A landmark to those who travel through U.S. Highway 95 in Bonners Ferry is the National Guard Armory building on the South Hill, located across the highway from the Middle School.
The armory building was built the same year that I was born, 1958 (I agree the building is in better shape than I am for the same age, but I’m working on it). The Armory was home to Detachment 1 of C Company Engineers, 145th Brigade support battalion. The National Guard was a tremendous partner with Boundary County using training opportunities to do several projects in our area. Some of those included several bridges and completing construction of the local football field, which is named after 1st Sgt. Kenneth Mendenhall, an Idaho National Guard NCO assigned to the Bonners Ferry Armory from 1961-1981.
In 2016 the Idaho National Guard announced it would be closing several armory buildings in the State that could not meet the current Federal standards and to streamline the National Guard operations. Boundary County was a part owner in the building, with the State owning the other half of the building, and the County realized the opportunity of having this building for the County. The State had to first offer their partial ownership to other State agencies before they could make a deal with Boundary County for full ownership of the building and the property.
Boundary County was able to obtain the armory building from the State and immediately began plans for the best use of the building. The first move at the armory came with the County Probation Offices moving from rented space above the Post Office into the front offices of the armory. This was a benefit to get out from paying rent for the space above the Post Office and getting Probation the needed space and location at ground level, making it safer and easier for their clients to contact them.
At about the same time an office space, meeting room and emergency operations center for the County Emergency Manager was also allocated space at the armory building. The County Emergency Manager had not had office space in the past other than their vehicle.
The next phase of the armory plans are currently in the works. The Commissioners have gone out to bid for a remodel of primarily what had been the NG gym area and a couple adjoining offices, which they hope will be able to begin this year. The current plans will provide office and space for the Sheriff’s Detectives and Deputies that are currently in rented space across from the Sheriff’s Office, this will allow us to get out of renting and into a more appropriate office space.
In addition the driver’s license office will move up to this location, creating more space in the current Sheriff’s Office to help us plan for needed jail space in the current Sheriff’s Office. There will be a space designed and dedicated for Dispatch to move up to this location, but the actual move of Dispatch will not occur for some time, but the plan for this space was looking beyond just the current needs.
The remodel will also include office space for the County Emergency Manager and the County Veterans representative. In addition a large multi-purpose room is planned that can be used as a handicap accessible courtroom, emergency operations center and community training room.
The County is maximizing the opportunity that the old National Guard armory building ownership can do for our County and is planning for the current and future needs.
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Dave Kramer is the sheriff of Boundary County.