First State Manufacturing President David Hitchens has asked city officials to consider swapping land with the company, a move he says would allow his business to keep growing, without using a swatch of land that currently bisects the Milford Little League fields
An anticipated expansion of First State Manufacturing in Milford could result in less land for the Milford Little League.
But company president and chief operating officer David Hitchens says he has an idea that he believes will benefit both sides.
Hitchens has asked city officials to consider swapping land with the company, a move he says would allow his business to keep growing, without using a swatch of land that currently bisects the Milford Little League fields
“We’re going to run out of space here in the next 12 months,” Hitchens said of the company’s facility on Southeast Fourth Street. “If the city says no, I have to evaluate building here. That’s my last option.”
First State Manufacturing (FSM) owns the roughly 1.85-acre lot behind its facility that the Milford Little League has been using since the early 1970s as parking areas, a field, a batting cage and a portion of bleachers, according to Milford Little League President Bill Bullock.
“The main concern would be if somehow, if it ever happened, if [FSM] used [the lot] for building or whatever, it would cut us in half,” Bullock said. “That would be a catastrophe.”
Because Milford Little League does not own any additional land FSM could use, Hitchens is asking the city to take the lot in exchange for an estimated 2.2-acre corner lot in Independence Commons on Airport Road.
Hitchens said the deal would provide adequate space for FSM’s corporate offices, while allowing the city to take ownership of land that poses a liability for his company.
Hitchens said the company attorneys and bank officials have warned the company that it could be open to lawsuits stemming from the Little League’s use of the land.
Hitchens said the idea for the proposal came up in January, when the company identified new contracts that will require additional production space.
FSM’s recently-established contracts with Air Mobility Command, ILC and Amtrak Seating will require more manufacturing space, as well as additional employees, he said.
Currently, FSM employs 72 people, but Hitchens said the company expects to grow to more than 100 employees by 2015.
The location on Southeast Fourth Street has 35,000-square-foot currently dedicated to manufacturing, with an additional 35,000-square-foot area under construction. If all of the administrative offices are converted to production areas, Hitchens said an additional 10,000 to 15,000-square-feet of production space would be created, but the company would still have to expand to create room to house those administrative employees.
However, City Council members want to see exact surveys and assessments for both pieces of property before moving forward. City Manager Richard Carmean said the lots in Independence Commons are currently priced at $125,000 per acre. No figures were available for the land used by the Little League.
Bullock and Carmean also questioned whether FSM has a right to use the property that’s been under the Little League’s control for four decades.
Bullock said he believes that the Sussex Company, which previously occupied FSM’s current location, added a perpetual land use agreement in its deed prior to selling the property to FSM that ceded the land to the Little League.
However, Bullock and Carmean said that they do not have access to any paperwork that would support that claim.
Hitchens said he has never heard of any perpetual land use agreement. During a presentation to city council on July 14, he said there was a license agreement between FSM and Milford Little League that was executed in 2010, on behalf of the city, which allows them to use the property, but although he could not provide any specifics regarding the agreement.
Regardless of the stipulations made in previous deed documents, Hitchens said he is moving forward with city council’s recommendation to secure the surveys and assessments for both pieces of property.
He said he expects the lands to be surveyed next week, followed by appraisals on both lots and a comparison of values. He added that it is unlikely any additional information would be presented to city council until September.
Carmean said he expects the property values to be similar, but that the 1.85-acre lot used by the Little League is more important to the organization than a market-based dollar value.
“If anyone ever utilized [that lot] and kicked the Little League off the land, it’d be a whole mess,” he said. “The benefit would be to get their headquarters and administrative offices away from production and into a business park. That’s positive and would create more jobs. If there is a perpetual use agreement with the Little League and that property, then everything will have to be looked at in a different light.”