Milford City Council to help fund the 2020 Big Draw Festival

MILFORD — City Council on Monday gave a big boost to the Big Draw Festival.

Mispillion Art League’s annual monthlong arts education festival will take place in October, and council members have decided to help fund it.

The amount the city needed to subsidize dropped from $4,646 to $3,346 when City Solicitor David Rutt and Vice Mayor Jason James both pledged $500, Councilman Todd Culotta pledged $200 and Councilman Daniel Marabello pledged $100 to the MAL for the event.

“I think it’s really important that we support the arts. They’re very important to making the city go forward,” Councilman Marabello said.

He added that the group’s “normal fundraising activities were curtailed, and while I can appreciate not funding it totally, I think this year is the exception because of the pandemic. I wouldn’t like to discourage all of these volunteers from doing a heck of a job for the city.”

Councilman Culotta also had a deep appreciation for the event, but expressed some trepidation about funding it via the city’s coffers.

“I had the opportunity to attend this last year,” he said. “It was definitely a unique and fun event that does bring foot traffic to downtown Milford. My only concern overall about changing this policy is that we open the door for a lot of other nonprofits to make similar financial requests.”

Back in June 2000, the council unanimously moved to ban the city from donating to private nonprofit organizations other than those directly created or commissioned by the city, like Downtown Milford Inc. Ultimately, the funding for MAL was approved by having the organization partner with Milford’s Parks & Recreation Department.

The funding was approved 7-1, with Councilwoman Katrina Wilson as the sole “no” vote.

“I think it’s wonderful what you’re doing and how many people are participating or that you anticipate to participate,” she said. Still, “we do have to consider the small amount of participants you have versus the entire city, and we do have to consider everyone that’s being affected by COVID.”

Councilwoman Wilson noted that the city is already in a position where, due to the pandemic, it may have to re-balance its budget given the high number of delinquent utility payments.

“I’m not saying that we do not need activities and entertainment and the arts, but I’m saying those are some of the things that we have to consider,” she added. She ultimately dissented on the funding “based on representing all of the organizations within the city of Milford.”

Also during the meeting, the council approved two projects to rework streets on the south side of the Mispillion River. The first was the Mispillion Street Group Project, centered on McColley Street between Southeast Front and Mispillion streets, Mispillion Street between Marshall Street and Fisher Avenue, and Marshall Street between Southeast Front Street and the Milford dog park.

City Manager Mark Whitfield said that repaving, rebuilding sidewalks and other updates to the neighborhood have been on Milford’s slate since he started working with the city in 2016.

City engineer James Puddicombe said that Diamond Materials, which the city has worked with before, received the contract for the project with their bid of $682,386.

“We received three bids in total. All of the bids were well under the engineer’s estimate,” he said. “I don’t know if that’s due to a shortage of work on these companies’ part or the increased size of the project. Typically, you get some value for the larger size.”

He said the project “involves not only the road surface, but some minor sewer extension for a proposed future project and some water main installation to provide a water main loop and replacement of an existing water main line.”

The other project was focused on Lovers Lane near Southeast Second Street, for which the contract to repave and rework parts of the water system was awarded to the lowest bidder, the David A. Bramble Corp.

“We believe there may be the requirement for some full-depth patch replacements due to the additional load from school buses,” Mr. Puddicombe said. “Other than that, there’s a small amount of asbestos cement (in the) water main that extends into this section of road that we want to remove and replace with something a little less harmful.”

Also Monday, the council unanimously approved appropriating some money from the city’s general fund for COVID-19 expenses.

“We are asking for funding from the general fund for $20,000” for coronavirus expenses for fiscal year 2020, said Sandra Peck, an accountant for the city. “We expect it to be closer to $15,000, but because (the Federal Emergency Management Agency) has not gotten through a review of our expenses yet, we’re not positive that everything will qualify.”

She estimated that FEMA would cover 75% of these emergency expenses, which totaled $58,876 for fiscal year 2020. The council also approved $9,500 of appropriations from the general fund for COVID-19 in fiscal year 2021.
Staff writer Noah Zucker can be reached at nzucker@newszap.com.