State offers Lewisburg old National Guard Armory building

Thursday, March 9, 2017
Lewisburg City Councilmen Nicholas Tipper, Bam Haislip, City Manager Randall Dunn, and Mayor Jim Bingham listen to a proposal from the state to offer the old armory building in Lewisburg to the city.
Tribune photo by Scott Pearson

The state made Lewisburg an offer they couldn’t refuse. The city just needs to figure out a long-term plan.

Andrew Brown from the Tennessee Military Department offered the old National Guard armory building to the city at their Monday work session.

The 9,200-square-foot building was built in 1955 on land donated for the purpose at the intersection of Ellington Parkway and Fayetteville Highway. Closed 15 years ago, the state no longer sees any possible need for the building and, therefore, is disposing of it.

Councilmen generally favored accepting the property, but the ultimate use for the building and the costs associated with it spurred spirited discussion.

“I don’t think there is anybody here who wants the property to get away,” Lewisburg Mayor Jim Bingham said. “What we do with it is the tough decision.”

The city does have a potential short-term use for the building.

The Lewisburg Fire Department will need a temporary home while the main fire hall undergoes needed repairs and renovations.

Still in the planning stages, the work is estimated to require eight to 10 months to complete, requiring relocation.

According to City Manager Randall Dunn, the city does not have an adequate alternative in its inventory.

Chief Larry Williams said that he had been exploring alternatives but was running into difficulties finding spaces that could accommodate both the fire trucks and the personnel.

The temporary relocation will cost the city money regardless of where it is.

“If we are going to invest some money in something, I’d like to see it have the potential for us to get something back,” said Councilman Bam Haislip, making a case for using the building as opposed to renting space somewhere else.

Eric Bischoff, the city’s consulting engineer, inspected the building on behalf of the city and stated that it appeared structurally sound but was not without issues.

Over the years the building has stood empty, birds have gotten into the building leaving dead birds and waste in the building that would require environmental remediation. Some of the tile in the building also contains asbestos which would need to be removed.

He estimated that cleanup costs would run between $80,000 and $100,000.

While the structure itself is sound, the building would require a total rebuild inside.

All new electrical systems, new plumbing, and new HVAC systems would be required along with additional work to meet current codes and accessibility requirements.

His rough estimates for total rehabilitation of the building are in the $650,000 range, including the initial environmental cleanup.

Construction of a comparable new building would be closer to $1.3 million, Bischoff estimated.

Councilmen discussed several potential uses long term for the building and the 1.29 acre lot. Possibilities included using the building as an additional fire hall, using it as the main fire hall instead of rehabbing the current fire hall, converting it to a community center, or as a facility for the Parks and Recreation Department.

Ultimately, the council decided that they needed more time to consider all of the potential issues surrounding the property.

They told Brown to pass along to the state that they were interested but wanted more time to consider and wanted the see the state’s written proposal before taking the issue to a vote.

Dunn said that the state had said that if the city did not accept, the property would be offered for public sale.

The Military Department would prefer the property go to a governmental entity due to its proximity to the current armory. The property was offered to other state agencies as well.

The state has offered to sell Hickory Heights Church of Christ a strip of the property so that they can expand parking that they lost when the highway was widened.