By Ellen Thompson/Havre Daily Newsemail@example.com
The Montana Army National Guard armory in Havre will be replaced this year by a $2.3 million structure named the Havre Readiness Center.
Construction is scheduled to begin in late March, and the building is to be emptied this week.
The new building will be somewhat larger, but more importantly, reconfigured. Montana Army National Guard Maj. Scott Smith said the project is a result of the Army Division Redesign Study, which recommended that U.S. Army facilities be built to serve many purposes. The same building could house a tank division one year or a supply division the next, depending on need, Smith said.
"There's a lot of things that have happened since September 11 in the redesign and restructuring of the Army," he said Tuesday. The changes call for both increased security and flexibility, he added.
"The Montana National Guard is certainly a different organization even than it was five years ago," Smith said. "We have different units in the state that have different needs. We haven't changed the people ... but their jobs have changed."
In accordance with standard Army contracts, the contractor who receives the bid in early March will have 12 to 14 months to complete the project, Smith said.
Everything that is not nailed to the floor will be moved from the Havre armory to the Chinook detachment or to cold storage, said Sgt. Tony English, who is in charge of the armory. Drills and regular business will be conducted out of the Chinook armory until construction in Havre is complete.
Three of the four walls will come down and the site will be expanded and also reconfigured, he said. The new building will have space for two maintenance bays as well as a separate public entrance, English said.
The separate public entrance will ease people's access to the facility's distance learning center, a video-conference room that will be updated in the new building, he said. The reconstruction will also connect the women's locker room and showers to the fitness center.
English is accustomed to being moved between Havre and Chinook. Originally assigned to the Chinook detachment, he was the only full-time employee left after many of the Havre and Chinook Guard members were deployed last year, mostly to Iraq. He and all of the Chinook part-time employees were moved to Havre while the Chinook detachment was temporarily closed. They will all move to Chinook until the project is complete.
"It's going to bring money to the economy in Chinook," English said.
He must reserve at least eight hotel rooms a month, often more, as well as order meals. About 21 local Guard members will be returning from Iraq this month, English said. They are not required to come to drill, but meals must be supplied for those who do, and those who must travel more than 60 miles to drill are put up in hotel rooms. At least 60 meals a month for the next couple months will be served out of the Chinook armory, catered by local businesses, he said.
There are 53 people deployed out of the Chinook and Havre detachments, which were merged last year. The two will remain joined through the construction period, English said.
Chinook Mayor and Guard member Bill Oehmcke was at the Havre armory Friday. He said the construction planned for Havre was good news for Chinook.
"The (Chinook) motor inn is thrilled," English said.