State of City: Mayor says Milford 'remains strong and vibrant'

The city remains strong and vibrant, according to Mayor Ben Blake, who gave his annual state of the city address late last week before the Milford Chamber of Commerce.

“The state of our city remains strong and vibrant, and we are becoming more successful each and every day,” Blake told a gathering of local business people and students at the Chamber event.

He spoke of how the community came together during several monumental storms, and he talked about how Milford residents are coming together now, following the murder of 16-year-old Maren Sanchez at Jonathan Law High School last month.

“Maren Sanchez was a scholar, a member of the National Honor Society, a celebrated artist, a singer, and an athlete,” Blake said. “But what was most impressive about Maren, what you’ll hear from everyone, was her deep devotion and genuine compassion for the people with whom she interacted. She loved everyone and everyone loved her.

“As much as our hearts may wish we somehow could undo that which had been done, we cannot,” Blake continued. “Instead, what we can do, and what we have had to do, once again, is unite in our tears and mourn this unimaginable loss.”

Departments, budget and 375th

In addition to the tragedy, the mayor’s speech focused on changes within the city, from newly elected officials to new department heads, and on efforts to keep city expenses in check.

The city has named several top posts in the past year or so: Economic and Community Development Director Julie Nash; Fire Chief Doug Edo; Public Works Director Christopher Saley; Library Director Chris Angeli; Human Resources Director Tania Barnes, and Department of Public Land Use Director Joe Griffith.

“These are new managers but they have vast experience and dedication to guide their respective departments on our city’s behalf,” Blake said.

The mayor commented on initiatives to bring in more revenue to the city while looking for efficiencies. These include a new billing system for emergency medical services: As of Jan. 1, the city began collecting payments for services provided by Milford paramedics. In the past, AMR had collected the payment for emergency services.

Blake said the change could generate millions of dollars in revenue.

With the city budget set to be voted on this week, the mayor also talked about that. He said costs for pension, health care and debt service made this a difficult budget year, but he said he believes the budget proposed was fiscally responsible.

He added that the city received positive feedback on its financial management from the three rating agencies.

“Fitch, Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s described Milford’s finances as stable, prudent and healthy,” the mayor said. “We will continue to make conservative, common sense fiscal management our number one priority.”

Signs of growth

The economy, Blake said, is starting to show signs of recovery. In Milford, that is marked by an influx of corporate headquarters and an increase in home ownership.

“For example, Total Mortgage Service LLC has established its new national headquarters in Milford with the additional promise of 140 new jobs,” he said. “What’s also clear is that Milford is the center of one of the most action packed corridors in the United States. This is supported by the Tesla Motor company opening its Connecticut showroom in Milford and locating two supercharger stations here.”

FCP Euro, an online retailer of automotive parts and accessories, opened its new corporate headquarters here, and the mayor expects the redevelopment of 230 Cherry Street, the eventual site of Shoprite, will reinvigorate that corridor of the city.

Blake talked about grants and civic projects that have taken place, including the construction of a new city flagpole by the Devon Rotary.

He also touched on the fact that the city is celebrating its 375th anniversary this year and encouraged people to join in the events planned as part of that anniversary.

“There truly is something for everyone,” Blake said. “From Diversity Day and Senior Citizen Day, to food and live music, Milford will celebrate this birthday with great gusto and style.”

Celebration Week will kick off on the steps of City Hall, June 6 with the UConn Funky Dawgz Brass Band, and the week will finish with a Grand Parade on June 15, the mayor said.

He concluded with a shout out to the city: “It continues to be an honor and a privilege to serve as your mayor — mayor of the greatest city on Earth.”