Seaford proceeding with plans to purchase golf & country club

By Lynn R. Parks

In an executive session following last week's regular meeting, the Seaford City Council agreed to enter into negotiations to purchase the Seaford Golf and Country Club and to sell the country club's clubhouse to the Nanticoke Senior Center. This follows the receipt by the city of an appraisal of the property. On Monday, city manager Dolores Slatcher said that the city is not releasing the appraised value of the club. "The appraisal is being kept confidential at this time because it was done for the exclusive use of Seaford to use to negotiate in purchasing the property and selling off a portion to the Nanticoke Senior Center," Slatcher said via email. Charles Butler, president of the still-active country club board, similarly declined to say how much the appraisal is for. He said that Wilmington Trust, which holds the club's $1.8 million loan, also obtained an appraisal of the property. "There was not a whole lot of difference" between the two appraisals, he said. The city is also not releasing how much it is offering for the property or how much it is asking for the clubhouse, Slatcher said. "It would be inappropriate to put the number out in public before discussing it with the other parties and working in the best interest of the public," she said. Slatcher and councilmen Bill Bennett and Rhea Shannon are serving on the city's negotiations team. Slatcher was not able to say when negotiations will be completed. "This depends on the availability of the parties and who they have to obtain permission from, such as their boards and membership," she said. She did say that the city council will hold a public hearing before it agrees to any purchase. Even if negotiations to buy the property fail, a public hearing will probably be held "because of the public's interest in this work," she added. Members of the now-closed Seaford Golf and Country Club voted in September to give the club's board the authorization to sell the property. A committee appointed by Mayor Ed Butler in October recommended to the city that it move ahead with the possible purchase of the property. In November, the city paid Georgetown appraiser Harold Carmean to come up with a value of the country club property. Cost for the appraisal was $15,000. Charles Butler said that the city is the only entity that has expressed interest in buying the property. Butler blamed the decision to sell on declining club membership.

In September, the club had 250 members, down from 420 in May 2008. The country club has defaulted on its loan with Wilmington Trust, Butler said. While the property is still owned by the country club, negotiations for its sale will be with the bank, he added. "For all intents and purposes, the bank is in control," he said. "The city will negotiate with Wilmington Trust, and [the country club board] will play a small part in that. We are trying to make this thing happen." Any purchase would probably include the club's lease on the back nine holes of the golf course, Butler said. That lease was originally made with the DuPont Co. and has been transferred to Invista, which operates the Seaford nylon plant that DuPont built and in front of which the back nine is located. Both companies have the right to purchase the lease before it is offered to someone else, Butler said. "But indications are that they don't want it," he added. He expects that the lease would be part of any purchase of the property. In the third piece of the puzzle, the senior center's lease with the Western Sussex Boys and Girls Club ran out this month. On March 1, the center moved into leased space on U.S. 13, in a building that was home to a church, My Father's House. Since that facility has no kitchen, staff members are using the kitchen in the Blades Fire Hall to prepare the 500 meals that the center serves every week. If the fire hall's kitchen is tied up, they have made arrangements to use the kitchen at St. John's United Methodist Church. Anticipating the end of their lease, members of the senior center have been raising money since last spring toward the construction of a new facility. Plans were to build that facility, which would be owned by the senior center, 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. That money could go toward the purchase of an already existing building, said Christy Pennington, who is heading up the senior center's fundraising. Pennington said that the fundraising effort has been on hold until the center decides what it wants to do. "But we can't be on hold much longer," she added. Grants that the center has received from the Longwood Foundation and the Welfare Foundation have to be matched by November, she said.

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