PERU When a sign advertising the future opening of a fitness center at 3452 Main St. was erected a few days ago, passersby knew a long-rumored change of ownership had finally occurred. On Jan. 25, St. Augustines Knights of Columbus Council 7273 sold the building it had called home since 1988. The Peru council was the fifth Clinton County Knights of Columbus council to sell its council home since the mid-1990s. The Dannemora, Rouses Point, Mooers and Plattsburgh councils had previously taken the same action. Buildings that were once social centers of their communities are being put to other uses. Jon Votraw was Grand Knight of the St. Augustines Council when he appointed a committee to investigate whether or not to sell the hall. Instead of the council being focused on service to the community, explained Mr. Votraw said, it had to be focused on maintaining the hall. Some people were getting worn out and getting older. Since last July, the council has held its meetings at the former St. Augustines School in the village of Peru. Now that the council does not have the financial burden of the hall it can be more focused on the needs of the people and being the right arm of the church, said Mr. Votraw. Dannemora Council 2166 Past Grand Knight Lawrence Douglas expressed similar sentiments. The Dannemora hall on Fairbanks Avenue was sold in the mid-1990s after being the council home since the mid- to late-1940s. It is now the home of the Plattsburgh Health Center. It was the taxes and maintenance just to keep the doors of the place open, Mr. Douglas said, discussing the reason for his councils decision to sell the building. With a decreasing membership, it was hard to raise enough money to pay the bills. It was a millstone around our necks. Mr. Douglas believes the Dannemora Council is a stronger organization since selling the hall. We were finding the building was driving members away, he said. They felt they were going to be stuck working bingo. Since the building closed, members have started coming back to meetings and weve done more work for charity and the church. Arthur Menard was Grand Knight of Mooers Council 6136 when the council building was sold last year after serving the council home since about 1980. Mr. Menard also mentioned operating expenses and a decreasing number of men able or willing to work as reasons for selling. In years past, weddings were our main source of income, Mr. Menard said. We had 15 cooks. We were down to three or four. You cant kill the members. Mr. Menard also mentioned many council members are not participating in council activities, especially men in their thirties to fifties. While membership has not significantly declined since the hall was sold, Mr. Menard summed up the situation saying, Were viable. I dont think were going to fold, but if we dont get new membership were in trouble. Im pinning my hopes on a membership campaign. Rouses Point Council 2366 constructed their council hall in 1953. In 2003, the building was sold to Rouses Points St. Patricks Parish. Past Grand Knight Arsene Letourneau cited the cost of operating the building and a declining, aging membership as the primary reason for his councils decision. We were raising the money to pay for insurance and taxes and didnt have money for charitable works, he explained. Today, the council meets in a room on the lower floor of the former K of C hall while the parish has totally renovated the upper floor for use as a religious education center. Plattsburgh Council 255 had met in their Boynton Avenue building since 1935 and faced the highest operating costs of any local council. Michael Rose was Grand Knight in 2002 when the decision was made to sell the building. Land and school taxes were $25,000 a year, Mr, Rose said. Then we had corporation taxes. We had to have a profit of $1,000 a week to keep the place open. Non-profit organizations with buildings cant survive. The fuel, licenses and taxes will kill you. In 2004, the K of C hall was sold to Lake Champlain Pools. The council conducts its meetings at St. Peters Emmaus room. In Clinton County the Champlain, Ellenburg and Morrisonville K of C councils still own their own buildings and are using them to accomplish many good works. The members of the Peru, Plattsburgh, Dannemora, Mooers and Rouses Point councils are finding a new focus for their talents and energy. All K of C leaders say their primary goal is to live up to the guiding principles of their organization charity, unity and fraternity.