Milford voters will be asked to approve two property-tax hikes in November: a bond issue to build a new middle school and a tax levy to develop a flagship park in the city.
A divided Milford City Council recently voted to put the 5-year, 3-mill parks and recreation levy on the Nov. 2 ballot.
Mayor Amy Vilardo voted against it, even though she said she “100%” supports a parks levy.
Vilardo wanted to delay pursuing the levy until after November so as not to jeopardize passage of a 2.47-mill bond issue the Milford schools put on the ballot in July.
'I do not believe the timing is right'
“I voted no because I do not believe the timing is right,” she said.
“The park is a want, not a need. And to put it on the ballot with a school levy could potentially negatively affect one or the other.”
One Milford city councilmember joined Vilardo in her dissenting vote.
But they were outnumbered by yes votes from the other five councilmembers who want to proceed now with plans years in the making to turn vacant property at the city’s Five Points intersection into a park with a tall clock tower.
The $7.7 million Five Points Landing Park is to be developed in three phases at the pie-shaped property between Main Street and Lila Avenue.
It includes the site of the former Milford Main Middle School, which was demolished in 2016.
The parks levy would cost homeowners $157.50 a year for every $150,000 of their property’s appraised value.
Milford City Manager Michael Doss said proceeds from the levy, which is expected to generate a total of $2.8 million for the city, would be used to complete the first phase of Five Points Landing Park.
“This will include meandering walking paths, a comprehensive farmers market, various water features, floral and decorative tree landscaping, greenspace, an outdoor performance area for outdoor theater, concerts and art exhibits and adequate parking,” he said.
Doss said levy funds would also be used to make improvements at existing parks in Milford involving playground equipment, walking trails, canoe and kayak facilities and restrooms.
'The crown jewel in Milford's park system'
If voters approve the parks levy in November, he said, city officials will not ask for another levy to finance the second and third phases of Five Points Landing Park, which he predicts will become "the crown jewel in Milford's park system and a premier park in Clermont County.”
Doss said Milford expects the second phase of the park, which includes an indoor pavilion, space for meetings and a banquet hall, to be funded with grants.
The city hopes to fund the third phase, which includes the clock tower, with grants and private donations, he said.
Bond issue on ballot would fund new middle school
Meanwhile, the 30-year, $55.9 million bond issue the Milford Exempted Village Board of Education put on the Nov. 2 ballot to build and equip a new middle school would cost homeowners $86.45 a year for every $100,000 of their property's appraised value..
The school district also would receive nearly $11.6 million in co-funding from the state Facilities Construction Commission if the bond issue is approved.
The middle school would replace the nearly 60-year-old junior high school and be built near its site on Wolfpen Pleasant Hill Road.
“Students would continue learning in the junior high building while the middle school is being constructed,” Milford schools spokeswoman Wendy Planicka said.
She said schools Superintendent John Spieser and school board members do not want to comment on how Milford City Council’s decision to seek a parks levy in November might affect their push for a bond issue.
Ted Haskins is one of the city council members who voted to proceed with the parks levy now but encouraged people to vote for the school bond issue, too.
“I think those teachers deserve a facility in which they can teach, and the kids need a facility in which they can learn,” he said.
“The (junior high school) that’s up there now is outdated. It needs to go.”