LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- The Arkansas National Guard is proposing the closure of three armories in southern Arkansas as part of nationwide cost-cutting efforts.
The armories are in Prescott, Magnolia and Monticello. Guard spokesman Lt. Col. Joel Lynch said officials met with mayors and other leaders in the communities last week to talk about the proposed closures.
The Guard is proposing that the closed armory buildings be turned over to local control, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported.
Arkansas currently has 55 armories, which are used primarily as training centers for guardsmen. Seven armories were closed during the federal fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, after the Guard's maintenance budget was cut to $8 million from $10.2 million a year earlier.
The final decision on closing the three armories will be made by Gov. Asa Hutchinson. The Guard has submitted its proposal to the governor and is gathering community feedback to give to Hutchinson before he makes his decision.
The armories in Prescott, Magnolia and Monticello cost $130,572 to operate in 2015. They were all built in the 1970s and are within 50 miles of newer facilities.
The Magnolia armory is on property owned by Southern Arkansas University, which would remodel it to use as engineering classrooms. Magnolia Mayor Parnell Vann said he wants the building for use as a police department but would seek to build one another way. Vann also said he would like the armory to stay open because troops coming to town to train contribute to Magnolia's economy.
Monticello Mayor Zackery Tucker said he isn't concerned about losing the armory there because he doesn't think anyone will leave the city. He said doesn't know how the city might use the building but that it could be used for police or the neighboring school or hospital.
The Guard will hold more meetings with Prescott officials to talk about what the city might do with the armory building there. Prescott Mayor Terry Oliver said officials are working on plans to talk the Guard into keeping it open.
"The last few years it just seems like we keep losing industries and businesses, and we're just tired of losing stuff," Oliver said.