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National Guard Armory draws interest
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Photo by Jim Misunas The city of Larned has two proposals to buy the National Guard Armory.

LARNED — When Larned’s National Guard Armory was turned over to the city of Larned in 2010, no one knew what the future would hold for the building.
Col. John Andrew, chief of staff for the Joint Headquarters of Kansas, officially turned the building over to the city of Larned. The armory was one of 18 that the National Guard closed because of the state’s budget crisis. Garden City, Kingman and Russell also had armories closed.
The Larned Armory has also been popular for community-wide events such as antique shows, pancake feeds and dances.
A remodeling in the recent past made the building a viable option for the Larned city council, which is weighing two proposals to buy the building.
The Larned Assembly of God has offered a nine-acre tract of land valued at $104,000 east of Larned in addition to $146,000. Pastor Ryan Webster currently operates a church at 922 Broadway. The church has also offered a $10,000 earnest payment to be used as a deposit towards the purchase.
“We’re out of room and it’s the third building we’ve used,” Webster said. “We’ve continued to grow, and we must rent out places to have a fellowship dinner.”
Webster said the property the church owns was planned to be developed as a future site, but the price tag of a new church could easily be $1 million or higher. Remodeling the Larned Armory would be a projected $250,000 cost.
“It would take some work to turn the building into a church,” Webster said. “Acquiring the building would be a great thing for our church. We’re hoping the city sees the mutual benefit.”
Webster may get his answer when the council may make its decision at the May 23 council meeting. He has no guess what direction the council will head.
Brian Wedel, co-owner of Heartland Irrigation in Moundridge, said his company is offering $250,000 for the building with the intent to expand the business in Pawnee County. The company is also offering $13,600 for an earnest payment.
Heartland Irrigation provides irrigation sales and service and already does business in Pawnee County. The company wants to employ a local person to serve as branch manager.
The availability of the Larned Armory has been advertised in various ways, including by the Kansas Department of Commerce.
Courtland Holman, Larned Chamber director who doubles as director of the Pawnee County Economic Development Commission, said the interest in the Armory building is a good economic sign for Larned.
“It sure helps to see multiple bids and it’s another indication that Larned is a great economic opportunity,” Holman said.
One of Holman’s responsibilities is helping businesses relocate to Pawnee County through promoting what land or buildings are available.
“Getting businesses to come to Pawnee County is a hard area to crack, but it’s always enjoyable to have a hand in making that happen,” he said.  
Holman said one business option is having a business locate in an area identified as an enterprise zone, whereby property or sales taxes may be deferred for a period time. The business must apply to be included in the enterprise zone and deliver a minimum of five jobs. Holman said additional funding sources are also available for businesses in an enterprise zone.
Larned city manager Don Gaeddert said the city of Larned acquires property and received monetary requests targeted for a specific purpose, but acquiring a building doesn’t happen very often.
“Land has been provided for various parks, such as Jordaan Park or Schnack Park, but the Armory was unique because the state gave it back to the city of Larned,” he said. “The city fully expected to get offers on the building, but we’re not sure what type of offers they would be. The offers have certainly met their expectations at this point.”
Gaeddert said having a business buy the building carries some inherent economic-development weight. But the church’s offer also features commercial property, which could be sold or developed at a later date.
“The city council has been careful whether it would be used best by the public, by another agency, or by a buyer,” Gaeddert said. “One advantage of selling it is you can place conditions on the sale of that property.”
Gaeddert said it is normal to take several months to market and sell such a property.