Four candidates will be on the ballot for two seats on Milton Town Council in the municipal election set for Saturday, March 6, at Goshen Hall. Polls will be open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
The candidates are Allen Sangree, Lee Revis-Plank, John Collier and Emory West. Each candidate was asked for a short biography and answered four questions. Responses are listed in alphabetical order.
John Collier, 66, has served the town in numerous capacities over the years, including as a member of town council and most recently as project coordinator. He also formerly chaired the Milton Board of Adjustment, and has served on the historical preservation committee, charter and ordinance committee, and committees that worked on the town’s comprehensive development plan in 2003 and 2009. During his former tenure on town council, he served on the streets and sidewalks, water, personnel, and charter and ordinance committees.
Lee Revis-Plank, 72, is a descendent of a Delaware Revolutionary War veteran, and she grew up in Wilmington. She spent her career working in corporate America for 45 years and retired from two Fortune 100 companies, DuPont and Bank of America, where she was a vice president and project manager. Since retiring to Milton, she has served on the board of trustees and as interim executive director for the Milton Historical Society, and she currently serves on the board of Preservation Delaware Inc. She is currently a member of the Milton Historic Preservation Commission.
Allen Sangree, 65, is retired from a lifetime career in the construction industry. After apprenticing in several trades, he founded Sangree Construction Inc., specializing in commercial construction and renovation. As president, he oversaw all aspects of the jobs contracted. He has served on the Milton Planning and Zoning Commission, and is currently serving on the board of adjustment. In retirement, he and his wife Allison take part in renovating properties in the Milton area, including his home on Union Street. He also enjoys biking, fishing and sailing.
Emory West, 67, is a lifelong Miltonian who spent 28 years working for Delaware Department of Transportation as a machinist and welder. He retired in 2012 and served two terms on Milton Town Council. He currently chairs the streets and sidewalks committee. His community service also extends to his work as a past president of the Milton Community Foundation, a nonprofit that funds many community activities.
What is the most important issue that you would like to tackle, if elected? Why?
Collier - “While there are many issues that merit attention, I believe the most pressing to the citizens of Milton is responsibly managing the growth of our community. Growth is a process that requires vision and preparation. Milton has recently seen its first annexations in over a decade, and I believe there will be additional opportunity for growth in the future. It will require a purposeful effort to grow responsibly while maintaining Milton’s unique character, history, and charm. Other significant issues that are long overdue being addressed are traffic, walkability, and infrastructure development.”
Revis-Plank - “The most important issue the town faces is sound, responsible, conservative financial management. Budgeting and forecasting is a complex science with many variables, some of which are outside our control. The town must identify upcoming issues well before they become problems, identify experts, generate options, perform cost/benefit analyses, and meet the fixed salary/benefit requirements for office personnel while maintaining emergency reserves. Concurrently, we monitor tax and other revenue/fee incomes opposite expenditures. The special skill that widens this financial operations window is the skill of identifying, applying for, and being awarded grants from a variety of sources. During my time as the interim executive director of the Milton Historical Society, this was a challenge I faced and overcame.”
Sangree - “Our town’s comprehensive plan is one of the best in the nation! I highly respect all those who worked so diligently to give the town such a great gift. Chapter 7 of the comp plan suggests the town put together a community design plan, and a key component would be a design manual. These two documents would consider macro and micro design elements of all future projects, renovations, and development. Neighborhood design, housing types, community layout, building size, historic scale, character, and street patterns are all to be considered. All new development would be filtered through a neighborhood approach in which the design of an individual structure, project, or development is related to the design and character of its immediate surroundings and the town as a whole. In other words, continuity in style, design, and character for all future projects. Going forward, we would have a clear vision on where we want our town to go and what it will be and look like in the future.”
West - “I would like all the upgrades to the water system completed to be able to serve the people for the future and the growth of the town.”
What strategies do you envision for managing growth in town without damaging its character?
Collier - “The basic tools for managing town growth while preserving character – the town charter, code and comprehensive plan – are in place. The town’s comprehensive plan is a guiding document that has the force of law and is reviewed and revised, if necessary, every five years. It can also be amended as needed. For example, since the implementation of the 2018 Comprehensive Plan, the town has received two annexation requests that required amendments to the plan. In addition, although a grassroots effort helped deter a recent property rezoning request, I believe the Source Water Protection Ordinance in the town code was one of the primary reasons for withdrawal of the rezoning application. I strongly believe our town has a clear charter and a thoughtfully written comprehensive plan supported by adequate zoning codes and a hardworking planning and zoning commission. The documents that guide them in their decision-making must continue to evolve to accommodate smart, responsible growth while protecting the town’s most revered assets. If elected, I will advocate for continued efforts to review and refine the documents that conceive and control Milton’s future growth.”
Revis-Plank - “Growth via annexation of new acreage opens the window for more homes to be built annually and an associated increase in the population. We need a range of affordable housing to accommodate a wide variety of social-economic levels. Maintaining the historic character of the town center requires us to be vigilant in maintaining older structures and streetscapes as they were when the Historic District was added to the National Register of Historic Places. But growth demands that we are equally vigilant in ensuring that supporting services and infrastructure of the town are modern, up to date, and even cutting edge. An example is a transition to solar power so we are self-sustaining and renewable. I believe Milton is an attractive locale for most people due to this combination of historic charm and deep history side-by-side with modern and convenient technology. I believe we need to do a better job of planning and implementing green space and recreational areas. To do this, we must have strong working relationships with experts in the field of community design & development, and have strong planning and zoning and historic preservation commissions with a clear vision of the future.”
Sangree - “There are many important issues I would like to address, like helping with the planning of the new Marine Resource District and continued development of the town center, but by far the single biggest issue I see is a lack of continuity in ongoing development of the town. The recent Milton medical proposal and the Verizon cell tower projects are just two examples of what looks to me like the tail trying to wag the dog. I believe the town at this point in its history needs a clear vision of where it wants to go and what it wants to be. The town comprises mostly young families who love the safety, schools, and charm, and older retirees who value the character and town life Milton offers. I say let’s make Milton, with its river and rich history, one of the most outstanding towns in America.”
West - “Maintaining high standards for our developers to keep our small-town appeal.”
What do you view as the most pressing infrastructure need facing the town? Why?
Collier - “The most pressing issues in our town infrastructure are water, wastewater, and streets. Often, funding is the biggest obstacle to tackling these issues. The town recently passed a referendum to make additional improvements to the water system, which are well underway. The wastewater treatment system is privately held; the provider has previously promised improvements that would impact the quality of services. While some progress has been made, the town needs to continue working with the provider to deliver on the promised improvements. Regarding streets, the town receives transfer tax revenue from the sale of properties within town boundaries as well as municipal street aid from the state. Transfer tax revenue is intended to fund items such as capital improvements and public safety. Municipal street aid is proprietary funding for items such as streets, but is not nearly enough to fund needed street maintenance and improvements alone. I would like to see legislation earmarking a percentage of every transfer tax dollar for a proprietary fund for street infrastructure. I would also like to explore the idea of municipal bonds as a source of funding for much-needed infrastructure improvements.”
Revis-Plank - “Our most pressing infrastructure need is developing a strategy for routine maintenance concurrent with improvement to that infrastructure to accommodate the additional population as the town continues to grow. By infrastructure, I mean improved and/or new roads, more water storage and delivery capacity, and sewers, of course. But additionally, I mean access to renewable/sustainable energy and utilities as well as services such as schools/teachers, safety and fire protection, grocery stores and pharmacies, public and private transportation, medical facilities & personnel. The challenge is that some of our utilities are aging, and not all of these needs are under control of the town. The process of forecasting these needs, identifying and establishing relationships with suppliers, negotiating fulfillment of these needs at a reasonable cost, and managing the communication channels with all involved takes a skilled project management team with visionary leadership and a sound working relationship with the town’s public works department.”
Sangree - “Hopefully, by the time this comes to print we would have put an end to Verizon’s proposal to plop a 50-by-50-foot base station and 140-foot cell tower down right across from the newly zoned Marine Resource District on Front Street. If we had a community design manual, this project would never have made it this far in the permitting process. Being a Verizon customer, I understand the need for better cell coverage, but not at the expense of compromising the waterfront and Front Street, the gateway to Milton. The most pressing infrastructure need I see is getting the sewer treatment plant off the river and onto the new site. The next three years are going to be a time of great opportunity and growth for the town. The comprehensive plan envisions the land the sewer plant occupies as a new Waterfront District. Think about the endless possibilities. With so much potential, now is the time to start forming committees and focus groups to start exploring these great possibilities.”
West - “Maintaining and upgrading our water system.”
Why should people vote for you?
Collier - “I love Milton – its past, its present, and its future, and have the vision and desire to make and keep Milton a community all of us can be proud of. I have served as an appointed official, an elected official, and an employee in the town’s administration. I possess a knowledge of the town, its rules, regulations, and policies unlike any other candidate, and wish to continue serving the citizens as a member of Milton Town Council. I do not fear the tough issues. I am a proven quantity with an excellent record of responsiveness and reliability.”
Revis-Plank - “I am a well-educated, strong, experienced, level-headed woman with experience in making decisions that impact many diverse people. Voters can have confidence in my ability to use my professional experience and project management skills to understand and implement the town’s comprehensive plan, identify appropriate expert advisors, and form working coalitions with town residents that analyze town needs and wants, investigate options with their associated costs and benefits, generate innovative and effective ideas, and develop compelling compromises for Milton’s complex goals. Sound financial planning is the centerpiece of my campaign. I support opportunities for thriving diverse small businesses in a rejuvenated historic town center, music and the arts, ample convenient parking, and a culture of inclusion and respect for all. Town council must mirror voter demographics. I am an active ally for heretofore underrepresented groups including, but not limited to, women and people of color.”
Sangree - “I would like to ask people to vote for me because they see a sincerity of desire and a realistic plan to help take Milton forward into a bright future. A future filled with exciting projects that help unify us around the common vision of a healthy, vibrant town. A future that honors not only the historical past but the current lifelong residents who made and preserved that past for us to enjoy today. Being a newer resident (2013), I bring a fresh, exciting perspective and lots of new ideas to help take Milton forward. I have the passion, conviction, and vision to serve the Town of Milton and its citizens on the town council.”
West - “I want to continue working for the people with honesty and integrity. My door is always open. Having the developers pay for any infrastructure upgrade they may need.”