The Laurel City Council is considering partnering with the Laurel Boys and Girls Club to create a task force that would review the business operations of the club.
"The city of Laurel government and the Boys and Girls Club are coming together for one common cause – to make sure the club operates because of its tremendous impact on the community," Boys and Girls Club president Levet Brown said.
Mayor Craig Moe said the idea for the task force came after he and City Council President Fred Smalls met with Brown about a month ago.
"What we want to do is put some experts together and see how the city can help out and what (the club) can do," Moe said. "We need each other and should be feeding off each other."
The nine-member task force, which could be approved by the council at its meeting on Monday, Feb. 25, will be made up of representatives from the club, the business community, city residents and a financial expert.
If the resolution is approved as is, four members will be appointed by the mayor, three by the City Council and two by the club's board of directors.
The goal of the task force is to make short- and long-term recommendations concerning "programs, funding and issues facing the club."
Among those issues may be the recent allegations by Laurel Police that three 18 and 19-year-old Princeton Day Academy basketball players were living at the club (see story, page 7).
According to Brown, the biggest issue is the deterioration of the 114-year-old Phelps Center, which was the original Laurel High School and the first high school in Prince George's County. The club acquired the building for $1 from the county government in 2002 after the county determined it was surplus property.
"It needs to be up and running," Brown said about the 60,000-square-foot facility, which is in the National Register of Historic Places.
When the county attempted to get rid of the building, it was first offered to the city, but then-Mayor Frank Casula turned it down because it needed more than $3 million in repairs, Moe said
"The building has to be costing them a lot of money," Moe said. "It's their building, but if (the city) can help fix the building through grants or working with the (state) delegation, then we'll attempt to do that."
Brown said he hopes the city will contribute funding to the club for programming and building repairs.
When asked about contributing funding, Smalls said the task force may consider it, but that it will focus more on finding multiple sources of funding for the club.
"The city can't be, and shouldn't be, the sole or primary source of revenue to any nonprofit," Smalls said. "The task force will help the club realize where to focus their fundraising efforts."
Club, city have 'rocky' past
Brown, president since 2004, said the club and the city have not always gotten along since he took over.
"It's been rocky at times, but I'm encouraged now," Brown said .
Moe said the city has "a different perspective" and has provided the club with in-kind services in the form of free use of McCullough Field and other city property.
"I've never shut anyone out," Moe said. "There have been some differences between their leadership and the city, but my door is always open."
Smalls said he believes both the city and the club have always "had the door open" to one another, but that the relationship has been strained at times.
"There was never a time we couldn't sit down and talk. We may not have come away from the table with everything we both wanted, but we could always keep some kind of dialogue going," Smalls said.
Smalls hopes that this task force will help improve the relationship by "opening up" the existing dialogue.
""I really hope that it's taken in the spirit that is intended and that is to aid the club in understanding and getting the support it needs to take care of its mission," Smalls said.