Dear Town of Milton Neighbors,
Today (May 2nd) is my 42nd birthday, and I have some unusual wishes I wanted to tell you about. The main wish I have is for the Town of Milton, New York — my hometown — to be a happy place. Right now, with the equally compelling arguments for and against a Town acquisition of the Camp Boyhaven property (Pro: enormous park space; Con: high cost to Town), we seem a bit disjointed. A lot of folks from other municipalities seem to be weighing in despite their taxes not being affected. Well, maybe we can get them involved, too, to help me achieve my birthday wishes. Here’s a list of what I’d like to “receive” on my birthday:
1) From the “Anonymous Donor” – I’d like them to fulfill their promise of donating $500,000. And I’d like them to be introduced, in private, to the Supervisor so that a Town official responsible for anything bad that happens related to this transaction can actually understand where the money came from and the rationale for their contribution. This was all The Ballston Journal and I suggested needed to happen in the first place to at least make the contribution toward the purchase price a safer scenario for the Town. The Town cannot run the risk of learning something later that would force a return of those funds (this ethical problem happens to political campaigns frequently, but an additional $500,000 isn’t readily available in the Town coffers if the contributor or their money would be problematic for the Town to indirectly accept).
What is confusing is that the agreement between Twin Rivers Council (“TRC”) and the Town suggests anonymity was not a requirement: “4. PRIVATE DONATION… [A]n anonymous donor has agreed to donate to the Seller… $500,000.00, contingent upon (a) the Property being conveyed to the Purchaser for use as a park…; (b) the agreement by the Purchaser to allow the anonymous donor permanent naming rights to the park… No further conditions or restrictions shall be placed on the donation by the anonymous donor.” The suggestion that the donor needed to be vetted by the Town should not be considered grounds to revoke the gift since their identity is still not in the public domain. Right now, the Town and/or TRC likely has the right to sue the donor based on the legal concept of “promissory estoppel.” That lawsuit would very likely publicly unmask this person, so why would they risk it if their identity isn’t already known publicly? Common sense dictates fulfillment of the donation after a meeting with the Supervisor, assuming everything is appropriate related to the donor and their money.
2) From TRC – I’d like TRC to realize their quotes from the past week and other information suggest that $1 million is an artificial price that the Town should not be paying for the Boyhaven property if they won’t be able to develop it. A TRC representative told the Daily Gazette Friday that they were evaluating the “next-highest bids” despite previous claims that a higher bid existed that they chose to overlook to award the property to the Town. I was also contacted by a scout mom who told me, “I reached out to [TRC], asking why they can’t lower the price (since they are non-profit)…. They said they aren’t in a financial position to take less then asking price. I simply don’t believe this to be true, and I think this issue needs more publicity.” A Daily Gazette article from 5/2/17 included a quote from a TRC representative, stating, “We’re asking for offers… I’m not sure why the town doesn’t think they can bid because we have not put a[n asking price] number down.” Where did this sudden $1 million asking price come from, TRC?
TRC, please lower the required price from the Town, regardless of whether the “anonymous donor” comes back into the picture. The idea here is to not gouge the Town. Based on your own quotes, the suggestion exists that you might be doing just that. If you’re not, then maybe explain the basis for this $1 million price with some real proof of other offers (apples to apples). According to your 2016-2018 Strategic Plan, you intended to sell this property “if cost effective” well before you put it up for bid. Yet, wouldn’t a $750,000 sale price, for instance, seem pretty cost effective if it will help the deal get done ASAP?
3) From New York State – It’s time for the State to state a real offer on the portion of the property (about 100 acres) the State wants. The NYSDEC seems to be waiting for the Town to purchase the entire property with development restrictions so that the appraisal per acre drops to a much lower price for the State to pay. If the State isn’t willing to pay the same price per acre for the land as the Town, then the Town needs to identify the piece of land the State wants and request that development restrictions NOT be placed on those acres. That way, the State would be forced to pay the same appraised value as the Town for the same land (the State would take it as “forever wild” regardless of development ability). This is only fair, but I have yet to hear the State commit to pay a fair price for the 100 acres. It’s time for New York to put up or shut up with respect to this property.
4) From Saratoga County – It seems like a number of people from neighboring towns are pressuring Milton to purchase the land. So why not make this a County-involved purchase — or have the County purchase the remaining 200 acres? This would spread out the cost of land and operations to more people who will benefit from the park’s existence. Why is it Milton’s job to pay for half or all of this park? The proposed size of this park is unique for a Town of just 18,500 residents to support, even if the State takes 100 acres of it. It’s time for the County to (quickly) step in and help Milton in these unusual circumstances.
5) From the Town of Milton – I don’t care if you’re for or against the project, I think it’s time we all ask some serious questions about how a project that was supposed to pay for itself could actually end up costing the Town over $1.25 million (for land, interest payments, demolition, insurance, and operation of the land). A lot of folks are directing their anger at the Town Board, but I think we can see from the questions and wishes above that there are many other variables at play here. If you think this purchase should occur at these prices, then help defray the costs to Milton taxpayers by contributing to the GoFundMe I set up or by pledging to the Saratoga PLAN fund (but understand that the Town needs the pledge fulfilled by May 11th). If you are against the park, educate folks as to why so that we can all operate with the same information. That’s what I’ve been trying to do because the reality of the costs and red flags I’ve seen have not been widely reported by the media this past year.
A lot of money and emotions are at stake in this transaction. Let’s make sure that the Town of Milton can succeed at coming back together no matter what the result of this potential transaction may be.
Frank Rossi, Jr.
Town of Milton