B-G Club, senior center move closer to face-to-face meeting

By Lynn R. Parks

The Boys and Girls Clubs of Delaware and the Nanticoke Senior Center seem to have backed off their earlier hard-line positions about renegotiating the agreement that allows the senior center to lease space from the Western Sussex Boys and Girls Club in Seaford. Even so, the organizations still face a six-month time limit to work out their differences before the senior center is evicted. Earlier this month, Chris Basher, Boys and Girls Clubs of Delaware spokesman, said that in order for the senior center to continue to lease the building, the current lease agreement had to be renegotiated. "If order for us to continue, we have to come to a new agreement," Basher said in an interview Aug. 8. But Monday, he seemed to have changed his mind. "We are working very hard to resolve this and will consider anything," he said. "Nothing is set in concrete." Similarly, the senior center board is now not completely closed to those renegotiations, a reversal of its stand. In an Aug. 8 interview, Ben Sirman, former president and current member of the senior center board, dismissed the need for negotiating a new contract. "Do you throw out all sections of a contract because of one problem? I don't think so," he said. But Monday, current board president Jim Bowden was open to the possibility of renegotiations. "We don't see the need for them, but we are willing to talk with [the Boys and Girls Club]," he said. "We will negotiate whatever is going on." This situation erupted from a July 13 letter, when Boys and Girls Clubs of Delaware president and CEO George Krupanski sent a letter to senior center director Susan Franckowiak, accusing the center of breaking a provision of its lease. That provision stipulates that no part of the facility can be rented to another organization without the approval of both the Boys and Girls Club and senior center boards. For about a year, the senior center had allowed residents of the Seaford House, a residential treatment facility for teenagers, to use the facility's gym. In exchange, the Seaford House gave the senior center $1 per child per day, money the senior center used for its food program. "Please be advised that we are providing you with six months notice, at which time we will end our lease agreement with the senior center," the letter says. In a July 26 response to Krupanski's letter, the senior center board admitted that it violated the lease agreement in taking money from Seaford House without the OK of the Boys and Girls Club board. The board also promised to cooperate with the Boys and Girls Club and Seaford House in resolving the current problem; to study the lease agreement to prevent future violations; and to post the lease agreement so all members can read it.

On Tuesday, the senior center sent a second letter to the Boys and Girls Club's state organization, suggesting that the organizations' already existing Better Communications Liaison Committee be used to work out difference between the organizations. "We are suggesting that we use the committee to start working on our problems as soon as practical," said Bowden. The committee was formed earlier to hammer out differences between the organizations. Basher was unable to comment about the letter, which he had not yet received. But he stressed again his desire to resolve the problem. "If they are interested in working this out, we will be right there at the start of the line," he said. "That has been our intention from the start." Basher also said that he regrets that the disagreement between the two groups has been aired in public. "I don't want this discussed in the media," he said. "That is not good for either group." Denny Russell, local Boys and Girls Club board president, said that board members reached a "mutual agreement" that they would not talk with the press about specifics of the disagreement. "We all respect the senior center, we have nothing but respect for them, and we are not going to dishonor that respect by going public," he said. Both Basher and Bowden remain optimistic that the current problems can be resolved. "We are very open-minded at this point and will work very hard to do everything reasonable to work this out," Basher said. "I feel like the lines of communication are open up a little better," Bowden added. "We are looking forward to sitting down and talking with them." He compared the problems to squabbles that spring up in families, "part of day-to-day life." Even so, the senior center is not giving up on its search for a new home, Bowden added. Even if the current impasse is resolved, the lease agreement will run out in 2007. "We are still looking at our options," Bowden said. "We need to get feedback from all our members, to make sure we know how they feel."

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