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Woman hopes to stay put at home

| Thursday, May 6, 2004

A 94-year-old woman who helped found a Butler personal-care home is fighting to stay there after its new owner tried to evict her.

The nonprofit Concordia Lutheran Ministries raised Romaine Powell's monthly rent from $1,000 to $3,000 in November, then tried to kick her out when she refused to pay the extra money, according to a lawsuit filed on her behalf.

Lawyers for Concordia Lutheran Ministries and Powell said Wednesday they are working to settle the lawsuit.

Powell, who was not available for comment, has been allowed to stay at the personal-care home in the meantime.

Her lawyer, Alexander H. Lindsay Jr., of Butler, said in the lawsuit that eviction would deplete Powell's assets quickly and would affect her health severely.

Adriane Burkland Harrison, attorney for Concordia Lutheran Ministries, said both sides have agreed to a settlement "in principle" and are working out details. She said the tentative agreement would allow Powell to remain at Concordia at the Orchard.

Powell and her late husband -- the Rev. N.K. Powell, a Church of God minister -- helped open the personal-care home, originally known as Church of God Retirement Communities, in 1997.

The Church of God Retirement Communities Inc., which built and operated the home, used the couple in its marketing, the lawsuit says.

Powell has lived for about seven years at the 49-unit personal-care home on North Main Street, now known as Concordia at the Orchard.

A 1997 agreement between Retirement Communities Inc. and the Powells set their rent at $1,000 a month, with personal-care fees waived, according to the lawsuit.

The Rev. Powell died in 1998. In December 2001, Orchard officials and Romaine Powell agreed to keep her rent at $1,000 a month. That changed shortly after Concordia Lutheran Ministries bought the personal-care home in June.

Powell signed a new lease in August that kept rates level but allowed Concordia Lutheran Ministries to increase the rent later, the lawsuit says. The social ministry, based in Cabot, notified Powell that her rent would triple as of Dec. 1.

Lindsay, the attorney, said in the lawsuit filed March 3 that Powell didn't fully understand the lease she signed with Concordia Lutheran Ministries last August and doesn't remember signing it. The suit says Concordia officials knew her business affairs were to be handled by her son, the Rev. Gordon Powell.

The younger Powell could not be reached for comment.

Concordia Lutheran Ministries said it is not bound to honor Powell's agreement with Retirement Communities Inc.

Founded in 1881, Concordia Lutheran Ministries also offers inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation, as well as adult and child day care, on a 167-acre campus in Cabot. It has 331 independent-living apartments; 180 personal-care beds; and 136 nursing-care beds.

Concordia had $26.1 million in revenues and had nearly $80 million in assets in fiscal 2002-03, according to tax records.

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