/Mississippi National Guard closing four armories

Mississippi National Guard closing four armories

The armories will be closing by Oct. 23 in Lumberton and Nettleton. All National Guard personnel will be allowed to keep their jobs, and they will be assigned to other facilities. General Augustus Collins, Mississippi National Guard stated that the plan will allow the Mississippi Army National Guard strengthen its force and communities and save valuable financial resources. He stated that the plan will save $130,000 annually in maintenance and utility costs, and allow partner communities to reuse their facilities for different purposes. Gov. Phil Bryant stated that these armories are closing due to not being used fully. “This is only one of many steps state agencies will make to improve efficiency that does not lead to the loss of services. Bryant stated in a statement that he expected other executive agencies to share additional cost-saving measures prior to the next legislative session. Mississippi Today was told by the mayors of Grenada, Mendenhall and Mendenhall that Gen. Collins had spoken to them recently about the possibility of their armories being closed. Todd Booth, Mendenhall Mayor, stated that Collins told him something would change and it would happen quickly. “It seemed like they had made their decision that this was what they were going do.” Collins will retire at the end the month. Lee Smithson was the Director of Military Support for The state National Guard and he retired on May 31. He said that he had worked closely for two years with Collins to decide which armories would close. He stated that they had been looking at 13 armories. The original list contained all four armories that were to be closed. Smithson stated that he was familiar with the issues surrounding closing these armories prior to leaving the guard. Smithson said that he was familiar with the issues surrounding closing the armories. “We knew fiscally that the guard couldn’t keep them open so Gen. Collins and his team did an excellent job of coming up with good criteria to close those armories.” The National Guard received $7.9million from the Legislature for fiscal 2017, 4 percent less than in 2016. Booth stated that Gen. Collins informed him during their conversation that some of the cut funds would have been used for maintenance and repairs. Booth stated that Collins said there was a $300,000 budget shortfall… and it was in their maintenance department. “And with that cut, they couldn’t keep those armories open.” Booth stated. According to the 2017 Legislative Budget Report the National Guard requested $1 million for “armory repairs and maintenance.” However, the Legislative Budget Office recommended that they not be appropriated any funds for that purpose. Senator Hob Bryan (D-Amory) said that this is just one example of the many problems in the budget. “To this date, the people who passed the budget cannot explain it.” Mississippi could follow in the footsteps of another country. After cutting $83 million from its general fund, Alabama shut down 21 National Guard armories last year. Lynn Fitch, Mississippi Treasurer, stated last week that the state now owes $135 million. The Mississippi National Guard stated in a press release that the Federal Budget Control Act of 2011 required a nationwide drawdown of the military forces. This contributed to the closings. Rep. Kevin Horan (D-Grenada) stated that he anticipates other cuts to state services over the next few months. According to what I have been told, there are 15 more (National Guard armory), closures planned for the state. Horan stated that it isn’t limited to the budget of (the National Guard). The National Guard utilizes its 83 state armouries to recruit and train guard units. They store emergency supplies to be used in times of disaster, such as hurricanes and tornadoes. Horan stated that people don’t realize how important it is to have an armory in Grenada for emergencies, such as tornadoes or power outages. It’s more important than people realize. They are an integral part of many civil service functions. Smithson, currently the executive director of Mississippi Emergency Management Agency said that National Guard armories are essential to emergency response. He said that MEMA’s response to natural disasters will not be affected by the closures. “We are always working closely together with the National Guard to ensure that we are prepared. Smithson stated that while it may slow down the response time in a community without a guard, it is not a safety issue. Smithson stated that Gen. Collins used several criteria to determine which armories should close. These included the condition and age of the buildings, as well as the cost of maintenance. They also considered demographics and the location of National Guard units. They targeted areas that had experienced a decline in population. He stated that Gen. Collins had intended to close those with the lowest economic impact on communities. Smithson stated that Gen. Collins had instructed his staff to look at all armories in the state and determine which ones could be sustained. “It wouldn’t surprise me to learn that there will be more closings. They would close because Gen. Collins has no other options. “The more soldiers you have, it is better for the community.” Four of the armories that are closing are in rural areas. Horan says that the impact of the loss in economic activity and resources associated with the armories on small cities is particularly severe. Horan stated that eighty National Guard soldiers train in Grenada every month and spend money there. There’s no reason they shouldn’t have started in rural areas first. Horan stated that closures could have been moved to areas with more people and easy access to other services. “We are kind of left out here. We don’t have the same support and the emergency services that the state’s armories have. Take the Coast, Madison County. They have Hinds nearby. It’s not logical that they’re doing this way,” Mayor Billy Collins stated that he is concerned about the possibility of the armory closing and affecting other services in Grenada. “You never know when a federal government might say, “Let’s shut down Camp McCain.” So, we would lose the armory and then lose Camp McCain. Collins stated that we would have no military facilities. “I only realized it after they left that day. I went over to do a tour. We have so many emergency equipment for any type of disaster. They would be able react quickly without us having the need to send to Greenwood and Winona.” To support this important work, you can make a recurring contribution today to celebrate our Spring Member Drive. Our reporters give a human face to policy’s impact on everyday Mississippians by listening more closely and understanding their communities. To ensure that our work is aligned with the priorities and needs of Mississippians, we are listening to you. Click the button below to let us know what you think. Republish this Story