ADAMS -- Officials said Wednesday they expect Memorial School repair estimates within two weeks, and that these will determine their approach to the 50-year-old, town-owned building.
"This is the issue right now on Park Street and around town," Town Administrator Jonathan Butler said at Wednesday's meeting of the Selectmen. "I was pumping gas the other day and somebody came up asking about Memorial."
The key question needing an answer, Butler said, is whether these costs -- of roof, building envelope and heating system repairs -- prohibit short-term use of the space by tenants the town has sought.
"A temporary reuse without some expense [to the town] doesn't seem feasible," Butler said. " ... The building is in worse condition than we thought."
Lease negotiations between the town and Adams Youth Center Inc. and Windsor marinara sauce company Ooma Tesoro's are ongoing, but won't progress until the town has numbers in hand. MassDevelopment has provided for the cost of engineer assessments.
Discussions with the Youth Center focus on upstairs space with gym, auditorium and administrative office use, and with Ooma Tesoro's on downstairs kitchen and cafeteria space.
Selectmen agreed too high a price tag would prevent them from supporting any short-term lease of space inside the building Wednesday. But what "too high" means remained murky.
Selectman Richard Blanchard submitted $3 to $5 million as the potential cost of repairs but was corrected by Selectmen's Chair John Duval and Youth Center Vice President Edmund St. John IV, who pointed out that what's at hand is not the cost of a complete renovation, but rather the cost of readying the space for tenants.
St. John offered an argument in favor of leasing to the Youth Center at Wednesday's meeting.
Moving the Youth Center inside the school, St. John said, will enhance the likelihood of success in seeking state and federal renovation grants. Concurrently, planned program expansions and membership growth promise to compound the effect.
"Quite frankly, there is no better use for this facility," he said.
St. John said the Youth Center would take a lead role in seeking these grants while covering its own costs.
The center aims to model itself after the Dalton CRA and Williamstown Youth Center, he said -- facilities that attract new residents with young children by offering community benefits at an affordable cost. The Youth Center would allow local basketball leagues use of the gym and open a public fitness center and computer lab while expanding offerings to children and teenagers.
Duval approved of the pitch.
"We've got to be innovative." he said. "We've got to think, not just say ‘No, we can't.' "
Selectman Michael Ouellette, a professional engineer, remained cautious, as he has to this point on the school.
"It's going to be a tough job," Ouellette said. " ... For the town to come up with the money to do temporary fixes to the building -- I guess I just don't see that happening. ... [The engineers' figures are] going to be big numbers."
Window replacements are also needed, Ouellette added, and taxes already stand to steadily increase due to the Hoosac Valley Middle & High School debt exclusion, which weighs in fully on the tax rate over the coming years.
The officials all voiced support for the Youth Center in its search for a new home. It soon departs the Community Center on East Street, a building the town is presently marketing.
Once the engineers submit their Memorial School estimates, which could happen as early as next week, the decision of how to proceed will be in the hands of Selectmen and Town Meeting. Butler anticipated the Board meeting soon as the numbers come in so that they'll be able to provide a full briefing to Town Meeting on June 17.
To reach Phil Demers, email