New armory snagged by funding shortfall

Published 5:00 am Tuesday, July 18, 2006

A new headquarters for the Mississippi Army National Guard’s106th Support Battalion in Monticello is still on the books, butfunding issues are delaying its progress, an official said.

“We’re kind of stuck inbetween until we get the whole stateshare,” said Lawrence County Community Development AssociationDirector Bob Smira.

Mississippi must earmark $1.1 million to the project in order toqualify for federal funding “in the $12 million range” to build thearmory.

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“It’s designed to be one of the larger armories in the state,”Smira said.

The new armory includes meeting rooms and a civic area.

District 39 Sen. Cindy-Hyde Smith is firmly in support of theproject, Smira said. She was instrumental in pushing forward thefirst appropriation of state and federal money for the project.

The state appropriated $1.4 million of the $2.5 million totalneeded in state funding to build a new armory in a bond billapproved in December 2004. The state money was used as matchingfunds to release $4 million in federal funds already set aside forthe project.

Some of that federal money has already been spent. Approximately$400,000 was released in November 2004 to conduct location studiesand begin its architectural design.

“The remainder of the state money will have to be set up in thenext session,” Smira said.

Once the state has secured its total share of the funding, itcan then be put on a list for approval by the federal NationalGuard Bureau. Once approved, it is placed at the bottom of thelist.

“Right now, we expect it to be on the list for 2012,” Smirasaid. “That starts the politicking to get it raised up the list.It’s possible we could get it slated for 2008. It is high on(Mississippi Adjutant General Harold) Cross’ list. He does feelit’s necessary.”

The bureau will typically follow the recommendations made by thestate’s top military leaders, Smira said.

Local officials have already done all they can to facilitate theproject, Smira said. In June 2005, the county purchased 15.97 acreson land adjacent to the Highway 84 Bypass across Old Highway 27from the existing armory.

“That was a step to help in getting the construction money fromthe federal government,” Smira said. “With this purchase and the$2.5 million in state funding, the state and county will have donetheir parts.”

Not only is the new armory needed to replace the aging existingarmory, but local officials believe it could help the economy ofthe immediate area.

The new armory is projected to provide 10 to 12 full-time Armypositions.

“These are stable, well-paying jobs generally staffed by peoplewho stay in the community and spend their money in the community,”Smira said. “I think it will also be an attractor to what the cityis trying to do there with the boulevard and frontage road to theHighway 84 Bypass.”

What to do with the old armory once the new structure is builtremains an open question, Smira said.

“Until there’s some sign of construction at the new armory,there’s not going to be a lot of discussion on what to do with theold armory. We’re just letting this play out,” he said.

The old armory is on property that was leased to the NationalGuard by the American Legion, Smira said.