By David Hazledine
MILFORD — Milford Town Council and Redevelopment Commission were back in action Monday, May 11, with agendas indicative of eventful months ahead for the town.
Both meetings were attended by Steve Moriarty, Kosciusko County Highway Department superintendent, who gave a brief presentation on plans to extend CR 1300N and future railroad crossing closures.
Also attending was Alan Tio, Kosciusko Economic Development Corporation CEO, who discussed opportunities for developing workforce housing in Milford.
For several years, Kosciusko County has applied for the extension of CR 1300N to SR 15. Thanks to a grant from the Indiana Department of Transportation TRAX Railroad Overpass program, the roughly $8 million project is set to move ahead with construction taking place in February 2022, said Moriarty, who was joined by Marsha McSherry, Kosciusko County administrator and Brad Jackson, Kosciusko County commissioner.
The benefits of the extension include making the area “more appetizing” to businesses, due in part to the location of two railroads, Norfolk Southern and CSX. The project is also expected to improve safety by providing a more direct connection for motorists and emergency vehicles. Syracuse businesses will also benefit from a more direct route to SR 15.
The project will also include the closing of three railroad crossings: North Street and South Street in Milford Junction and Fourth Street in Milford. At the same time, the First Street crossing in Milford will be upgraded to include a light and crossing arm.
“It’s the biggest project I’ve ever been involved with,” Moriarty exclaimed, adding it has been “eight years coming.”
Tio applauded “everyone involved for sticking with this through a number of application cycles.” He added the project will “make the entire corridor more attractive for future development.”
Dan Brown, commission president, commented the project will have a “huge impact on the town of Milford and Kosciusko County.” The closure of the Fourth Street crossing, he said, is “well worth the economic and safety benefits.” The commission passed a motion recommending Milford Town Council also support the project.
The plan did draw criticism from town council member Kenneth Long, however, who questioned the decision to close the Fourth Street crossing rather than the Emeline Street crossing, which, he pointed out, has only six houses east of the tracks as opposed to 22 on Fourth.
Moriarty said two engineering firms looked at the crossings and both chose the same closures.
Town Clerk Tricia Gall cited the original letter of support from the town, indicating two railroad crossing closures, not three; however, Moriarity said the plan had always called for three.
Todd Haines, Milford Fire Department chief, suggested the number of accidents at the crossings may have played a role in the decision. Councilmember Bob Cockburn added there is greater school bus activity on Emeline.
Moriarty agreed to contact INDOT to get clarification on the decision.
“The entire project, I think, we need to embrace wholeheartedly,” said Doug Ruch, council president. “For a town this size to get something this big on its northern boundary is just phenomenal.”
In another development affecting Milford’s economic future, the town council and redevelopment commission will start a steering committee composed of members of KEDCo, Milford Town Council and Milford Redevelopment Commission to explore ways of increasing the supply of workforce housing. The council passed a motion naming Long to the committee. Brown will represent the redevelopment commission along with Tio from KEDCo. Attorney Andy Boxberger of Carson LLP and Jim Higgins of LWG CPAs will serve as advisors.
According to Tio, Milford is the “first in line” to take advantage of the revolving loan system.
Zimmer Biomet is providing $1 million in matching funds along with Indiana Housing & Community Development Authority to create public-private partnerships to address the need for housing. In Milford, the committee would begin the process of identifying possible sites, with KEDCo taking the lead.
Because TIF dollars may not be used for administrative expenses, the town council may be asked to provide roughly $25,000, matched with state funds, to start the pre-development process. Ideally, this would be paid back later by the developer. A reserve fund will also be in place for projects not advancing past the planning stage.
Long expressed his desire the committee focus on single-family homes. Such preferences, said Brown, pointed to the benefits of the arrangement. “The town of Milford can take control of the process,” he stated, rather than an outside developer.