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Selectmen Split on Armory Renovations

Funds are being sought to renovate the former ilford Armory. It now houses the Milford Youth Center. Jane Bigda Photo

The Milford Board of Selectmen is split, 2-1, on supporting an article being voted upon at the May 19 Annual Town Meeting that would spend $4.6 million to renovate the former armory on Pearl St. that houses the Milford Youth Center. Selectman William Buckley noted that – while he supports the Youth Center – he thought the possibility of housing it in the soon-to-be vacated Middle School East should be studied before committing funds to renovate the armory building.

The board also voted on April 28, along the same 2-1 split, to support putting 200 acres of environmentally sensitive land under a conservation restriction (CR). However, the board members also voted unanimously to support about 15 other articles on the Annual Town Meeting warrant.

Selectman Brian Murray chairs the committee that worked with an architect to come up with the armory renovation plans. He said the building is in very poor shape. "It's a very important project," he said. "It has to be done or, quite frankly, we're not going to be able to keep the building open much longer." The project cannot wait while the estimated 18 months while a new Woodland Elementary School is constructed and then while the Middle School East is declared "surplus" by the School Department, Murray said.

The purchase agreement under which the town acquired the armory building for $1 specifies that it must be used for public use or be given back to the state, he continued. And, the Massachusetts Historical Society's recognition for the armory calls for it to house the Youth Center, Murray said. "The time is now to bring that building up to code," he said.

Buckley said he supports the idea of the Youth Center, but said its programs have to be thought of as being separate from where the center currently is housed. Before spending $4.6 million – an amount he said grew by nearly $2 million over the past year – to renovate the armory, the town should first consider whether that money would be better spent on renovating the Middle School East building, Buckley explained.

He also acknowledged that Murray's committee did exactly what it was authorized to do in terms of preparing armory renovation plans, but noted that the possibility of using the Middle School East building has changed the situation. "I don't think there's any disagreement that the armory's in horrible condition," Buckley said.

He called for working with both the Youth Center and the School Committee to begin studying how to best use the Middle School East building when it is no longer used as a school. Chairman Dino DeBartolomeis said he would be naming such a study committee in the near future.

In a related matter, the selectmen received a letter from the town's Industrial Development Commission asking that the Middle School East building be considered as a site for a community college campus.


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