MILTON — The Twin Rivers Boy Scout Council unanimously voted Thursday to cancel its contract with the town for the purchase of Camp Boyhaven.
The town was going to purchase the 300-acre property, located in the northwest corner of town along the Kayaderosseras Creek, for $1 million.
Planning Board Chairman Larry Woolbright secured an agreement with an anonymous donor for a $500,000 contribution toward the purchase, and the town was going to bond for the remaining $500,000.
At Wednesday’s Town Board meeting, Woolbright told a packed room that the donor had rescinded the offer after attempts were made to reveal his identity.
Woolbright said Ballston Journal Publisher Angela McFarland posted a video on the Ballston Journal Facebook page questioning the donor’s identity. In that video, McFarland said, “Larry Woolbright should at least, on some level, identify this donor. How do we know [the donor] is not a money launderer?”
“As far as I know, I was the only one who knew his identity,” Woolbright said. “He wanted to protect his family and lifestyle, and his friends and neighbors didn’t know he was capable of making a donation of that magnitude.”
On Friday, Woolbright said the donor had not renewed the $500,000 donation pledge.
“The plan we’ve been working on for the past year is dead in the water,” he said. “We need a new plan.”
Woolbright said he has asked the Twin Rivers Boy Scout Council to provide more information about the town’s ability to continue to pursue the deal.
“I don’t know if they’d be willing to continue discussions with the town,” he said. “We have to play it by ear.”
Twin Rivers Boy Scout Council CEO Mark Switzer said that, in addition to canceling the contract with Milton, the council’s board voted to begin searching for a new buyer.
“It’s several months past the agreed-upon deadline for the deal,” Switzer said. “With the anonymous donor backing out, there really is no deal at the table.”
Switzer said the council has begun reaching out to five entities that had submitted bids to purchase Camp Boyhaven a year ago.
“Right now, we’re talking to the next-highest bidder and going down the list,” he said. “We’ve already overcome hurdles and have a good feeling of the contract language, so we feel it could happen pretty quickly.”
The council is paying approximately $1,000 a month for utilities and insurance costs for Camp Boyhaven, which closed last summer.
“Our intent for the proceeds is to bolster our other properties and outdoor camping programs,” Switzer said. “That’s our midterm solution, and we want to get there as quickly as we can.”
Twin Rivers Boy Scout Council owns Camp Rotary in Averill Park, Camp Wakpominee in Fort Ann and Camp Bedford in Malone.
Milton was looking to establish Camp Boyhaven as a town-owned nature park.
Switzer said he and the entire council are upset that the deal with Milton fell through.
“We felt great about returning the property to nature and securing it as a park,” he said. “We accepted a lower bid with that in mind, and we’re disappointed. We felt the relationship was good and still will be, but we have to go in a different direction.”
At Wednesday’s Town Board meeting, board member Barbara Kerr said she wanted the town to move forward with the sale despite the donor’s decision to back out.
Town Supervisor Scott Ostrander said that, while he has voted in favor of the Camp Boyhaven project since he took office in January, he does not agree with Kerr.
“That’s $1 million in funds that we don’t have, so I’m against offering another $500,000,” he said. “We just don’t have the funds for that.”
Kerr said she was heartbroken at the news that the Twin Rivers Boy Scout Council canceled the purchase contract with the town.
“I think the town has made a horrible mistake giving this up,” she said. “We had such a wonderful opportunity from a very generous person, and we just let $500,000 slip through our fingers because of nonsense.”
The town, Kerr said, wouldn’t have touched the donor’s $500,000 donation.
“It would’ve gone directly to the council, so his identity wouldn’t be revealed through the [Freedom of Information Act],” she said. “I feel terrible that someone who wanted to donate this money is being put through this.”
Kerr said she’s not sure why the town didn’t meet the Dec. 31 deadline to complete the purchase.
“I don’t blame our town attorneys, because they work for the Town Board, and we were saying we want this done,” she said. “Someone’s been dragging their feet, and I don’t know who. I’m hoping a miracle happens.”
Frank Rossi Jr., of Ballston Spa, has set-up a GoFundMe account with a goal of raising $750,000 to support of the town’s purchase of Camp Boyhaven.
“The town, which has had financial issues, has sought to increase their bid to $1 million after the donor reportedly pulled out, leading to supporters offering to help defray the cost to taxpayers,” Rossi’s GoFundMe page states. “In addition to the bid, up to another $250,000 would be needed for potential removal of structures, insurance, maintenance and other needed issues related to the land.”
Rossi’s GoFundMe page states that towns should not accept anonymous donations “due to questions that could be raised based on proof of fund origination.” It states that no anonymous donations greater than $100 will be accepted for the GoFundMe effort.
The first donor to Rossi’s GoFundMe account was Town Board member John Frolish.
Woolbright said he would also be launching a GoFundMe account to raise funds for the Camp Boyhaven purchase.
“It can’t hurt to have two,” he said. “Five hundred thousand dollars is a lot of money, so I can’t imagine any fundraising efforts coming up with that kind of money practically.
“The deal we had is over, so whether there’s an opportunity to do something else, we’ll have to figure that out.”
The Milton Town Board is scheduled to conduct a special meeting to discuss Camp Boyhaven at 7 p.m. on Tuesday in Town Hall, 503 Geyser Road, Ballston Spa.