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$70,000 sewer expense a hurdle for American Legion’s food service


NORTH RIDGEVILLE — For years, American Legion Post 717 has held countless events at which food was served.

Up to now, all the sandwiches, chicken, fish and so on served up for post functions was prepared outside the hall and carried in.

Wedding receptions, parties and meetings at the Bender Road facility are handled as rentals from the post and have food provided by outside caterers. The hall also is used by area groups such as high school sports booster organizations.

Now the post wants to prepare food on-site to generate money for its variety of charitable and youth programs.

But it can’t, according to post officials, because the facility lacks needed connections to a sewer line 277 feet away in a major housing development.

And it has nowhere near the estimated $70,000 needed for the project, according to Post Commander Ralph Jennings.

“Our canteen has really started to pick up business,” Jennings said, especially due to the increasing popularity of what the post terms its “Taco Tuesday” nights.

“This place can be a gold mine if we can get our own food service up and running,” Jennings said. “Up to now, food is cooked at home and brought in or catered.”

Dave Covell, health commissioner for the Lorain County General Health District, said the county has talked with post officials about the food service issue, dating to 2008 when the site was operated as Melody Grove.

“When it was Melody Grove, the EPA said it needed to upgrade its septic system or connect to the sewer,” Covell said. “And then it was sold.”

Built in 1955 and operated for decades as the Melody Grove party center by longtime owner Gene Eckenfels, the business was purchased at auction by American Legion Post 717 in 2008 for $295,000 from Eckenfels’ family.

The post — which was formed from a merger with a North Eaton American Legion post — met at the Veterans of Foreign Wars hall in Avon before moving.

Mayor David Gillock said the city is aware of the post’s situation but has no direct hand in the matter.

“It’s not the city telling them they have to connect,” he said.

Gillock said that if and when the sewer line project comes about, the city could discuss possible price breaks with the post on required sewer tap-in fees.

“We want to support the legion,” he said.

Gillock said he doesn’t know what those fees would cost but noted they stand at about $7,000 for private homes.

“We’re not blaming anyone,” Jennings said of the need to tie into the area’s sewer lines. “We want to abide by the rules.”

Over the years the post has upgraded the building’s wiring, plumbing and heating, according to Bill Nowagarski, a longtime member and the post’s former financial officer.

The projected sewer line would cross beneath Bender Road and link with an existing line within the Waterbury housing development off Terrell Court. An area contractor has indicated his willingness to perform the work at a substantial discount, saying he would donate materials including piping, according to Jennings.

In the meantime, the post has about $5,300 to go toward the work so far and is turning to the community for a helping hand.

“We’re asking for donations from anyone who would like to help,” Jennings said.

To learn more, contact the post at (440) 281-6935.

Contact Steve Fogarty at 329-7146 or

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