by George Thompson
Webster community leaders learned last week that the South Dakota Army National Guard will end its 56 year presence at the armory next year.
Adjutant General Tim Reisch said Webster is one of six communities that the guard targeted for pull outs. The others are Winner, Platte, Redfield, Miller and Salem. The time line for the Webster consolidation is August of 2013 but some armories will close as early as September.
“We don’t like to do this,” Reisch said. “It’s not something that is pleasant to do.”
The Webster armory is home to 53-54 soldiers who will transfer to the $25 million Watertown Regional Readiness Center which is under construction now, but is slated to open next April.
Reisch said a combination of factors led the guard to come to this decision. Some of the state’s smaller armories are over 50 years old and will soon need to be replaced.
Federal budget cuts also played into the equation. There is no federal reimbursement for armory maintenance for units with under 55 soldiers. Statewide that means the guard has to come up with an additional $400,000 a year. The cuts will mean a loss of 238 part-time soldiers and 19 full-time guardsmen as of Sept. 1. Currently Webster has two full-time positions at the armory, one of whom is retiring shortly.
Another factor in the consolidation is the new role the guard plays as a part of the regular Army.
Reisch says the Army is counting on the guard to play a major support role in future global operations and those roles are better served by deploying and/or training guard units at a company versus a platoon level.
Still another factor is the ever increasing cost of maintaining technology at every armory. Reisch provided a breakdown showing what cost savings would be in closing the Webster armory.
On a federal level the annual IT connectivity costs are $8,921, IT equipment $6,438, utilities $7,359 for a total savings of $22,718. State expenses are rent paid to the school district $4,800 a year. All totalled the guard calculates one time cost avoidances (making the armory fully compliant with state and federal standards) would be just over $1.4 million.
“I want to make it clear to everyone that the reason for closing (Webster) is the Watertown Regional Readiness Center,” the adjutant general remarked. “Webster has provided us with great support. There is a remarkable commitment on the part of this community which makes it tough to close up an armory like this.”
Reisch noted the armory closing will not affect the maintenance shop for now. He said the nine personnel who work there now will continue to do so, but he did say plans are in the offing to move that part of the operation to Watertown once the guard has enough money to do so.”
Reisch admits closing the armory could have an impact on recruiting in the community. He said recruiters will continue to work the area and want to have a continuing presence here.
“We will continue to support Webster in the case of natural disasters and some community projects,” he concluded. “We certainly want to be a partner in the community for those types of things. The guard has a great legacy in Webster.”
“It’s an unfortunate thing for our community,” re-marked Webster mayor Mike Grosek. “I think everyone knew what was coming down and we will just have to work things out.”
Thanks to the Reporter & Farmer  for sharing this story.