With a 34-7 vote Wednesday, Oct. 24, members of the Wahpeton Eagles Club agreed to sell their 114 Dakota Ave. building to Simonson Station Stores for no less than $500,000.
The club’s operations, under scrutiny following reports of an alleged theft of benefit proceeds, were detailed for nearly one hour prior to the vote.
“The problem is, we can’t afford to keep it open and we can’t afford to close it,” said Clarence Schutz, president of the board of trustees.
Latest on Petermann case
An alleged theft of proceeds from the “Oh, For Petey’s Sake” benefit was not discussed at the meeting. The story became public on Monday, Oct 22.
The event was held in June for Wahpeton High School student Jacob Petermann. Petermann, diagnosed with cancer in January, subsequently underwent chemotherapy and a partial amputation.
“I prayed for three months that this was a misunderstanding,” said his mother, Connie Petermann. “I prayed that this was a nightmare, because I thought who could do something like this?”
The Fargo Forum reported nearly $20,000 was raised with the benefit’s raffle, auction and bake sale. That money was deposited into the Petermann family’s donation account. Proceeds from T-shirts, koozies, sponsorships, bracelets and food, according to Petermann, haven’t been seen.
By the numbers
The Eagles Club, according to information shared at the meeting:
• must meet at least once a month to keep its charter with the Fraternal Order of Eagles
• is nearly $100,000 in debt, with monthly losses between $5,000-$10,000
• has a daily operation cost of $701.48 and a monthly operational cost of $19,641.45
• needs to host at least two 400 guest-or more, food and drink-selling events each month to make enough to pay the bills
• has approximately 255 members, less than a fifth of which attended the meeting, compared to 1,200 nearly 30 years ago
• is expected to close on Feb. 1, 2019, with Simonson Station Stores taking ownership on June 1; without a sale, the club would close on Nov. 1, 2018
He said, he said
Eagles Club Chairman Cliff Barth shared his frustrations with Arch Simonson, president of operations for Simonson Station Stores.
“I am so tired of trying to deal with that man,” Barth said. “We as trustees sat and discussed things with him. The next thing you know, he’s changing his mind.”
Simonson Station Stores’ planned acquisition of the Eagles Club has lasted nearly three years. During that time, Barth said, numerous offers were made. Simonson said Barth’s account is only somewhat accurate.
The first offer was between $1 million and $1.2 million, Barth said. Simonson said he repeatedly told Barth the building was not worth the amount but an appraisal might determine that figure.
“If it did appraise for that amount, we were not willing to pay that much because we planned on razing the structure and that was too much to have invested into the dirt,” Simonson continued.
A North Dakota State College of Science employee made up to 10 drawings and gave an estimate for a proposed new Eagles Club building, Barth said. The estimate was for $2.1 million.
It was a ballpark estimate coming in around $2 million, Simonson responded. That cost was out of the question.
Simonson’s comments changed, according to Barth.
“(They became), ‘I will buy your building and property, you take that money and do what you want with it,’” he said.
Simonson also allegedly said he’d pay top dollar for the price by square foot of the Eagles Club property and building.
Barth and Simonson’s sequence of events diverge.
According to Barth, a Friday offer of $750,000 became a Tuesday offer of $660,000.
The Eagles Club’s counteroffer of $900,000 was rejected. It was unacceptable, Simonson said.
“(Following the $900,000 offer), I offered the Eagles $660,330,” Simonson continued.
It was then, according to Simonson, that the Eagles made the counteroffer of land and building for $750,000. The offer was appealing but the company was undecided.
As of Wednesday, Oct. 24, the mutually accepted price was $500,000. If the Eagles Club didn’t receive that full amount, members were told, they were authorized to get the building back.
“It sounds like Mr. Barth painted my business practices in a very poor light to the Eagles membership,” Simonson said. “That is not a fair representation of my business practices and/or ethics. It is not appreciated.”
“There’s about half a dozen events that we hold in this place that no place else in town can hold,” Schutz said.
A show of hands vote indicated Eagles Club members are interested in pursuing a partnership with the Wahpeton Veterans Club.
Discussions of sharing the Vets’ Club building, located at 219 Dakota Ave. in Wahpeton, are expected to soon continue.
It’s just a matter of waiting for the Eagles Club’s sale to Simonson Station Stores to be completed.