Mayor's State of City Address: Milford 'is flying high'

Good things are happening all around Milford, unless you count the Canada geese.

Mayor Ben Blake peppered his seventh annual State of the City address Thursday with references to the pesky fowl, similar to the way he sprinkled last year’s speech with lots of baseball metaphors in tribute to the Foran High School baseball team’s 2017 Class L state championship.

He talked about “relentless progress” during the State of the City luncheon, held at the Milford Yacht Club and organized by the Milford Chamber of Commerce. About 100 local business representatives and community leaders, including Milford’s brand new school superintendent, Dr. Anna Cutaia, heard the mayor talk about the recent dredging of the city duck ponds, clearing 50,000 cubic yards of sediment and restoring the walls around them, and the installation of a new splash pad and pickleball courts at Eisenhower Park.

Blake said the city boasts 450 new businesses, up 9% from the previous year; a tax base of $6.7 billion, which he said makes the city’s Grand List the largest in New Haven County and one of the largest in the state.

Coming years will see continued development along the Boston Post Road corridor, including more businesses locating at the Connecticut Post Mall, the former Howard Johnson site and the old Beard Gravel Pit property, the mayor said.

“And we appreciate the tremendous renaissance at Walnut Beach,” Blake continued. “It is a place absolutely bubbling with energy and enthusiasm.”

He talked about a downtown steeped in history and charm, noting that the Milford Green was recently added to the State Register of Historic Places. He mentioned new bike lockers at the train station, and an evolving downtown plan of development. A downtown development committee that had been studying ways to use the city-owned property that once housed Corner Convenience and Scratch Bakery recently completed a series of interviews and has chosen to partner with Metro Star to develop the site.

Blake said the vision is to have a small grocery store on the parcel, 125 underground parking spaces and 200 more parking spaces at grade level.

Milford has had three consecutive years of tax reductions, the mayor said. “When it comes to tax cuts,” he said, “the City of Milford rules the roost.”

“As unbileve as it sounds, one of Milford’s greatest problems and challenges we face is the Canada geese,” the mayor said, adding that the city has tried everything, from education to spring-loaded dog silhouettes and organic grape juice concentrate sprayed on the grounds to deter the geese.

“I'm ready to call President Trump and ask that he refocus priorities from building a wall between the United States and Mexico, and instead look to our northern border and build a wall to keep out the  Canada geese,” the mayor joked.

But kidding aside, the mayor said, “Milford is flying high.”

Creating efficiencies continues to be a priority, he said, noting that the city’s workforce has been streamlined, annual health insurance costs were recently cut $2 million, and millions of dollars in savings are expected from replacing street lamp bulbs with LED lightbulbs.

The city is leveraging its AAA credit rating to refinance $17 million in bonds, and renegotiating its electrical generation costs to save money, the mayor said.   

The city recently launched new business software that is “state of the art,” the mayor said.

And, in addition to a new walking and biking loop near Walnut Beach along Nettleton Road, city playgrounds have been redone, and the playgrounds at Fowler Field and Fannie Beach Neighborhood Center in Woodmont are next on the list.

The $20 million West Shore Middle School renovation will be largely done by the end of the month, and next year the city is looking at more improvements, including upgrades to the West River Street dog park, refurbishing barns on North Street to house art space, and improving coastal resiliency for shoreline neighborhoods.

“We’re a small city with lots of charm that continues to prosper and fly high,” Blake said.