State of City: Mayor says Milford is strong, and getting better

Milford is solid and strong and it’s on the path to getting even better, Mayor Ben Blake said Friday during his annual State of the City address before the Milford Chamber of Commerce.
The mayor delivered his message at Aldario’s Restaurant at the annual State of the City and Scholarship Presentations, an event that draws students, their families and local business and government officials.
Blake told the audience that he continues to pursue efficiencies.
“To those who dismiss the adage ‘do more with less’ by saying ‘you can't,’ I simply reply, ‘you're wrong,” he said. “We prove they're wrong every day we find better, more efficient and less expensive ways to operate our city.”
The mayor pointed to energy savings city-wide, such as taking advantage of $500,000 in United Illuminating incentives, installing new gas-powered boilers at Fannie Beach and City Hall, and similar efforts.
“We've also utilized UI's Incentive Rebate program to extend our web-based lighting control system to the Eisenhower and Fowler tennis courts where push-button activators will be installed on each of the individual courts by July 1,” the mayor said.
Milford teamed up with West Haven and Ansonia, and now shares its asphalt recycler with these neighboring towns, the mayor added. West Haven and Ansonia deliver broken asphalt from their roads to Milford, and Milford processes it into new asphalt, and then sells it back at a rate of $50 per ton.
The city is also tapping into more grants. Blake said he formed an inter-departmental grants committee whose work over the past year has realized almost $30 million in new grants for the City of Milford.
“One grant I am particularly excited about is the $5 million we were awarded from the state to acquire four properties, totaling 2.2 acres, parallel to the train station,” Blake said. “This purchase will create additional parking in the downtown area and will help alleviate parking shortages.”
The mayor said the deal will create 300 new parking spaces downtown.
The city also secured a Department of Agriculture grant for the conservation of 40 acres of coastal tidal marsh. Under the program, the city and Milford Land Trust will receive $1.7 million for deed-restricting undevelopable properties like the Calf Pen Meadow Creek and Great Salt Marsh.
He pointed to projects recently done and those coming up, like grant-funded infrastructure projects including $3.5 million in drainage improvements along Naugatuck Avenue and a $1 million flood mitigation project along Merwin Avenue.    
“The list of grants continues and I can't address them all, but I will leave you with the reassurance that the City of Milford has been very, very diligent and effective in our efforts to identify and obtain available grant money for our city,” Blake said.
He talked about the city’s financial standing with the three premier bond rating agencies, noting the city’s standing remains very favorable. He said the favorable bond ratings allowed the city to capture over $700,000 in taxpayer savings by refinancing $15 million this past December, which he said is in addition to $2.5 million in savings from last year's refunding.
He talked about efforts to promote biking in Milford, and also noted a new River Street Wednesdays event that brings people downtown for lunch-time entertainment.
He talked about elementary school reconfiguration which will return the schools to a K-5 configuration next school year, and he told his audience about improvements at local recreation fields.
“We've refurbished the Seabreeze Avenue, Welches Point and Wilcox Circle playgrounds and, over the next several weeks we will be resurfacing the basketball courts at Fowler Field, Hawley Avenue, Underhill Road, Welches Point and Beardsley,” he said.
“Some might find talk of grants and budgets, sidewalks and resurfaced basketball courts tedious and tiresome — but for me, this is the stuff that gets me up and going in the mornings,” Blake said, concluding that, “We are changing the way Milford government operates. We are more innovative, more engaged, and more resourceful than ever before. We are changing stale institutional cultures. We are aggressively seeking alternative revenue sources, adopting cost avoidance opportunities, and seizing regional collaborations.”
Milford, he said, is stronger than ever and “perfectly positioned to meet the challenges and opportunities of this new millennium.”