Within three years San Marcos will be home to a new Armed Forces Reserve Center. Funded by the Fiscal Year 2009 Consolidated Security, Disaster Assistance, and Continuing Appropriations Act recently signed into law by President George W. Bush, the $29 million facility will function as a training center for 600 National Guard and Army Reserve soldiers.Development projects coordinator for the city Bill Couch said a search in San Marcos for a good place to build the facility is in the works. He said none of the likely sites are on public property, which means whatever land the government chooses will be taken off the tax role.
“Most likely it probably wouldn’t be a big deal, because the land they’re probably looking at has been appraised as agriculture,” said Kim Porterfield, city council member. “The city doesn’t get very much income at all off of AG land. But anything the government buys does come off the tax role, so it does have an impact on the school district, the county, the city – anybody that’s currently collecting taxes off that land.”
Kim Porterfield said she is hoping the building of the Armed Forces Reserve Center will result in the city re-acquiring valuable land it leases to the Army Reserve, which occupies a building across the street from City Hall. The Army National Guard has an armory in City Park on land it leases from San Marcos.
“On the face of it, it seems to me that you could train people anywhere, and that is some prime real estate,” Porterfield said. “And so in big picture, I’m excited to think that they might be able to relocate the current facility somewhere else so that the city could be involved in taking the land where the current facility is to its highest and best use. So it could be more park land, it could be an expansion of the tube facility because tourism is so huge here, or it could be some other amenity or another city facility. I think it’s opening up a lot of opportunities.”
Interim director for city Planning and Zoning Cecil Pennington said the city can always use more space for offices and “operations of all sorts.”
Base transition coordinator for Texas Roger Manaugh said the property on Hopkins currently leased to the Army Reserve will go back to the city when the Armed Forces Reserve Center is completed. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson’s office quoted a “military officer” who said that since the infantry unit based in the National Guard armory is “a vital part of our force structure, we will be keeping the armory.”
Texas Army National Guard Public Affairs Officer Colonel William Meehan said armories are rarely closed because the Army National Guard in Texas has grown five percent beyond the highest goals “ever established.”
“We’re never cavalier about closing an armory, because we’re growing,” Meehan said. “There are older armories that were closed a number of years ago, that were never disposed of, never given back to the cities. We mothballed them because we knew we were growing.”
Year 2009 Consolidated Security, Disaster Assistance, and Continuing Appropriations Act, which allocated almost $500 billion to the Defense Department, may also fund Armed Forces Reserve Centers in Tyler, Amarillo and Round Rock.
San Marcos Mayor Susan Narvaiz said the new military facility will have a positive impact on the city, and may benefit the university as well due to synergy between the two educational centers. She said in addition to the economic affect 600 more military personnel will have, the facility may draw large military conferences.
“I grew up in the military, and so I’ve been in military towns all my life,” Narvaiz said. “They’re always just a great blend to your community’s economic development.”
by Sean Batura