Milton Township officials seek end to cramped quarters

Correspondent photos / Brandon Cantwell Former U.S. Rep Bill Johnson, now Youngstown State University president, talks with , from left, Milton Township Trustee Wendy DiBernardi and police Chief Charles VanDyke about the township’s needs during a visit to the police station last July.

MILTON TOWNSHIP — For anyone driving through Milton Township, it’s easy to be distracted by the state park, restaurants and the splendor of the condominiums that line its vast blue lake.

​However, beneath all that beauty lies a township in dire need.

​A trip through the township will reveal a tiny police station and a town hall building. Behind it, \ a shed houses Zoning Inspector Michael Kurilla’s office.

Kurilla said it “presents many challenges to a normal office operation,” and contractors and residents were surprised by it at a town hall meeting last August.

​Kurilla, who came from Austintown in 2013, said his initial reaction to his work environment was shock and surprise, but he quickly adapted.

​”It has the necessities required to perform the job — computer, fax / copy machine, phone, electric heater,” Kurilla said. “My former Austintown office equaled or exceeded the current size of the police department, so it was quite an adjustment.”

​Kurilla said one of his biggest adjustments was having limited space for files, blueprints and drawings. He said some of the older permit or zone change cases are stored in the township’s police cruiser garage.


For Township Trustee Chair David Tomaino, serving the township has been a family affair. He followed in the footsteps of his father, who served several terms as trustee and started the township’s police and fire departments.

​​Tomaino, who has served as a trustee for 13 years, explained the township lacks a place where the community can gather for events. The town hall, which has been in use for decades, was an old schoolhouse.

​”Truthfully, I believe it was an old one-room schoolhouse at one time. It’s very old, dates back into the 1800s,” Tomaino said. “Underneath, right now we’re working on a water issue because the foundation is the old stone foundation and then the stones separate underneath. We had to put a new furnace in. We need a new water system in it. We had to rewire the electricity in here; I mean, what you would do with an 1800s building.”

​In terms of how helpful the state parks have been, Tomaino explained things previously resembled the “wild, wild West.”

​”Everybody kind of did what they wanted to do,” Tomaino said. “When the state moved in and they took over that property around the lake and started regulating things, it really did settle everything down, and it made it more of a recreational community. Truthfully, it made it a lot safer. We had a lot of dangerous kinds of establishments out here.”


​A strong push for a new township building has served as a topic of importance at meetings over the past year. But, as Trustee Wendy DiBernardi who was elected in 2021, explained, a plan for a new building has spanned previous boards.

​”Our community has utilized and made the best of what we had for years,” DiBernardi said. “The previous boards had the vision to purchase a 7-acre parcel of land for the township to someday use for a new building. The previous boards also invested in a fire hall and building for our fire department. That project was a huge investment in our community.”

​DiBernardi explained at August’s town hall that they applied for the funding of a building, but their application was rejected. However, they have no plans to ask residents for financial assistance to construct the building.

​”Our plan to cover the local match is not set in stone at this time,” she said. “We have a variety of options that all include low-interest or no-interest loans to pay back our 20% to 30% match. We would not go to our voters for additional money in the form of a levy or additional tax; we would pay back the loan over time.”

​Since August’s meeting, not much has changed on that front.

​”We will still have to show some local funding, possibly a USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) loan for rural townships like ours, usually at very low-interest rates,” DiBernardi said. “Plus, we applied for additional money from the state budget for the new building, so with combined federal dollars and state dollars, our local match or contribution may be lower. But that’s all pending approval and awarded funding.”

​This year is unlike other years for the township, which still finds itself fighting for grant money. DiBernardi explained Trumbull County communities such as Weathersfield and Cortland are seeking money for community centers, with Cortland proposing to build a safety service center to house its fire and police departments.

​While there are extra groups in the ring this time around, DiBernardi said there has been a showing of support from elected officials, mentioning they’ve had visitors from U.S. Sen. J.D. Vance’s office and a staffer from Lt. Gov. Jon Husted’s office.

​”We got support letters from (state Sen. Michael) Rulli’s office and (state Rep. Al) Cutrona’s office to seek our federal dollars,” DiBernardi said. “It shows our need and the support of local elected officials.”

​”We are trying to shine the light on our local community,” DiBernardi added.

Kurilla, who has felt the crunch of poor working conditions, said he would be “elated” with a modern, spacious office in a new facility.

​”At this early stage of developing a concept for a new township hall and offices, my input has been limited to providing letters of support for grant applications,” Kurilla said.

“But I would not expect to be involved more at such a preliminary stage of attempting to acquire a funding source.”

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