Buying property necessary to keep Milford’s Keyes Field open during Superfund work

MILFORD – With the entire $190,000 purchase price covered by donations, the question of whether Milford should buy 5.8 acres next to Keyes Field – not just to expand the park, but to keep it from being shut for a year during work on an adjacent Superfund site – seems pretty straightforward.

“Groups have told us, If you let this slip away, you’re crazy,” Tim Finan, chairman of the Milford Recreation Commission, said during a presentation Monday, Aug. 11, at a deliberative session in Town Hall.

Voters will consider the issue at the Sept. 9 election.

But it’s entirely an open-and-shut case, as questions at the hearing demonstrated. Taxpayer money of some kind will be needed at some point, despite the surprising success of the Recreation Commission’s fundraising.

The most likely cost will be to either upgrade or demolish the long-closed buildings once occupied by the company Permattach.

One question raised at the deliberative session did get settled.

Resident Hub Seward questioned whether there might be unexpected costs for environmental cleanup at 127 Elm St., an issue that resonates in a town that is home to two Superfund sites.

Town Administrator Guy Scaife told the crowd that the contract with the Mayo Group, developers who own the site, stipulates that the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services must say that “no further action is required” regarding pollutants before the Board of Selectmen will sign the final contract.

The benefits of the purchase are twofold.

Keyes Road, the long driveway that leads into Keyes Field off Elm Street, will be closed for a year or longer when long-delayed cleanup work begins at the Fletcher Superfund Site, perhaps as early as next spring.

If the town owns the Permattach site, cars could enter the park from the west.

If that land isn’t bought, no vehicle access would be possible during construction, only foot traffic on a bridge over the Souhegan River. An easement allowing access to Keyes Field via the Permattach site has lapsed and the Mayo Group doesn’t want to re-establish it, Scaife said.

“The rush to get this done is access,” Finan said.

In the longer term, advocates say the purchase would allow for an expansion or redesign of Keyes Field, by far the most heavily used park in town. Keyes includes the town swimming pool and tennis courts, a skateboard park and ballfields.

An expansion could be used in a variety of ways, including more fields, a dog park, a community center or walking trails.

Finan said the Recreation Commission started its fundraising hoping to contribute half of the $190,000 purchase price, only to be overwhelmed by donations from companies, groups and individuals.

Money is still coming in to support upgrades.

One cost to Milford in the transaction is that it will lose any chance of collecting $88,000 in back taxes on the site.

The Budget Committee supports the warrant article 7-0 and the Board of Selectmen supports it 5-0.

The Fletcher Superfund Site, on Elm Street at the entrance to Keyes Field, was the location of Fletcher Paint warehouse for years. The company dumped material that made it into the groundwater and contaminated one of the town’s main drinking wells; it has been on the cleanup site for more than a decade.

David Brooks can be reached at 594-6531 or dbrooks@nashuatelegraph.com. Also, follow Brooks on Twitter (@GraniteGeek).