ADAMS -- Community use could be a vital key to getting Adams Memorial School the "TLC" it needs, officials say, and Selectmen have voted in favor of allowing a process that aims to get residents back in its halls.
Town Administrator Jonathan Butler gained the board's endorsement Wednesday, to begin negotiations with Adams Youth Center Inc. that may land the nonprofit, which seeks a new home, in the building.
Youth Center Vice President Edmund St. John IV said he'd like to see a mutually beneficial agreement in an interview Thursday.
"We're looking to establish a partnership with the town, and ultimately want to help improve the facility," St. John said.
The Youth Center was formerly housed in East Street's Community Center, but that building is in poor condition and will soon be marketed by the town. Their lease would cover the building's lobby, administrative offices and gym.
The town is also negotiating a potential lease of the building's downstairs kitchen space with Windsor marinara sauce company Ooma Tesoro's, a process which began in January.
Butler and community development officials think renewed action at the former school will expand the town's ability to pursue grants and other capital investment opportunities to improve the space.
The building needs a new roof and heating system, among other things, work constituting a $1 million-plus dollar investment.
But it's not going to come from the pockets of taxpayers, Butler said.
"We're not looking to ever come to [residents] and ask for a million dollars for the middle school," he said. "We believe we have a plan that's creative enough where we're going to be able to bring in funding to help us get this building more operationally sound and get some good reuse happening there."
State and federal grants will be eventually be sought, Butler said, and the town has already secured aid from MassDevelopment, who'll provide access to engineers, architects and consultants to assist in crafting plans for the building. This week, Selectmen approved a fiscal 2014 line item that would appropriate $50,000 from free cash to pay for such work.
Butler said these two "short-term" leases stand to make the entire operation more attractive in the interim. The town wants to remain free in what it ultimately can decide for the space, so any lease agreement would include language to protect the lessees, Selectmen Michael Ouellette said.
A Youth Center presence, St. John added, would engage more than just town youths.
"We want a facility that really provides services to the entire community," he said. "Young adults, adults, and we'll reach out to the COA [Council on Aging], too."
The space could host community dinners, youth and adult basketball leagues, various fundraisers and an after school education program, St. John said.
To reach Phil Demers,