The Duncan Banner
A rich history was explored for the Duncan National Guard Armory, as the building was officially handed over Friday to the City of Duncan.
The presentation of the building was made by Department of Environmental Quality Executive Director Steve Thompson to Duncan Mayor Gene Brown. The ceremony was the payoff of footwork done by the city and two years of clean-up work through DEQ.
“I would also like to thank the State Department of Environmental Equality for turning over the property to us to use as a Criminal Justice Complex,” Brown said. “The complex will provide office space for several state and local safety organizations, including the local police force, Stephens County Emergency Management, the DEA, OSBI and the Oklahoma Highway Patrol.
“In addition to providing the hub for local law enforcement and fire training, the facility will serve as a community shelter and outreach center, where meals and shelter can be provided in the event of a local disaster. I feel like this is a wonderful asset that will help increase the safety and well-being of the community.”
The City of Duncan was given rights to the building in August 2011, when the keys were handed over from the Oklahoma Military Department. Since that time the Oklahoma DEQ has been working to make the 16,436-square foot building suitable for use. DEQ spent about $55,000 on the project.
Duncan City Manager Jim Frieda said DEQ actually had to clean the building twice because of heavy lead content. This was the result of a firing range located on the building premises with an entrance at the rear of the building.
The firing range will be used by local law enforcement agencies to help them hone their shooting skills. Brown said the firing range is just one aspect the city has to look forward to with the acquisition of the armory.
He said the building provides and opportunity for various law enforcement entities to pull resources together for the betterment of the Duncan and Stephens County.
As he addressed the crowd, Thompson talked about the important relationship between DEQ and the City of Duncan, noting that the leaders of Duncan helped persuade the transfer of ownership on the armory.
Several years ago, the Oklahoma Military Department announced the closure of 50 armories across the state. Duncan’s National Guard Armory was among those. At that point, the city began working to gain ownership of the building.
Sen. Corey Brooks and Rep. Dennis Johnson were among the speakers during the dedication ceremony. Johnson mentioned how the announcement of the armory closure came across his desk about three years ago, and he made note that handing the armory over to the city was at the top of his list for what the state could do with the building.
Brooks said there have been several cities that have received rights to the armories. And it’s a process he said was going smoothly.
“We’ve had a lot of great success,” Brooks said. “We are very fortunate here in Oklahoma to have Director Thompson and the DEQ to run interference with the EPA (Environmental Protection Act). It’s a great opportunity. I can’t wait to see how this building will be used.”
Aside from various local and state leaders, retired Col. David Brown also spoke during the event. Brown discussed the history of the building, — including construction in 1975. The armories, which housed the 158th Field Artillery Regiment, were essential in various wars, beginning with World War I. The National Guard battalion moved to the new armory in 1976.
“For 78 years, the citizen soldiers of this community, who served in both of the Duncan armories have always answered the call of their community, their state and their nation in operations around the world,” Brown said.
“It is more than appropriate, if not fitting, that this armory with its heritage of service, be returned to the community, so that it may continue that tradition of service.”