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Lori Wolfe/The Herald-Dispatch West Virginia National Guard Armory building exterior

HUNTINGTON — The city of Huntington now owns the former armory building on Virginia Avenue, which will be remodeled into a new municipal garage.

During a Monday night meeting, members of City Council unanimously approved entering into a lease agreement with the state to purchase the Huntington Barbour Armory building for a total of $600,000 over three years. The city's current garage, located on 2nd Avenue, will eventually be demolished.

Buying the armory was necessary because the city's garage has become an inadequate work space for members of the Public Works Department's Motor Pool Division, said Mayor Steve Williams.

"This is the opportunity for us to take a good building and transform it to our needs and take care of other problems at our present city garage that we have been talking about for well over 10 years," Williams said.

During a June 24 meeting, council members were told the city's garage lacks adequate space to work on firetrucks and other larger vehicles. The armory building has approximately 3 acres of space to be remodeled into a new garage. The new garage will also have space for the Huntington Police Department to store vehicles as evidence and have classrooms for city departments to reserve for training purposes.

The armory building was occupied by the National Guard's 1257th Transportation Company, which vacated it several years ago after it was found not to meet U.S. Department of Defense standards. It was then taken over by the West Virginia Department of Agriculture, which used it for a short while as a vegetable processing plant.

Williams said National Guard Adjutant General James A. Hoyer contacted him several months ago about the property, offering a price and terms that would most benefit the city.

"We have the good fortune of having a strong relationship with West Virginia National Guard and General Hoyer has been more than a friend to us," he said.

The city is now obligated to make 36 monthly payments of about $16,666, or about $200,000 per year. Money for the armory's purchase was approved and allocated by City Council in 2019 to 2020 fiscal year budget.

Williams said he would return to city council at a later date with plans to remodel the building, move equipment and demolish the current garage.

Also during Monday's meeting, council members held the first-reading of an ordinance supporting a continued management and operations agreement of Harris Riverfront Park with the Greater Huntington Parks & Recreation District.

The new four-year agreement does not include a 2% price escalation clause that was in the previous agreement. Instead, the city will be locked into paying $215,000 a year, which is the amount budgeted during Fiscal Year 2020.

The ordinance will require a second reading before council members may vote on it. The agreement has since become retroactively active because its duration runs from July 1 to June 30, 2022.

Travis Crum is a reporter for The Herald-Dispatch. He may be reached by phone at 304-526-2801.

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