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Officials want to keep Poulsbo armory available for public use

POULSBO — Interest in retaining the soon-to-be shuttered National Guard armory in Poulsbo for community use is high, so is interest about its price and what could possibly lurk inside the building.

Washington National Guard Capt. Steven Hobbs told the Poulsbo City Council Wednesday that the building’s tenants have been notified they must vacate the building by Aug. 22.

The state has ordered its military department to close seven armories as a cost-saving measure, Hobbs said, and Poulsbo’s armory, at 19133 Jensen Way, made the list.

The building and its memorial are important to the city, Mayor Kathryn Quade said, and many hope it will remain and be used by the community, rather than converting to business use or be demolished to make way for new buildings.

The 45 or so soldiers in the 181st Brigade Support Battalion who use the building have been notified of its closure, Hobbs said. He added that it is not uncommon for guard members to have to travel to their posts. The battalions new home will be in Seattle, he said.

In addition to the Poulsbo Historical Society, which leases undeveloped property across the street, the Port of Poulsbo has taken an interest in purchasing the building, said Port Commissioner Arnold Bockus.

“It’s interesting, and something the port could very easily get into,” Bockus said.

Bockus said because of conflicting vacation schedules, commissioners haven’t formally discussed buying the building, with its nearly 4,000-square-foot drill floor. But on Thursday the three commissioners toured the building.

Commission Chairman Glenn Gilbert said the port is considering its options to provide more space and parking for waterfront visitors, but noted that a property purchase might require a bond issue be put to voters. Also, he added, the large building may exceed the port’s needs.

“It’s a pretty good sized building,” Gilbert said.

Currently the Lions Club and the American Legion rents out office space. The Legion has a post in Poulsbo, but the offices give veterans and spouses privacy when discussing services, said Fred Reitmeyer, American Legion adjutant.

State and city agencies will have first choice on the building, Hobbs said. If there are no public buyers, it would be auctioned to the highest bidder.

Hobbs said he did not know the value of the building, but the Kitsap County Assessor’s Office said if the state-owned building were to convert to private use it would be taxed at almost $880,000. Bockus estimated that the fair-market value, at which the building must be sold, would be about 20 percent higher.

However, if the port were to proceed, it would be inspected thoroughly, Bockus said, including tests to see if it contains harmful building materials, such as asbestos. Asbestos was commonly used in military construction, and can be hazardous and expensive to remove.

Hobbs said he didn’t know if the building contained asbestos.

Quade said the city is in the process of contacted Gov. Chris Gregoire, Washington National Guard Maj. Gen. Timothy J. Lowenberg and local lawmakers, asking for help in keeping the building for the community.

Hobbs noted that the armory sees much use.

“You use your armory quite a bit,” Hobbs said.

The Poulsbo battalion, which serves as an attachment to the 81st Brigade Combat Team, is currently deployed in Iraq.

They are expected to return within home to Poulsbo the month.

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