What is the chief stumbling block for Milford and how do you correct it?
That was one of about a dozen questions proposed to Milford Mayor Ben Blake and Republican challenger Peter Spalthoff at a mayoral debate last week.
The two candidates were not given the questions beforehand. The debate allowed each candidate two minutes to address the question then one minute to retort to the other’s response.
Here’s how Blake and Spalthoff responded. The municipal election is Nov. 5.
Blake said his top priority remains helping the hundreds of residents still displaced from Hurricane Sandy.
The Democrat said applying for federal relief funds is “like navigating through alphabet soup,” a phrase he used earlier this month at a public forum where new funds were discussed with residents.
Earlier in the debate, Blake said not an hour goes by in his day-to-day without some type of attention being paid to help secure relief funds for those still recovering from Sandy.
“We’re talking tens of millions of dollars in new construction,” the mayor said.
Spalthoff cited a declining enrollment at Milford Public Schools as the city’s chief obstacle.
“It didn’t just happen this year,” the Republican candidate said in reference to a student body that decreased from 7,500 in 2003 to 6,400 in 2013.
Spalthoff said while the budget for the construction project at East Shore Middle School has ballooned from $12 million to $21 million, enrollment at the same time has dropped dramatically.
“We built it for 650 but only 455 students will be there,” he said.
In Blake’s retort, he said the school population is “cyclical.” He added that a committee has been formed to consider the future makeup of the district and eventually make recommendations to the Milford Board of Education.
Spalthoff responded with a recommendation of his own, saying schools should return to a grades K-5, 6 to 8, and 9 to 12 format, which drew applause from the crowd.
Do you agree with one candidate over the other? What do you believe to be Milford’s “chief stumbling block” and how should it be addressed?
Please share in the comments below.