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By KEVIN KOELLING
TELL CITY - Perry County now owns what was first a state - and potentially national - then a city asset.
County officials were asked in a letter from Tell City Mayor Barbara Ewing about the former National Guard armory, County Commissioner Tom Hauser said during a regular meeting June 17.
The facility in the 3200 block of Tell Street was closed Oct. 1, 2010.
The 74 full-time armory staff and soldiers who trained there had already been reporting to a unit in Jasper. For years before the end of 2007, the Tell City-based unit was known as Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 152nd Infantry Regiment. Fiscal and strategic reasons were cited for the changes.
The National Guard turned the armory over to the city in a May 2011 ceremony. Since then, "it's been used a lot for storage of emergency equipment" belonging to the Federal Emergency Management Agency and District 10 of the Indiana Department of Homeland Security, Hauser said at last month's meeting.
The Tell City Board of Public Works and Safety was offering to transfer ownership of the armory to the county, he continued. "The city understands the value of having the ownership of the building associated with the Perry County Emergency Management Agency and grant-funding opportunities such ownership may bring to Perry County in the future."
He and Steve Hauser, the county's emergency-management director, had met with Lisa Gehlhausen, executive director for the Indiana 15 Regional Planning Commission, Tom Hauser said. "To make any improvements to the building, grant opportunities through emergency management and through the Department of Homeland Security are a whole lot more plentiful" than those the city or county could pursue. Tell City officials wanted to discuss an option allowing its volunteer fire department to use the building and understood it would be fair to share its utility costs, the commissioner continued. With the uncertainty of an unfinalized annexation before them, "they're not sure what they're going to do with the fire department out there, but they do want to leave that option (open) and we've been discussing that over the last year."
"I feel like it would definitely be a benefit to our county to retain that building," Steve Hauser said from the audience. "We have several pieces of equipment in it. Several of those are district assets which are required to be housed inside."
If the county can't provide shelter for the equipment, it would lose it to other counties, he added. "I think it's a great benefit to have those pieces of equipment here in case we have some sort of a disaster."
Local emergency-management, law-enforcement and other agencies use the building for training, he continued, adding, "it is being used quite a bit; I think it would be great if we could retain that building for county use."
"We recently had an exercise - they call it a deployment - that involved the entire District 10, which is 12 counties," he said. It encompassed two-and-a-half days of setting up and testing equipment, erecting tents and going through an exercise "as if it were an actual event. The other counties felt that is an asset to our district as a whole, to have that facility, to have a place where they can come and train. Not all counties, unfortunately, can have such a facility. It's not only going to benefit Perry County and the agencies; it's going to benefit some of the other counties around us, our entire district."
Some "very good possibilities" exist through the district for grant funding opportunities that could help improve the facility, he added-But those discussions can't start until the county owns it," Tom Hauser said.
"That's absolutely true," the emergency management director replied.
"I think Mayor Ewing has recognized that it would serve the city and the county better if it was under the ownership of the county," the commissioner said. A stipulation accompanying the transfer to the city requires the proceeds of any sale of the building go to the National Guard, "so there's no advantage to selling it," he added, and engineers have determined it is "a very sound building."
Commissioner Randy Kleaving agreed the facility would be an asset to the city "and really, for the whole county, and that's what we've really got to look at. I think it‚Äôs a great opportunity for the county to get a building like that and a parking lot."
'It's a building and five acres," Tom Hauser noted.
"I helped move from the old armory to that armory," Commissioner Bill Amos said.
"How many people in this room know where the old armory was?" Tom Hauser asked.
"Not very many," Amos answered. "When they transferred to the city, I was there. Now, I'm going to be here to transfer it to the county, all in one life span."
He offered a motion to accept the building and the other commissioners supported it.
"That is one of the two best-builT buildings in Perry County," Amos said after the vote. "The other one is the old armory, which is now the Southern Hills Counseling Center at Ninth Street and Indiana 37, he said.
The move occurred in 1960 or '61, he added.
In other business, the commissioners approved a request from Perry-Spencer Rural Telephone to run fiber-optic line in the Bristow-St. Meinrad-Siberia area. They're installing 82.3 miles' worth, and Highway Superintendent Steve Howell said about a third of it is in Perry County.
In performing previous work in the southern part of this county, he added, "we had no problems at all; they were really good about going back and fixing anything I called them about."
Also responsive and responsible, according to Tom Hauser, is Rural Land Development Inc., whose request to install water line along Boyd Road the commissioners also approved.