The Seasons Christian Care retirement community at 2724 Ledo Road in Albany is part of the Lamad Ministries property that is expected to come under Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection today. (Herald staff photo: Carlton Fletcher)
LEESBURG — Elderly residents of Lamad Ministries’ Seasons Christian Care retirement community and their family members were delivered the harsh realities of their financial future Monday morning by Albany attorney Walter Kelley, who will file today for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on behalf of Lamad.
Kelley sponsored a meeting at the Grand Island Golf Club, and some 140 Seasons Christian residents and their family members were given a primer on the legal maneuvering and how it will impact their investment at the retirement community.
And the news was not good.
“I paid $130,000 for my residence nine years ago and have paid more than $50,000 in maintenance fees since then,” one resident said. “Are you telling me that there’s a chance I won’t get anything for my investment?”
“Unfortunately, yes,” Kelley said.
But the attorney, considered one of the region’s foremost experts on bankruptcy proceedings, told the crowd they were not without hope.
“Ideally, we will be able to market the property, and once the debt that has been accrued is paid off, each person who has made an investment at Seasons Christian would get a pro rata share of the pot of money from the sale,” Kelley said. When one angry audience member replied “at pennies on the dollar,” Kelley said, “Quite possibly, but we’re hoping to get dollars for dollars. But if the bank forecloses on this property, though, there won’t even be pennies on the dollar.”
Kelley stressed to the audience, many of whom expressed concern that they would be “turned out on the street with nowhere to go,” that he did not represent Lamad principals William and Eric Eidenire in the bankruptcy proceedings.
“I represent the corporation, Lamad Ministries, not any individual or individuals,” Kelley said, dispelling rumors that he had called the meeting at the request of the Eidenires, who are at least five months behind on an $18,000-per-month loan payment at Colony Bank. Lamad’s largest debt, $2.4 million, is owed to Colony, according to documentation provided by Kelley.
But Kelley said even with some $2.5 million in secured debt, the assessed tax value of the Seasons Christian property is listed on the Dougherty County tax rolls at $12 million and a recent appraisal of the 2724 Ledo Road property also came in at $12 million.
Kelley said Lamad also owns 6.059 acres of property in Dawson and 2.42 acres of land in Sasser on which the ministry has a radio station, but he said there has been no recent appraisal of those properties.
“There is $9,693,000 in unsecured accounts payable on their books; that’s what they owe you,” he told the audience. “I’m not saying that we’ll be able to get $12.5 million if we market their assets, but that is the only vehicle I know of in which you might possibly get your money — or part of your money — back.”
Members of the audience were emotional at times, one proclaiming, “I have paid $80,000 for my apartment and made a $60,000 loan to the ministry, and I will end up with nothing to show for it.
Kelley cautioned that while he understood the residents’ anger, negative commentary would only hurt efforts to sell the Lamad Ministries property.
“The only hope you have of getting your money back is to market this property and get the highest price possible for it,” he said. “It’s not going to help if everyone bad mouths the facility.”
By way of introduction, Kelley told the crowd one of his primary objectives was to offer them assurance by dispelling many of the rumors that have surrounded the latest legal wranglings. “You are not being kicked out of here in 90 days,” he said, and his comment was followed by calls of “Praise Jesus.”
Kelley said Seasons Christian would operate “business as usual” in the coming weeks, except only he and financial consultant Will Sims will have the authority to write checks from the ministry account. Audience members asked if either Bill or Eric Eidenire would be paid.
“Neither will be paid what they’ve been getting, but they have institutional knowledge that no one else has,” Kelley said. “And the licenses for the center are in Eric’s name, so we’ll have to utilize them to a degree to run the place, at least until we have someone else to run it.”
One resident replied, “I know I speak for a lot of folks here when I say we’d feel a lot better if the Eidenires weren’t getting any more of our money.”
The attorney told the gathering Lamad’s Seasons Christian property is on 17.78 acres of land and includes 148 residential units. In addition to the Dawson and Sasser properties, the ministry owns personal property valued at $196,000. In addition to the $2.4 million owed Colony Bank, the ministry owes $110,000 in attorney’s fees and $22,313 in back payroll taxes. Kelley noted that Lamad Ministries had won a prolonged court battle in Dougherty County to maintain its tax-exempt status as a religious organization.
Kelley told residents they would be required to continue paying $400 monthly maintenance fees while Seasons Christian is under bankruptcy protection, which opened another heated discussion. Residents complained that little to no maintenance work had been completed at the facility in recent months and some complained that a number of residents had simply refused to pay their maintenance fees but were not penalized.
“It’s only fair that everyone be treated the same,” Kelley said.
Businessman Bob Brooks asked if the residents might have the opportunity to pay off the secured debt themselves and retain ownership of the facility.
“That’s one way we would have an opportunity to recoup our investments,” the businessman said. “As it is, no one has a deed to their property, even after paying as much as $150,000 for some of the units.”
Kelley said he would be glad to talk with Brooks about any viable plan.
Residents, meanwhile, walked away wondering about their future.
“I don’t want to go anywhere else,” said one resident, who asked that her name not be used. “I want things to be done right. Like Mr. Kelley said, I don’t want to talk bad about the place and hurt our chances of marketing it, but I would like to know I’m getting something for my investment. This was a nice place, but something went haywire down the line.”
“I think the meeting went well,” Kelley said. “Unfortunately, this facility is where it is right now partly because many of the residents have not paid their fees, and the property is in steady decline. But I want these folks to know that I plan to do everything I can on their behalf. Unfortunately, when you represent people with a bad reputation, you sometimes get bad results.
“I hope that’s not the case here. I’m hoping for good results. I just want these people to know that the Eidenires will no longer be involved in any financial decisions that will be made about this facility. That’s one of the things I can promise for these fine people whose dreams have been shattered.”
Messages left with Eric Eidenire seeking comment for this report were not returned by The Herald’s press time.