Park Ridge Park District, seniors settle dispute
Members of the Park Ridge Senior Center have been informed that a number of items could be removed if Senior Services, Inc. exercises a right to claim them by June 1.
Updated: April 1, 2013 6:17AM
PARK RIDGE — A legal agreement allowing a Park Ridge Senior Center group to keep the proceeds from a late member’s estate — in addition to a number of recreational items used by center members — has been approved by the Park Ridge Recreation and Park District Board of Commissioners.
The lengthy battle over the control of the estate of Betty Kemnitz, of Niles, ended on Feb. 21 as commissioners agreed that the Park District will waive any rights to Kemnitz’s bequest to the Senior Center and allow any remaining funds from the trust to be distributed to Senior Services, Inc., a long-time fundraising arm of the Senior Center.
In addition, SSI is allowed to claim a large number of Senior Center items, among them a piano, ceramic kiln, two pool tables, lobby furniture, two large-screen televisions, four table-tennis tables, a sound system, kitchen items and dozens of tables and chairs.
Under terms of the agreement, SSI must “exercise its right to the items” by June 1 and will have until Aug. 1 to remove them from the Senior Center, 100 S. Western Ave. Anything not removed by Aug. 1 will become property of the Park District.
Carla Owen, chairwoman of SSI, said the group has explored moving out of the Park Ridge Senior Center and setting up a new center elsewhere, but no decisions have yet been made.
“If we don’t move and open a new place, we’ll leave (the items) there,” Owen said.
Park Board members indicated that items removed from the Senior Center will be replaced as funding allows.
The Park District also plans to seek out donators of a number of other possessions to determine if they want them to remain at the Senior Center building or belong to SSI.
A license agreement between the Park District and SSI expired on Dec. 31, 2010 and was not renewed by the Park District. A dispute over whether the Park District or SSI controlled the Kemnitz Trust followed, with former Senior Center Manager Teresa Grodsky, who was named trustee of the funds, asking a judge to resolve the matter. Kemnitz had left 60 percent of her estate to the Senior Center and Park District officials believed the Park District should have had authority over the funds which they said would be used for the Senior Center.
During the Feb. 21 discussion of the agreement, Park Board members conducted a lengthy review of items identified as belonging to the Park District and several others with disputed ownership, including the piano — purchased through a fundraiser — and smaller items like a bocce ball set and exercise mats and weights.
Owen said she was “shocked” to hear that a debate over the possessions was still occurring.
“We made this offer to be done with this matter,” she said. “We felt it was a way to end it.”
Commissioner Mel Thillens agreed.
“We’re willing to walk away from $300,000-plus (from the Kemnitz Trust) that we believed was given to the Park District. Are we really going to get upset over weights?” Thillens asked.
Attorneys for the Park District and SSI are now scheduled to review the final agreement.