SPRING HILL - The largest VFW post in the state, VFW 10209 in Spring Hill, announced earlier this month that its financial house was in disarray and that it might have to sell the building on Edward R. Knoll Drive.
According to Veterans Advisory Council member Deron Mikal, the district commander urged the post's quartermaster to leave his post as plans to sell the building were under way.
However, Mikal was not prepared to let the post fade so soon, which newly elected officials have recently suggested.
During a board meeting Wednesday night, when the board was expected to act on whether to sell the building, Mikal said he disputed claims about the post's financial woes. He said not only is membership strong but the post has several thousand dollars in the bank and all bills are paid in a timely manner with no outstanding debts.
In addition, regular audits by certified public accountants show no irregularities by the quartermaster, Mikal said, and smarter management strategies could resolve the challenges that now have the post's leadership eyeing buyers.
Mikal also said he gave a presentation to the board Wednesday on alternatives he had researched, as well as points of contact to avert what he calls "a runaway train" decision.
Among those alternatives, Mikal said, includes a tentative mortgage rate nearly 50 percent less than the 12 percent the post currently pays. As the District 21 post enters its 43rd year with 100-percent membership exceeding 1,100, letting the post close is unacceptable, he said.
"I read that last night before they had a call for the vote," he said Thursday. "Our bills are paid, we're in good standing and the district commander backed down."
According to administration at the post, the decision was tabled, and a decision is anticipated for a meeting next month.
The post's website shows an emergency meeting was scheduled earlier this month and a committee was formed to obtain information on various options available for the post's future.
The site goes on to say the committee's findings and recommendations will be presented during a regular member meeting Nov. 27.
Realtors have attended the two most-recent meetings, Mikal said.
Although the Hernando County Property Appraiser gave the property an assessed market value of nearly $1.2 million, Realtors in attendance disputed this, citing offers in the ballpark of $600,000.
One Realtor offered a quick sale for $450,000, Mikal said.
"None of that makes sense," he said. "(If) the building sells and everybody divides up the money, a portion of it goes into the coffers, the state gets some, the national post gets some and the membership gets nothing - they're thrown to the street."
According to Mikal, back in 2007 Target gave VFW Post 10209 the land, and agreed to build the structure currently on the property.
The post had to borrow $150,000 to make the building presentable to the public at large, Mikal said.
If the old mortgage of 12 percent over a 15-year period could be replaced for a 6- to 6.5-percent mortgage, Mikal said, the post could save about $700 a month and put more money down on the principal.
"The new officers are going to form a committee, and I'll lead them through what I've been able to ferret out, so they can make a deal and step out and give that VFW a renewed vitality, to step forward and serve the community," Mikal said. "Veteran organizations should serve the community, be a venue at no cost and provide scholarships to be able to serve."
None of the officers or committee members could be reached for comment before press time.
The VFW post is not the only order facing financial hardship. In the last four years, membership at Brooksville Elks Club declined from about 1,300 to 600.
Electric bills at the Elks Club are more than $2,000 a month and some repairs are needed, and according to past exalted ruler and district lodge deputy, Richard Ferguson, the time has come to sell the 33-year-old building just east of the Suncoast Parkway and find a smaller place.
"The building is too big and costs too much to operate," Ferguson said in August.
The members voted this summer to proceed with the sale, which is awaiting approval by the national headquarters in Chicago.
For whatever reason, younger people are not patronizing Elks Club 2582 and the "older people are getting older," Ferguson said. The average member is in his or her 70s, he added.
The assessed value of the building is $1.37 million, according to property appraiser records. The building itself is worth $586,516.
"All the clubs are having trouble," Mikal said. "We're not alone in kind of teeter-tottering back and forth trying to make it."