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Mystery surrounds Tuesday’s North Side Improvement League meeting

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Just days before a pivotal meeting Tuesday, several longtime board members of the financially strapped North Side Improvement League have expressed frustration that they have been kept in the dark about the organization’s future.

More than 700 letters were sent out to members urging them to attend a meeting Tuesday night that may decide the civic organization’s fate, said board member Brenda L. Parker, a trustee who was appointed finance officer at a meeting two weeks ago.

Longtime member William W. Parody, who also once served as president, said he attended the last meeting but still has no idea whether the league will be able to continue.

“I’m trying to find out what’s going on,” he said.

But members contacted by the Times in recent days complained that they have not been told what’s going on or what the purpose of Tuesday’s meeting is.

“If they want to know, they should come to the meeting,” Mrs. Parker said Saturday night.

Rumors have been circulating that the building, 633 Mill St., will be sold to either Kinney Drugs or Walgreens Pharmacy. A corporate spokesman denied Kinney is interested in the property and a Walgreens official never got back to a reporter with an answer.

Mrs. Parker said she could not talk about what might be happening with the organization, citing “a confidentiality clause.” She also declined to discuss the need for such a confidentiality clause.

Mrs. Parker said the league intends to continue, saying that members will be asked to vote yes or no on one answer. Depending on that outcome, they will vote on “a second answer.”

“I think it’s all good for us,” she said. “Some people may not.”

She also would not talk about a possible buyer for the building.

If the building were sold, the sale would have to be approved by a state Supreme Court judge because the North Side Improvement League is a nonprofit organization, Mrs. Parker said. The profits from the sale would have to be donated to a charity, she said.

In the midst of the rumors, Mr. Parody said that all of the league’s “accounts have been frozen” because of troubles with back taxes.

Although she acknowledged the league is in debt, Mrs. Parker said she could not discuss the organization’s finances, again citing the confidentiality clause. She said Mr. Parody and others who attended the last meeting must abide by the confidentiality clause and should not be discussing the league’s finances.

Yet the Times has learned the league has faced a series of tax liens over the years.According to documents in the Jefferson County clerk’s office, tax liens were recorded by the state Department of Taxation and Finance, and one from the federal Internal Revenue Service, from 2007 to as recently as August. They range from $674 to $6,200.

It is unclear, however, whether the organization has paid any of them, and Mrs. Parker would not talk about them.

She claimed the league has been plagued with members getting “burnt out or not caring.” It has relied on about 20 active members during the past couple of years, she said.

“We’ve done a lot of good work for the community,” she said.

The organization has held about six fundraising events for individuals and other groups that brought in thousands of dollars in donations, she said. At one event, 3,000 people attended.

But a fundraising event was held for the league last year, and only about 300 to 400 people showed up, she said, so it did not make any money.

A new slate of officers was appointed at the last meeting. Besides her, the officers are her husband, Joseph S. Parker, president; James Thwaits, vice president; Christine L. Wadsworth, recording secretary, and Richard Alger, treasurer.

Mrs. Parker said the league has 1,000 members.

League officials decided to close in October and to stop holding Monday night Bingo games and other events while waiting to reorganize, she said.

The organization received some bad publicity when it failed to pay a $232 overdue city water bill that trustees maintain they overlooked.

Mrs. Parker has blamed city property taxes for the financial woes. The league now owes $14,119.28.

The 9,600-square-foot building is assessed at $395,200, according to city property records.

At one time, membership in the league was considered a prerequisite to holding office in Watertown. It often took on the political issues of the day.

Tuesday’s meeting will be at 7 p.m. at the Best Western Carriage House Inn, 300 Washington St.

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