On Tuesday, Jan. 26, City of Milford voters will vote on a bond bill that will be used to construct a new police station. Voting will take place between 8:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. at the Public Works Facility, located at 180 Vickers Drive in the Milford Business Park off Airport Road. In order to vote in the election, residents must have registered to vote with the City of Milford by Dec. 28, 2020. Voters will be asked to approve borrowing of funds not to exceed $20 million for the new station.
“Milford has grown so rapidly, we have just run out of space,” Chief of Police Kenneth Brown said. “I am asking for your support to allow us to meet the needs of the 21st Century with a new police department. The present facility was built in 1979 when there were just 18 officers and the population of Milford was around 5,400. Today, we have 37 officers who serve a population of around 12,000.”
According to City Manager Mark Whitfield, the current police station cannot be expanded as it sits in a flood plain. In addition, there is no room within the existing land area to expand due to its proximity to the Mispillion River. The building also does not meet Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) standards and cannot be updated to meet today’s technology. At public meetings held in early 2020, Chief Brown also explained there are safety issues at the station as there is no secure way to bring suspects from police vehicles into the building. In addition, there is no way to separate victims from suspects in the lobby.
“City Council approved borrowing up to $20 million,” Whitfield said. “This means that the police station cannot cost more than that. That amount, however, is anticipated to be higher than necessary. The cost of the police station is estimated at between $12.5 and $17.5 million. The city anticipates borrowing the majority of the project costs, but eligible sources of reserves will be used before borrowed funds.”
The city has a fairly large amount of money in reserves and many have questioned why that cannot be used to fund the building of the police station. Whitfield explained the money in reserve accounts is in utilities, including water, sewer and electric, which can only be used for those utilities. There are also future capital projects planned and those funds will be used to complete those projects.
“The purpose of the referendum is strictly to provide the funding required to construct a new police station,” Whitfield said. “It will not be used for past, current or future police operations. The funds will only be used to replace the existing, end-of-life building with a new headquarters building and related features as well as equipment for that building.”
City of Milford property taxes will increase if the referendum is passed, based on the assessed value of a home as well as the amount that is borrowed for the police station. Taxes will only increase based on the actual amount borrowed and not on $20 million.
“For example, if the project costs $18.5 million paid by a combination of city reserves of $1 million and borrowing $17.5 million, only the city’s annual debt service payments resulting from the $17.5 million borrowed would be funded through the referendum,” Whitfield said. “We do anticipate that the cost of the new station will be less than $20 million. We wanted to allow for possible cost adjustments, change orders and other items, however, that could increase the cost. The tax increase will remain for the life of the loan, which is between 30 and 40 years. At the end of the term, or if the loan is paid off early, Council may reduce the tax levy. Although pre-payment is not anticipated, the city may pay off the loan with no prepayment penalty in as early as 10 years.”
To control costs, Mayor Archie Campbell will appoint a Citizens Advisory Committee, made up of citizens from each voting ward, who will make the final recommendation to City Council on the final design of the building and will oversee all costs related to the construction. The tax increase will be for City of Milford property tax only and will not have an impact on Kent or Sussex County tax.
“The new police station may be spaced on the site to allow for additional government buildings to be added between the proposed parking lot and Northeast Front Street, as well as between the proposed parking lot and Northeast 4th Street,” Whitfield said. “This would allow the city to add other offices on the same property. Vacant land north of the building could be used as park land or residential development as well.”
According to a chart provided by Whitfield, a home that is assessed at $150,000 would see a tax increase of between $86 per year or $7 per month and $138 per year or $11 per month, depending on the amount borrowed. A home with an assessed value of $350,000 would see increases of between $201 per year or $17 per month and $321 or $27 per month. The chart can be viewed at https://milfordpoliceplan.com/tax-information/.
“This new police station is going to be top-of-the-line,” Mayor Campbell said. “It will be ADA compliant and it will have all the new technology the officers need. We really need this new police station.”