Lions Club given 60 days to vacate

They may have built much of it, but come July the Sequim Valley Lions Club no longer will be at home at the Guy Cole Convention Center in Carrie Blake Park.

The Lions had a 25-year lease with the city of Sequim to rent the space for club meetings and bingo, but the agreement ended in February 2007.

Club president Jack Napiontek said that prior to that agreement's intended end, he and other club members began meeting with former Public Works director James Bay to negotiate another lease agreement. By then the club had discontinued bingo but members still wanted to use part of the space for their three monthly meetings.

"Jim (Bay) was very sympathetic to the Lions," Napiontek said.

According to a document compiled by club member Ray Nelson, the Lions Club was the main contractor during the convention center's construction that began in the 1980s. Through 2005 they had raised $45,000 that was used for the project and later renovations, along with $35,000 from the city of Sequim.

"A lot went back into the park. Once the center was completed, the Lions Club outfitted it; tables, chairs, drapes. We put in a state-of-the-art kitchen," Napiontek said, adding that the club also was largely responsible for maintaining the facility.

According to Napiontek, despite the fact that the club only proposed to use the convention center three times a month - for a total of six hours a month - the city presented a revised agreement that asked the club to pay $500 a month.

"I said, 'Jim, the Lions don't need that 24-7. We'll take our paraphernalia off the wall and strip it and you can rent it if you want to,'" said Napiontek, adding that there were 21 provisions for occupancy. "I didn't get to read all of the document."

According to Napiontek, although he and Bay had a number of verbal agreements, there was no written document. Or so the Lions thought.

"We waited. A letter of agreement never reached the Lions. Since then Jim Bay retired and things have escalated to the point where we got a letter from the city attorney stating we have 20 days to get out," Napiontek said.

The letter, dated April 28, 2008, cites municipal code RCW 59.12.030(2), which holds tenants guilty of "unlawful detain" if they should remain at a property longer than 20 days following notification to vacate the premises.

"My understanding is that the proposed new lease was not satisfactory to the Lions Club, and that the next discussion between the City and the Club involved rental of the space, but only during meetings," Attorney Craig Ritchie's letter reads. "Under that agreement the Lions Club would remove its belongings from the room they had been occupying under the long-term lease, and bring what they needed for each meeting."

Ritchie goes on to say that should an agreement be met, the Lions Club would be required to pay $10 per hour to rent the room alongside a $200 deposit.

From the city's perspective, between February 2007 until now, the Lions Club has been using city property without permission.

"That irritated a lot of people, accusing us of not meeting that lease agreement," Napiontek said. "We just got upset with the whole thing."

The club was told to leave the Guy Cole Convention Center within 20 days but asked the Sequim City Council for an extension of 60 days, which they were granted. According to Napiontek, following the 60 days, the club will begin meeting at the Sequim Senior Activity Center.

The club also plans to donate or sell a number of the possessions they've accumulated over the past 25 years. For more information, call Patricia Hatcher at 582-1280.
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