Leader Blues

Friday, December 04, 2009

TOP STORY >> Cabot armory starts

Leader staff writer

A decade-long dream became a reality Thursday morning with the groundbreaking for a $10 million armory in Cabot.

Among the 100 or so guests were Arkansas National Guard personnel; representatives from city, county, state and national government; civic leaders; business leaders; construction workers, and several of the veterans who first said Cabot needed an armory.

The participants in the groundbreaking ceremony donned hardhats and dug into a bed of soft dirt put down for that purpose while cameras flashed to balance the light from the morning sun. But even as they lined up with the other guests for the hot beverages that were served to help chase away the chill, a heavy equipment operator with Nabholz Construction revved up a backhoe and the real groundbreaking got under way.

How long construction will take was answered twice during the ceremony. One estimate, from project architect Steve Elliott, was 12 months, which means it would be completed before Mayor Eddie Joe Williams is out of office.

Although Williams didn’t start the process of getting an armory in Cabot, he made it a priority and worked with the state and Rep. Marion Berry to get funding.

That success would have likely been a plus in a second campaign for mayor, but Williams has opted instead to run for the state senate seat now held by Bobby Glover.

The second estimate from Maj. Gen. William Wofford, adjutant general of the Arkansas National Guard, was 12 to 18 months.

Elliott, who spent 28 years as a guardsman, told the audience that he had been to armories all over the country and they are all much the same.

This one will be somewhat different, though, he said. It will have a glass front symbolizing that it is open to the public and its rock wall will be made from Arkansas stone.

Both of those elements are part of a passive heating system.

And to further cut the cost of energy at the facility by 25 to 30 percent, a geothermal heating and cooling system is part of the design.

“This is truly a great day for the Arkansas National Guard, but it’s an even greater day for Cabot,” Wofford said.

The economic impact to the area should be about $1 million a year, he said.

The mayor concurred.

“This is the biggest and best thing that has happened in Cabot in many years,” he said.

Williams gave credit to the veterans who began the effort and then insisted that he keep it moving forward. Veterans he recognized were former Mayor Joe Allman, David Hipp, Fred Campbell, Bill DeVoss, Wayne “Moose” Cullins, Gary McMillan,
Charles George, Don Elliott and Jason Carter.

All he needed to find was 15 prime acres in the middle of Cabot on highly visible land that included roads and utilities.

He thanked Gov. Mike Beebe and Sen. Bobby Glover for providing state money to pay $150,000 of the $399,000 purchase price for the land, and Berry for helping with funding for the building.

He also thanked Dr. Tony Thurman, Cabot School District superintendent, for producing the high-achieving students needed to serve in today’s military.

The 35,000-square-foot armory, officially called a readiness center, will have a classroom large enough to hold 100 soldiers and a kitchen large enough to serve 350.

The facility will be home to F Company, a Forward Support Company (FCS) for the 2-153 Infantry Battalion.

F Company is one of six companies spread over 11 armories in northeast Arkansas that report to the 2-153 Infantry Battalion Headquarters in Searcy.

F Company is responsible for re-supplying food, water and other essentials to the infantry battalion.

They also provide transportation, maintenance and mess services for the infantry battalion. F Company recently returned from a year-long deployment in Iraq along with the rest of the battalion.