Eric Norenberg, who began serving as Milford’s City Manager in January 2016, says that the biggest positive change has seen in Milford over the past year is the Downtown Development District designation issued by Governor Jack Markell in August. He says he believes the designation will bring significant building activity in the downtown area.
“As we see the new Bayhealth hospital start coming out of the ground, I think we will begin seeing plans for additional development in that area,” Mr. Norenberg said. “I expect there will also be an increase in new housing starts as well. There was much planning and engagement with the DDD prior to my arrival that enabled our successful application, but achieving the designation has spurred quite a bit of visible activity downtown as well as visible planning activities behind the scenes.”
Mr. Norenberg said that many projects are underway and others being planned as a result of the DDD designation. He says that the designation will allow some tenants to benefit from repairs and improvements while landmarks in downtown are being refurbished for new businesses who want to invest in downtown. Mr. Norenberg says that much of the internal organizational reviews taking place in the city are less visible to the public, but necessary. He said that he expects changes proposed in early 2017 and more later in the year as the City works to adjust the organization to continue to be responsive to the needs of the citizens and operate in the most efficient manner.
Infrastructure needs are also a focus for Mr. Norenberg in 2017. Delaware Department of Transportation plans to repave Northeast and Northwest Front Street (Route 14) in the next year or so. This means the City needs to assess and replace underground utilities prior to that project beginning. The City also plans to conduct a pavement inventory to plan and prioritize future City street improvements. Sidewalk repairs and improvements are also on the agenda for the upcoming year.
One issue facing Milford and many small towns in Delaware is a recent statement from Attorney General Matt Denn regarding the use of prevailing wage in municipal projects. According to Delaware Code, prevailing wages are “the minimum wages to be paid to various classes of laborers and mechanics which shall be based upon the wages that will be determined by the Delaware Department of Labor, Division of Industrial Affairs, to be prevailing in the county in which the work is to be performed.” Mr. Norenberg said that this could make it difficult for Milford to complete some of the projects they were hoping to complete in 2017.
“Requiring prevailing wage rates prevents the competitive free market from determining the true cost of constructing a project,” Mr. Norenberg said. “We will monitor the situation and determine the best course of action in 2017. If a bill to correct the language in the bond bill is placed in time, projects may benefit.” One project that could be negatively impacted by the prevailing wage requirement is the resurfacing of Airport Road. If the City is required to use prevailing wage, the cost of the project could increase significantly which could mean a delay if the City must make budget adjustments to cover those added costs.
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