Across Alaska, dozens of mostly small, simple buildings have been sitting vacant for about a decade. They are Alaska Army National Guard armories, built during the Cold War years to monitor any suspicious activity from the nearby Soviet Union. Half of these armories sit in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta. These relics have become liabilities to the military, and the state government wants to hand them over to local communities.
In Tuntutuliak, the Qinarmiut Native Village Corporation is using its old armory for hardware storage. In Napakiak, the city is renovating its armory into a community multi-purpose building. Twenty-six more communities in the Y-K Delta will soon make the decision about how to use their local armory.
“They’re not necessarily large, maybe 1,200 to 1,800 square feet, wooden construction, metal roof, probably metal siding, heating fuel tank on the outside," described Brian Duffy, Administrative Services Director for the Alaska Department of Military and Veterans Affairs.
With the Cold War long over and Alaska Army National Guard recruitment plummeting, the old armories aren’t needed to conduct surveillance as they were in the past.
“What you would have," Duffy explained, "were pockets of people that served to look, see, feel, hear things in their communities that were different and report back.”
The department will not reap significant savings on maintenance or utilities by transferring these buildings.
“But what we are going to do," Duffy said, "is avoid what’s becoming, to a greater extent, a liability for the department and the community where you’ve got a building that’s sat vacant for some time.”
Such buildings can attract unwanted activity. But so far, this has been more of a risk than an actual problem.
“But the longer they stay vacant, the greater the opportunity is," Duffy said. "So our goal is to get them off our books and get them into the hands of an organization that can make better use of them than we are right now.”
That’s any entity in the community that wants to accept the building if a federal agency doesn’t also want it. There’s no exchange of funds, but there is paperwork. Duffy encourages interested parties to get started early. He suggests communities contact the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Alaska Region of Self Determination or the General Services Administration of the federal government, Real Property Utilization and Disposal Division.
The goal is to divest more than 60 armories across the state over the next four years. Each site will be inspected for pollutants, and any site found to be contaminated or unclaimed by a community will be demolished.
Some armories in the Y-K Delta will be kept by the military as facilities to train and store equipment. These armories include Bethel, Hooper Bay, Kipnuk, Kwethluk, and Quinhagak.
The Y-K Delta communities that have armories that the state is planning to divest are: Kotlik, Emmonak, Alukanuk, Scammon Bay, Mountain Village, Marshall, Holy Cross, St. Mary’s, Chevak, Newtok, Nunapitchuk, Akiachak, Tuluksak, Akiak, Kalskag, Tununak, Atmautluak, Toksook Bay, Mekoryuk, Nightmute, Napakskiak, Kwigillingok, Chefornak, Eek, Kongiganak, and Goodnews Bay.