Frankstown, Tyrone armories moving closer to being sold

A dozen armories in Pennsylvania, including Frankstown and Tyrone, are one step closer to the auction block with the passage of legislation sponsored by state Rep. John McGinnis, R-Altoona.

House Bill 1112 passed the state House Wednesday, according to McGinnis, who sponsored the legislation that authorizes the Pennsylvania Department of General Services to sell the former Pennsylvania National Guard properties.

McGinnis said Friday that the amount of money the sale will generate isn’t known. He said the bill must pass the Senate and be signed by the governor before the process truly begins.

“The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission will be working with the Department of General Services through the process,” McGinnis said, adding the armories have historical significance that will have to be considered.

McGinnis said the aim is to find “responsible bidders” who will abide by the deed covenants that go along with sale of the historical sites.

In a press release, Maj. Gen. Wesley Craig, adjutant general of the Pennsylvania National Guard, said there are a large number of excess armories that are “old and decrepit.

“The legislation will allow us to take that money and turn it back into maintenance of our existing facilities, ensuring that our soldiers and airmen have a good home base to work from, to train from and use for an emergency operations center,” Craig said.

In 2011, Tyrone Borough moved to buy the Tyrone Armory, one that housed its Sheridan Troop cavalry unit and later Charlie Company, 2nd Battalion, 112th infantry, 56th Stryker Brigade.

The Stryker Brigade moved into the Pennsylvania Army National Guard Readiness Center in Duncansville in 2010, vacating the Tyrone, Frankstown and Bellefonte armories.

While the borough was to buy the Tyrone armory for $80,000, an amount the Department of General Services indicated at the time was 80 percent of its market value, council has since back away from the purchase, explained Mayor William Fink.

“The price was right, but there were several problems that cropped up,” said Fink. “If we purchased that and made it a police station it becomes a public facility and would have to be brought up to Americans with Disabilities Act standards.”

Fink said the improvements would be made more complicated because of the building’s historical standing. It’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Fink said, so any changes – particularly the addition of an elevator and other amenities needed to bring it into compliance with the ADA – would have cost the borough nearly a million dollars.

Under the legislation, the properties could not be used as casinos and the state retains the oil, gas and mineral rights. The Frankstown Armory property is one of the largest to be sold, coming in at 8.52 acres. Other area armories included in the sale are in Bellefonte and Huntingdon.

McGinnis said the timeline for the sales, as long as the legislation becomes law, is sometime in 2014.