Milford raises entire cost of land for recreation uses Officials surprised and happy by outpouring of donations for Permattach lot

MILFORD – Officials told people at a public hearing Monday night that the town has raised enough money to cover the purchase price of land adjacent to Keyes Park.

The hearing was for a warrant article to raise $190,000 to buy the 5.8 acres that selectmen say is essential to keep Keyes open during the Superfund cleanup work scheduled for next year and also important for the town’s long term recreation needs.

Town officials and volunteers said they are pleased and excited by the news.

Former Selectman Tim Finan, a member of the Recreation Commission, called the donations “stunning.”

“We were quite surprised by the enthusiasm for the project. We were hoping to raise 50 percent and we got 100 percent,” he said.

Voters will decide the $190,000 land buy at a Deliberative Session on Aug. 11 and at a ballot vote on Sept. 9, both part of a special meeting authorized by superior court.

The purchase price for the property at 127 Elm St., which includes the land and a large industrial building, is $190,000. So far there are $80,000 in donations for 2014 as well as $110,000 in pledged donations over four years,

There was “a fantastic outpouring of public support” for buying this land, Town Administrator Guy Scaife told the dozen or so people gathered for the hearing. Ownership of the 5.8 acres west of Keyes, he said “will guarantee us continued access to Keyes for a “net zero cost to taxpayers.”

The only tax impact of the purchase, he said, would be a “miniscule amount” for interest charges over the four years.

During the public comment part of the hearing, a couple of people said the property is the old Permattach diamond casting plant were solvents have polluted the ground. It was also noted that site work and a driveway will require taxpayer money.

Scaife replied that the state Department of Environmental Services has well documented the site’s environmental problems and the town’s purchase and sales agreement stipulates that Milford has to receive a letter saying “no further action is required” before the sale is complete.

“DES will do inside and outside testing,” he said, and the town’s engineering consultants will also monitor the cleanup.

Yes, there will eventually be funds needed for site work, the town administrator said, but the town is fortunate to be able to acquire property so close to existing fields and also to solve the Superfund cleanup access and parking problem all with one land purchase.

“Imagine if the fields and the pool were off line for one or two years,” he said.

Board Chairman Gary Daniels said “we will not take a piece of property that is dirty. We have suffered enough,” referring to the town’s two Superfund sites.

And Finan said “it is astounding what we’ll get” from the land buy, including the ability to realign all the Keyes Park fields, some of which are “not in the best locations.”

The Recreation Commission has just begun raising money for the project, he said, and will hold an auction and do other fundraising.

Whether the town will use the brick and steel building on the property or tear it down is an open question at this point, and Finan joked that it might make a good ice rink.

Selectman Mark Fougere called Keyes a “premier location for an urban park that is walkable for many residents, and

Selectman Kathy Bauer said the town is very fortunate to be able to acquire ”several acres that abuts the very busy Keyes Park.”

The long-delayed Fletcher Paint Superfund cleanup will take place at the entrance to Keyes Park on Elm Street and is scheduled to begin in 2015. It is the only park vehicle entrance and without access to the Permattach property Keyes would have to be closed for the duration of the cleanup.

Kathy Cleveland can be reached at 673-3100, ext. 304, or kcleveland@
cabinet.com.