Guard — I served on six ships — five of them cutters…We were involved in the evacuation of Vietnam and Cambodia in March and April of 1975.”
• What are your plans for the future?
“One of my concerns right now is moving forward with some of the projects started under John’s watch, with regards to water infrastructure — the water service we have. It’s been an on-going thing for the last 3-4 years and we still have work to do. We did some work on the water tanks and upgraded some water lines, and put in some valves. We redid some of the well structures — well pumps — the South Street tanks, Kellogg Street…We replaced a lot of our controls and the generator for each one of the two pumping stations.
Right now we’re finishing up that work...maybe some items around the South Street tank, but hopefully that will be done this spring. We’re still working on connecting the water line at the dead ends. We still have opportunities for new bonding that we haven’t committed to yet. We approved $3.3 million in bonding about three years ago before I came onto the board, and now we’re moving forward.”
As for water infrastructure improvements, “A lot has already been built into our budget, but at the same time, we need to get some numbers in and a design in, and what our expectations are in getting that work done. It’s a broader scope of our whole water system — it needs to be upgraded.”
• What about sewer repairs?
“That’s a separate issue. Right now we’re in the middle of doing an investigative study — to run cameras down to see what the problems are. Hopefully that will be completed this spring.”
Bellona went on to explain how the village is part of a sewer district or consortium that includes the municipality, as well as the Town of Kirkland and Hamilton College, known as the CSSA (Clinton Sewer Service Area). The districts are part of a service area created in 1978 and each entity is responsibility for one-third, or about $65,000, in funding to maintain the system. The service area provides a fee structure to support the waste water treatment plant and it also provides bonding based on the three entities’ metered water use.
As part of the tax levy, the village funds the CSSA, and it also maintains its own sewer system for which it’s responsible for most the infrastructure — the underground lines into the interceptor (main/larger underground sewer pipe) and lines outside.
Those lines “are still our responsibility to maintain,” the mayor said. “There are areas we need to get into and repair. We can’t get funding” for sewer district upgrades “until we know what we need to repair.” Some lines “are older than 1978.”
Looking into the coming year, Bellona said the village also plans to continue work on capital planning for the fire department, Department of Public Works, and the sewer study.
“Then we can construct a long-term financial plan…those entities are our biggest expenses,” he said.
As for other items, “Storm water management is something” the village also needs to look into. “We know we’ve got some flooding taking place, but we have to understand what the problems are first. We’re working with the town, which is conducting a study on the Oriskany Creek watershed (which the town has funding for from the county)...We’re on a flood plain. So it’s about recognizing that, and we need to look at what our options are. Delta Engineers are looking at this (on Route 5), and that’s a study we need to get done.”
Another project for the village is exploring the opportunity to become a Climate Smart Community.
“We have a special joint session on Jan. 29. The Climate Smart Community is a local group presentation…Is it something we want to get involved in and move forward?,” and during the session, village officials, “will get a sense on what the commitment is and what that means for us. Clean energy is part of that, but this (CSC) encompasses a larger range” of opportunities.
Work on the village’s code review also continues.
“The code review we’re doing right now…We’re sort of in the second phase, and we’ll be hopefully moving into the third phase shortly.”
The fiscal code, “We’re putting it in a new format and republishing it…It takes all the (codes) amendments and puts them in a new format so we can see why and when those changes were made,” said Bellona, adding that this hasn’t been done since the 1960s.
I look forward to continue my work with the local community,” Bellona said. “We have a very vibrant business district, the historical group’s mission has done a wonderful job maintaining the integrity of our historical district…I feel honored to have this opportunity to work with the town, college, the village and larger groups to move the village forward in any way we can. I’ve learned a lot, but I still have a lot to learn.”