The future of one of Milton’s only spaces for indoor recreation remains in limbo as the town does its due diligence before committing to its purchase.

At the Milton selectboard’s Aug. 1 meeting, the board weighed the pros and cons of acquiring the Milton Grange, which through an agreement with the Members of the Milton Grange, the town has first dibs on buying.

By the end of the meeting, the board decided it needed more time to conduct an inspection before committing the purchase.

In May, the town had 90 days (until Aug. 13) to decide whether or not to purchase the Milton Grange after the members voted to sell the property.

Four years ago, the town entered into a 20-year lease agreement with the members, which stipulates the town would pay $1 a year for 20 years with the option to extend for two five-year periods.

After the lease expires, the agreement offers the town the exclusive first dibs to purchase the building before the members look elsewhere.

Since then, the Grange has become a major hub for town recreation as well as a space for private event rentals.

So far in 2022, the Grange has been used 59 times for 7 different rec programs. The space also has served as a meeting space for residents, civic organizations and nonprofits, said Milton Recreation Director Jenna Tucker Eugair.

In 2021, the Grange was used by 25 individuals or organizations at least once. So far in 2022, the Grange has already been used by 23 different individuals or organizations, 17 of which are paying customers and six are non-profits, Tucker said.

In July, the members had an appraisal done, and set the property value at $290,000. Should the town decide to buy the Grange, it would receive a refund for every dollar put into the property since 2018, which equates to about $32,000, Turner said.

Additionally, the town has already set aside $20,000 in the capital improvement budget for the Grange. This means the town would have over $50,000 to use for facility renovations, Turner said.

This means that the purchase price leaves room for upgrades and the possibility of great resale potential should the town eventually build a multi-purpose recreational facility and no longer need the Grange.

Turner said one of the drawbacks to the building itself is the bathrooms and the parking, which make it hard to have multiple events happening at the same time. In addition, because the building being very old, expensive repairs could arise at any time.

Milton Director of Operations John Bartlett said the building needs work even though some private events have gone in and decorated the place to look nice.

“I've always felt like what we've done, and I'm not saying this in a degrading way, but it's an older building that needs some stuff done to it and we've done everything we can to kind of put lipstick on a pig, and make it as nice as possible,” he said.

In addition, a graphic put together by Bartlett shows a gradually increasing revenue stream since leasing the Grange in 2018, coming to $5,582 in FY22. During this time however, the town was still paying into the Education Fund for the value of the building.

If the town acquires the building, the town would no longer have to pay that as the property is tax-exempt.

Turner said a con of buying the building would be that the town needs to be sensitive to the fact that they would be entering into competition with other spaces in the area like the Eagles' club.

The town only recently received the price of $290,000 from the members, giving them little time to survey the property.

Selectboard Clerk John Fitzgerald said he was in support of acquiring the Grange based on comments he has heard from residents.

Selectboard Chair Darren Adams made clear that the town does not want to commit to the spending of $290,000 without an inspection and other measures.

The money for such a purchase could come out of the town’s allotment of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) dollars.

The motion was made then by selectboard member Michael Morgan and approved to approach the members for a 60-day extension to the lease and an option for further fact-finding on the Grange property.

At the selectboard's Aug. 15 meeting, Turner announced the members have accepted the 60 day extension. Turner also announced he proposed a deal to the grange where the town would pay less than $290,000 and invest the difference back into upgrades on the building.

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