, Muskogee, OK

Local News

November 22, 2007

Wagoner officials not sure how to use armory

Wagoner officials said they are looking forward to inheriting the former Oklahoma National Guard Armory, but they are not sure how the historic structure will be used.

The Wagoner Armory was built in 1938 by the Works Progress Administration, a federal agency established in 1935 as an effort to put Americans to work.

The building was used most recently by the Oklahoma National Guard, which abandoned it and 58 other armories in the state after they were ordered closed in 2006 by the federal Base Realignment and Closure Commission.

Under state law, municipalities and other government or nonprofit entities are given an opportunity to take over the former armory buildings. Many of the structures, however, are contaminated with lead left behind from bullets fired in underground rifle ranges.

Officials say the Wagoner Armory, which was added in 1994 to the National Registry of Historical Places, also faces contamination issues because of a firing range in its basement. According to the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality, the Wagoner Armory is included on its 2008 reclamation schedule. The building, ODEQ documents indicate, is expected be available for public use by December next year.

“It will be a nice acquisition for us,” Wagoner Superintendent Larry Morgan said. “It’s a nice, big building but the (City) Council hasn’t really decided how they want to use it.”

Councilor Bob Vanbrunt said the topic has come up during recent discussions, but there has been no official action taken.

“We haven’t made any big plans for it,” Vanbrunt said about the building. “I think we are going to put it up for different groups to use — some senior citizens groups have talked about using it. I guess we’ll see how it goes when we get it.”

Dustin Davidson, an ODEQ spokesman, told the Enid News & Eagle that contractors will be used to remove the lead contamination and any asbestos found in the shuttered armories. The state agency will inspect the work and issue a report regarding the environmental status of the reclaimed structures.

As a result of the closure of 59 Oklahoma National Guard armories, seven Armed Forces Reserve Centers will be created. Steps are being taken to locate one such center at Muskogee’s Davis Field.

Other armories in the area affected by the 2005 BRAC closures include Eufaula, Haskell, Muskogee, Stilwell and Tahlequah. According to ODEQ documents, those facilities will be available for occupancy by December 2011.

Reach D.E. Smoot at 918-684-2903 or Click Here to Send Email

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