Aldermen vote to fund open space manager's job another year

The Board of Aldermen voted Monday night to fund the open space manager’s job for another year through a city open space fund.

Heeding a recommendation from the city’s Planning and Zoning Board, the aldermen voted unanimously Monday night to take $55,000 from an open space fund to pay Open Space Manager Steve Johnson’s salary.

Milford’s aldermen were united in their support for Johnson, agreeing that he has brought considerable funds into the city through grants since he started two years ago. But they were divided along party lines regarding how to pay his salary.

Democrat Susan Shaw recommended that the aldermen, in addition to approving the $55,000 to pay Johnson’s wages, direct the Board of Finance and the mayor to add Johnson’s position to the regular city budget during the next budget deliberations.

That way his salary would not have to be approved by the Planning and Zoning Board and the Board of Aldermen each year.

Now his pay comes from a Planning and Zoning Board open space fund that is fed by developers as payments in lieu of open space deeded to the city. Each year the two city boards have to agree to use that money for Johnson's pay.

The board voted 9-4 to approve Shaw's recommendation to push for adding the job to the city budget, with Democrats supporting the motion and Republicans opposing it.

Democrats argued that Johnson is valuable and there should be more permanency to his job.

Republicans said they want to continue to fund the job through the P&Z open space fund for at least another year to avoid the appearance that the city is over spending by creating new city positions.

Johnson’s salary was almost added to the budget for the current year. The Board of Finance recommended adding his position to the current city budget, but when it got to the Board of Aldermen level this past spring, the position was removed and remained an open space-funded job.