By Randy Bell
Food trucks and trailers which are scattered around Clinton could be brought together in a centralized location, if an idea being kicked around by the Board of Aldermen becomes a reality.
Ward 1 Alderwoman Karen Godfrey says a lot of research is being done on the possibility of a food truck park.
“Right now, we’re just trying to find out from different folks around the country what rent they’re charging, what food trucks need, what they have to have to operate so that we can set up something that actually works,” Godfrey says. She says the City engineer is looking into the cost of running electrical service and water to a possible site—a little-used section of East College Street near the Dairy Queen.
“We attempted [to consider] several different places and really didn’t have a whole lot of control over the locations,” Godfrey says. “This [the East College site] is something we can control better and set it up the way we want it set up.”
Main Street Clinton Director Tara Lytal is assisting with the project by contacting other cities.
“We’re just trying to look at how [food truck parks] are done,” she says. “To my knowledge, most of them are not run by the cities. They’re independent.”
But Lytal says it could be a positive thing for Clinton.
“It’s a great business incubator, a great entry level for restaurants. Maybe they can start as a food truck and [later] move to a larger location. I think it’s got a lot of potential,” said Lytal. “It’s definitely something we’re exploring.”
Ward 6 Alderman James Lott says a food truck park on East College might be the way to go, at least temporarily.
But Lott says, “I don’t know if this is the best idea long-term.”
There’s been some talk about a possible site at the old Hardee’s location at the corner of Clinton Boulevard and Lakeview Drive.
“I would prefer to see [the food truck park] there. But of course, the City doesn’t own that property, so we can’t make that happen.”
Lott says setting up an attractive spot for food trucks on that busy corner could help to revitalize the Boulevard area. But, for now, he thinks the East College location might work.
“The best thing we could do is find somewhere where we could maybe keep those trucks from being scattered all over the city and becoming a nuisance,” said Lott. “Some people want them, some people don’t. I think you’ve got to find a middle ground.”
Lott says if the East College location is chosen, the plan would be to block off the street, with food trucks occupying part of the pavement, with room for customer parking.
Ward 2 Alderman Jim Martin still has some concerns about the project and food trucks in general.
“Possibly you could put something together that’s real nice, but it’s also very possible it could turn into something less than attractive or something not that nice,” Martin says. “So, I’m still waiting to see, as the discussions and the plans evolve.”
And a point he’s made before – he’s worried about the food trucks cutting into the business at Clinton’s traditional restaurants.
“One of my big concerns is how [the food truck park] is going to affect our brick and mortar restaurants. We’ve been working so hard trying to bring in nice restaurants,” said Martin. “Food trucks have a lower overhead. What kind of effect [will that have] on our present brick and mortar restaurants and attracting new ones into town?”