Stillwater armory, fire station take step forward

A bill including funding for a National Guard Armory in Stillwater was approved by Congress late last week and was headed for the President’s desk. Funding for the armory would mean the city of Stillwater could move forward with plans for construction of a new fire station at the armory site.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s office confirmed that the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2014 included $17 million in funding for armory, known as the Stillwater Readiness Center.

“This is great news for Stillwater and for the Minnesota National Guard,” Klobuchar said in a written statement to the Gazette. “The new armory, which will be used by the city’s (fire department) in addition to the National Guard, will not only help support mission readiness, it will also help keep the city safe by improving emergency response times, and bring jobs to the area. That’s why I worked with Mayor Harycki to authorize the center in the defense bill that is headed to the President’s desk to be signed into law, and I will push to ensure funding is provided to build it.”

Although the funding is in the authorization bill,  it must still receive final approval when Congress considers an appropriation bill in January.

Although the money isn’t assured yet, Mayor Ken Harycki said the fact that it was included in the initial bill is a milestone for the city.

“It’s something that we’ve waited 25 years for,” he said. “It appears that we’re very, very close.”

The National Guard has been considering a new armory in Stillwater for many years. A few years ago, the city purchased a site for the armory at 75th Street and Maryknoll Drive at a bargain price, Harycki said. The city will contribute the land to the armory project.

By building a new fire station in conjunction with the armory, the city expects to save over $1 million, according to City Administrator Larry Hansen.

The new station is expected to cost just under $7 million and be approximately twice the size of the current facility.

Stillwater Fire Chief Stu Glaser said the city has been considering a new station for more than 10 years.

“We don’t have enough room in our current station for all of our equipment,” he said.

He also said the new station will be more centrally located, which will result in more equal response times citywide.

In addition, the fire station will allow the city to remodel the current space and use it for the police department, which Hansen said needs the space.

If the armory funding receives final approval from Congress in January, the city expects construction of the armory and fire station to begin in 2014.

Harycki is cautiously optimistic.

“We’re not celebrating yet,” he said. “As with anything in Washington, it ain’t over til it’s over.”