At a Feb. 29 forum, four Milton Town Council candidates made their final pitch before voters head to the polls Saturday, March 7.
Incumbents Rich Baty and Emory West and newcomers John Klein and Randi Meredith fielded questions from a packed room of constituents at Milton library, an event hosted by the Milton Chamber of Commerce and Delaware League of Women Voters.
Each candidate was asked to name the three biggest issues facing Milton. Baty and West cited sustainable growth and improving the town’s infrastructure, particularly the water system. The two incumbents also said the town needs to budget wisely to avoid future tax increases.
Klein said he also hoped to see more diversity in the business community, with more variety of businesses. Meredith said the town needs to address sea level rise and walkability through improvements to the sidewalk network.
The audience, standing-room only at the start, wanted to grill the candidates on two topics in particular: Zombie Fest and the proposed medical office complex proposed for Mulberry Street. At least three members of the crowd, who wrote their questions prior to the forum, asked questions about Zombie Fest and whether Milton could still host the annual Halloween event.
Baty said last year, the town had made an agreement on the scale of the festival, but Milton Theatre, which presents the event, changed its mind and the festival was moved to Dewey Beach. Since then, Baty said the theater has approached the town about a return, and he would support the festival coming back under terms that work for both sides.
West said the departure of Zombie Fest was a misunderstanding, in which the town was unfairly maligned. However, he said he would welcome the event back with open arms.
Meredith, who said she ran this year in response to Zombie Fest’s departure, wants to bring the festival back. She said she thinks the council did not want the festival. Meredith said a return of Zombie Fest would help the town attract other festivals.
Klein, who described himself as “pro-Zombie,” said businesses suffered because of the council’s shunning of Zombie Fest last year. He said he wants to bring the event back.
Regarding the Mulberry Street medical office, a proposed rezoning of an 8-acre parcel from R-1 residential to C-1 commercial, Meredith and Klein both opposed the proposal and said they would vote no on the rezoning. Baty and West said they could not say yes or no until they had reviewed an advisory opinion from the Planning and Zoning Commission.
Finally, the candidates were asked whether they would support a dog park in Milton. All four said, if proposed, they would be in favor of one.
West, 66, has been a member of council since 2012. A native Miltonian, West touted his experience and the working cohesion of the current council as reasons to reelect him.
Klein, 38, said he wants to help the town progress into the future while maintaining its historic character. He said he would like to generate ways to bring more money into the town and sustain business.
Meredith, 39, introduced herself as “Pepper’s mom,” a slogan on her campaign signs. She has two daughters, Pepper and Azalea. She said she believes she can bring diversity to the all-male council.
Baty, 81, is seeking his second full term on council. He said, as a believer in term limits, if re-elected, it would probably be his last term. Like West, Baty touted the good chemistry of the current council as a reason for him to remain.
Polls will open at 8 a.m., Saturday, March 7, at Town Hall and stay open until 6 p.m. For more information, visit milton.delaware.gov.