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Tight Quarters: County can’t afford to deal with lodge

EAGLE RIVER, MI – The Keweenaw County Board found itself in a sticky situation Tuesday regarding the Keweenaw Mountain Lodge: the county can neither afford to keep the lodge operating, nor can it afford to shut it down, raising the question of whether the county should loan the necessary money to the KML to open in it in the spring of 2017.

“At no time did I hear anybody on this board during an open meeting discuss taking any more general fund money for the Keweenaw Mountain Lodge,” said Commissioner Don Rajala. “If it did, it would be a huge misappropriation of funds in my opinion.”

“If we mothball this thing in my opinion – meaning close it – I’m just afraid that that’s going to turn into a Mount Horace Greeley,” said Commissioner Don Piche. “I personally believe that if it’s closed, it’s going to be broken into, and it’s gonna get wrecked. Also, what is that going to do to the economy of Keweenaw County if it’s closed?”

Commissioner Ray Chase said there are other issues to be considered in whether to fund the lodge or shut it down.

“If we close it and we do end up selling it, we’re not going to get nearly out of a defunct business as we would from one that’s in operation,” Chase said. “The value is going to decrease even more, at least that’s my belief … but I’ve never seen a defunct business bring in as much money as one that was operating, so if sale becomes an issue, because that is one of the options.

“I understand what Don is saying. There is a chance that the place will be vandalized, I don’t want to see that happen, but I understand what Del’s saying, too. We can’t keep throwing money into a money pit that can’t return it.”

KML accountant Carl Johnson said the lodge has enough money to operate through January or February 2017.

Chase then asked Miller if within the next two weeks, he could get a determination back from Rural Development, a U.S. government agency that has a lien due to grants, as to whether if the county was to loan the KML money, the county would be the first lender to be repaid from KML revenue of the coming year, in spite of Rural Development holding the first lien on the property.

Miller recommended calling Rural Development after the board sends the lender a letter requesting the action.

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