Boys & Girls Clubs expansion stalls


NEW PALESTINE — Plans to expand the Boys & Girls Clubs of Hancock County into New Palestine have ground to a halt after months of negotiations, leaving local officials disappointed.

There appears to have been some miscommunication between the clubs’ board of directors and officials in New Palestine.

What the clubs’ board of directors understood as an opportunity to weigh the benefits of an expansion was viewed by town officials as a done deal.

New Palestine officials had selected the old Sugar Creek Township fire station on U.S. 52 as a site for the club with hopes of it opening up for children to use as early as this summer.

Board of trustees president Steve Menser said he is dismayed by having to put the brakes on discussions to bring the clubs to New Palestine, but “the timeline was moving too fast.”

“We were really only in an exploratory mode,” he said. “I do feel bad, … but we needed to stop the train.”

New Palestine Town Manager Dave Book said the news came as a shock.

For months, New Palestine leaders have been working with Sugar Creek Township, Southern Hancock school officials and local business owners to help secure a facility, funding and year-round support.

The boys and girls clubs had put a link on its website as well, inviting community members to take a survey about the extension to New Palestine.

“I’m really heartbroken over this,” Book said. “We had community backing, and so many people put in so much time to make this happen.”

While plans to open the facility are on hold for now, Menser said a New Palestine extension is not completely out of picture.

“It’s on the back burner for now,” Menser said. “There is support to have it there, but they need to show they can put together a three-year budget to fund it.”

Meanwhile, the board is turning its attention to replacing former clubs director Darren Turner, who abruptly left the organization several weeks ago. Candace Sexton, the Greenfield unit director, is serving as interim director.

In the meantime, Book said he doesn’t know if New Palestine officials will want to wait another year or longer for a possible expansion. Book said at this point, they are willing to explore other alternatives.

“Our community wants this,” Book said. “We have a need, so our committee is going to look at other options, and we aren’t even sure what those are yet.”