Public hearing is Tuesday, May 18, Seaford Fire Hall

By Lynn R. Parks

The Seaford City Council will decide at its next meeting whether or not the city will purchase the former Seaford Golf and Country Club property. Before that, it will hold a public hearing to hear from residents of Seaford. The public hearing will be Tuesday, May 18, in the Seaford Fire Hall. A vote will take place a week later, during the regular city council meeting Tuesday, May 25. The city has obtained an appraisal of the property from Georgetown appraiser Harold Carmean. Wednesday morning, city manager Dolores Slatcher said that the property was appraised for $1.809 million. That includes $1.185 million for the golf course and $624,000 for the clubhouse. Both prices include furniture and fixtures, such as golf carts. Negotiations for the purchase have been with Wilmington Trust, which holds the club's $1.8 million loan. The club has defaulted on the loan. Slatcher said that the city is offering the bank $1.4 million for the property. It is also offering to sell the clubhouse to the Nanticoke Senior Center, for the appraised value of $624,000. The senior center, formerly housed in the Western Sussex Boys and Girls Club, is in temporary quarters on U.S. 13. Slatcher cautioned that all these numbers are fluid. "Everything is subject to change," she said. "Nobody has signed any agreements and until that happens, it can change." The city has been considering the purchase of the golf course and clubhouse since September, when members of the struggling club voted to put it up for sale. 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 an executive session held March 9, the city council agreed to enter into negotiations to purchase the country club and then to sell the clubhouse to the Nanticoke Senior Center. Golf club president Charles Butler has said that the city is the only entity that has expressed interest in buying the property.

He blamed the decision to sell on declining club membership. In September, the club had 250 members, down from 420 in May 2008. 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 That lease was originally made with the DuPont Co. and has been transferred to Invista, which operates the Seaford nylon plant that DuPont built and in front of which the back nine is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 earlier this year. 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. 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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