In photos: Ballston Spa resident Frank Rossi Jr. addresses the Milton Town Board on Wednesday, April 25, 2018; and the crowd at the May 1 special meeting. Photos by Larry Goodwin.
MILTON – The political wrangling in Milton over the town’s controversial purchase of former Boy Scout property off Route 29 will finally end on Friday, May 11.
A law firm in Troy representing the Boy Scouts’ Twin Rivers Council has given the town until 1 p.m. on May 11 to finalize a contract for the $1 million Boyhaven land deal, according to Acting Milton Attorney Thomas Peterson.
The town already has received $500,000 that was borrowed for that specific purpose.
During a special meeting this week, the Milton Town Board voted unanimously to set a second special meeting for 7 p.m. on Monday, May 7, as multiple outside groups scrambled to raise the other $500,000 before the end of next week.
“We’ll move forward as if we’re closing on the eleventh, or the deal is no longer on the table,” offered Milton Supervisor Scott Ostrander, after the town board had emerged from a 25-minute executive session on Tuesday evening.
“Failure to close on this date will result in a breach of contract, allowing the seller the right to cancel without penalty,” Peterson said, reading from an April 30 letter that was sent to the town by the law firm of Martin, Shudt, Wallace, DiLorenzo and Johnson.
Meanwhile, Saratoga Preserving Land and Nature (PLAN), Friends of the Kayaderosseras and other groups are attempting to fill a funding void that was left by an anonymous donor, who rescinded an offer last week to help Milton officials by giving the Twin Rivers Council $500,000 toward the Camp Boyhaven purchase.
Milton Planning Board Chairman Larry Woolbright, a key supporter of the effort for more than a year, posted the following statement on the Saratoga PLAN website (https://www.saratogaplan.org):
“Saratoga PLAN is working with Friends of the Kayaderosseras and other community members in the town of Milton who wish to preserve Camp Boyhaven as a public recreational and natural area,” he wrote.
“If you are willing to help by pledging a donation or by pledging a substantial low-interest loan please let us know the amount on the form below,” Woolbright advised. “Names will be kept confidential, but the number of pledges and total dollar amount pledged will be tracked and used to demonstrate public support to the town board.
“We are not collecting funds at this time,” he added. “We are only soliciting pledges of donations or substantial loan amounts, but if the deal closes we may need the money quickly.”
According to Milton Councilwoman Barbara Kerr, the funds already raised have reached nearly $100,000. She said that “certainly shows where the people’s heart is.”
Still, at the town board’s April 25 meeting, Ostrander was joined by Councilman John Frolish and members of the public in criticizing any town expenditures in the land deal.
“I’m not comfortable,” said Frolish, “with laying out $500,000 in town funds…I’m sitting here in facilities that have every roof in this place leak. And we’re going to sit here and spend a million dollars, and we aren’t ever going to address these problems. I think we need to address our essential services first, and not look at just kicking away $500,000.”
Frank Rossi Jr., who attends most public meetings in Ballston Spa and Milton, claimed that he reviewed both the town’s contract with the Twin Rivers Council and applicable state rules, saying there are “a lot of open questions in this entire process.”
“This is a lot of damned money to spend,” Rossi argued. “You are underfunded on this project in the first place, for the removal of buildings, etcetera…there is a shell game going on. There is a lot of due diligence that was missing in this project.
“This is not just a $1 million situation,” he added. “This is probably a $1.25 million situation at the end of the day.”
Despite the opposition voiced by Frolish and Ostrander, Kerr said there are two separate accounts for parks in Milton with a total of about $260,000 currently available.
In addition, she noted, state agencies have partnered with the Nature Conservancy and intend to buy a portion of the 300-acre property. The forested land contains a mile of the Kayaderosseras Creek, which ultimately feeds the western side of Saratoga Lake.
“I really hope it goes through,” Kerr said. “We could pull this off and then sell the land and pay back most of the money.”
Saratoga PLAN Executive Director Maria Trabka reported this week that raising the additional funds is not the “primary hurdle.”
“We are brainstorming,” Trabka explained, and “everybody is doing their best to find a solution” that will satisfy all interested parties.
“To be continued, in short order,” she said.