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Pagnini Proposes Downtown Improvements

Ronald Pagnini – who owns several commercial properties on Main and Central Streets came to a special meeting of the Board of Selectmen last month with three concrete suggestions on how to make the downtown business district look better to potential customers. Selectmen William Buckley and Michael Walsh, who attended, reacted positively.

Meeting with the board on April 25, Pagnini suggested the following:

• The town commit $200,00 to help businesses replace or remove old awnings; remove, replace or update signs and place a limit on the number of signs per window; paint facades and trim; remove, replace or upgrade lighting fixtures; perform minor cosmetic repairs including masonry; and, replace broken iron grates at the base of trees. Building owners would pay 25 percent of the costs and the town the remaining 75 percent. The goal would be to improve up to 25 buildings by spending an average of $8,000 to $10,000 on each.

• The town purchase and tear down three vacant buildings for sale at 22, 30 and 32 Central St. – assessed by the town at $562,000 for all three – and use the area for additional parking. Pagnini estimated the cost at $1.2 million to $1.75 million if a two-tiered parking structure were built.

• The town allocate $50,000 to create an awareness campaign on local radio, in the local newspaper and on social media to promote downtown businesses. Local business would pay 25 percent of costs and the town would pay the rest.

Pagnini said he decided to come forward after several people came to him over the past few months to complain about how the downtown area looks by pointing to things such as too many signs in windows, ripped awnings and broken store lights. One local realtor even told him someone thinking of buying a house in town backed out after looking at Main St., he said. There also are incorrect "rants" on Facebook and other social media about the way downtown stores look, he added.

"Like any typical downtown, things change," Pagnini said. "Downtown Milford is thriving in its own way. It's multicultural," he said. "We should embrace what we have."

Buckley said the town needs to have updated by-laws in place to prevent what people do not like and encourage what they do. A step in that direction is to ask the Building Inspector and Town Planner to propose new regulations, he added.

Pagnini said he understood that the depressed economy of the past few years meant that building owners had no money to fix up their properties. Most are cash-strapped because the town's dual tax rate hurts small business owners, he added. "These places are going to stay like this forever, if it's the same owner," he commented.

"It's not going to take much. A little commitment from the town is what I'm looking for," Pagnini said.

Key to his ideas is the appointment of a five-member ad hoc committee. "I'm willing to follow this through," he said, offering to serve on the committee and become its chairman.

"I say, move forward," Walsh said

Buckley asked Pagnini to suggest other candidates to serve on the new committee and to give the board a description of the charter that committee should have. He also said replacing broken iron grates around the trees should be the town's responsibility separate and apart from the new committee's.


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