190103_MOOSE

A federal judge on Wednesday found the Janesville Moose Lodge in default on the mortgage for its building, which was built in 1991 for 5,000 members. Now, the lodge has 600 members.

MADISON

A federal judge Wednesday found the Janesville Moose Lodge in default of its mortgage, moving the organization closer to foreclosure on its 16-acre property on Rockport Road.

The charitable organization was 13 months behind on its mortgage, said Matt Boardman, administrator of the Loyal Order of the Moose Lodge 197, prompting its lender, PNC Bank, to seek a default judgment in November.

“We couldn’t pay the mortgage, so they’re foreclosing,” Boardman said in a phone interview Wednesday. “The membership knew we were in trouble. The building has been up for sale.”

As of Oct. 9, the Lodge owed PNC $621,370, which included principal and interest on the $627,000 mortgage it secured in 2014, according to court documents.

The lodge is current on state and federal taxes and is working on taxes owed to Rock County, Boardman said.

The 1991 building and surrounding property were assessed within the past year at $1.5 million. The lodge plans to sell the property, “which should make the bank happy,” and reopen in a more suitable location, Boardman said.

How long PNC will give the lodge to sell the property and move was not clear to Boardman on Monday. A call to the bank’s attorney was not returned before deadline.

Meanwhile, the lodge will continue holding events, including a two-day polka fest in March.

The inability to retain members has been the lodge’s biggest challenge, Boardman said.

Dances have been reduced from every Friday to two Fridays a month.

The Lodge has one full-time and one part-time employee and relies on volunteers for the rest of its staffing needs, Boardman said.

“The problem was, the building was built for 5,000 members, and now we have less than 600,” he said.

The closing of the GM plant 10 years ago had a big impact on local Moose membership, Boardman said.

“Our biggest hit was GM leaving town. They took a huge number of our recruiting members and spread them across the country,” he said.

The Beloit Moose Lodge 191 “is holding our own,” said Nyla Spien, social quarters manager, but the membership is aging.

“Older lodge members get on a fixed income, they can’t get out as well in the winter. Some move away, some pass away, and it all plays a big part on keeping your membership numbers up,” she said.

Membership at Moose lodges in the South is growing so fast they can’t be accommodated, Spien said.

“We’re about 500 members, but that’s way less than a decade ago,” Spien said.

Moose Lodges remain private clubs with events open to members and their sponsored guests. Younger generations haven’t been as eager to join, she said.

Lodge 197 in Janesville was established in 1935. Members want to continue providing financial and logistical support to volunteer groups in the community, Boardman said. It has hosted Green Beret Marching Band practices for at least 20 years. It has given financial assistance to the Red Cross, ECHO, Salvation Army and the Special Olympics, he said.

In 2014, the most recent year for which financial data was available Wednesday, Lodge 197 reported revenue of $449,755 and expenses of $429,514, according to nonprofitfacts.com.

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