One of the items on the agenda at the Milford City Council meeting on Monday, September 23, was a request from Milford School District Superintendent Phyllis Kohel, asking for a waiver of City Code Chapter 79, Section I3 regarding prohibited animals within city limits. City Manager Richard Carmean received a letter from Dr. Kohel explaining that the new Agriculture Education barn may violate this code, and that the district was requesting a waiver for the barn to allow them to temporarily house livestock for educational purposes.
City Solicitor, David Rutt, informed council that the matter needed to be referred to the Board of Adjustments as they would be the ones to make such a decision. Some council members questioned why there needed to be a waiver as they believed the district was always planning to house animals in the barn.
“I believe we were told that animals would be held there,” Councilman Owen Brooks said. “I think we said housing animals would be fine as long as it was for educational purposes.” Planning Commission Chairman Jamie Burk, who was in attendance at the meeting, said that he did not remember the commission talking about animals, but that there would need to be a waiver passed in order to allow livestock to be housed in the barn. Council voted unanimously to send the matter to the Board of Adustments.
According to Judith Bruns of the Milford High School Agriculture Department, the district always knew that a waiver would be necessary for the barn, but there were certain steps that must be taken before they obtained the waiver.
“Throughout the life of this project, we have changed Superintendents as well as Buildings and Grounds Supervisors. However, we always knew that the waiver would have to be requested, but the district was waiting until we had a more definite completion date on the building before proceeding with the paperwork for the waiver,” Dr. Kohel expanded further on the recent request of City Council.
“When we got the Ag barn project back up and running, I was told that there had been some ‘informal’ conversations with certain people regarding the housing of animals in the new Ag barn, but no one had followed the formal route of requesting a waiver from the city,” Dr. Kohel explained. “I wrote a letter to Richard Carmean, City Manager, asking him that he present our request for a waiver at a City Council meeting. So, I don’t believe anything slipped through the cracks. I just wanted to make sure that we were completely transparent with our intentions and that we had everything in writing.” The district says the plan was always to have students participate in the lifecycle of livestock.
“That will be possible with the short gestation period of sheep,” Ms. Bruns explained, indicating that initially there will only be sheep housed in the barn. Ms. Bruns says that students taking the three levels of Animal Science pathways will use the barn and be able to get hands-on experience with a wide variety of animals that the Career and Technical Education courses are designed to deliver.
“Right now, our animal science students learn a lot about raising and caring for animals, but we have very little opportunity to put that knowledge into practice,” Ms. Bruns explained. “The Ag facility will allow this with much greater ease than in the past. In addition, the Ag Structures classes and pathway will be abel to utilize their construction skills to put up walls and dividers inside the building as needed, as well as build storage cabinets for us in the building.”
Ms. Bruns explained that the Plant Science classes and pathway will also utilize the area first to design and execute a landscaping plan for the facility, along with a planned garden that will benefit the Food Bank of Delaware, or be used by the Food Science classes for preservation learning. The details regarding the garden proceeds are still in the planning stages, Ms. Bruns explained. The Agriculture Mechanics classes and pathway will be involved in the barn by designing and building a variety of gates or panels to keep animals enclosed. Eventually, the district hopes that science classes will be able to use the facility as well, so that it becomes a true cross curricular addition to the school.
Dr. Kohel explained that no district funds were used for the Agricultural Barn process, so it has not affected educational programs or classrooms in any way. The original funding came from State funding for Major Capital Improvements, and the balance of the costs came from contributions of local legislators.