Residents and business owners won’t be seeing Economic Development Director Steven Masten actively involved in city affairs any time soon.
Due to the city’s budget restraints, Masten will no longer serve as the city’s economic development director, although Chairman of Finance S. Allen “Skip” Pikus said the position is still on the books.
The position, established only a year ago, was funded through money acquired from the sale of property to Wawa, originally $1.2 million that formed the economic development funds.
Earmarked at $81,000 for a yearlong trial, the economic development director focused on bringing new businesses to Milford and working on a strategic infrastructure plan to attract new developers.
“I started the initiative with the investment strategy for Milford, something that hopefully will not fade away,” Masten said Tuesday. “You’re planning for the future, where future growth can occur. Now Milford is in that mode of reaching out and getting property ready. Towns need to be shovel-ready, meaning they need to have the proper zoning and infrastructure in place to be sure they have what [the developers] want.”
Those responsibilities will now shift to City Manager Richard Carmean.
“It was a full-time job for me, he already has a full-time job, and now he’s taking on another,” Masten said. “As the economy improves, it’s going to be very challenging for Mr. Carmean to keep up with the economic development demands.”
With money spent on a new parks and recreation position, economic development purchases − like the new Downtown Milford, Inc. building, which was originally intended to become a parking lot − and funds earmarked for a new police department, the city decided that it no longer will have the financial means to fund a full-time economic development director.
“Come budget time, we didn’t have any money that hadn’t been earmarked or obligated in that account,” City Manager Richard Carmean said. Carmean said he has seen 13 layoffs in the last few years within the department, and said he kept Masten on past July 1 in hopes that he could find the money somewhere else.
“I just couldn’t,” Carmean said. “It’s important to know the problem is not Steve. If money falls out of a pocket somewhere, we’d hire him back.”
Masten said he doesn’t plan to sit around idly in the meantime, although he said he would consider resuming his position if the opportunity arose and he wasn’t committed to other obligations. Recently returning from a Florida vacation, he plans to take care of some tasks that were “on the back burner” and said he may look into work in sales or economic development in another part of the state.
Page 2 of 2 - Carmean and Pikus both said they hope the city will be able to find funds to bring Masten back into his position later this year or during next year’s budget discussions.
“We’ve got to be very frugal with money this year. Expenses are going up, employees want to be paid more. We have to watch our dollars,” Pikus said. “If some funds come up in the middle of the year, by golly we’ll use them.”
If any resident needs to contact Masten, he said to call him at (302) 542-4237 or email email@example.com.
“It was a little surprise for me, but the [city] council had other priorities. The separation from working there is peaceful,” Masten said. “My wife is saying, “You might not be working, but you’ve still got a lot of work to do.’”