Middletown council wants more spending for public safety, jobs

Middletown City Council members anonymously ranked 2018 spending priorities in 10 categories, then talked about them but made no changes to their private ratings.

At a previous meeting, City Manager Doug Adkins asked each council member to rank 10 areas where they would prioritize spending in 2018 so that he could have a rough idea of where council stood.

While none of the 10 areas received the support of all five council members, the top four priority areas were road paving; housing stock and neighborhoods; additional public safety; and economic development/workforce development.

Vice Mayor Dora Bronston said there should be a higher priority for public safety, noting the city’s crime and drug issues.

“Public safety is really important to me,” she said.

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Mayor Larry Mulligan reiterated Bronston’s concern about having additional public safety funding as well as doing everything possible to attract new jobs to Middletown.

Councilman Talbott Moon raised a concern that nearly half of the projected sources of the discretionary spending budget are one-time revenue infusions, such as large construction projects underway for the Middletown City Schools.

“I’d want to be careful about how we spend those monies that coming in one time, and let’s not get ourselves into a recurring situation,” he said.

Adkins agreed with Moon saying he hopes, at least for the next several years, to begin a development cycle that with projects starting, getting completed, and following with more projects.

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Adkins said he was not surprised with the rankings, adding, “This is what I expected.”

He told council that 2018 is a transition year before the new city master plan is adopted. Adkins said in following years, council should have clear budget priorities based on that plan.

The city’s Comprehensive Master Plan is expected to be completed this year and would include components such as the new Downtown Master Plan, the new zoning code, the Housing Study that is now underway, an updated Airport Plan, and the Bicycle/Pedestrian/Transit plan.

Last week, council officially adopted the Downtown Master Plan as well as the “What If Middletown” Visioning Plan as city policy. Adkins said both documents will be part of the new comprehensive master plan.

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Adkins said the city has about $3.8 million in unmet needs, with close to $3.6 million for road paving and the remainder for other capital improvements for parks and neighborhood infrastructure.

Middletown’s current general fund budget is about $28 million for 2017. To fulfill its unmet needs, the city would need to have a general fund budget of more than $31.8 million.

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Each year, he said the city funds projects through its general fund, state and federal grants, other federal programs such as Community Development Block Grants, HOME and Neighborhood Stabilization Program funding; and other revenue sources.

Work on the 2018 city budget will begin later this summer and will be ready for council approval by year’s end.

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