MILFORD, Del. – It's been months since a referendum failed to pass in Milford, leaving the future of the city's historic middle school up in the air.
However, a recent decision on what to do with the school in the meantime is not sitting well with the community.
"It looks terrible," says Amy Jackson, a resident right across the street from Milford Middle School.
The historic landmark, built back in 1929, can now be mistaken for a boarded-up, condemned building with large pieces of plywood covering the windows.
"We've got historic homes all around us, this is a historic building, it should be treated like somebody cares about it," says Jamie Burk, a resident nearby the school.
Among their biggest concerns, residents say they are worried about what kind of message the boarded-up building sends to the community, and to those looking to buy a home or start a business in the city. With a brand new mayor and big plans for revitalization, they also feel it could be a big setback in the city's plans.
"Someone's not going to want to buy a building across the street from a boarded up building so the property value theoretically goes down," says Burk. "We have some foreclosed properties in town you're not going to see them being habituated again."
"I would love to sell now but I know there's no way I could with the school like this, there's no way I'd get the money back for the house," says Jackson.
School board officials say they did not hold any public hearings about whether or not to put plywood on the building, and some residents feel if they had been informed, they could have helped the board come up with another plan. They also fear that the shuttered school looks inviting to people who want to break in, but school board members say that is the purpose for the plywood.
"We wanted to do this for security, safety, and also liability issues," says Marvin Schelhouse, president of the Milford School Board. "This past year there have been some problems with people trying to get into the school."
In order to renovate the building, residents would have to see a tax increase, and would need to vote in favor of the hike in a referendum. The school cannot hold another referendum until October, and the referendum in March reportedly failed by more than 170 votes. Schelhouse says the board has not made an official decision about whether or not to hold the October referendum.
"We need to get the whole community behind it we're all on team Milford and we need to promote the town, we want to see the best for this area," says Burk.
However, in the meantime, residents who want to see the plywood come down, may have hit a wall.
"I don't see where there's a compromise," says Schelhouse. "It's just something we had to do, and I think it's the right thing to do."
The WMDT 47 Teachers Who Make a Difference Contest is Sponsored by Accurate Optical: "Encouraging children of all ages to come in for an annual eye exam to help them see better in school." Each month weMore >>
The 47 ABC "Teachers Who Make a Difference" Sponsored by Accurate Optical Encouraging children of all ages to come in for an annual eye exam to help them see better in school.More >>
The WMDT/Mountaire Better Delmarva Award is a monthly honor designed to highlight local individuals, businesses, civic organizations or classrooms who are going above and beyond in their effort to assist others in the community or to improve and protect the local environment. Each month a winner is chosen by a Mountaire selection committee from submitted nominations.More >>