Six years after U.S. Rep. John Sweeney gave the town of Milton a $1 million grant to spruce up Geyser Road near the town center, town officials plan to start work on the project next spring.
A few months ago, the town was in danger of losing the grant entirely.
When Town Supervisor Dan Lewza took office in January, officials from the state Department of Transportation told him they planned to pull the grant and give it to another community that would use it. So over the next nine months, Lewza and town employees reworked plans for the streetscape redesign to convince the DOT that they were serious about using the money.
“It was difficult to change their minds,” Lewza said.
On Sept. 19, they got word that the town will retain the grant.
Lewza will budget $300,000 each year for the next two years to cover the town’s portion of the project. The initiative includes installing drainage, sidewalks and streetlights on the portion of Geyser Road from the intersection with Rowland Street east to the city of Saratoga Springs line.
Officials hope that making that area more attractive and pedestrian friendly will attract businesses to locate there.
“This is going to be a catalyst to start to bring businesses into the area,” Lewza said. While he aims to draw more development to the town center at that intersection of Rowland Street and Geyser Road, the rest of the town will stay rural.
Starting in the spring, town highway department workers and outside contractors will complete the part of the project on the south side of the road. In 2014, they’ll do the north side of the road, he said.
Also in the spring, the town plans to relocate a town park by developing an 81⁄2-acre property it owns on Rowland Street into a park.
The property is situated north of the Hannaford shopping complex on the west side of the street. The town bought it from the county in 2006 for $760 in back taxes, and the county put a clause on the deed that the town couldn’t resell it to a private owner.
The funds to complete the new park would come from the town’s park fund, into which developers put money, Lewza said.
“This will be no hit on our budget and no hit on our taxpayers,” Lewza said. He expects the park fund to have at least $500,000 in it by next year.
Officials plan to build a playground, softball field, soccer field, basketball court and tennis courts, which would duplicate what’s currently on a portion of Burgess Kimball Memorial Park next to Town Hall on Rowland Street.
Sometime in the future, Lewza aims to turn an 8-acre portion of Burgess Kimball into commercial development. Part of the park is required to be used as parkland, including two athletic fields on the west side of the property. But the eastern side with the playground and one athletic field isn’t restricted.
Finding a business that wants to develop the property won’t be a problem, Lewza said.
“There have been a few people who have already contacted me.”
Bringing more commercial development into the town center could boost revenue so much that Lewza believes officials could eliminate the town property tax in eight to 10 years.
“I think we’re definitely headed in the right direction. I think people are really going to see a big difference,” he said.
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