Milford City Council talks finances and water after recognizing police officer

MILFORD — During Monday’s City Council meeting, Milford police Sgt. Robert Masten was named Officer of the Quarter by Chief Kenneth Brown.

“He does most of our news releases. He does all of our social media,” Chief Brown said. “Even when he’s off, if we have an accident somewhere, he’s tweeting out the locations and asking people to avoid the areas. In that sense, he’s never off, and he volunteers to do that.”

The chief recalled an incident in May when a senior citizen at a nursing home got a hold of a knife and held it to his own throat. Sgt. Masten was one of the first people on the scene and was single-handedly able to talk the man into surrendering the knife.

“I think that speaks volumes to how well he was doing the job,” Chief Brown said. “When people say, ‘We’re not mental health experts,’ that’s very true, but I can tell you, there’s many officers like Robbie Masten that are out there every day doing mental health work and doing a great job with it.”

Sgt. Masten said he made a friend that day and hopes to spend time with the man after the COVID-19 crisis subsides. He added that the man was a history buff with an unparalleled knowledge of Milford’s local history.

“It’s very, very fortunate that when he saw my last name, he was a 30-year patient of my (doctor) father, so that created a nice conversation,” Sgt. Masten said. “We found something in common. My dad hates retirement, and this guy really hated retirement. That kind of softened him pretty good.”

After Sgt. Masten was recognized, Councilman Mike Boyle summarized the monthly police report.

“Overall, statistics remain lower than normal due to COVID-19,” Councilman Boyle said. “I was curious, so I looked up last July’s statistics.”

He said that in comparison with July 2019, July 2020 had 378 fewer arrests, 283 fewer traffic violations and 182 fewer complaints.

Councilman Jason James summarized the city’s finance report and estimated that Milford’s net income for the current fiscal year would be $3,088,000. He said the city is dealing with about $300,000 in unpaid property taxes and about $250,000 in unpaid utility bills.

“To the degree that someone doesn’t pay their property taxes, it may not be an immediate recoup,” Councilman James said, “but it does go as a lien against that property.”

This means that if a property owner’s property taxes to the city continue to go unpaid, the city would have a right to a portion of the profits generated if the property is sold.

“The property taxes, I could see how we could recoup in the end, but the utilities I was more worried about because with the COVID and the people out of work, that was a concern of mine when I was discussing things with the utility folks,” said Councilman Andrew Fulton.

“We continue to track any delinquent accounts, whether it be taxes or utilities or whatever,” said City Manager Mark Whitfield. “There may come a time where we have to write some of that off, but we’re not there yet.”

Mr. Whitfield said the city has received $50,000 from the Delaware Municipal Electric Corp. to help people in Milford pay for their utilities. The money will be given to Catholic Charities, which he said is better suited to distribute the money based on need.

“Folks have four months to bring up their deficits and make their account whole,” Mr. Whitfield said. “They’ll have till the end of November then we will deal with it on a case-by-case basis for those who need extended periods of time.”

Mayor Archie Campbell said that in comparison with other nearby municipalities, Milford’s utility woes are small.

“Talking with some of the other mayors, a couple of the communities have a $7.2 million or $7.7 million deficit on their utilities, so we’re looking at $250,000. We’re not so bad,” he said.

The mayor said some other towns are putting residents who are delinquent on their utility bills on payment plans with no interest, something that could possibly happen in Milford down the road.

The council also authorized Steve Ellingsworth, Milford’s water plant and wastewater operations supervisor, to hire a new water and wastewater technician.

“We’ve had an issue with regard to having one employee that gets split between two divisions. He spends about 50% of his time in the water and wastewater facilities side and spends another 50% over in the streets and utilities side,” Mr. Whitfield said.

He said the addition of a new employee should remedy the scheduling confusion caused by this worker having to split his time.

Staff writer Noah Zucker can be reached at nzucker@newszap.com.