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Letter to the Editor: Milton “disjointed” over Boyhaven deal

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

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The Ballston Journal is Your Hometown News Source Since June 14, 1798. Covering the communities of Ballston Spa, Milton, Malta and Ballston in Southern Saratoga County.


'Letter to the Editor: Milton “disjointed” over Boyhaven deal' have 4 comments

  1. May 4, 2018 @ 9:34 pm James Capasso

    Larry Woolbright Laid out the plan months ago to purchase Boyhaven. At that time it was stated that in the end it would cost the town nothing to purchase Boyhaven. All the money put upfront would be reimbursed to the Town. What happened. The Town dragged its feet and dropped the ball. A couple of newspapers picked up the story. Angela McFarland of the Journal gave every reason possible to not go forward with the purchase and disparaged Larry Woolbright, a wonderful gentleman who donated his time and efforts to this project. Then efforts were made to uncover the donor of a half a million dollars. The donor recinded his offer because it was apparent that his wish to be kept anonymous was being challenged. Now it’s up to Supervisor Ostrander to step forward and take the lead to repair this mess.Its a shame that a winning proposition for the Town has been Turned upside down.

    Reply

    • May 9, 2018 @ 9:26 am Angela McFarland

      For clarification:

      TU REPORTED: “However, that plan dissolved at the town board meeting when Larry Woolbright, chair of the town Planning Board who was put in charge of the deal more than a year ago, announced that the donor withdrew. The donor pulled out of the deal because the Ballston Journal and Rossi were calling for the person to reveal his identity, and even implied that the donation might be tied to earnings gained through nefarious means. “What happens if we discover the money was dirty,” Rossi said. “Nobody knows who he is.” Rossi was echoing The Ballston Journal’s Publisher Angela McFarlane, who in a Facebook editorial, mused, “How do we know he’s not a money launderer.” Those comments prompted the donor to withdrawal. Woolbright said he’s certain the donor will not change his mind.

      WHAT WAS ACTUALLY SAID in my opinion video: “This anonymous donor’s basically giving the Town of Milton a gift even indirectly. So, it’s the times we live in; we have to be prudent. I can’t begrudge Attorney Craig, Supervisor Ostrander, or that town board for trying to be prudent. Larry Woolbright should at least on some level identify who this donor is. How do we know it’s not a money launderer or something like that, and I realize that’s dramatic and that might be ridiculous. But, again, these are just the times we live in, and we have to protect ourselves as a town, as neighbors, as residents. So, just know that we’re trying to find out as much as information as we can, so you guys can be informed about this purchase and make the right decision with your money. ”

      1) Has any actual evidence been produced substantiating what Woolbright has alleged by the purported donor?

      2) The subject matter was more about transparency in government, and Woolbright is a part of that expectation, correct?

      I respect his passion very much, I take umbrage with his conduct as a Town representative and flat out ignoring what should be basic housekeeping questions related to taxpayer costs, proper filings by the Town related to this purchase and assurances of future revenues and actual DEC purchase when they have put in writing, they hold only an “interest” and the “interest” should not be construed as a guaranteed buy.

      ADDITIONAL QUESTIONS POSED SEVERAL TIMES AND NOT RESPONDED TO BY Woolbright, Frank Blaisdell (Chairman of the Open Space Committee) and Attorney Jim Craig:

      OPEN SPACE COMMITTEE:

      1) Based on the new budget and tax increase, is the town still planning to put money in the open space fund from developers or does the language in the open space plan about the town’s financial health take priority?

      2) The plan dated 2013-2018 has projects undone due to money and staffing according to Jason Miller. Is this accurate? Why or why not?

      3) Why is Woolbright leading the Boyhaven purchase when the task of land acquistion are assigned to the Open Space committee? Is there a conflict or not? Why was he asked to resign in March, 2016 from the committee only to serve in a direct role on this deal? Is there a letter or document or minutes from a meeting in which officials said this is all “a-ok?

      MONEY:

      1) What is the cost to taxpayers for interest on the bond? What is the estimated costs to the taxpayers for future upkeep and improvements?

      2) Woolbright’s video from 2017 talks about state purchase and grants, none of which are promised money from what we can see. What is the back-up plan to recoup costs if none of those things were to materialize?

      3) Is the town considering a lawsuit against the donor for pulling out allegedly due to comments made by me, and reported as fact by the Times Union? (separate email coming about that topic). Was there a letter of cancellation detailing/verifying Woolbright’s statement?

      DECISION MAKING:

      1) Benny Zlotnick has a long career with Twin Rivers with clear emotional ties. Why has he been voting on this purchase?

      2) Should TRC sell to a developer, what happens to Woolbright as Chair of the Planning Board when plans are presented?

      QUESTIONS UNANSWERED BY TWIN RIVERS COUNCIL:

      1) What is the current extension of negotiations based on, considering the previous contract is now nullified due to the anonymous donor pulling out?

      2) Is TRC willing to renegotiate a price for a new contract?

      3) The extension date prohibits a public referendum (75 days), is TRC willing to extend negotiations to allow for it?

      In conclusion Jim, you were one of several enraged over the last administration’s shortfalls in paperwork and fiscal management. This deal was started under that administration, now I hold the new administration to their promises of cleaning that up…I find all sorts of loose ends and you are still miserable, combatitive and unhappy.

      So which way would you like your news? Customized to make you feel good or the hard facts and truth whether they or pleasant or not? I’m simply unable to give you the “feel goods” all the time. That’s not reality.

      For a good comparison of “then” to “now”, here is the presentation on video Woolbright gave prior to the bond approval: https://theballstonjournal.com/2017/10/20/video-milton-intent-purchase-camp-boyhaven/

      Reply

      • May 9, 2018 @ 9:51 pm Liz Kormos

        After listening again to Larry’s presentation and the public comments I am even more convinced that this is an excellent opportunity for the Town. Too bad a few special interests aided by you, Angela, have made it their campaign to destroy this opportunity. One has to wonder why.

        Reply

        • May 9, 2018 @ 10:28 pm Angela McFarland

          I’m sorry Liz, a good conspiracy theory makes for great theatrics.

          The reality of actual research and hard work is rather dull in comparison. If the community of 19,000…not just a snapshot of 100….is ok with dollars being spent, great. I won’t be sorry, not even a moment, shining a very bright light on what the true costs are to the taxpayers or about clearly reporting when town officials ignore questions. I think it’s YOU who is now the one putting words in mouths.

          This topic remains dollars, cents and full disclosure to the residents….something Woolbright, Kerr and sadly, even Blaisdell somehow believe they are exempt from. The only “destroying” happening is by their own hands, the people deserve to know when their elected officials go silent.

          I’ve asked you before and you have failed to provide a direct answer, maybe let’s try again: responsible spending, accurate and timely records kept, full transparency…we have the video records of you asking for such during the budget discussions. What has changed since then for you in just a few short months that accounting for these very items is now distasteful?

          See the questions listed below. Why do you believe Woolbright and Blaisdell won’t talk about the language in the Open Space Plan?

          Tonight, Kerr and Zlotnick tried passing out a resolution without accurate fund balances to the public they represent. Isn’t this a problem?

          As always, the door is open: if you have evidence of your accusations of “special interests” and a “campaign to destroy”, I’ll take it. Otherwise, the dull reality is there are members in this community not interested in parks, there are others more focused on their water, their are others trying to ensure their budget can meet the goal of staying in their homes, others who love green space and others who really aren’t interested in any of the aforementioned.

          And, I appreciate your compliment to my reporter tonight on his work. Sorry to burst your bubble but working very closely with him to ensure the utmost in accuracy and fairness: me.

          Pesky facts. Actual legwork. Phone calls, emails, research.

          Go figure.

          Reply


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