Milford rejects mixed-use Riverwalk development, mulls leaving Kent Economic Partnership

MILFORD — City Council has officially rejected a plan to develop a city-owned property on the Riverwalk, behind The Salvation Army and next to the basketball court.

“Our recommendation is to deny the proposal for the redevelopment of the Washington Street property for mixed-use development,” said City Manager Mark Whitfield during council’s meeting Monday.

Rob Pierce, Milford’s planning and economic development director, said the city recommends that “the Washington Street property be used for recreational purposes, as we discussed at the last meeting. We’ll define that a little better in upcoming workshops.”

The council also tabled several issues until its upcoming retreat, which Councilman Todd Culotta said he hoped would be “sooner rather than later,” but is unscheduled at this time.

Vice Mayor Jason James said decisions about creating an additional economic director position to the city’s rolls and whether to keep paying $30,000 a year into the Kent Economic Partnership, a unified committee of towns from across the county, should wait until the retreat when they could be discussed “in a comprehensive way.”

At a previous meeting, the council agreed to leave the KEP.

“We had a meeting this past month with KEP,” Mr. Whitfield said. “They requested that the council reconsider the position on renewing the contract with KEP.”

Councilman Culotta said he is not excited about that prospect.

“We’re essentially looking at this, saying, ‘We said no, but they came back and asked us to look at it again without any more data, … without any more value added,’” he said.

Councilman Doug Morrow, who has been Milford’s representative to the KEP, said he plans to continue going to the meetings.

“According to KEP bylaws, we still have a seat on their board,” he said. “I will continue to attend until council wishes me not to attend or KEP changes their bylaws. That’s not tied into any financial (issue).”

Mayor Archie Campbell said he discussed the KEP with other mayors statewide and concluded that the city should hire a new economic development administrator to carry out the services the KEP had provided.

“They were all in agreement that we should probably have our own economic development person onboard,” Mayor Campbell said. “In fact, Seaford has theirs. Harrington now has a new mayor, so he’s now looking at that.”

Mr. Whitfield said he and Jamesha Eaddy, Milford’s human resources director, have written up a tentative job description for an “economic development and community engagement administrator” and identified potential funding for the position.

“Council has talked about creating a stronger economic development, internal city focus,” Mr. Whitfield said.

“This position would combine that with what we have identified as a need in community engagement and public information, as well as marketing,” he said. “It would be a single position that would address both needs.”

Mr. Whitfield said “council may want to hold off and discuss this position, along with your other economic development ideas, at the retreat,” which is ultimately what they decided to do.

“I’m a strong advocate of the position, but I do think we shouldn’t make a decision until we have a retreat and discuss this in the total vision it fits in,” Vice Mayor James said.

Councilwoman Katrina Wilson said she is excited about the position.
“I’m really happy that you all put this together and happy that you have gone forth knowing that it’s something that we really need,” she said to Mr. Whitfield. “We’ve been wanting a position like this for a number of years now, so kudos to you.”

The council also welcomed a new intern to the city’s Public Works Department, Jose Perez.

“He’s a senior at Milford High School,” said Milford’s Public Works Director Mike Svaby. “His counselor, Kate Lynch, reached out to us because he had interests in engineering and technology. He has actually been with us since Monday, Oct. 26.”

In her staff report on the Human Resources Office, Ms. Eaddy said Mr. Perez’s internship was part of an initiative on the city’s part to educate local students via internships with the city.