Guard scraps local readiness center

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SANDPOINT — A shortage of federal military construction funding is forcing the Idaho National Guard to do an about-face on a plan to develop a readiness center behind the Bonner County Sheriff’s Office.

The guard has had a temporary facility on the site for the past five years and anticipated $8 million in federal funding to establish a permanent facility.

But that funding has yet to materialize and the annual cost to maintain the facility was putting a strain on the guard’s budget. The annual cost of leasing portable buildings, utilities and other incidentals was running $50,000 to $60,000.

Moreover, a five-year lease for the portable buildings was up for renewal, said Col. Tim Marsano, a public affairs officer for the Idaho National Guard.

“We had to renew that lease for another five years without being certain that additional money would come for permanent facilities,” Marsano said on Wednesday.

The Guard determined that it made more economic sense to close the temporary facility and discontinue the plan to build a permanent one.

Major Gen. Gary Sayler, Idaho adjutant general and Idaho National Guard commander, thanked the city and Bonner County for its cooperation in the effort to establish the armory, which was home to a water-purification unit.

“Considering all of the conditions and variables, we feel this action is the most prudent option for our organization,” Sayler said in a statement.

Approximately 40 national guardsmen, an element of Company A, reported to the Sandpoint facility for training one weekend per month. They will now conduct their training at the Post Falls National Guard Armory as part of the 145th Brigade Support Battalion.

Marsano said he was not entirely clear on what held up to the funding, but noted that the budget climate has changed significantly since the Sandpoint Readiness Center was proposed in 2008.

“Certainly in the era of budget cuts, sequestration, et cetera, money that would have been available five years ago when we in the midst of two wars is not as easily obtained in 2013,” he said.

Bonner County Commissioner Mike Nielsen said he was disappointed to see the Guard leave. The county intended to share the site with the Guard to establish a new 911 center and an Emergency Operations Center for catastrophic events such as floods or wildfire.

Sharing the facility with the Guard would have reduced construction and other costs, said Nielsen.

“It would have had huge savings for the county. Now we’re going to have to build our own structure,” said Nielsen.

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