Milton candidates take part in Q&A

Election set for March 2
February 27, 2024

Milton’s three town council candidates made their last big pitch to voters Feb. 24 in a candidates’ forum where growth and traffic were the big issues on voters’ minds.

Citizens packed Milton library for the 90-minute forum, hosted by Milton Chamber of Commerce, which featured the three candidates for two council seats: incumbents Fred Harvey and Lee Revis-Plank, and Erin Willis, a member of the town’s Parks and Recreation Committee. Each candidate was allowed a four-minute introduction followed by a question-and-answer session with questions submitted by the audience and then read to the candidates by moderator Jack Young.

In his introduction, Harvey, 69, played up his lifelong connection to Milton, where has lived all his life. A graduate of Cape Henlopen High School, Harvey worked for Cape Henlopen School District for 22 years before retiring, although he still drives a bus part time. Harvey is seeking his first full term in office after he was appointed to fill the remainder of John Collier’s term after Collier was elected mayor. Harvey has been a member of the Milton Fire Department since 1991.

Revis-Plank, 75, is the town’s vice mayor and is seeking her second term on council. Revis-Plank pitched voters on her experience in both the business and political worlds. She spent her professional career working in training and leadership development for DuPont and Bank of America before retiring in 2013. Revis-Plank said she’s seeking another term to complete various town projects, and with her experience, she can hit the ground running.

Willis, 41, is a mother of two who relocated to Milton in 2015 with her family. A speech-language pathologist for Cape Henlopen School District and the Sussex Consortium by trade, Willis said her professional experience requires patience and compromise. She said she would like to bring a fresh perspective to council, focusing on improving the livability, affordability and inclusivity of Milton.

The first question was about the town’s recent property tax increases in 2022 and 2023, and how the candidates will respond to rising costs.

Harvey said he would like to go through the town budget line-by-line to find ways to trim costs. He said his goal is to do much smaller increases either every year or every other year to keep up with rising costs, which would raise revenue but not hit citizens with the 15% and 9% increases council passed the last two years. 

Revis-Plank said one of the town’s largest expenses is its monthly electric payments to Delmarva Power, which amount to $15,000 per month. She said she would like to see the town explore the idea of switching its streetlights to solar LED lights and possibly having a solar farm to cut down on electric expenses long term. Revis-Plank said the town could also increase revenue through the institution of parking meters in the downtown business district.

Willis said she agrees with the idea of incremental increases to keep up revenue, and that she’s also happy with the recent passage of the annexation referendum for Scarlet Oaks, which will help increase the town’s tax base.

The candidates were asked about traffic and speeding. 

Revis-Plank said the police department has increased enforcement of speeding, but she wants to see more education initiatives for newer drivers.

Willis said she wants to see a three-pronged approach based on education, infrastructure and enforcement. She said the town could take measures, like the curb bump outs in her neighborhood in Cannery Village, that force motorists to slow down. 

Harvey said part of the education is through enforcement, making it so that Milton is similar to towns like Ellendale or Magnolia, where motorists are discouraged from speeding because of the town’s reputation for enforcement.

The candidates were asked about growth, including whether they support a moratorium on development.

Revis-Plank said the town’s annexation and site-plan review process is very thorough, with multiple reviews before a development even gets to town council for approval, which includes cost-benefit analysis and an analysis of whether there are infrastructure and services to serve the development. Revis-Plank said she does not think a moratorium on development would have much of benefit, as opposed to working with developers to control the size, amenities and green space of the development. 

Willis said the town should look at a comprehensive plan and continue to assess its infrastructure within the town’s future growth area. She said the town should look at its infrastructure’s sustainability to ensure it is viable long term. Willis said she is not sure the town will have the power or control to enforce a moratorium on development, but that the town should ensure that development is guided by the town’s comprehensive plan. 

Harvey said the town should keep a tight lid on growth to ensure the town’s infrastructure can serve future development. He said the only way he can support any kind of moratorium on development is if the town does not receive assistance from the state. 

The Milton election will be held from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday, March 2, at Milton fire hall. Following the polls closing, results will be announced at town hall around 6:30 p.m.

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