Council approves assistance for low income housing development: City considers adding ATM at its new billing building

cascades 01

This image is of Cascades first phase. The low-income housing development needed the city’s assistance to gain access to state dollars to build its next phase. (Special to The Chronicle)

MILFORD – On April 13, the Milford City Council voted 5-2 to help continue to build “community” in the Garden City of Twin Counties.

Both current Ward 2 Councilman — Dirk G. Gleysteen and S. Allen “Skip” Pikus – voted “no” to help Cascades Planned Unit Residential Development expand into a second phase.

Specifically, the councilmen voted against approving a five-year reduced property tax plan that would allow the Ingerman Group, the facility’s owners, to gain access to funds from the Delaware State Housing Authority needed to build the new housing units.

The council approved the same plan in 2011 for the housing development’s first phase.

Councilmen Pikus and Gleysteen didn’t want to approve the plan because they felt the Ingerman Group could get funding some other way without the city’s help, despite being told otherwise.

“This is a very competitive program statewide. Milford’s support of phase II via the ‘Local Government Contribution’ category would make the application more competitive. DSHA awards points to the application for developments receiving support from the respective local government. Evidence must be submitted to DSHA from the local government entity detailing the dollar amount of the tax abatement,” said Milford City Manager Hans Medlarz.

Cascades provides housing and other services based on its resident’s income.

Milford’s attorney warned the council that if they voted down this measure it could result in scrutiny from the federal government as part of the Fair Housing Act. If deemed appropriate, the federal government could force the city to pay for fair housing act training, which would be very costly.

“For the amount of money you’d have to spend to abate the tax for five years, you’d have to spend a lot more if you had to go through that training,” said City Solicitor David Rutt.

In order to provide those services and gain access to state housing funds, Cascades is asking, for the next five years, to only pay taxes on the property’s current assessed value. At the end of the term the property would assess higher as there would be housing units there and it would pay the full assessed value.

The property is in front of its current housing complex which is at full capacity with an extensive waiting list. It has been vacant and for sale for more many years. The Cascades group is the first group to move to purchase the property in a number of years. Though they currently have the property under contract, the sale is contingent on state funding approval.

Before the vote was taken, there was some debate on what the city should do.

“In order to have a community you need to have all standards of living. In order to get there you have to understand that people start at the bottom,” said Ward 4 Councilwoman Katrina E. Wilson in support of the measure. “You don’t know unless you have been there.”

Some councilmembers mistakenly lumped the Cascades’ request with another appeal addressed at the April 16 meeting. Milford Pop Warner sent a written request to have its electric rates reduced. The council couldn’t take any official action because it is impossible under the current statutes.

“There is no mechanism under the electric code,” Mr. Medlarz said.

The city’s Ward 1 Councilmen Garrett L. Grier III and Christopher L. Mergner were relieved because they believed more groups would ask for the same kind of relief if it were possible.

Douglas E. Morrow Sr., vice mayor, was absent from Monday’s meeting.

City makes deal with Comcast

During the April 13 meeting, the Milford City Council approved a franchise agreement that extends Comcast’s presence in the city by another decade.

“It was negotiated, we had a lot of give and take,” said Solicitor Rutt. “If the city negotiated a deal with Verizon or google, Comcast would have the right to match it.”

Councilman Pikus wasn’t pleased with the terms of the agreement, saying he was hoping the deal would only last five more years.

“Can we expect, better service? We see a lot of black outs. You guys are a big operation. Somewhere along the line you will have competition,” said Councilman Pikus told the company’s representative.

The agreement allows Comcast to be the television and internet provider to the city during it the terms of its franchise agreement.

ATM at new customer service building considered

11146287_10153205577749725_6809196814510714122_n

An ATM my return to this building in downtown Milford, former PNC now City of Milford Billing Department. (Special to The Chronicle)

Mr. Medlarz happily reported that the city’s new billing department building opened last week. The building was once home to PNC Bank and historically was a financial institution.

“We had many people come in this week to ask if we had and (Automated Teller Machine),” Mr. Medlarz said.

According to the sales contract, PNC has the right of first refusal if the city planned to add an ATM it would have to ask the building’s former owners first.

Mr. Medlarz said he planned to reach out to the company, which still has a branch on U.S. 113. If added to the building’s foyer – where one was once located – the ATM would only be available during business hours because of how the building’s security was set up. If an ATM does go to that area, Mr. Medlarz said he’d research what it would cost the city to be open 24 hours a day.

Managing Editor Logan B. Anderson can be reached at landerson@newszap.com. Follow @LoganBAnderson on Twitter.

You are encouraged to leave relevant comments but engaging in personal attacks, threats, online bullying or commercial spam will not be allowed. All comments should remain within the bounds of fair play and civility. (You can disagree with others courteously, without being disagreeable.) Feel free to express yourself but keep an open mind toward finding value in what others say. To report abuse or spam, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box.