Marion mayor: "Don't blame me for closing of boys and girls club"

Marion Mayor Bobby Davis said there's been a lot of untruths about the closing of the Boys and Girls Club.

It's scheduled to close June 7.

He called a news conference Tuesday morning to explain what he said happened.

"There's a lot of conflicting statements. I wanted to get our side out to let you know the truth as we see it. And we have it documented," said Davis.

He says he has proof the city tried to compromise with the Boys and Girls Club to avoid a closing.

The club leased Grice's Recreation Center from the City of Marion for $1 a year. The city paid the utilities.

Davis said lease negotiations started back in February and city council requested the club to pay some of the utilities as it does for its clubs in Hemingway, Timmonsville and Hartsville.

"We are a very poor community with the highest unemployment rate in the state. We felt that if they could pay utilities in other locations. They could pay some utilities here. Not all, some utilities."

Davis said club officials balked at that idea and wouldn't budge on a compromise.

"They weren't about compromise. As much as we tried to compromise with them. We had two separate meetings, they did not budge anyway."

He said they also asked club officials to allow more children from the City of Marion to be a part of the club.

Mayor Davis added they asked Neal Zimmerman with the Boys and Girls Club to allow more children from the City of Marion to become members. He said there are kids who live outside Marion who are taking part in the club enjoying the city pool and other amenities.

"We have over 1500 kids who walk the streets during the summer in Marion with no place to go. And Grice's Recreation Center is the only, the only recreation center in South Marion. We felt like we can compromise with Mr. Zimmerman in particular because we knew our local board and ask them to allow those boys and girls who could not pay the $55 to use the building for free. And I offered a compromise during town hall meeting even before that when they're not using the pool on Friday mornings for free, which no other kids in Marion utilizes. And we're talking about kids with Latta addresses. We have kids with Gresham and Centennary addresses and in the county as well. We allow them to use the pool free when our own kids doesn't use the pool free," Davis explained.

Davis said Zimmerman turned down another building the city offered to the club for free.

Zimmerman released the following statement on the matter:

"It is disappointing that four members of the Marion Town Council decided to change our original lease agreement in a way that they knew would be unacceptable, thus causing us to need a new location where we can serve children from the Marion community.

We do understand it is a Town Council's prerogative to make changes they deem appropriate. In the same way, we hope the community can understand that the Boys & Girls Club has certain standards and values they operate under.

We have notified the Mayor of Marion that the new lease proposal is unacceptable and we have asked to be able to remain in the building until June 2 to coincide with the end of the school year to give our parents time to find new options for their children.

Although our future is short at Grice's, the leadership at Boys & Girls Club has already begun working on plans to begin serving children as soon as possible again in the Marion community. Our ability to re-open our doors in a new location and serve children into the future is largely dependent on the Marion community's support."