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Minnesota National Guard
Guard goes on P.R. offensive: National Guard takes area delegation on tour of Inver Grove Heights facility

http://wwwstillwatergazettecom/content/articles/2011/05/26//headlines/040st_052611_armorytourjpgWard 1 Councilman Doug Menikheim, Mary Louise Menikheim and Lt. Col. Sandy Best discuss the new armory before the tour bus left Stillwater (Gazette photos by Amy Goetze)

By AMY GOETZE - Stillwater Gazette Published: Thursday, May 26, 2011 3:00 PM CDT

There were mixed reactions from residents and city council members as they toured the Inver Grove Heights armory Wednesday

The Minnesota National Guard organized the tour for residents to get an idea of what Stillwater could get with a new armory

Stillwater resident Roxanne Pett toured the armory to show her support for a new armory in Stillwater

"I am all for it I think it is the least we can do for our service members It is a good thing for Stillwater," Pett said

Stillwater resident Richard Schultz voiced his concerns about traffic, noise and light pollution that would come from the new armory

Col Neal Loidolt, director of joint staff for the Minnesota National Guard, told residents that there would not be any combat training or the use of helicopters in the new armory The National Guard uses their training sites in Arden Hills and Camp Ripley for such operations An armory is used for indoor training and consists of classrooms, a gym, offices and computer labs

Col Bruce Jensen told the residents lighting outside the building will not be more than an office or a school would have

Loidolt also addressed traffic concerns Stating that during drill weekends, there is not a big rush of traffic that leaves the armory at one time Soldiers would filter out as their groups dismiss for the month Leadership usually dismisses after other soldiers leave the armory

Mayor Ken Harycki and Lt. Col. Sandy Best also addressed traffic concerns, stating that there will be 44 full-time individuals that work from Monday to Friday and their contribution to traffic volume will not be noticed Harycki added that houses in the subdivision near the armory would add more traffic to the neighborhood than the armory would

"We are good neighbors in the community," Best said to the residents

According to Capt Mark Gile of the Minnesota National Guard, 360 to 370 soldiers will be drilling at the new armory in Stillwater

The Army National Guard plans to construct a new armory for the 1st Brigade Combat Team Special Troops Battalion of the 34th Infantry The battalion is temporarily located in Bloomington because it outgrew the Stillwater facility; the National Guard would like to move the battalion back to Stillwater since the city is the historic home of the battalion

According to Brig Gen Joe Kelly of the National Guard, the armory will be federally funded on locally contributed and ultimately deeded to the state property Stillwater will not have to pay the typical 25 percent a city has to contribute to the cost of the facility The city will have to contribute the piece of property, any building additions beyond what the Guard shares with the community like an ice arena, swimming pool or fire station

Tour groups also viewed the ice arena, aquatic center, and senior center and fitness center at the attached but separated community center next to the armory

Stillwater is still in the planning process, and it is currently unknown what amenities the city will have with a new armory

"This is a first step in a long process, we don't know what will be in it, there will be lots of ideas coming forward during the planning process," Harycki said during the tour

Harycki also told residents what enhancements the city will have would depend on the community's ability to fundraise for additional enhancements attached to the armory such as a pool or ice arena

Loidolt encouraged residents to give their input about the armory to the city council because the National Guard will be working directly with the council in the planning and construction of the new armory

The Stillwater Fire Department will also be a key player in the construction of the new armory because of the proposed new fire station that will be with the new armory

According to Kelly, Stillwater would have many benefits with the return of the battalion such as additional full time jobs, a public gym, the increase of commerce with the city, and emergency sheltering and other disaster response uses for the public

Inver Grove Heights Parks and Recreation Director, Eric Carlson also spoke with Stillwater residents about the benefits of having a new armory

"There is value to having this facility," Carlson said

Inver Grove Heights residents often use the armory space for a variety of events such as neighborhood meetings, weddings and Boy Scout meetings, according to Carlson

Harycki felt that the tour of the armory was worthwhile for the residents

"It was a great use of time, clarifying the vision of what it might look like," adding, "hopefully we put fears at ease," Harycki said

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