by Terry Rogers
In May 2018, James Burk, Councilman for Ward 2, resigned from his position on Milford City Council due to work requirements. A Special Election will be held on August 23 from 7 AM until 7 PM. F. Todd Culotta and Andrew P. Fulton have filed to run for the open seat. It is important to note that those wishing to vote in the Special Election must be properly registered to vote with the City of Milford by registering at Town Hall. Registration to vote in State and National Elections does not register residents to vote in City elections. Residents and property owners in Ward II must be registered with the City by 4:30 PM on Tuesday, July 24, 2018, in order to be eligible to vote in the Special Election.
Todd Culotta provided the following answers to questions in order to provide voters with more information about his stance on City issues.
Q: How do you think the recent budget passed by the state will effect the City of Milford budget? What areas do you feel could be affected and what ideas do you have to resolve these concerns?
A: The city of Milford’s budget at around 43 million dollars should not be impacted by what folks at the state level decide to do. We need to direct our efforts on cleaning up crime, cleaning up the city, and attracting new investment to the area. The City of Milford will need to operate as efficiently as possible to make the best use of those taxpayer dollars to make Milford a better place. I don’t believe we need to raise taxes to meet our resident’s needs, and I would like to see us focus on bringing more businesses and residents to the area.
Q: Milford is expected to experience growth over the next several years. What do you believe that growth should look like and what role should the City play?
A: I think the growth we anticipate should focus on three main areas – industrial, small business, and residential. I would like to see not only the hospital get going, but also many medical services, providers and health care related businesses come to Milford and add to our economy. I believe the driving force behind our economic growth will be mainly health care, and we should be doing whatever we can to attract the best doctors, nurses and medical professionals to the area. Small business is, of course, the backbone of our economy nationwide, and there is no reason Milford should not take the lead in brining small business to the area. We have a growing population with a variety of needs. A low cost of entry to start a business in terms of real estate and room to grow make us ripe to support the small business owner. As healthcare and small business start and grow, so will our population and we will need to have housing to support that. I am excited about the growth of Milford and what our town could look like.
Q: The City has developed a Downtown Master Plan and been selected as a Downtown Development District by the State of Delaware. How do you view downtown and its role in the future of Milford?
A: I love the downtown and would like to see it continue to improve. In fact, a big part of the downtown area is in Ward 2, and I live downtown. I want to see more business that will draw foot traffic to the downtown area. Restaurants are a big request from many residents and we need to help those who want to invest downtown with whatever they need to be successful. I look forward to Touch of Italy opening soon, and enjoy dining at Georgia House, and stopping in at Dolce. The Milford Tavern has new ownership and is a great place to grab a drink. A perfect example of the kind of business that the downtown needs is My Sisters Fault. Just to see what Rous and Angie have built from scratch is amazing and I look forward to doing what I can to bring that entrepreneurial spirit to our historic city.
Q: How do you view the current local economy and how would you propose preserving and attracting quality jobs?
A: Overall the economy is not bad, however there is plenty of room for improvement. To preserve and attract new jobs it will take a joint effort by the City and Council to make it easy for business to invest and grow in our town. Right now it seems business owners don’t feel as though the city is working with them to make it easier to do business. I hope to represent myself and the Council as a group that looks out for the small business owner and understands their pains with running a business, I will work to remove a lot of the barriers that limit investment in Milford.
Q: Do you believe current recreation needs of local families are being met and how can they be improved?
A: There are many recreational opportunities for residents of Milford, from athletics to the Arts (Music School, Theatre, Library events, etc.). However, there always could be more. Some of the monthly and annual downtown fairs that Milford has also include activities for kids and adults. Lifecycle recently had an event for kids to play in the foam stuff that was pretty cool. Along with their monthly glow rides, folks like Ben and Jenn are working really hard to bring this town together and make people active. One thing I would really like to see, and will work hard to make happen, is a bike path that would run from Ward 1 (Hearthstone) to downtown Milford. That would draw more traffic to downtown and give residents a safe place to exercise. I know that will be a tall task, and we will need to bring property owners, the City, and others together to make it happen. I want to be part of that effort.
Q: How available is quality and affordable housing in Milford? Is there a need for more affordable housing?
A: Well, if you take the average income of Milford residents which is around $15,000 dollars annually, I would argue that there is not much affordable housing in Milford. Many two-bedroom apartments and houses are in the $800 to $1,000 per month range and that is a bit expensive for an income such as that. Supply and demand has a lot to do with the cost of living, however the cost of energy is something that keeps people poor as well. Electric is a commodity and the fact that Milford residents pay a premium for it is something many people struggle with, and we need to find ways to continue to bring rates down. I will work with City leaders to find ways to do this. That does NOT mean raising taxes.
Q: Code enforcement is a problem in many cities today. Milford has developed a new process to address code enforcement. How would you like to see code enforcement in the City improved and what areas do you see as needing better enforcement?
A: Code enforcement is a problem because we have been inconsistent with our efforts to enforce codes, and allow properties to exist, that take away from or city looking the best it can. I would like to see a more active code enforcement official working with residents and property owners for better looking neighborhoods. If our current official is too bogged down in paperwork to get out on the road and enforce codes, the City management needs to get it worked out. I will work with residents and the city to help improve the appearance of our city and attract investment that will in turn help with making the city a much better place.
Q: How do you see Bayhealth’s new campus and the purchase of the Clarke Avenue campus by Nationwide affecting Milford over the next five years?
A: These two things are going to be the backbone of growing Milford in the next few years. The new Bayhealth hospital is only the start of what I believe can be one of the best Medical centers the country. We have the population to support it and the space to grow it, I want to work with city leaders and management to see that growth and investment continue. I am also very excited about Nationwide coming to Milford and making use of the existing hospital campus. We have the opportunity right in front of us to really improve my Ward, including the downtown area with this company investing here. This will be a real driver in our economy and I look forward to working with them.
Q: The Mispillion River is a valuable asset to the City. What ways do you think the City can promote the river as an attraction, improve growth along the river but continue to promote conservation and protection of natural habitats along the river?
A: I believe that investment, property development, and conservation actually go hand in hand. I would like to see Milford really make an effort to attract investment on the waterfront that would include new businesses, restaurants, entertainment and residential development. Milford needs to work with those investors to make the path to developing some of our city assets as easy as possible, while keeping our overall downtown plan in focus. I have had the opportunity to live in areas where multi-use real estate development has completely changed areas that were once an eyesore. We can do that here in Milford.
Q: Recently, City Council voted to hire five new police officers using funds from water reserves rather than raising taxes. This will fund the officers for the next three years, but there was not a plan for how to fund them past the three year mark. What is your opinion on this action? Do you feel it is important that the police force be expanded to this extent? What would your choice have been had you already been elected to council?
A: I am beyond excited that we were able to add new police officers in an effort to clean up crime in our city. We all know Milford along with many other cities in Delaware, is struggling with illegal drug sales and the police need all the help they can get to combat this epidemic. I support the council voting to use money from the current budget to finance this for the next three years. I don’t believe we need to raise taxes in order to make this a long term solution. I think with new residents and business moving to the area we should be able to accommodate this cost with revenue growth. I think the police could use even more help and I will work with the Council to see they have what they need to do the job. If I had the opportunity to vote I would have voted for the funding of the new officers.
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