Mayor Ben Blake’s State of the City Address Thursday was peppered with references to the Foran High School baseball team’s 2017 Class L state championship win, and there were plenty of baseball analogies meant to show that despite challenges, the City of Milford is prospering.
Blake told the packed dining room at the Milford Yacht Club at a $55-a-plate Chamber of Commerce-sponsored luncheon that Foran’s baseball team was the last seeded team when the players entered the state tournament, but they “refused to lose.”
Similarly, “the state government has been throwing lots of curve balls our way,” the mayor said, referring to millions of dollars in cuts to state aid, reductions that the mayor termed as “misguided.” On top of those cuts, he said the state “added insult to injury” with its plans to add amenities to Silver Sands State Park, something residents have spoken out against. Blake said Milford residents would rather see more lifeguards at the state beach, pointing out that the state cut back on lifeguarding hours due to its budget woes.
The mayor said the state’s attempt to hinder Milford’s game could also be seen in the governor’s veto of a bill that will give the city more control over the placement of affordable housing here, but he added that he was elated that the state’s legislators overrode that veto, allowing the legislation to be adopted.
The state decided to close the Milford Department of Motor Vehicles office, something else the mayor opposes and says he will fight.
“We’re ready to run the bases when the right pitches are thrown our way,” Blake said, moving on to list the marks of progress in Milford: He pointed out that Milford’s bond rating was raised to AAA, the highest score possible, and said the city is undergoing an “economic renaissance,” with new businesses moving into the city and existing businesses growing. All this means the city’s grand list will rise, and taxes will go down, he said.
The city has seen “back to back consecutive tax cuts,” Blake said, referring to the last two municipal budgets, which resulted in modest tax decreases.
He highlighted efficiencies, such as new automated garbage trucks that he said will cut costs and increase safety; and new dollars being brought into the city through a change in the way residents are billed for ambulance service.
Physical improvements abound too, the mayor said, pointing out new parking in the downtown area, the new Founder’s Walk next to the Fowler building, school building improvements, and road paving.
City tennis courts were overhauled, a new sports complex on Orange Avenue opened, and plans for Eisenhower Park include a splash pad and pickleball courts.
On the environmental front, Blake said 200 new trees will be planted across the city, and city ponds will be dredged, the Beaverbrook Boardwalk destroyed by fire a number of years ago will be reconstructed, a breakwater will be built at Gulf Beach, and other flood-proofing measures will be undertaken around the city.
This was the first year that the State of the City Address took place as its own event: In prior years it was held as part of the Chamber’s scholarship presentations.
Turnout was good: Just before the luncheon Chamber officials said only 20 tickets remained.
The event included other firsts: The Chamber showed a new promotional video that highlights Milford’s attractiveness to businesses; and the Chamber unveiled its new logo, which features an image of the Memorial Tower in downtown Milford and ocean waves.
Wrapping up the event, the mayor announced the recipient of his first Distinguished Citizen Award: Nell Moll, director of membership, opportunities and enthusiasm at the Milford Chamber of Commerce, and the 2017 St. Patrick’s Day Parade grand marshal.