Agawam Hunt’s latest settlement plan doesn’t break par

Proposal to end Freedom Green maintenance contract is rejected for the moment at least

EastBayRI.com ·

EAST PROVIDENCE — For the second time in a matter of weeks a representative from the owners of the financially strained Agawam Hunt Club approached the City Council and administrators with a proposal to end a dispute between the sides, and for the second time he was rebuffed.
At the council’s October 3 meeting, a plan suggested by Lawrence Pryor on behalf of New Agawam LLC was challenged and rejected by City Manager Tim Chapman. The council took no stance on Mr. Pryor’s proposal.
At issue last week is a contract between the city and the previous owners of the historic golf and tennis club in Rumford for the yearly maintenance of the “Freedom Green” park at the corner of North Broadway and Centre Street.
The existing agreement calls for greenskeepers at the club to manicure the park on an annual basis at the expense of Agawam Hunt. During his previous appearance before the council in August, Mr. Pryor said club personnel deemed all aspects of the maintenance — workers, equipment, etc. — cost it approximately $12,000 per year. Mr. Chapman, at the time, countered city Public Works officials estimated the cost should be around $8,000. Last week, Mr. Pryor, with the input of new greens staff at the club, said the city’s estimate was likely closer to the actually cost.
Regardless, Mr. Pryor said the current Agawam Hunt owners, in their attempt to take the club out of bankruptcy, would offer to continue servicing Freedom Green for a period of 18 months before ending the contract and turning over maintenance to the city.
Mr. Pryor said an agreement to end the contract would be one less aspect of the bankruptcy proceedings for the club and give the city some certainty on the future care of Freedom Green. It would also reduce the need for the city to spend any more money on bankruptcy legal specialists.
Of note as well, Mr. Pryor insisted the city, as an unsecured creditor of the club, would likely receive only 5 cents on the dollar for the worth of the contract if the matter proceeded through the court system. Unsecured creditors in bankruptcy filings do not hold any tangible assets of the debtor.
At times during the discussion tempers flared a bit. Mr. Pryor was adamant in his assertions, as was Mr. Chapman. Mr. Pryor expressed frustration with how the city has acted since his last appearance before the council when he also presented an offer from the club to eliminate all of its municipal debts. In August, Mr. Pryor presented the council a plan to pay off delinquent property taxes, water/sewer charges and the continuation of the Freedom Green agreement in exchange for a rebate on what the club owed the city. Mr. Chapman recommended the council reject the plan, though Ward 1 member Bobby Britto, in whose district Agawam Hunt is located, urged both sides to continue talks.
“We feel like we’re trying to have a conversation with the city, but the city has been unresponsive,” Mr. Pryor, referring to Mr. Britto’s suggestion to continue negotiations.
As he did during the prior discussion, Mr. Chapman dismissed Mr. Pryor’s claims, saying the city has continued correspondence with the club, “but you didn’t like what you heard.” The manager again said both the monetary and maintenance proposals offered by Agawam Hunt would not be good for East Providence and its residents.
“If you’re looking for a counterproposal, we don’t have one,” Mr. Chapman said, adding, “As city manager I see no benefit to the city and the taxpayers to accept this proposal.”
Agawam Hunt is in arrears to the city for some $475,000, the bulk of which is back property taxes with the other portions being water/sewer charges and the accepted value of the Freedom Green contract.
Mr. Pryor told the council the club would go ahead with its current efforts to end the agreement when it submits its bankruptcy plan by a court-mandated deadline of October 16. At the council’s urging, the club was asked to provide city solicitor Greg Dias with the park proposal for review prior to the court proceedings even though the body isn’t scheduled to meet until October 17. If there was any movement towards a settlement, both sides agreed the club could like ask for an extension from the court or add an addendum to its filing after the deadline.

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