Clarification: There was a source's error in the original version of this story. The current National Guard armory on Carroll Street was built for the National Guard, according to local resident Hugh Steele, who said he worked on the project.
Steele said the National Guard used to train in a metal building near where Homer Sharp Stadium is on Newton Drive. However, he said that building was never adequate for training and locals raised money to buy land for a new armory. Steele said there was a program at the time where the National Guard would pay to build an armory if a local community could raise enough money to buy land. Steele said its his recollection that the city and county purchased the land for the armory.
Covington’s National Guard armory is getting a nearly $1 million upgrade, including replacing the collapsing soil under the parking lot which has caused sinkholes to form and has caused one corner of the armory to sink.
The National Guard is paying $998,000 to completely replace the existing parking lot and asphalt and install new fencing and lighting, said Jermicka Vauss, a civilian project manager with the Georgia National Guard. The project began in November and is expected to be completed by mid-to-late summer, Vauss said; the work is being performed by South Carolina-based LESCO.
The armory, located at the corner of Carroll and Clark streets in Covington, has been around since the mid-1950s, Vauss said, and is used by the National Guard Bravo Company 1-121 Infantry for training.
“It was built on a lot of organic soil, which means there’s a bunch of trash underneath the site, and over the years it’s collapsed. One corner of the building is sinking; there are a lot of issues, including a big sinkhole in the motor pool area,” Vauss said.
Vauss said the parking lot has been patch and resurfaced over the years, but the problems continued to reoccur because of the soil issues.
“Instead of doing the Band-Aid thing, we’re going to rip it all out, tear out all the bad soil and bring in new soil and compact it. That way, we’ll have a better product for the rest of the years, the next 40-50 years,” Vauss said.
The parking lot will be recreated using heavy-duty asphalt and concrete, Vauss said.
Vauss said no renovations are being done to the actual armory, which was renovated about 12 years ago, though some corrections may be needed to the building’s foundations because of the sinking soil.
As for the new lighting, Vauss said it will be for security purposes, but she said workers are aware of the surrounding neighbors, including residents and the nursing home next door, and will try to limit “light spillage.”
The National Guard may also change the artillery monument out front, including possibly painting it all white or gray to give it a “ghost effect,” Vauss said, though a final decision hasn’t been made.
Vauss said the armory is used every day by some full-time staff, while training with larger numbers of soldiers generally happens on the weekends. Nonprofit Operation Sandbox also uses the armory to pack care packages to overseas troops.
Lt. Col. Robert Utlaut, a facility management officer with the National Guard, said National Guard facilities are being renovated across the state.