Moose lodge deal tied to revenue potential

November 14, 1996



Staff Writer

The Halfway Volunteer Fire Co. won't buy the former Moose Lodge unless its financial analysts believe it can be used for a money-making venture, the fire company's president said Wednesday.

The Halfway Volunteer Fire Co., believed to be the richest in Washington County, must find ways to increase revenue to fund its operations, said company President Jim Kimble.

"I'd prefer not to have to do it. But we need to do something," Kimble said.

The fire company put a contract in excess of $1 million on the property that once housed the Hagerstown Moose Lodge, the largest Moose club in North America before it was closed by Moose International officials for repeated violations of the organization's policies.


Company officials said uses for the building could include a restaurant, a private club with paid membership or a bingo establishment.

The spokesman for a newly organized Halfway homeowners association said he thinks that if the fire company can make money by buying the former Moose lodge, then it's a good idea.

"I think with the Moose club sitting there close to three years, it's become a white elephant out there and it'd be great if they could pick it up and do something with it," said Bob DeVinney, spokesman for the Southwest Metropolitan Area Civic Association. "I'm sure the community would support them."

Washington County Fire and Rescue Coordinator Roger "Jerry" Reed said that he had not yet studied Halfway's plan, but from what he's heard, believes the fire company can turn it into a venture that will help the firefighters raise funds.

"They need to get funds any way they can," Reed said.

The Halfway Volunteer Fire Co. earns about $470,000 a year in net profit from tip jar ticket sales, said Kathy Sterling, of the Washington County Gaming Commission.

The fire company also relies on bingo proceeds.

About 15,000 people live in the Halfway area and a lot of commercial and industrial businesses are located in the fire company's territory, Kimble said.

Providing fire and ambulance protection for them is expensive, said Kimble and Halfway Fire Chief Jeff Ringer.

"We're not putting this money in our pocket," Ringer said. "This goes back into the community. No one is making a profit from this here."

The fire company's proposed budget for 1997 for fire and rescue operations, capital improvements, and administration is $603,000, Ringer said. It costs $317,000 to run the fire trucks and ambulances, he said.

The fire company had undertaken a $1.5 million renovation and addition to the fire hall, work Kimble said was needed to eliminate overcrowded conditions and inadequate facilities.

By having the latest models in fire pumpers and engines, homeowners in the area save significantly on their fire insurance, according to Ringer.

He said insurance companies consider the fire department's equipment when setting insurance rates, and they give Halfway the highest rating for protection.

To provide that service, however, the volunteers continuously have to look for ways to make money, Ringer and Kimble said.

Kimble said that the fire company's financial experts will determine whether the fire company can make money by buying the former Moose club. They also will determine what would be the most productive use of the building if the fire company does buy it.

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