Council Seeks Legislator Support For Street Funding

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cityhallBy Terry Rogers

Recently, Governor Jack Markell announced a proposed cut in the Community Transportation Fund, a discretionary account that legislators use to fund local projects. On Monday, February 9, 2015, Milford City Council voted unanimously to send a letter to local legislators asking them not to support the cut in funding as it would place significant hardship on the town.

“Cutting this fund would have a significant impact in Milford,” said Hans Medlarz, City Manager. “In the past, legislators have provided funding for many Milford projects that could not have been completed without that funding. The funds are constituency driven and provide the state with a good return on their investment.”

The letter, which is addressed to Senators Gary Simpson and Colin Bonnini as well as Representatives Harvey Kenton, Steve Peterman and Dave Wilson, explains that continued investment in transportation infrastructure is critical to the mobility of citizens in Milford. The letter says that the Community Transportation Fund is instrumental in addressing issues with local roadways throughout the town, not just those in city limits.

“The level of urgency for the repair of Airport Road and 10th Street was established during the council meeting as all eight council members voted unanimously to select the project as the highest priority,” Mayor Bryan Shupe said. “The properties adjacent to Airport Road, including the Milford business park, Walmart property and Wawa property see an extraordinary amount of traffic. A substantial percentage is truck traffic which has resulted in the significant damage that can now be observed.” Mr. Medlarz explained that Airport Road was, at one time, maintained by the state, but was taken over by the City when the Industrial Park was located there. However, there was an understanding that road improvements would use Community Transportation Funds.

The letter explains that the condition of Airport Road has deteriorated significantly over the years and that many constituent complaints are received by council and the legislators on a regular basis. The city relies on predictable funding in order to maintain the road, as well as for other infrastructure projects. Significant reductions would severely hamper the ability of the City to plan and implement projects in a logical and efficient manner. Mayor Shupe said that the city has already started taking exploratory soil borings and found subsoil challenges. He said that the city was currently in the project design and development stage.

Senator Gary Simpson said that the legislature is the deciding vote on what gets cut or added to the budget and that he doubted they would go along with eliminating Community Transportation Funding.

“During my time in the legislature, I have seen cuts in this funding and that may happen in this year’s budget,” Senator Simpson said. “I am under the understanding that the Governor has recommended a cut going into the Municipal Street Aid fund. These are monies which are allotted to each municipality in the state. Cuts to this fund have happened in the past and is almost certainly on the table this year.” Senator Simpson explained that 2016 will be another tight budget year and that the economy in the state remains sluggish. He also said that the Delaware Economic Forecasting Advisory Council numbers do not predict good things for the economy in the state.

Senator Simpson said that several items are under consideration for either elimination or cut-back to balance the budget. He also cautioned that this was only a recommendation by the Governor and that the legislature must weigh-in on those recommendations. Since the Community Transportation Fund is a very small portion of the state’s $1.9 billion budget, he expected legislators to do everything in their power not to eliminate funding for projects that would benefit their constituency back home.

“The Community Transportation Fund and Municipal Street Aid appropriations are quite essential to the city’s ability to repair and maintain substantial sections of the roadway,” said Mayor Shupe. “Without this funding, the city would not be able to proceed with larger projects such as the reconstruction and overlay of Front Street that was recently completed.”