Anybody want to buy a 30,000-square-foot, plus or minus, building on North Main, complete with commercial kitchen and spacious meeting hall, suitable for political debates, civic gatherings, bluegrass Thursdays and gospel Mondays? Well. Has American Legion Post 106 got a deal for you.
Yes, it's true: Trenton's American Legion post is putting its meeting hall on the market. The veterans' organization which historically has hosted countless community events in its hall north of the square has found it can no longer afford the place. Peter Cervelli, executive director of the Dade Industrial Development Authority (IDA), confirmed Thursday afternoon that the post had asked him to put the hall on IDA's list of available commercial properties.
Cervelli stressed that the decision does not mean an end to Post 106; it just means that 106 will have to meet elsewhere. "The American Legion is healthy and doing well," he said. "It's just that we have a building we need to get rid of."
He said post members had voted to approve the move. They plan to meet at the hall in January, but beyond that it is unclear if they'll be able to. "They can't do it forever," he said.
The Legion post had four or five years ago refinanced its building with the aid of another American Legion chapter. Post 40 of Ringgold had bought the mortgage and offered Post 106 a much better interest rate. Cervelli said that as it stands, the post owes about $168,000 and makes monthly payments of $800-odd.
None of which sounds undoable, but Cervelli says that's not the whole picture. "If you wrote a $168,000 check, they'd still have to pay utilities," he said.
Cervelli said he understood the post pays around $33,000 yearly in electric bills alone.
But the deeper problem, he said, is that the post is simply not generating enough income to pay the overhead. "Bingo was critical to the financing of that operation, and bingo everywhere has severely declined," he said.
What About the Post Cafe?
"When bingo went down, everything went to pot," said Mike White at the Post Cafe, the restaurant inside the post building. He, too, was resigned to the loss of the building, either renting it to another group or selling it outright. "Those are the only two options," he said.
White said the last bingo game at the hall will be Dec. 30. But the cafe will keep serving until further notice, he stressed.
White is the owner of Dade Post Cafe Inc., which owns and operates the restaurant, and which White explained is a separate corporate entity from Post 106 itself. "When they buy the building, they're still going to have to talk to me," he said.
White said that business at the cafe has been generally good, until the rumors of closure started. The cafe serves burgers, salads and sandwiches as well as the only remaining meat-and-three lunch plates in Dade's valley area.
On Thursday, the cafe was doing a respectable lunch trade. It serves breakfast from 6-11 a.m. Monday through Friday and 6 a.m.-noon on Saturday, then lunch Wednesday through Sunday 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m.
Both White and Cervelli referred The Planet to Gen. Bob Woods, the current commander of Post 106, for an official statement, but Woods had not returned phone calls by publication time.
Cervelli, again, stressed, that Post 106 was still vibrant; it's just that it wanted out from under a financial obligation that was hanging over its head like the Sword of Damocles. "That's the basic issue," he said. "Why are we spending all this money on the building and utilities when we should be spending money on supporting veterans?"
He said that Woods was looking for other places for the Legion post to meet, churches or restaurants, notably.
But he added it was true that if another tornado ripped through Dade, the veterans would not have a place to cook for the victims and the rescuers 24 hours a day as they did in 2011.
As for gospel Mondays and bluegrass Thursdays?
"They'll have to do it somewhere else, I suppose," said Cervelli.