SOUTH PITTSBURG, Tenn. — If South Pittsburg is able to buy the abandoned U.S. National Guard Armory at 107 E. 10th St., the Sequatchie Valley Honor Guard would like to make the building its permanent home.
The armory now is owned by the Sequachee Valley Electric Cooperative, which has offered to sell it to the city for $50,000. City officials agreed to lease the property for 90 days in January so they could apply for grant funds to buy and upgrade it, but that term runs out next month.
Mayor Jane Dawkins said the city will not know if it will get the grant until October, but there has been "a little talk" about accelerating the purchase.
"Nothing in writing has been presented to us or anything of that nature," she said. "We're certainly going to do what we can do."
Al Reyes, president and founder of the Sequatchie Valley Honor Guard, said his group would like to rent space at the armory to store its weapons, equipment and uniforms.
The honor guard has grown to about 45 members and performs at military funerals, among other activities, in Jackson County, Ala., and Dade County, Ga., as well as Marion, Sequatchie and Grundy counties in Tennessee, Reyes said.
"We need a place that we can call our home, and I can find no better place than this armory to serve our needs," he said. "I've been through it, and it's the ideal place."
Marlin Anthony, an honor guard member, said the group would like to occupy two rooms at the facility. One is a small conference room and the other is a storage room designed originally for weapons storage, he said.
The Honor Guard operates through donations from area municipalities, funeral homes and fundraisers, officials said, but would be willing to pay the city rent if the building is secured.
"We can't afford a whole lot, but we can give [the city] something," Anthony said. "We just want a comment from the board saying that if [the city] does obtain it, we can work out some kind of arrangement."
Dawkins said if South Pittsburg buys the armory, she thinks the City Commission would agree to rent the needed space to the honor guard.
"We certainly recognize the importance of this organization and what it means to the area," she said. "I would like to have them there, personally, but we have to maintain that facility as an emergency shelter. That's the number one focus. That's what the grant was written for."
Without the grant, rental options could be crucial to the future of the facility, too, Dawkins said.
"Not only will we be taking on a payment if we do not get this grant, but we now also have to pay $800 in utilities per month to keep it running," she said. "That's not anything that was budgeted."