Consultant to look at Milford rec site

File photo The fate of the old Permattach Diamond Tool building at 127 Elm St. is uncertain as Milford makes plans for Keyes Park expansion.

MILFORD – Five years after the town purchased property to expand Keyes Memorial Park, selectmen have given the go-ahead for a consultant to look at options for the land.

The consultant would do a feasibility analysis and needs assessment of 127 Elm St. and also “exhaust all options for using the building,” Lincoln Daley, community development director, told the board last week.

Use of the large industrial building became a sticking point two years ago when the Keyes Memorial Park Expansion Committee recommended demolishing it. Selectmen have been divided on the issue of tearing it down or building a new building to serve as a recreation center.

On March 25, selectmen approved the initial concept of hiring a consultant as well as a request to form a new subcommittee. Daley told selectmen the consultant would extend the committee’s work and reach out to the Boys & Girls Club and other community organizations to see what they offer in the way of recreation programs and facilities.

“Bringing all the stakeholder under the fold” was an approach that the cities of Keene and Concord took, Daley said.

A phased approach might be the best way to do it – moving the recreation department out of town hall and having some programs at 127 Elm St. – could alleviate some of the downtown parking problem, said Recreation Department Director Arene Berry.

Two years ago, Turnstone Corp., a construction management company, estimated that renovating the 30,000 square foot building would cost about $2.8 million.

The building is larger than needed, it said, and would be expensive to renovate. Building a new recreation center directly to the west of Keyes Pool and using 127 Elm St. for playing fields was the cost-effective option.

In 2014 the property, once the home of Permattach Diamond Tool Corp., was bought by the town using private donations as a way to expand Keyes Park and provide more space for recreation.

Town Administrator Mark Bender said the city of Concord turned an old elementary school into a community center with a gym, performing arts center and meeting rooms – a place for all ages, and that’s the model they’d like to follow. “It’s important to move this along,” he said, because leaving the old industrial building empty is not good.

Mike Putnam, who says the town has more pressing needs, was the only selectman to oppose the new plan.

The first phase of the committee’s plan for the expanded park is to build a trail with exercise stations around the entire periphery and that might be done this year, said Berry.