Milton Town Council has agreed to the concept plan that would install a rain garden at the parking lot on Magnolia Street to help alleviate flooding issues.
Council decided to say yes to the concept in order to allow town administration to pursue possible state funding for the estimated $195,000 project. That does not include the costs for repairing the bulkhead adjacent to the parking lot or the cost of acquiring land to make up for the 18 parking spaces the town will lose by installing the rain garden. Town officials have said the total cost of all that work would push the project to around $500,000.
After an initial presentation in January, council decided to table the measure at the February meeting to allow for engineers Pennoni Associates to conduct more study.
Pennoni came back at council’s March 4 meeting with a recommendation to conduct an examination of the bulkhead’s condition in its entirety, to determine whether only repairs were needed or if it had to be replaced. The examination was estimated to cost $21,000.
However, Public Works Supervisor Greg Wingo opposed spending the money because the areas of concern are already visible and said the town should just repair the damage.
“I do not see any more reason to get more involved and spend more money, more time, finding out what we already know,” he said.
Wingo suggested working together with Pennoni to come up with an assessment for repairs, with a maximum spending amount of $9,000.
While council had tabled the parking lot proposal in February, Councilman Sam Garde said there is a sense of urgency to get funding requests in to the state before the end of this year’s budget cycle, or else they won’t be able to seek funding for another year.
Town Manager Kristy Rogers said if funding is not received this year, the project would come back to town council for further consideration. The project would install a rain garden at the end of the lot closest to Bodie’s, install three new drainage pipes emptying into the Broadkill River and reorient the parking lot.
While it would not stop any water that breaches the bulkhead, Wingo has said that these drainage improvements would stop all the nuisance flooding that affects the current entrance to the lot and that part of Magnolia Street.
The most controversial aspect of the plan was that it would require the removal of 18 parking spaces to accommodate the rain garden. The original plans called for removing 20 spaces, but town officials said slight modifications of the plan allowed for two spaces to be saved. Wingo said talks are being held with the Milton Historical Society for land near the Milton Historical Museum that can be used for 14 parking spaces.
Mayor Ted Kanakos, who had reservations about the project in February, still had concerns, although he ultimately voted in favor of moving forward. He said he did not find the project workable and that it would lead to traffic congestion around the parking areas.
“It’s a heavily used street,” Kanakos said.
Wingo said Magnolia Street is wide enough to accept parking on both sides.
Milton resident Maurice McGrath spoke up: “How much money is that going to cost the town - do the construction needed and get the approvals from DelDOT? I understand the need to do something about the flooding in the parking lot, but how much more money is it going to cost to fix?”
Rogers said that cost was not known but will be discussed with the historical society and brought back to council.
Councilman Charlie Fleetwood recommended allowing Rogers to seek state funding while the window was open, and make modifications to the plan later. He said if council doesn’t like the plan, it can always withdraw and give the money back to the state.
“If we don’t get our name in there, we’re not going to get the money in this year’s bond bill,” Fleetwood said.
As a condition of concept approval, Garde asked for mutual agreement with the historical society on parking at its lot, and that the town receives a minimum of 75 percent funding from the state for the rain garden portion of the project. Garde said bulkhead improvements would be funded separately.