National Guard center cuts ribbon

Published 6:13 am Friday, September 23, 2016

On Thursday, the Louisiana National Guard unveiled a new $13.5 million Readiness Center in Franklinton.

The center will be the headquarters for the Guard’s 843rd Horizontal Engineer Company, 205th Engineer Battalion.

It replaces the original center, built in 1975 but badly damaged in 2012 by Hurricane Isaac.

The new 30,000-square-foot facility is intended to support federal and state engineering missions including construction of airfields, roads, clearing and other construction projects.

However, according to Col. Danny Bordelon, parish and Franklinton civilian residents will get some benefit from the facility as well.

“Civilians can use the armory, unless we have ongoing operations,” Bordelon said. He explained local governments could use the buildings for meetings, so long as they coordinate it with the sergeant of the post.

In addition, the new center will provide some economic benefits to the area.

“On an ongoing basis we will probably be contracting out food services and we try to use local contractors wherever we can,” Bordelon said. In addition, building maintenance will depend on civilian contractors.

“These buildings typically need thousands of dollars in maintenance each year and we always try to use the local contractors,” he said.

Finally, in the event of a natural disaster in Washington Parish, having an engineering unit based at home could mean quicker response times for area residents.

“Having an armory like this were we can stage units gives you advantages during a natural disaster,” he said.

The center was completed in July, and it features a skills training facility that includes a computerized shooting range, an assembly hall, a heated and non-heated storage space, locker room space for 115 soldiers and a backup generator capable of powering the entire facility during power outages.

Bordelon said after the old center was damaged, the Guard could have looked to relocate somewhere else, but he is happy they stayed in the area.

“We could have gone somewhere else, but the city of Franklinton made us very welcome and we’re glad to be back in the city of Franklinton,” he said.