Leader Blues

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

TOP STORY > >Guard armory gets funds

Leader staff writer

Cabot Mayor Eddie Joe Williams has announced that a $10.8 million National Guard armory has been approved for federal funding next summer by the U.S. House of Representatives – almost five years earlier than expected.

The appropriation must still be approved by the Senate. The cost of the facility was originally estimated at $8 million.

Williams made the an-nouncement Friday morning during a reception in honor of the men who started working late in 2001 to get an armory for Cabot: Jason Carter, Fred Campbell, Moose Cullins, David Hipp, former Mayor Joe Allman, Don Elliott, Charles George, Bill Devoss and Gary McMillan.

The state has not built an armory since September 2005 when a $4.25 million facility went up in Warren.

The 30,000-square-foot facility (now called a readiness center) planned for Cabot will replace the temporary facility that opened in the industrial park on Hwy. 367 late in 2006.

“It was all because of a group of men who had a vision,” Williams told those who had gathered for the reception, including most of those being honored, State Sen. Bobby Glover, D-Carlisle, Lonoke County Judge Charlie Troutman, Lt. Col. Cary Shillcutt, Joint Force Headquarters for the Arkansas National Guard, and Lt. Col. Steve Redman, rear detachment commander with the 39th Brigade.

Currently, 137 National Guard members are from the Cabot area, though not all are members of Cabot’s Foxtrot Company, which is part of the 39th Support Battalion. But that large number was one of the reasons Cabot was a desirable location for a new armory, Lt. Col. Shillcut said.

“We’re very proud to be located here,” he said. “The Guard is very much about the community.”

Although it started with a vision, it could not have happened without money, and Williams thanked Sen. Glover, Gov. Mike Beebe and Cong. Marion Berry for that.

The mayor learned from Cong. Berry that the House had approved the appropriation as part of the 2009 Defense Authorization Bill.

The state has contributed $400,000 to reimburse the city for the purchase of 15.5 acres in the industrial park beside the railroad overpass that is now under construction where the armory will be built. That land has been turned over to the

National Guard, which will receive the federal money to build the armory.

“A lot of the time we appropriate money and we don’t know what it’s going to be used for,” Glover told the mayor. “But this is a worthy cause.”

Glover complimented the mayor and the group of mostly former military men who worked to bring an armory to Cabot.

“You never gave up,” he said. “You had a mission and you succeeded in it.”

As he has said since he became mayor in January 2007, Williams called building the armory “the single biggest thing for Cabot in recent history” and that it will have an economic impact on the city of $1 million or more a year.

It will be visible from the new railroad overpass now under construction, and since the overpass will be used by school buses, Williams says the location will be good for recruiting.

“Construction of this new facility will enhance the Arkansas National Guard’s ability to meet their mission requirements, maintain readiness, and continue to serve our country with honor,” Berry said. “I would like to thank Congressman Vic Snyder and the House Armed Services Committee for working with the Appropriations Committee to authorize funding for this critically needed readiness center.”