City hires company to manage downtown property

After some debate over who should manage a city-owned building downtown and the parking associated with the property, Milford aldermen voted Monday night to hire a management company to oversee the property and collect parking fees.

The city bought the downtown property near the train station that houses Corner Convenience and other shops, plus adjacent land, in October, using $5 million in state funds.

The ultimate plan is to have an anchor store in the space, plus added parking, and possibly a parking garage.

But all that will wait until the current shops have reached the end of their lease agreements, which Mayor Ben Blake said the city has every intention of honoring, and until there is a solid development plan. For now, the city attorney’s office and finance department have been collecting the payments from tenants at the site, plus parking fees that commuters pay to park on the property.

Blake said the property generates $300,000 a year between rents and parking fees.

After debate, the aldermen voted to enter into a contract with Parry Real Estate Services of Broad Street at a cost of $1,250 per month. The contract runs through Dec. 31, 2017, with the option to renew for an additional year and up to five years. The company will manage the parking lot, oversee landscaping, snow removal and maintenance, take care of repairs inside the building and help the city collect any past due rents.

Several Republicans wanted to know why the city should pay someone to manage the property. Alderman Raymond Vitali argued that between the public works department, finance and other city departments the city ought to be able to manage the site.

“I think it behooves us to continue the process and keep it in the city,” Vitali said.

Blake responded that the management company will probably be needed for two years, until the leases are up. “We don’t have the skills to manage parking and collection of checks, maintenance of the facility and everything that goes with managing a building that brings in $300,000 a year,” Blake said.

He said so far no Milford tax dollars have been spent on the parcel, and that costs associated with running the property have come from the rents and parking fees. If the city hired someone or paid overtime to manage the property, that would become a taxpayer expense, Blake said.

Alderman Anthony Giannattasio asked why the city couldn’t pay itself to do the work.

But Blake insisted that the city is not skilled at this kind of property management.

After discussion, the motion to hire the company passed by a vote of 10-4.

Blake said the work on the property, including demolition of a building there, has created 75 to 80 new parking spaces that will be ready in a couple of weeks. Altogether, when the project is done, he expects there will be 400 additional parking spaces, with some of those allocated for commuters.

Commuters pay $7 a day; $25 a week or $80 a month for parking.

Continued study will determine if there is a parking garage built on the property, but Blake said it will not be a high rise of any kind. He has described a parking garage that may be two levels, with the top level no higher than the current grade of the land.