Buckhannon armory to be completed ahead of schedule

A colonel with the West Virginia Army National Guard said Monday the new armory and readiness center in Buckhannon is expected to be completed ahead of schedule, but Phase II of the project may not be underway until at least 2019.

Col. Dave Shafer said the $13 million project currently under construction will guarantee that the 92 associated jobs will remain in Upshur County. He told the Upshur County Development Authority that the project should wrap up prior to its November 2014 target date.

“I don’t want to create expectations that can’t be met,” he said. “Right now, they are about six to eight weeks ahead. This has been a great community to work in.”

But because of budget constraints, the second phase of the project will not be looked at for funding until 2019 at the earliest. That phase is expected to cost between $10 million and $12 million.

“With the challenging political landscape, the Department of Defense has been the bill payer,” Shafer said. “But we’re in a good position. We will be very competitive for getting (funding) in 2019, or 20 at the latest. It is a top-priority project.”

Shafer said the armory project has been “a good catalyst for economic development” in the region. He noted that the Upshur facility will be only one of three such centers not located in the same city as the National Guard’s adjutant general’s headquarters.

Shafer said the National Guard has been taking advantage of the expansion of Corridor H, noting that projects have recently been completed in Elkins while another has started in Moorefield.

With that thought in mind, Development Authority director Steve Foster said another organization will be pushing for funding to complete that highway. Representatives of the Corridor H Authority are expected to attend Thursday’s meeting of Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s special blue-ribbon panel to study highway construction when it comes to Elkins.

Corridor H will be about 75 percent completed in West Virginia within the next year, Foster said.

“We need about $800 million (to finish it),” he said. “We have to find some creative ways of financing.”

Foster also noted that the Corridor H Authority has started working with Virginia leaders to get that stretch completed to Front Royal, Va. He said plans have been submitted to the Appalachian Regional Commission.