Update: Friday, April 5, 2016
The committee the Clarksville City Council appointed to determine a plan for the Historic Clarksville Armory met on April 1, 2016 at the Johnson County Historical Society Heritage Center at 131 W. Main, Clarkville, AR 72830.
The committee consists of council members Danna Schneider, Heather Johnston, and Freeman Wish, along with citizen members, John Pledger and Rick Dailey.
The committee took two actions.
One: Election of Danna Schneider, chair.
Two: Send recommendation to Clarksville City Council to a) provide a temporary tarp to stop water infiltration in faulty roof; and ( b) to request a study of the highest and best use of the building through the appropriate state or federal agency.
City of Clarksville, AR employees install protective tarp on roof of Endangered Historic Clarksville Armory, a/k/a Sonny Alston Youth Center.
May 6, 2016
Photo by Tom Cogan, provided by Danna Schneider.
Monday, May 9, 2016:
The Clarksville City Council met in regular session Monday, May 9th. On the agenda was the proposal recommended by the Armory Committee to further study the condition and future potential uses of the armory. The city placed a tarp last week to save the armory from futher deterioration. The organization that will perform the study is Preserve Arkansas, an agency of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. They are also poised to help us with the preservation grants we need to save our armory.
March 28, 2016 Update
by Pam Hamilton
The Clarksville Arkansas City Council met in regular session on Monday, March 21st at 6:00. The armory issue was the first item on the agenda. The full story can be read in the most recent issue of the Johnson County Graphic.
In summary, there was a full house of support for saving the armory. I addressed the Mayor and Council, as did Mark Hodge, along with representatives from Preserve Arkansas, The Arkansas Department of Heritage, The Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, Main Street Arkansas, The Clarksville Planning & Zoning Commission, The Clarksville Comprehensive Plan Steering Board, and The Clarksville Boxing Club. After some discussion of the issue, Mayor Mark Simpson appointed a committee of council members to work with Mark Hodge, President and his designees from The Johnson County Historical Society to seek solutions for the armory. No council members objected.
However, over the Easter holiday weekend, the Mayor called an emergency meeting for today at noon to revisit the procedure he used to form the committee. The Johnson County Historical Society members of the committee were removed and two other "concerned Clarksville citizens," John Pledger and Rick Dailey were appointed.
The armory falls under the direction of the city's Parks and Recreation Department. Moments prior to the regular meeting on Monday night, the Mayor placed a letter from the Parks and Recreation Director stating that any funds used for repairing the armory would be taken from a proposed soccer and baseball project that does not presently exist. Funds do exist for the repair of the armory, but no funds have been appropriated for armory maintenance and repairs since before the construction of the Marvin Vinson Recreation Center or perhaps years before. There are also numerous funding opportunities from the state agencies who were represented at the meeting, pledging their support.
We want you to be informed that saving our armory is going to be a long and arduous task requiring our diligent monitoring of the events as they unfold.
According to the Technical Assistance Expert with The Department of Arkansas Heritage, the building is sound. The problems are mostly due to water infiltration from a faulty roof that has not been maintained over a long period of time.
Save Our Armory!
The study passed, but it was very close. The Mayor reluctantly cast the deciding vote. It passed 4 to 1. Heather Johnston, Danna Schneider, and Freeman Wish voted for. Eddie King voted against. Mayor Simpson made the majority. Eddie Bradley and John Kluthe were absent.
From Preserve Arkansas 2016 "Seven to Save" list:
May 12, 2016
National Guard Armory (Sonny Alston Youth Center) , 1930
309 N. College, Clarksville, Johnson Co.
The Clarksville Armory, more recently known as the Sonny Alston Youth Center, is on one hand a workaday building built with stylish design touches suggestive of its era of origin and, on the other, a public space whose original martial mission has given way to civilian pursuits. Its present-day name memorializes a prominent member of the local African American community-a city employee who was a booster of community youth sports programs.
Like many of its kind, the former Clarksville Armory has suffered from aging and maintenance issues. Cost estimates for rehabbing it to serve as a city maintenance building have run higher than some city council members are comfortable with. Reluctance to pursue grants for rehab is based on concerns over responsibility for long-term maintenance if the grants are awarded. Public outcry about the council's vote to not pursue funding through the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program encouraged the Mayor to appoint a committee to look more closely at funding sources. Since then, the City has agreed to put a tarp on the roof to stop immediate water infiltration. Though this is a step in the right direction, the Armory building and its supporters still face an uphill battle to win its preservation.