Operation of the Keweenaw Mountain Lodge remains one of the most pertinent issues in Keweenaw County as the county commissioners attempt to address mounting financial woes occurring over the last few years.
Finances at the mountain lodge, a county-owned facility, were not much of a public issue until it was discovered in August 2010 the county had "loaned" thousands of dollars to the lodge using money from the county's Economic Development Committee fund and others.
County residents regularly approach the board at its monthly meetings demanding answers. However, month after month, the commissioners offer the same sentiments: "We inherited this problem."
Taxpayers in Keweenaw County are within their rights to question spending in the county, especially when it pertains to the Keweenaw Mountain Lodge. It's obvious the commissioners have no clear idea how money was spent and transferred between lodge and county accounts before reorganization began on the five-person county board. Three of the commissioners are new members who started in January.
The result is flared tempers from the community and plenty of befitting finger-pointing, but actually, the commissioners may have a better handle on finances at the lodge now than in the last few years.
What the commissioners are asking for is time - time to sort out financial issues, to begin a suitable recording process and even to help get the mountain lodge off out of the red and begin turning a profit.
In reality, the lodge really is a gem to the county offering a spectrum of entertainment in its newly renovated surroundings.
Currently, the lodge operates year-round and is "healthy," thanks to a $75,000 loan from the county awarded at the beginning of the year. The commissioners insist the lodge can exist harmoniously with other businesses in the county despite the tug-o-war for snowmobilers' and skiers' dollars.
Perhaps the board does need time to work through all of the financial issues and make heads or tails of how the lodge should be managed to continue to be an asset to the community. Commissioner Ernest Mooney promised a complete report "projected on the walls" at the next Keweenaw County Board of Commissioners meeting Aug. 17 at the courthouse in Eagle River. Mooney said finances at the lodge will be more public than ever.
Now, it's up to the board to correct the mistakes made in the past or continue to face public vexation.