SG&CC membership votes to allow sale of club's property

By Lynn R. Parks

Members of the Seaford Golf and Country Club have voted to give the board of directors the authority to sell the club property, including the golf course and the clubhouse. Ballots were cast Monday night during a general membership meeting. Charles Butler, president of the board, could not say what the final vote tally was. A vote of 126, a simple majority of club members, was needed to carry the measure. So far, the city of Seaford is the only entity to express interest in buying the club. "We have not had anyone step up and say, 'I want to buy the club,' " Butler said Tuesday morning. "If someone were to come along, we would certainly talk to them." The board is to meet tonight to discuss its next move. "We need to decide things we need to do to keep the club in operation until a sale happens," Butler said. Declining membership is forcing the club to consider selling. Current membership is 250; Butler said that the club needs between 350 and 400 members to be healthy. In May 2008, when the country club embarked on a $500,000 renovation, it had about 420 members. The country club currently has a debt of $1.8 million. Proceeds from the sale would go to pay that debt and any additional debt incurred between now and the sale, and then would go to pay back capital construction certificates that members bought. How much members are reimbursed would depend on the amount of the sale price. If a sale goes through, the Seaford Golf and Country Club, a Delaware corporation, would be dissolved. All memberships would be terminated. Monday's country club membership vote was just the first step in selling the property. "We still have a long row to hoe," Butler said. "This will be a very complicated process." The Seaford City Council will have to decide whether the city should move forward with the process. If the city decides to pursue buying the property, the council will eventually have to vote again on whether to make an offer. The procedure will include public hearings, city manager Dolores Slatcher said. Questions that the city will have to answer include the purchase price. "We have no idea of the property's value," Slatcher said. They also include how the club property would be used. The property includes a clubhouse, a golf course, tennis courts and a swimming pool.

It is possible that the city would operate the course as a public golf course, Slatcher said, and that the clubhouse would be used by the Nanticoke Senior Center. The senior center is currently leasing space in the Western Sussex Boys and Girls Club on Virginia Avenue and that lease will run out in March. And there is another piece of the process. The senior center board and members will have to decide whether they would rather move into the clubhouse or build a new facility. Since early spring, members of the senior center have been raising money toward the construction of a new facility. That facility, which would be owned by the senior center, would be built on city property in the Ross Business Park. The senior center has raised about $600,000 toward the estimated $2.37 million cost of building a new center. Lora Schuler, president of the senior center board, said Tuesday morning that board members will need a lot of information before they can put a proposal before the general membership. "We will have to know what is being offered and on what terms," she said. Christy Pennington, who is heading up the senior center's fundraising, said Tuesday morning that the center's three main sources of funding, the Longwood Foundation and the Welfare Foundation, both of which have awarded grants, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which would give the senior center a loan, agreed that using an existing building "would be the responsible option." "They are all OK with the clubhouse, as long as we own it," she said. "In order to meet our mandate, we need to be owned independently." Schuler said that the senior center would be able to move right into the clubhouse. But the facility would eventually require modifications, including construction of a first-floor bathroom. It would also have to be renovated to include a fitness room, Pennington said. "We want to be a life enhancement center and have to have a fitness element," she added. Pennington said that a particular attraction of the clubhouse is its recently-renovated kitchen. The senior center makes 500 meals a week for its members. The clubhouse kitchen and dining room would also allow the senior center to rent out the clubhouse for events, Pennington said. "People in the area are used to using the clubhouse," she said. "We could continue that and the events would be a revenue generator for us. We would also be serving the community in a way that it needs."

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