Officials clash on Keyes building

MILFORD – Members of the committee charged with planning the future of Keyes Memorial Park pushed selectmen last week to make a decision about the old manufacturing building on town land being integrated into the park.

Janet Langdell, chairwoman of the Keyes Memorial Park Expansion Committee, called the former Permattach Diamond Tool Co. building a stumbling block to park expansion – “a pink elephant in the middle of the table.”

The final committee report recommends demolishing the 30,000-square-foot building, creating a multipurpose athletic field on the property and building a new community center just west of Keyes Pool.

Renovating the old brick building wouldn’t be a cost-effective solution, the report concluded. Recreation Commission Chairwoman Claudia Lemaire backed up Langdell.

“The board has enough information to know the building should be demolished,” she said. “What more information would you need to make a decision?”

Committee member Jerry Guthrie said the building’s only value is its structural frame, and it would be expensive to renovate. Even after a multimillion-dollar renovation, it still wouldn’t be available for some recreation uses because of the 12-foot ceilings, he said.

But two selectmen, Gary Daniels and Mike Putnam, lean toward renovation.

“The building needs a little TLC. … Renovating it would be a piece of cake,” Putnam said.

Looking frustrated, Langdell disagreed.

“Mike, you were on the committee, and you know we are not in the building trades,” she said.

The group had received a professional opinion from Turnstone Corp. that renovation wasn’t a good option.

“It’s important to get that on the record for the public,” she said.

At any rate, board Chairman Mark Fougere said, the town has other priorities, such as expansion projects for the Fire Station and library and major equipment purchases for the area communications center.

In the meantime, Community Development Director Lincoln Daley said, there are projects at Keyes that can be done this year because they’re affordable, including the construction of a walking-biking path around the perimeter. The committee’s survey of residents showed a walking path would be a popular improvement.

The Recreation Department has a grant to buy 10 outdoor exercise stations for the trail, but needs to match the $7,500.

The 5.8-acre property at 127 Elm St., where the old Permattach building is located, was purchased by the town with donated money a few years ago. The initial goal was to provide secondary access to Keyes Park while the Superfund cleanup was going on and also for long-term recreation use.

Renovation of the existing building is estimated to cost $2.8 million, and demolishng it and building of a new 30,000-square-foot building with an unfinished second floor would cost about $3.8 million.

The report, which is available on the town website, concludes that renovation “would not be a cost-effective solution.” Existing electrical, HVAC and plumbing would need to be replaced at an estimated cost of $854,000, and window and drywall replacement would cost about $250,000.

“The Town would face substantial challenges and limitations given the design, location, and orientation of the buildings,” the report said. The current site layout is prohibitive and does not offer opportunities to fully maximize the 5.8 acres for program/field development, parking, and integration with Keyes Memorial Park.

“Further, the internal layout of the buildings creates additional physical challenges and is not conducive for meeting program needs of either the Recreation Department or area seniors.”

Kathy Cleveland can be reached at 673-3100 or