By Laurence Hilliard

Kemper County Messenger

The Mississippi Army National Guard no longer has a presence in Kemper County and ownership of the armory on Highway 16 West will be transferred to the county and the city of DeKalb.

“We're hoping to use it for economic development,” said Johnny Whitsett, president of the Kemper County Board of Supervisors. “I would love to find some kind of business for it.”

The National Guard hopes to complete the transfer by the middle of December, according to Lt. Col. William Walley, Branch Chief  for Planning and Programs for the Mississippi National Guard. “If we don't get it done before the holidays, it would not be done until the middle of January.”

The transfer will be completed as soon as the National Guard completes removal of equipment from the armory.

The 12,000 square foot armory was built by the National Guard in 1962 on land owned by the city and county. “It's a very useful facility,” Walley said.

The Kemper County armory was a detachment of the unit in Philadelphia. Guardsmen from Kemper County will now go to Philadelphia for monthly meetings, which should not be a hardship with a distance of about 25 miles.

Closing the armory will not result in any lost jobs, according to DeKalb Mayor Clark Adams.

The National Guard has turned over other armories in the state to local entities. “They vary as to their use,” Walley said. “We have had counties use them as emergency operations centers. We've had cities turn them into community centers. We had one county receive a grant from Kelloggs to turn it into a grocery store.”

The city and county will determine its future use.

The annual Chamber of Commerce-Economic Development Authority dinner, usually held in November at the armory, has been postponed until spring due to the closing. The date and site has not been determined.