Armory plans shelved

More immediate needs grab city's, Guard's attention

Posted: Friday, December 27, 2002

The desire for a community center in Kenai still has not materialized as the calendar year comes to a close. One proposal for a site has remained in stasis with little hope, it seems, of coming to fruition.

In January, Kenai Mayor John Williams proposed an idea to build a larger National Guard armory in exchange for the current facility.

"If we can effect some kind of a transfer between the old National Guard facility and the city and a new National Guard facility, then we can have a win-win situation," Williams said as the year began.

The mayor's plan called for offering the Guard airport property to build a new armory in exchange for the one the Guard currently uses on Forest Drive. The city would then convert the Forest Drive building into a community center. Williams suggested including room in any new facility for a hangar to house Air National Guard aircraft, thus making it a joint venture between the Army and Air guards.

But little has come from such aspirations.

In fact, both Williams and Alaska Army National Guard Director, Brig. Gen. Stephen Korenek, said other developments have moved the concept down on the city's and the Guard's respective priority lists.

"Mayor Williams had a nice idea," Korenek said. "And certainly it's attractive. We would be happy to have a new armory. The problem is, we're funded out.

"In order to justify an armory, there has to be a reason on the Guard's side. It's not something that we can justify on the military budget that we have."

Korenek said building a new facility would require state and federal funding that currently is not available. He said there are projects of greater need already on the books for this year and others that he is unable to get funded.

"I have a project that's starting in Juneau," Korenek said of an armory and repair shop scheduled for construction in 2003. "We need new armories in Bethel and in Nome, and I don't have those on the budget. It's difficult to sell military construction projects that are desperately needed."

He said Williams could possibly have better results garnering funding, if there were significant community need.

"If he could show on the constituent side that there is a need, maybe," Korenek said.

But Williams said Kenai also has larger fish to fry.

"We've been real busy wrestling with Congress for funding for the bluff erosion project," he said. "We just kind of put that on the back burner."

Williams said he also recognizes that mounting tensions in Iraq and continued military activity devoted to fighting terrorism make it difficult for the Guard to focus on this local plan.

"Especially since reservists are preparing for war," he said.



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