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Lodge on shaky ground

EAGLE RIVER – The Keweenaw Mountain Lodge has been a contentious issue among county residents for a long time.

With balance sheets for August as well as the past eight months showing lodge revenues are down while costs and expenses are up, county residents have expressed concern over the monetary loss to the county. Comments expressed at Wednesday’s KML Board meeting spoke negatively of county expenditures where the lodge is concerned.

Ray Chase, Keweenaw County Board member representing District 2, said the county does not contribute money to the KML.

“I can’t express this strongly enough: The county provides no funds to the lodge,” Chase said.

The board spent $40,000-$50,000 on the infrastructure of the lodge, such as necessary kitchen and water system updates, new beds and other items necessary to the operation of the facilities.

“All that money came from the lodge operations. This County Board made the decision some years ago that no county money would go into the lodge” Chase said.

Chase said in a telephone interview his personal belief is that county money should not be used for the lodge. The county collects taxes from other businesses, he said, and it would not be fair to use revenue paid by county businesses to support a competing business.

In regard to people who expressed concern over the lodge deficit spending, Chase said that is not true.

While the lodge is not deficit spending, the problem is with a state Rural Development loan, he said. Among the terms stipulated in the loan agreement is if the lodge does not show a profit, it does not have to make payments on the principle. However, the interest on the loan continues to accrue.

“There was a tremendous amount of debt incurred from previous boards,” Chase said.

In spite of that tremendous debt, Chase is optimistic where the lodge is concerned.

“I think the KML is being turned around by our new manager. She’s doing a good job,” he said in reference to the new lodge manager, Deborah Britz-Meyer. “The problems didn’t happen overnight, so they’re not going to be fixed overnight. Even though things are not rosy, I’m positive. I think we’ve hired the right person for the job.”