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Senate approves funds for new Guard readiness center

MONTICELLO – A new Mississippi Army National Guard ReadinessCenter for Monticello is closer than ever before.

The center is one of four military construction projects andother funding for Mississippi in a federal appropriations bill thathas received Senate approval. The FY2010 Military Construction andVeterans’ Affairs Appropriations Bill must still pass theHouse.

The new center would be built on property already purchased byLawrence County at the west corner of old Highway 27 and Highway 84Bypass. The existing armory occupies the east corner.

Monticello is home to Headquarters Company of the 106th ForwardSupport Battalion, which deployed to Iraq as a component of the155th Brigade Combat Team in May.

“This thing is ready to be built,” said Mayor Dave Nichols.”We’ve just needed the funding.”

County and town officials have been seeking a new armory for atleast a decade, Nichols said, and have been working with stateofficials and adjutant generals.

In addition to the county’s purchase of the property, the townhas run water and sewer to the site and approximately $1.5 millionin state and federal grants have been spent to completeenvironmental and architectural plans.

The facility has been listed on the Department of the Army’sFuture Years Defense Plan (FYDP), but was removed from the list twoyears ago. A new list was planned for 2009 and Maj. Gen. WilliamFreeman Jr. had promised to see it back on there, Nichols said.However, the Army decided not to issue a new list.

Nichols said Sen. Thad Cochran was instrumental in getting thereadiness center placed on the appropriations bill when he learnedthe FYDP would not be released for 2009.

“Sen. Cochran knows how hard we’ve been working on this and wasvery sympathetic so he has worked tirelessly to get this done,”Nichols said.

Other construction projects in the bill include $10 million foran aircraft maintenance administration facility at Columbus AirForce Base, $16.1 million to support a Combined Arms CollectiveTraining Facility at Camp Shelby Joint Forces Training Center, and$9.8 million for an Air Force Reserve Aerial Port Squadron facilityat Keesler AFB.

In addition to military construction projects, the legislationwould fund Department of Veteran Affairs programs, includingmedical care, compensation, pension and education benefits.

The Senate bill provides $440 million for a VA Rural HealthInitiative and an additional $50 million for a new Rural ClinicInitiative to establish additional community-based outpatientclinics in rural areas.