CLINTON — The Clinton Lions Club has presented the town with nearly $16,000 to be used to buy a new electronic sign for the Town Hall in order to help inform the community.

The donation has pleased town officials, who are excited that the roadside sign project can move forward thanks to private funds.

“For several months there has been discussions around how much the town needed to find a better way to communicate to the public useful information in town and about town events,” said Clinton Town Manager Earla Haggerty, who added that the town now gets the word out through an email subscriber system, a Facebook account, and roadside message boards with movable letters that have to be changed by hand.

“Message boards are helpful to get one or two notices published,” Haggerty said, “but they can’t be changed often enough to serve as a good source of information for the public.”

Lions Club leadership says the group often supports local charitable efforts, but it was looking for a larger project to support this year.

“When this came along, we thought it would be a good opportunity,” said club President Michael Watson, who lives in China but grew up in Clinton and has “always had a connection with the town and the Lions Club.”

Watson said the club has “never done anything this substantial” in terms of a single gift of this size, which he said was around $15,900. The decision to make the donation came after club conversations about embarking on a “major project.”

“This was something a little different,” Watson said.

Haggerty said Town Clerk Melody Fitzpatrick took the lead on the sign project, conducting research and contacting Northern Signs in Waterville to design and make the sign. Fitzpatrick provided a copy of the design, which is really a combination of two signs: a green-and-white conventional sign on top that will read “Town of Clinton Municipal Office” and credit the Lions for the gift, along with an electronic sign below that the town staff can update with information about meetings and events.

“We’re just so grateful, so excited,” said Fitzpatrick, who estimates the sign could be completed in six to eight weeks.

According to Haggerty, the Clinton Selectboard was prepared to put the sign on next year’s Town M0eeting warrant as a capital improvement article before the donation became a reality.

“They just kept saying how thrilled they were with it,” said Watson, who credited club member Jon Whitten Sr. for initiating the Lions’ involvement with the sign.

“He’s the one that kind of brought it up in the first place,” Watson said of Whitten.

Like Watson, Whitten said the club had been looking for a significant project to support “that would help the townspeople.” He stumbled upon information about the town looking for a way to get a sign while reading the municipal newsletter, and he suggested it as a way for the club to help the town while also raising awareness about the Lions and what they do.

“This one just happened to hit me,” Whitten said. “We were very pleased to do it.”

Fitzpatrick and Haggerty said a different club member then approached them and suggested the town write a letter to the Lions outlining the need for the sign.

“A resident who is also a club member asked Melody and I to write a letter that he would present to the club outlining the town’s need for the sign,” Haggerty said. “He advised the club was looking to do a community project of some kind and perhaps this would be something the club would consider. We wrote the letter, and the rest is history.”

According to Watson, the Lions Club has just over 60 members and has been fortunate in its ability to keep membership numbers up; but it is working to attract young people to the group. Watson has spent 32 years in the club, of which his daughter is a member, and hopes the donation will raise awareness about the work the Lions do in the community and potentially attract some new members.

“A lot of the things we do, I’m sure people don’t realize we do,” said Watson, noting that the sign will be a more visual display of their community efforts.

“I’m sure it will be a little bit before we can do (another) project of this size,” Watson said.

Nancy Wright, who has been part of the Lions Club for 22 years, echoed Watson’s hope that the donation also will shine light on the club’s community involvement, which she said includes support for visual and hearing initiatives.

“It’s all about service — service to the community,” said Wright, whose husband, Sam, is also a Lions Club member of more than 30 years.

Clinton resident John Owens said while leaving the Town Hall on Thursday that he was unaware of the electronic sign effort but thought it could be a positive addition to the town with the ability to “bring attention to people” — as long as it doesn’t require taxpayer dollars to do so. He was happy to hear the Lions have made the donation.

Matt Junker — 861-9253

[email protected]

Twitter: @mattjunker

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