Open or not? Keweenaw County Board returns to the age-old question

Graham Jaehnig/Daily Mining Gazette The Keweenaw County Board was forced to ask the annual question: What to do with the Keweenaw Mountain Lodge for the next operating season. The discussion was tabled until the December meeting.

EAGLE RIVER — The Keweenaw County Board was forced to return to its age-old question at last Tuesday’s meeting, asking what to do with the Keweenaw Mountain Lodge for the next operating season. While board member Del Rajala was in favor of operating just the golf course next year, other board members were not so sure. At the core of the debate was that if the county is forced to invest money again next spring to open the lodge, and the facility sells, the county will not get that money back as it did this year.

Harvey Desnick offered to run the KML again next season, stating his belief that the facility should be at full operation for the benefit of any potential buyer.

Board Chairman, Don Piche, asked Desnick if he felt the lodge could be run as well, or better, if it fully operated again next year.

“Until we have the opportunity,” Desnick said, “to secure more events than we had last year, the important things that I want to focus on are booking events with rooms, especially in June. If we can have June booked up, that will be a huge improvement over last June. We can open early if we’ve got things to support it. If we don’t have things to support it, I’m very anxious about burning a lot of dough going into opening, have the sale take place, no opportunity to recover. I just want to be certain we can start earning as soon as possible, if we get there.”

Rajala said had the facility not operated this year, instead opting to operate just the golf course, the county would not have had to gamble with transferring $151,000 to the KML fund to open it.

“We’re not going to get that (money) back,” Rajala said. “In the essence of the revenue bond payments, even after the rest of the expenses come in and are removed…if they wanted to entertain a payment, if a sale falls through, what is that payment, not the interest, what is the true payment amount that we’ve never been able to make? We’re going to be looking at that if we can’t sell, so we’re back to square one with a bill we can’t pay and now having to worry about making a payment to make people happy, and they’re going to look at us being first in line taking that money back, and a revenue bond, as I understand it, payment is after operating expenses, and that certainly was an operating expense that has to be removed before calculating revenue.”

At Piche’s suggestion, the discussion was tabled until the December meeting to allow board members to come up with more information, particularly from the Economic Development Authority and the USDA Rural Development, to which the county owes the bond payments.