American Legion Post 25 soon will have to vacate its Odessa headquarters to make way for the construction of a New Castle County paramedic station.

American Legion Post 25 soon will have to vacate its Odessa headquarters to make way for the construction of a New Castle County paramedic station.

But where the local veterans' group heads next will likely depend on how much it's 300 members can raise in donations over the next year.

"New Castle County told us last summer that we'd have to move out at some point relatively soon because they plan to tear this building down," Post Commander Ray Abbott said, referring to the roughly 2,000-square-foot building at 307 Sixth St. that the American Legion has leased from the county for the last decade.

"They were very gracious about it and offered us a place to go," he said. "But we think we've found another location that we can actually own ourselves and will suit our needs much better. We just need a little help buying it."

Post 25 recently submitted a bid to purchase the former Moose Lodge at 450 Boyds Corner Road, an 8,500-square-foot facility on nearly 17 acres that has been empty since Lodge #1295 lost its charter last year.

"It's an ideal location for us, because it has about four times the space of what we have now, including a large hall and a bar," he said. "We believe those amenities could help us increase our membership to more than 1,000 in just a few years, while also giving us the opportunity to fundraise through rentals and events, neither of which we can do at our current location."

By using a 6.5-acre property it purchased from the Delaware Department of Transportation in 2003 as collateral, the American Legion hopes to secure a loan to cover the purchase price of the Moose Lodge.

Meanwhile, it has renewed a capital campaign first launched in 2006 with the hopes of raising enough funds to cover the debt service on the building until its revenues from new member dues and building rentals can cover the annual cost.

"As soon as we started our fundraising to build a new headquarters just north of Odessa, the economy tanked so we've sort of been stuck ever since," Abbott said. "If we manage to purchase the Moose Lodge, we might end up staying there or, possibly, we could earn enough revenue at that building to construct something really state-of-the-art on the land we already own. Only time will tell."

If the deal falls through, Post 25 will still be able to move into the former New Castle County Police Department's Southern Patrol building off of South Broad Street in Middletown, according to Robert Merrill, a program manager with the county's department of special services.

"We knew we were giving them bad news last summer when we told them about our plans for a new paramedic station, so County Executive Tom Gordon wanted to be sure we also gave them some good news by making sure they still had a place to go," he said. "That offer still stands, although we know they're in the process of looking for a place of their own."

Merrill said it will take at least another year or two before the county is ready to proceed with its plans to tear down the nearly 50-year-old building in Odessa and build a new 5,000-square-foot paramedic station in its place.

For a time, plans had been in the works to build the new paramedic station next to Christiana Care Health System's Middletown Emergency Department, which opened off of Del. Route 299 last spring.

Merrill said the county has since opted to pursue the Odessa location because it already owns the land and its proximity to both U.S. Route 13 and Del. Route 1.

But it still could be some time before the project begins, he said. A request for design proposals will be issued for the Odessa location later this month, after which the county must still go through its own building-approval process, which can take up to a year or more.

David Strawbridge, who recently returned from deployment in Afghanistan and is now heading the American Legion's capital campaign, said the Post is hoping to be in its new home long before that happens.

"It's time for this seven year dream we've had of owning our own home to become a reality," he said. "We're starting to see a whole new generation of veterans come home from Iraq and Afghanistan and we want to be able to give them a Post they can join that will be able to help provide the services they need."