Milton voters will head to the polls Saturday, March 7, to choose among four candidates vying for two seats on Town Council.
Seeking three-year terms are incumbents Rich Baty and Emory West, and newcomers Randi Meredith and John Klein. The candidates were asked to provide a brief biography and answer four questions in 100 words or less. Their answers follow and have been edited in parts for space and clarity.
What is your strategy for encouraging growth in Milton without losing the town’s character and historic buildings?
Baty - “We have been doing a great job for the three years I have been on the council. Downtown is thriving - residential building is strong and renovation of our older homes has been robust - We have spent much time, effort and money on infrastructure for an old town to make needed improvements.
Klein - “In 2016, the EPA released a step-by-step process for preparing a smart growth economic development strategy. Using techniques learned in this research along with good old-fashioned hard work and focus, I plan to move the town forward by promoting sound investments and encouraging growth by selecting focus areas and setting goals for selected areas, while also encouraging the protection of our parks, waterways, historic buildings and landmarks. Nurturing diversity is another way to promote growth; giving breaks to unique business ideas may actually help with the overabundance of pizza shops in the area.”
Meredith - “ 1) Bring back Zombie Fest to introduce new people to our amazing town and seek out new ideas for making Milton a cultural hub. 2) Push for the development of single-family homes with private yard space. The trend of developments cutting out private yards doesn’t fit every stage of life and further cuts back on the feeling of small-town charm that open space provides. 3) Extend the Town Center along Front Street, as suggested in the Comprehensive Plan, through the creation of a new park with parking, development of more small business space with new construction on Front Street whose visual style is aligned with our historic downtown.”
West - “I listen to the people and recommendations from our committees.”
Last year’s departure of Zombie Fest was controversial. Should Milton be proactive to bring the festival back or should Milton Theatre present a plan for the town?
Baty - “ The theatre has communicated to Mrs. Rogers their desire to discuss the issues. I will vote for their return if all the issues can be resolved.”
Klein - “I might get my head bit off for this but I am ‘Pro-Zombie.’ I think it's an infectious and fun event that is easy to digest.
Puns aside, it's an all-inclusive event that brings out many supporters and generates good business for the town. I think what we need to do is work a lot closer with the Milton Theatre to help them develop plans not only for Zombie Fest but for other projects as well. In turn you get a thriving historic business district while supporting the arts and creating capital for all local business. If you want to ‘Keep Milton Weird’ the arts are the best place to start.”
Meredith - “An emphatic Yes to both. Zombie Fest does not ‘compromise our values and safety,’ it’s a Halloween party with a theme. We should be proactive and work with Milton Theatre to bring Zombie Fest back. Let’s trust the Milton Theatre’s proven event-planning capabilities. So many other towns could see the value of Zombie Fest and stepped up to offer their streets and even offered to fund the festival. My fellow Miltonians and I can see the boost this festival brought to our town’s businesses and to its reputation as a great place to live, work, play and visit.”
West - “I am glad to see them want it to come back. We all need to work together and to adhere to the code.”
A controversial issue is the proposal to build a new medical office complex on Mulberry Street. Do you support the idea of such a complex in the downtown area? Why or why not?
Baty - “I can not support either position as of yet - council voted to send their request to planning and zoning, and the builder has forwarded a PLUS request to the state - when we receive enough information my vote will do what's right for Milton.”
Klein - “I do not support this project. There is not one good thing for the people of Milton in allowing two 40,000-square-foot buildings to be placed in the center of our town. The cost of infrastructure changes needed to accommodate such a facility are too much. If we still want to be able to move comfortably from one end of town to the other, the taxpayers will eventually have to pay for road modifications. The addition of another high-traffic building that close to H.O. Brittingham Elementary School poses a clear threat to the residents who walk their kids to school every day.”
Meredith - “I don’t. Many Miltonians have strong negative feelings on the proposal. One of my main goals is getting Milton to its maximum walkability potential - the projected increase in vehicle traffic doesn’t align with that goal. Mulberry Street is ideal for families with small children to live due to its proximity to H.O. Brittingham Elementary School, pediatric practices, parks, our library and the town center.
We need housing that younger people can achieve ownership of - to me, that means using the layout of our older Milton neighborhoods that began as small single-family homes with abutting backyards that have had quirky additions added on over generations. Replicating characteristics of our small-town style neighborhoods will expand the residential area while enhancing historic charm.”
West - “I will base my opinion after the April 6 public forum and we hear from the committees involved.”
Do you think the town is on the right track with pursuing the drainage/bulkhead project on Magnolia Street?
Baty - “I voted for the project to proceed - it was definitely needed as part of our infrastructure upgrade. We did have money committed - $400,000 - that Steve Symk and Ernie Lopez worked hard to get for Milton and we would have had to turn it back. It may have hurt our ability in the future to obtain more funds. There was no doubt in my mind that the project, including the flood-control part, needed to be done.”
Klein - “We are on the right track, so far. If the bulkhead is to the point of needing over $800,000 in repairs, it's better that we have the state grant. We need to make a sound decision on what to do about the bulkhead.
We need to ask questions like what are our alternative fixes? How long do we have till the parking lot collapses? Do we have any companies based in Milton or nearby that can do the work, so we can keep that money circulating close to us?”
Meredith - “Yes, I do. It needs to be fixed and the finished look should align with that of the Governor’s Walk; the addition of a rain garden will be pragmatic and lovely.
We will lose some parking spots, but in its current state, we regularly lose the entirety of the lot to flooding. We will come out ahead by fixing this now using the recommendations of engineers. When the water treatment facility is removed from the riverfront, there will be an opportunity to allot some of the area to our growing need for parking to support our expanding business area.”
West - “We are not on the right track. Even the engineer is not sure if it will work. We do not need to lose the parking spaces as proposed. They will not listen to reason.”