Tough decisions are on the horizon for the Milford City Council.
There are issues with browning of the city's water supply, there's no confirmed plan to repair sewer lines and the council must determine how the city moves forward with its Downtown Revitalization Planning Grant.
All of those issues were discussed at the city's Aug. 4 council meeting. Discussions ran for more than two hours until adjournment, leaving the council with a few more weeks to decide what to do next.
Milford was previously denied a grant that Seward County Chamber and Development Partnership President Jonathan Jank described as “super competitive.” The majority of applicants are not approved for it.
Jank then brought up the process of applying for a $62,500 grant – $50,000 of which the state provides – for improvements downtown. That's separate from a $400,000 grant that would be solely used for city infrastructure. It was brought up that Seward applied for similar grants in recent years which has led to more than $5 million worth of investments in downtown businesses.
Zane Francescato of SCCDP presented the organization's housing study shortly after the public hearing about Downtown Revitalization. That housing study underlined Milford's need for improved housing and expansion as the city begins to grow.
Council members eventually unanimously approved a $4,000 study on LB-840 for a Downtown Revitalization Planning Grant.
The housing study identified 196 houses in the Milford area that were built in 1939 or before. Only 16 have been built since 2014. The study found 14.6% of homes unoccupied, although that took into account seasonal housing for vacation or migrant homes. The study determined 3.3% of Milford homes are completely vacant. Francescato said Milford would need to expand housing options by 6% by 2024. That includes 24 rental properties (six of which would be targeted downtown). An additional 15 acres would be needed, bringing a total project estimate to $14 million. The current Timber Creek subdivision, which has eight of its 54 lots sold, could account for some of that future growth should the remaining lots be purchased.
The housing study plotted 22 action point items for the council to remember. Mayor Patrick Kelley reminded the council of its need to think ahead while honoring Milford's past.
“Slow controlled growth to maintain our heritage,” Kelley said.
In an unrelated matter, JEO Consulting Group presented information on the town's planned water main replacement. Lead and copper, brought on by the additions of phosphorus and chlorine into the old water pipes that those homes built before 1939 possess, have turned some of the city's water brown. JEO recommended breaking the project into increments as part of a multi-year project.
The five-phase project, as it was presented, would cost the city an estimated $3,901,750. The council discussed possible grants to help pay that cost, although the Downtown Revitalization grant could only apply to certain aspects.
Council members brought up the possibility for a water treatment plant, which was forecast to cost the city possibly $1 million less, although that wouldn't address the corroding pipes. Council members and JEO will look into grants for possible funding.
The council voted to approve a drainage study between Sixth and Eighth streets. Council member Jason Stahl abstained from the discussion and vote because of a potential conflict of interest, as he owns a home that would be affected by the study.
JEO representatives said they would look into culverts in search of ways to pool debris, which include how sticks and fallen branches after thunderstorms flow into one place instead of scattering in various locations. JEO's study would include terrace and grade checks in channels in those designated areas.
A Natural Resource District study possibility was discussed, although JEO representatives said the NRD only conducts those studies with smaller towns.
The council discussed the need for easements in order to complete the process. Council members agreed that communication with landowners will be important.
In other busienss, the council approved Jenna Philbert as a part-time assistant library director and chose Blue Cross/Blue Shield as the city's healthcare provider. Under the new healthcare plan the city would pay 100% of premiums, because, council member Scott Bashore said, “in order to offset our low wages, it's something we can offer our city workers to show we still care.”