The state Military Department is scuttling away from a proposal to build a $33.6 million National Guard readiness center in Buckley and instead plans to place it at Guard headquarters in Lakewood’s Camp Murray.
The new plan will bring about 40 full-time employees to Camp Murray, said state Military Department spokeswoman Karina Shagren; another 339 citizen soldiers will use it for weekend training events
The decision is a disappointment to Buckley-area leaders who wanted to make more use of the state’s Rainier School for the developmentally disabled. The school has faced closure threats for years.
It’s “not good news for our community because we want to build more jobs for our community,” said state Sen. Pam Roach, R-Auburn, who suggested the Buckley site to state officials and helped secure funding for it.
But she said the readiness center project still will benefit the state and Pierce County.
The three-story, 97,000-square-foot center is to be built with $27 million in federal funds from unused military construction accounts and about $6.6 million from the state.
State officials touted the Buckley site in June when they locked in the money to build it as a replacement for the decommissioned Tacoma Armory. They liked the rural East Pierce County setting and said it would provide an ideal location for modern military exercises.
Subsequent environmental reviews, however, showed the land at the corner of the Rainier School property had two challenges: About half of the 20 acres is made up of protected wetlands, while another small piece of land contains loose material that could liquefy in an earthquake, Shagren said.
Improving the site to support a military structure would break the budget by $17 million, she said.
A further complication came with the deadline state officials accepted when they agreed to take surplus military construction funds from the Pentagon. They have to get the project underway by September 2014 or risk losing the money.
“We are in such a tight deadline to use that federal money that we really have no other option,” Shagren said.
The training center will be home base for the 96th Troop Command, which supervises a mix of administrative, intelligence, engineering and homeland response units.
It is to be built on a site at Camp Murray recently vacated by the National Guard when it moved a vehicle maintenance shop across Interstate 5 to Joint Base Lewis-McChord.