Luverne anticipates new National Guard readiness center
LUVERNE -- Luverne may be home to a new Army National Guard Readiness Center as soon as 2020. City of Luverne and Rock County representatives met Monday with Minnesota National Guard officials and toured the proposed site of an approximately $15....
LUVERNE - Luverne may be home to a new Army National Guard Readiness Center as soon as 2020.
City of Luverne and Rock County representatives met Monday with Minnesota National Guard officials and toured the proposed site of an approximately $15.7 million, 40,000-square-foot readiness center west of Papik Motors at Luverne. The National Guard Readiness Centers were formerly known as armories.
Luverne Mayor Pat Baustian said the city of Luverne and Rock County collaborated on a proposal to be the site of a consolidated readiness center for Luverne and Pipestone.
“(There is) a strong, valued tradition and heritage of our National Guard in Minnesota and especially Rock County and Luverne - all the way from the Civil War until now,” Baustian said. “Being able to have the opportunity to have a new regional training center built in your community is such an honor.”
A formal agreement has yet to be made, but Maj. Robert Walquist, facility plans and programs management specialist, said based on Monday’s discussion and what appears to be a verbal understanding between the two groups, he expects a final decision to be made within the next six months. Pending an agreement, groundbreaking could begin in 2019 with an anticipated 12-month construction period.
The proposed 15-acre site is located on Kohne Avenue, with high visibility from Interstate 90, said Minnesota Adjutant Gen. Richard Nash. The regional facility will house four full-time National Guard employees and be the training site for approximately 90 individuals that comprise Battery A from the Luverne and Pipestone units. The readiness center will be complete with administrative offices, classrooms, a computer lab, a gymnasium and locker rooms.
“It’s important that the Battery can do as much training as possible, just shy of burning powder,” said Lt. Col. Sol Sukut.
The construction of the facility will be funded by the Army National Guard through a combination of federal, state and private funds, but the city of Luverne has agreed to provide the 15-acre plot, utilities and fiber capability, Baustian said.
The idea to build a new readiness center was set in motion a few years ago when the Minnesota National Guard, as part of a national study, began looking at its 63 facilities around the state and developed a long-range plan for the maintenance of existing facilities, consolidations and new constructions, Nash said.
“The demographics in western Minnesota is starting to consolidate and get smaller, and moving to other locations in Greater Minnesota, so we looked at our state and federal resources that we have and looked at replacing older facilities,” Nash said. “It’s like school districts combining at a centralized location and getting rid of the old facility and cutting down on costs.”
Considering an estimated $100,000 to $150,000 is required annually for each facility to operate, consolidating made sense to be good stewards of tax dollars, Sukut added.
After determining the best option moving forward is to consolidate the Luverne and Pipestone armories to save costs, the Minnesota National Guard contacted the communities and heard initial proposals from each.
The proposed site at Luverne rose to the top, and a private $5 million donation commitment from the K.A.H.R. Foundation will not only help fund the project in Luverne, but will expedite it, Nash said.
The K.A.H.R. Foundation, a Warren Herreid II and Jeannine Rivet family foundation, has a longtime funding commitment to preserving Luverne’s military history. The foundation donated a memorial in front of the Rock County Courthouse and repurposed the former county jail into the Herreid Military Museum.
Herreid II and his father, Warren Herreid Sr., are also part of that history. The elder Herreid was part of the Luverne National Guard unit when activated during World War II and the Korean War, and retired as a major general.
Herreid II followed in his father’s footsteps and served in the Battalion S3, Battalion XO and Battalion Commander at the Luverne unit. He retired as a colonel.
Herreid II said he felt very strongly that he wanted a continued military presence in Luverne.
“The military is a big part of the community,” he said.
Sukut said the private donation is unique, as the Minnesota National Guard, to his knowledge, has never received a private donation of that magnitude. It required the guard confer with its lawyers to determine if it was legal and how it needed to be handled, Nash added.
Prior to the private donation, the project was not expected to be complete until 2035.
Once complete, the existing armories in Luverne and Pipestone will no longer be used by the National Guard. The Luverne Armory was built in 1922; the Pipestone Armory in 1956.
Per state statute, the guard will receive a fair market appraisal on the facilities, Sukut said. The facilities will first be offered to its respective city. If the city does not make an offer, it will be offered to its respective county. If both the city and the county decline to make an offer, the buildings would be auctioned off.
According to Baustian, the city plans to review the valuation and decide what the Luverne Armory could be used for before making a decision.
He said he is excited for a continued National Guard presence in Luverne, which will not only have an economic impact but also solidify the safety and security of the community and region.
“Having those soldiers in your community and visible for any measure, whether it’s life, limb or property - the safety and security of all of that - what the National Guard provides to our community is enormous,” he said.