West Virginia Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin and Army National Guard Maj. Gen. James Hoyer joined state and local leaders Wednesday to break ground on a $13.15 million readiness center that all believe will spur further economic growth in the area.
Construction on Phase I of the Buckhannon Readiness Center will begin shortly, and it will take 20-24 months to complete the project along Brushy Fork Road. The facility also will house a conference center, which will be run by the Upshur County Convention and Visitors Bureau.
"This sets an example to the rest of the nation in leadership, cooperation and teamwork," Hoyer said. "Everybody came together in a bipartisan fashion to make this happen. We as West Virginians ought to be proud that we are leading the way."
The Inter-Mountain photo by John Wickline
West Virginia Army National Guard Maj. Gen. James Hoyer praises the community for coming together to make the new West Virginia Army National Guard readiness center in Buckhannon possible. The $13 million facility is expected to open within the next two years.
Capito said it will be the teamwork shown by Upshur County and Buckhannon leaders, along with the state lawmakers, that will make the request for Phase II funding rise to the top. She said construction projects such as this one will find tougher funding requirements in the wake of projected budget cuts to the Department of Defense.
"I am going to fight like heck to make sure we don't cut the Department of Defense," she said. "We cannot cripple the advance and modernization of projects."
Tomblin said the 6,500 members of the state's National Guard lead the nation in readiness, saying it showed its capabilities in the aftermath of the June 29 storm that devastated most of West Virginia.
"Many of your own families were dealing with the high temperatures and no electricity," said Tomblin, who noted the National Guard delivered more than 2 million bottles of water and 1 million pounds of ice to state residents. "I know it couldn't have been easy to leave their homes."
The new center will replace the Armory along West Virginia Route 20, and the work to do so began five years ago when local leaders learned of the potential to lose the old facility and the accompanying jobs.
The Upshur County Commission purchased the land and arranged for other financial obligations to be met to help push the project forward.
"We took a leap of faith and trusted God and Sen. (Robert C.) Byrd to provide the funding," Commissioner Donnie Tenney said.
Upshur County Economic Development Authority director Steve Foster said he could not "emphasize enough how exciting a day this is for Upshur County.
"It was five years ago when we first met with the Army National Guard and started to dream," he said. "It's been a long time in coming, but we are still as excited today as we were five years ago when we began pursuing this dream."
Buckhannon Mayor Kenny Davidson said bringing projects like this to Upshur County will help his town survive.
"We cannot survive as a city by surrounding ourselves with thick, black city limit signs," he said. "These community lines extend down to Charleston and to Washington, D.C."
The construction project was awarded to a St. Albans firm, Paramount Builders. Omni Architects Associates designed the building.
Phase II will be completed when the funding is appropriated by Congress. The building will be the home of the 601st Engineering Co, the 1935th Contracting Team and the 229th Engineering Detachment.