Thursday morning, before a small crowd of West Plains and Howell County officials and residents at the West Plains Regional Airport, a lease agreement was formally signed between the city and the Missouri National Guard.
The lease, signed by Brigadier General David Boyle, Joint Staff Director of the Missouri National Guard, West Plains Mayor Jack Pahlmann and Howell County southern commissioner Billy Sexton, will ensure the continued presence of the National Guard in West Plains.
According to the agreement, the Missouri National Guard will lease the parking lots north and east of the Armory at 1315 Webster St. in West Plains.
Boyle, stationed in Jefferson City, also announced the dissolution of the 1138th Military Police Company within the next year. The Guard will be bringing in a larger engineering unit with about 112 soldiers compared to the 50 soldiers in the 1138th now. The plan is to have about 125 soldiers in the unit by 2025.
Boyle assured the crowd that the soldiers with the 1138th will have opportunities in West Plains or other areas of the National Guard.
West Plains Electric Supervisor Jeff Hanshaw, from the 205th Military Police Battalion out of Poplar Bluff, led the announcement.
Boyle said the members of the Missouri National Guard is honored and excited for the opportunity they will have.
“When the Army was making a decision to reduce number of military police the 1138th was one of those considered,” said Boyle. “West Plains is a very supportive community and it is the only community that has a readiness center in central Missouri.”
He added that because the new unit will be an engineering unit, the Guard hopes to recruit from the West Plains area.
Pahlmann said about a year ago there was talk about the Armory closing. “This lease agreement will ensure that the Armory will be used by a new chapter coming into town which brings more jobs into the city,” he said.
According to city officials, the economic impact on West Plains will be significant. In 2017, the Guard fiscal impact in West Plains was $1.4 million. The new unit’s impact is expected to be about $3 million annually.
Sexton said for the Howell County commissioners the decision to sign the lease agreement was an easy one. “The National Guard has been a long-time fixture in Howell County,” said Sexton. “This new unit will allow the county to gain jobs and possibly increase revenue. We are proud to keep the National Guard in Howell County.”
Boyle said this may seem small but to the National Guard it is a huge deal. Out of the 60 readiness centers across the state, many do not have space for parking. The lease of the two parking lots will allow for soldiers to maintain and operate their vehicles.
He said the Guard is looking to make this a more “functional facility.”
City Administrator Tom Stehn said he is happy the Guard is staying in West Plains and the city is looking forward to having a great partnership.
The Guard will be responsible for any alterations or improvements to the parking lots and for any damage the lots may sustain.
Boyle credited city and county leaders for their work in extending the Guard’s relationship with Howell County. “We are honored and happy to remain in West Plains.”
Also in attendance at the press conference were Heather Kamps from Rep. Jason Smith’s office and West Plains City councilmen Mike Topliff and Josh Cotter.