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Struggling financially, VFW post puts building up for sale

Sep 3, 2013 - By Katie Roenigk, Staff Writer

Ideally, a different building could be found to house the VFW, American Legion Post 19, the Disabled American Veterans, and the VFW Women's Auxiliary under one roof.

The building that has housed Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3628 in Riverton for nearly 80 years is listed for sale.

Local leaders of the veterans organization say they intend to downsize from the facility at 1409 W. Main St. to a site that will allow them to better carry out the mission of their charter -- serving veterans.

"(The mission is) not to run a bar and have a bunch of social events nobody comes to," Wyoming Veterans Commissioner and Riverton resident Pat Lawson said this week.

Jim Arndt, vice commander of the post, said he would like to find a building to house the VFW, American Legion Post 19, the Disabled American Veterans and the VFW Women's Auxiliary all under one roof.

"We want to reach out to all veterans in the community -- not just our war veterans," Arndt said. "We have people in place that can help them get going in the right direction, get hooked up with the right people, and get their benefits."

He said he would like to focus on veterans from conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan who may come home suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. And he also wants to reinstate programs such as the Voice of Democracy audio-essay competition for students, continue to support the the Avenue of Flags, and maintain scholarship opportunities for residents seeking an education.

"There are things that have just kind of been on the back burner for a long time," he said. "I think that our veterans programs have not been out in the community the way they should've been all along. That's why we're in the state we're in."

Finances

The group is moving mostly out of necessity -- Arndt said they can't afford to pay for the Main Street structure anymore.

"We're spending $2,300 to $2,500 a month to maintain that building," Arndt said. "With the number of members we have in the organization, it's just not profitable."

Over the past few months, members have cleaned and updated the facility in an effort to generate money from sales at the building's restaurant and bar. But Arndt said the work was relatively fruitless.

"We opened the bar for about five weeks and only made $30 a night," he said. "We were paying out more for bartenders and that kind of thing than we were bringing in."

He said officials at the state level recommended the local VFW either give up its charter or sell the building. A majority of members chose the latter option on Monday, Arndt said, with Mayor Ron Warpness offering the lone dissenting vote.

"He thought it was really sad we have to lose our building," Arndt said.

The VFW hall has been located at 1409 W. Main St. since the Riverton post was chartered in 1936, according to Arndt.

"It's really a hardship to give up that building ... but we have to look at the big picture," Arndt said. "We won't be in existence if we stay in that building."

Warpness said the sale represents a move in the wrong direction for the veterans of Riverton.

"I don't know that it's necessarily the sentimentality, it's just the practical reality of it," he said. "(We've) got a building that is paid for. ... Surely we can come up with some other way to resolve the problem."

Cornerstone Group Realty will manage the sale of the 1.5-acre property. Arndt said the VFW is asking for $650,000 for the lot, which he thinks would serve as a good location for a night club or restaurant.

"That would be an ideal spot," he said, adding that his Realtor already has spoken with several people interested in the sale.

In the meantime, VFW officers have identified two or three other buildings for purchase, including one on Airport Road west of town.

"I think the visibility going up and down the airport hill would be good for us," Arndt said. "Where we're at right now we're kind of setting down in a hole."

He said the VFW also would consider a building downtown, as long as parking is available.

"Location is key to everything," he said.

The VFW and other local veterans organizations will continue to meet at the Main Street building through Oct. 1, when Arndt said liability insurance for the property will expire. He anticipates community fund drives in the near future to help raise money for the VFW. For more information call Arndt at 851-3763.

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