National Guard considers armory sites in Alachua County


Published: Friday, January 26, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 26, 2007 at 12:00 a.m.

The Florida National Guard is eyeing a 30-acre piece of state property in eastern Alachua County for its first facility in the county in more than 30 years.

With funding still pending, it likely would be several years before construction could start at the site, located at State Road 26 and State Road 329B, near Newnan's Lake, said Jon Myatt, spokesman for the Florida Department of Military Affairs.

But the new site is considered a priority because the National Guard is interested in moving one unit from the Panhandle to Alachua County within the year. Housing for the unit would be at a temporary site, which has not been identified, the Guard wants to lease from the city of Gainesville or Alachua County, Myatt said.

Representatives for the National Guard, including Maj. Gen. Douglas Burnett, adjutant general of Florida, and project manager Lt. Anna Peck are scheduled to speak at a joint city and county commission meeting Monday evening to answer questions about the project and learn if any temporary sites have been identified. The National Guard is looking for a location that would include about 10 acres.

"We haven't had an armory in Gainesville for about 30 years," when downsizing cut the Guard's presence in Alachua County, Myatt said. Currently the closest National Guard units are located in Starke, Jacksonville, St. Augustine and Ocala.

The unit coming to the county would be the 708 Maintenance Company, which now works on military ground vehicles and support equipment, Myatt said. It will be changed to a technology unit responsible for high-tech, electronic equipment.

The permanent site would be designed to hold 125 people and would have five full-time positions. It will include office space, a maintenance area and parking, Myatt said.

Camp Blanding near Starke, considered the National Guard's primary training area in North Central Florida, will still serve as the location for the unit's annual training, Myatt said.

The property being considered for the armory is owned by the Florida Department of Corrections. The National Guard has been in negotiations over the land for the past several months and recently received verbal approval to acquire the property, although a written agreement has to be completed.

Myatt said he couldn't give an exact figure for the armory's construction costs. But costs to build facilities similar in size and type have run about $20 million.

Myatt said the site's location, near Gainesville, will provide the unit with the staff it needs to keep it running.

"When we are looking at locating a unit, we look at the available recruitable force. This unit is a technology unit. With the Santa Fe Community College and the University of Florida and the size of Gainesville proper, this would be truly compatible for us," he said.

Lise Fisher can be reached at (352) 374-5092 or fisherl@gvillesun.com.

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