JEFFERSON CITY -- Southeast Missouri lawmakers are seeking the legislature's approval to transfer ownership of recently closed National Guard armories in Bernie and Caruthersville to those cities for community use.
The facilities, which are state property, would be given to the local city governments at no cost.
State Rep. Otto Bean, the lead sponsor of the bill related to the Bernie armory, said the building is a city landmark and one that should remain in productive use as a community center.
"The city of Bernie doesn't have a community building and this would just fit their need," said Bean, R-Holcomb.
Bernie Mayor Willard Adams said the armory is in excellent shape and could be used for a variety of community events.
"We just don't have anything else big enough," Adams said.
If the city assumes ownership of the property, Adams said a portion of the building may be converted into office space that could be rented to help pay for maintenance.
State Rep. Terry Swinger, D-Caruthersville, is the main sponsor of the bill affecting his hometown armory. Swinger said the city plans to use the building for various community purposes.
The House Local Government Committee heard both measures on Monday but took no immediate action. The proposals engendered no opposition, and the sponsors requested the bills be placed on a special fast track for non-controversial legislation.
The armories were among six facilities around the state closed by the Missouri National Guard in December and January because they no longer supported enough soldiers to remain viable. Affected personnel were transferred to armories in neighboring communities.
Lt. Jamie Melchert, a Guard spokesman, said the Guard backs turning over the closed facilities to their local communities.
"We very much support those armories being utilized," Melchert said.
Although the Charleston armory was among those closed, there is no legislation currently pending that would allow it to be used for other purposes.
The bills are HB 1454 (Caruthersville) and HB 1462 (Bernie).