Members of Pembroke American Legion Post 164 voted 15-1 to sell the hall they’ve used for decades for everything from Christmas parties and Valentines Day dances to programs to honor North Bryan residents.
The decision to sell the approximately 70-year-old building was made Tuesday and followed months of discussion and deliberation among members, who’ve been faced with mounting maintenance costs according to post commander Marvin Miller.
“The discussion started when we were having air conditioning issues last year,” he said in an email. “We were facing a $5,000 replacement cost. That is our total annual receipts from donations and fundraising. That’s not taking into the cost of managing the property, which is about $3,600 annually.”
While costs have gone up, members say use of the building on Highway 280 has gone down as various youth groups such as the Boy Scouts and 4-H clubs have started meeting elsewhere or have disbanded.
Miller, along with former Post Commander Ernie Mitchell, proposed selling the building in January and put it up for a vote among members after months of debate.
Whatever proceeds the Post realizes from the sale of the hall, which like the post is named after John Duggar, killed in World War I, will be put in a trust fund, Miller said.
Like Miller, Mitchell said keeping building has become too costly and takes away from the Legion Post’s ability to support the community. He pointed to other area posts that don’t own a building, such as Richmond Hill and Midway.
“To support the American Legion’s Four Pillars – particularly children and youth, veterans and Americanism – a building is not necessary,” Mitchell said. “With less than 12 members of our 40 regularly attending the monthly meeting, we can meet at no or minimal cost at any of several locations in Pembroke, including a very nice meeting room in the center of town at no cost.”
He said the $400 the post spends a month to keep the hall open can be better spent supporting the community through various projects.
Miller said the Pembroke post will continue to meet as always, but now it will be more approachable.
“We will continue to meet up the third Tuesday of every month,” he said. “(But) as of now we’ll meet at Higgins in Pembroke. We want to meet at other places, also, such as Black Creek Golf Club and other locations.”
Both he and Mitchell said there are some in North Bryan who are against the sale, and one post member voted against it, but the cost of keeping the building was just too much for the post’s membership to handle.
And even an influx of cash from donations or fundraisers won’t be a permanent fix, Mitchell said.
“Financial support would not cover the potential risks of replacing two old air conditioners, roof repairs, and building maintenance and repairs,” Mitchell said.
Both men said the post will be better off without the responsibility of what amounts to home ownership. For one thing, they'll be more visible, Miller said.
“The future will be better for us,” he said. “We will be seen more in the community. It will make us more approachable.”