City of Gardiner officials knew for more than a year that the Gardiner Armory would be shut down after the Maine Army National Guard’s 133rd Engineer Battalion left in August for its mission in Afghanistan.
After that, they were told the unit would be moved to Brunswick. They didn’t know until Wednesday the Guard was planning to reassign the unit eventually to Pennsylvania.
The concern for the city still lies in what will happen to the armory, which is in a prominent location on Brunswick Avenue.
The Maine Army National Guard plans to use the property as a storage area for trucks and equipment, according to City Manager Scott Morelli, but the city would rather see it used for a purpose that better fits the city’s long-term vision for the area.
The state-owned armory property would be in a new zoning district outlined by the city’s proposed comprehensive plan update as having a village character, with pitched-roof buildings and parking in the rear or side.
“Obviously storing heavy equipment and large trucks doesn’t fit in that vision,” Morelli said.
Morelli said city officials met with the Maine Army National Guard last summer to discuss some type of land-swap agreement to move the Guard elsewhere in the city, but nothing has materialized.
The Maine Army National Guard had planned to move the 133rd Engineer Battalion to a readiness center under construction in Brunswick after it returned from its mission in Afghanistan. There are now 161 soldiers from the unit deployed there to dismantle the equipment and facilities that supported combat operations.
The Guard’s facilities director said last year that the Gardiner Armory probably will be demolished after the unit’s move to the readiness center in Brunswick.
A spokesman for the Maine Army National Guard didn’t respond to questions Wednesday. The Portland Press Herald first reported Wednesday that the Army National Guard would be reassigning the 133rd Engineer Battalion to Pennsylvania and replacing it with a less specialized combat infantry unit.
The change could occur sometime in 2017 to 2019 if finalized.
Morelli said he learned of the plan only Wednesday from the newspaper article, but it seems as though it would be a loss for the state.
“From a 30,000-foot view I have of it right now, it doesn’t look like a good thing for the area,” he said.