Infrastructure problems were the biggest issues facing Richard Carmean when he returned to the City Manager’s position just over a year ago. After a brief retirement, Carmean returned to a position he had held for 11 years. At the time he took the job, he knew that infrastructure problems would be his focus.
“Most of the time, my focus was on the infrastructure of the town, but the day-to-day operations of the town and the time it took out of my day actually surprised me,” Carmean said.
The biggest issue facing the town was the quality and quantity of water, requiring the town to drill test wells in various locations. The first test well drilled came in dry, while a second hit contamination, causing setbacks to increasing the town’s water supply.
“These were setbacks, but we are now moving forward,” Carmean explained. “We have drilled a successful well in Southeast Milford that will enable us to build a new water tower.”
In addition to the new tower, a $4 million project to build a new water plant, reservoir and billing office downtown is underway. Moving the billing office to a downtown location rather than at the Public Works building where it is today offers more convenience to citizens and because the land used is land the city already owns, there is a cost savings as well. The new water plant, reservoir and billing office will be built on South Washington Street. Previously, the building housed the City of Milford Police Department and, more recently, the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Milford and the Downtown Milford organization. That building will be demolished. However, even that project has had minor setbacks as initial borings found evidence of debris that must be removed in order to build the foundation for the new building.
In addition to the water needs of the town, work on local roads is another infrastructure project Carmean is focusing on.
“Southeast Front Street is due for an overlay, and we had hoped to complete that last summer,” Carmean said. “But when we started evaluating the project, we found that we needed to do some major sewer and water maintenance under the road, and we knew if we didn’t repair that first, it would lead to problems down the road.”
Major work is needed on Airport Road as well, Carmean explained, with the commercial growth in that area. However, funding is a problem, and it may take some “band-aids” to correct problems in that area for the time being.
Carmean is pleased with the activity and growth he sees, both residentially and commercially. He pointed out that many of the businesses in Milford are growing, with companies like Sea Watch adding 100 or more employees over the past year and other companies discussing expansion. He stated that the town is working with Baltimore Air Coil, located just at the edge of the city limits, to help them with water issues. The city is trying to do whatever they can to keep the company based in Milford as it provides jobs for over 400 people.
In addition to infrastructure problems, Carmean also focuses on assisting Steve Masten, the Director of Economic Development, a position Carmean also held when he first returned to Milford government.
“Economic development is more than just bringing jobs to the area, although that is a big part of it,” Carmean explained. “It is about education, utilities, and many other things necessary to entice businesses into the area.” Carmean pointed out that a few years ago contractors were building 300 or more homes per year in the area and that that number has dropped significantly. He also indicated that there were many layoffs by businesses in the area during the recent economic crisis, and although the job market is improving people are still struggling.
“One great thing to happen was that First State Manufacturing moved into a beautiful building that could easily have remained an old, deserted warehouse,” Carmean said. He felt that this is another indication that aesthetics play a large part in bringing businesses into Milford. Carmean feels that what we look like is almost as important as what we offer when it comes to bringing new businesses in. He feels it may take more enforcement of existing ordinances regarding trash, lawn maintenance and building codes to keep Milford looking attractive.
Another area of focus for Carmean in the upcoming year is the needs of the police department. Carmean, who spent 25 years as the Chief of Police, and whose name is on the current police station, says that the force has definitely outgrown the facilities.
“Sardines come to mind when I think of those men and women,” Carmean joked. “Seriously, the station is too small and that needs to be addressed. We have taken steps to purchase property for a new station, but again, funding is an issue. We may need to look at some creative funding and we will need a lot of community support.”
One project that came to fruition in 2012 is the solar field, located across from U.S. Cold Storage on Route 14. Carmean praised the city’s electric department with making that project a success.
“By making the connections necessary, the electric department helped get that project completed and without them the project could have been in huge trouble,” Carmean stated. A new electric substation is planned near the solar field and although the City does not see a huge savings now from the project, Carmean feels that Milford should be proud of the fact that such a large, green energy project located here.
“We take pride on the success of others,” Carmean said. The city will eventually see some savings as the solar field grows.
Carmean says that he is always working to keep costs down as much as possible as he knows that the economy is still tough for many people. The town recently underwent a 10-year tax reassessment, and many residents saw taxes rise between 20 and 30 percent. The upcoming year promises to be a busy one for the City as infrastructure corrections continue and city government works towards economic development to bring jobs to the area.