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Fire co. may buy lodge

November 13, 1996

By CLYDE FORD

Staff Writer

The Halfway Volunteer Fire Co. put a contract offer on the table Tuesday to buy the former Hagerstown Moose lodge on Downsville Pike, according to Chief Jeff Ringer.

If the deal goes through, the fire company could turn the building into a restaurant, a private club or a bingo hall, among other possibilities, Ringer said.

"We're looking to survive into the future," Ringer said. "It's financial security. If it's run properly as a restaurant and a club, it can benefit the fire company and the community financially. We're just looking at ways to make money for the fire company."

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Ringer would not say how much the fire company offered for the property, because the contract is under negotiation. He said, however, the offer was in excess of $1 million.

The 24,000-square-foot building was on the market at $1.6 million.

The deal hinges on several factors, including approval by the fire company's membership, receipt of financing from a lending institution and outcome of a review by financial analysts to determine whether it could be expected to make money for the fire company, Ringer said.

Other requirements would be the ability to obtain the proper permits, such as a liquor license, from the county, and acceptance of the offer by Moose International, owner of the lodge, Ringer said.

"All we did was secure the property so we can investigate it further," he said.

Ringer said that the contract allows the fire company to withdraw the offer if the necessary factors are not met.

"We've left ourselves plenty of outs," Ringer said.

The building has been vacant since Moose International shut down the lodge in February 1994, citing repeated violations of the organization's laws and policies.

When it was operated as Moose Lodge 212, the lodge had as many as 10,000 members, making it the largest Moose lodge in North America.

Moose officials could not be reached for comment Tuesday, but in the past have said they want to sell the building to someone who would "make solid use out of the building and will be a good neighbor."

Ringer said if the fire company is successful in its attempt to buy the building, one option would be for the fire company to start its own club with a paid membership.

Another option would be to open a restaurant and rent out a social hall for events, he said.

The fire company also could move its bingo operations from the fire company's social hall in Halfway to the former Moose lodge, Ringer said.

Fire and rescue officials expressed concern earlier this year when a for-profit bingo operation and a nonprofit organization each expressed interest in buying the former Moose lodge for use as a bingo hall.

Ringer said that preventing a competing bingo hall from opening up in Halfway's territory was not the main reason the fire company might buy the lodge, but it was one consideration.

The building also could be used for community events such as coin shows, he said.

Ringer said that if county or state governments provided enough money for the fire companies to operate, the Halfway fire company would not have to buy the Moose lodge.

"If this is how we have to support ourselves this is what we're going to do," Ringer said.

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