In a 4-2 vote Monday night, the Mountlake Terrace City Council approved a plan for the operators of the Mountlake Terrace Senior Center to relocate to and manage the clubhouse at Ballinger Park, the former Ballinger Lake Golf Course. The senior group plans to begin moving into the 6,800-square-foot city facility at 23300 Lakeview Drive on Nov. 15.
“It’s a little scary, but real exciting too,” said the senior group’s Executive Director Mike Cooper after the vote.
The seniors will lease the building from the city for $1,500 a month plus utility costs beginning on Jan. 1, 2014; the lease will be for five years. The agreement will include provisions for the rental payments to decrease if the senior group completes certain capital improvements to the facility, and allows the group to rent out the building’s Lakeview Room or other amenities to private parties and events.
While the clubhouse must remain open for public use during regular operating hours, the senior group will be allowed to operate its programs on an ongoing basis there. The city will reserve the right to use the Lakeview Room for 120 hours a year for meetings or events.
After City Councilmember Seaun Richards recused himself (Richards serves as the President of the Mountlake Terrace Senior Center Board of Directors), the remaining six councilmembers debated the merits of turning the keys of the Ballinger Clubhouse over to the senior center. Mayor Jerry Smith and Mayor Pro Tem Laura Sonmore, the two dissenters, cited concerns that the seniors may not be able to meet the financial requirements of the lease.
“This is a senior group; this is a volunteer organization, and I want to make sure that the seniors are getting services they desperately need, and they’re not so focused on having to make money, having to volunteer,” Sonmore said. “I want them to enjoy what they have. I want them to get services.”
Among the council supporters of the plan there was even some concern that the senior center may lack the resources to manage the city-owned clubhouse building. “I know that I was worried that you won’t have enough people, because it will take a lot of people to run this, a lot of organization power,” Councilmember Kyoko Matsumoto Wright said to senior group members in the council chambers.
“I want to see the seniors in there, doing a good job, being very successful,” Wright continued. “I just would not want to see anything happen that is going to not make this a reality.”
The lease will include language that defines what happens if the senior center is unable to meet the monthly rent payments to the city; though yet to be written, the clause is likely to allow the seniors to continue to be a tenant of the building, but they would have to renegotiate a new lease agreement with the city, and have to give over the right to rent out the facility to private groups, losing any potential income received from those rentals.
“I appreciate, and am confident in the default system that would provide a backup plan for the seniors,” said Councilmember Rick Ryan.
Councilmembers Bryan Wahl and Doug McCardle were the strongest supporters of the plan, stating that having the senior center take over management of the clubhouse worked for both the city and the seniors. Wahl noted that the senior group will be able to expand its programming while at the clubhouse, while still allowing the facility to be open to the public. McCardle called the agreement “a good, solid lease.”
— Story and photo by Doug Petrowski