Government & Politics

Council Discusses Water Treatment, Economic Development

An overhead view of the proposed park area on Washington Street in downtown Milford.
An overhead view of the proposed park area on Washington Street in downtown Milford.

By Terry Rogers

On Monday, July 28, Milford City Council held a workshop to discuss relocation of the water treatment facility currently located on Washington Street as well as a USDA funding proposal. No action was taken on either matter as the council was being provided information on the two items.

City Manager Richard Carmean began by explaining that when the Washington Street treatment plan was created, the decision was made to rebuild on the location where the current plant existed. Originally, the city had planned to drill a well on the property and to build a new billing office on the site. However, bore testing for the well found contaminated soil which eliminated it as a location for a well. When the city purchased the PNC Bank building to use as the billing office, the sale included property behind the bank as well.

“When we started looking at the project, we found that relocating the water treatment facility to the lot behind the billing office was a much better option,” explained Mr. Carmean. “It would provide additional park space and would provide additional parking spaces in the area. Not only that, the more we thought about it, we realized leaving the treatment center on the riverbank was probably not a good idea.”

Davis, Bowen & Friedel engineer, Erik Retzlaff, presented drawings showing the treatment center where it is currently proposed as well as renderings of the new location.

“The building will be seven-by-seven with a 15-foot tall aerator,” Mr. Retzlaff said. “Water must collect in a reservoir under the aerator. Because of the ground contamination at the original site, the reservoir must be above ground, but if it is moved to the new location, the majority of it could be below ground.” Mr. Retzlaff explained that the move would require the purchase of a generator at a cost of approximately $80,000, but the city could save money on the exterior of the building as there was no need for brick as there was at the initial location. Mr. Retzlaff explained that there were very few buildings around the new location that were brick, and that this could save the city approximately $45,000.

Mr. Carmean said that the relocation of the water treatment center would be placed on a City Council agenda in August.

The second half of the workshop was for council to discuss USDA funding possibilities. Mr. Carmean explained that the USDA had provided the opportunity for the city to borrow $2 million at 2.375 percent interest with a payback period of 40 years. The city charter requires that loans with payback periods longer than five years must be approved by the voters, so borrowing the funds would require a referendum.

“What the USDA is offering is a $2 million loan as well as the ability to apply for an additional $2 million grant,” Mr. Carmean explained. “Of course, the grant does not have to be paid back, so if we were approved, we would be getting $4 million for projects but only required to payback $2 million. If we are not approved for the grant, we can decline to take the loan.”

Councilwoman Katrina Wilson asked how the loan would affect the citizens who used sewer services since the loan and grant must be used solely for sewer projects. According to Mr. Retzlaff, the debt service on the loan would be approximately $77,500.

“The good news is that this will not raise sewer rates,” explained Mr. Carmean. “I mean, we may have to raise water and sewer rates in the future, but not due to this loan or the debt service.” Lisa Fitzgerald of the USDA also explained that there was no penalty for paying the loan early.

Mr. Retzlaff said that there were benefits to borrowing the USDA funds as the city would not be required to borrow $4 million with the promise of a refund at a later date. The loan would not be more than $2 million. In addition, the loan does not require prevailing wage rates which could save 20 to 30 percent on the cost of the projects.

“This program is only available to municipalities with 10,000 people or less, so we barely made it under the qualification level,” said Mr. Retzlaff. “After the next census, Milford will no longer qualify for this funding, which is why council may want to consider it now.”

Although projects have not been determined for how the city would use the funding, Mr. Retzlaff said that the projects would probably include some pump station rehabilitation and upgrades as many of the stations were over 30 years old.

City Council Agrees to Increase Economic Development Funding

Also at Monday’s meeting, Milford City Council voted unanimously to increase funding for economic development in the city. Mayor Bryan Shupe presented a proposal that would earmark proceeds of the sale of land at Independence Commons for economic development in the city.

“For many years, the fund known as the Wawa account has helped promote economic development in the city,” Mayor Shupe said. “That fund is dwindling and we need a way to keep economic development funds coming in. Right now, proceeds from the land sold at Independence Commons is placed in the General Fund. Since the land there is selling for $125,000 an acre, placing those proceeds into a fund specifically designed to improve the economy in the area could be extremely beneficial.”

Councilman Skip Pikus pointed out that one parcel in the industrial park had been purchased back by the city using the General Fund and that the proceeds of the sale of that land needed to be returned to the General Fund. City Manager Richard Carmean said that he was in negotiations with two buyers currently, one of which was planning to purchase the lot that the city had just repurchased. He said that the money from the proceeds would return to the General Fund for that lot.

“I am in full support,” said Councilman Garrett Grier. “But I think we need some sort of guidelines on what that money can be used for or we will have a lot of people with their hands out to use it.” Mayor Shupe agreed, saying that it would be a good idea to have a set of guidelines to be sure the money promoted economic development.

In June, City Council approved the 2014-15 budget which included funding for a City Planner with Economic Development knowledge, and Mr. Carmean said that they expected to have the new position filled in September. Using proceeds from the sale of land at Independence Commons would be partially used to continue funding that position.

“I think this is good because it would provide funding for that position,” said Councilman Katrina Wilson. “Although we do have the money budgeted now, this would help us in the future to be sure that position will remain long-term.”

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