LAURINBURG- The Clinton V. Willis National Guard Armory could be open to the public again by March.
The armory has been closed for almost a year after officials found traces of lead in the building.
While there was no airborne lead in the facility, it was closed to the public due to the possibility that small children and the elderly could potentially be affected.
Lt. Col. Matt DeVivo with the National Guard said on Wednesday that the facility off Main Street finished the decontamination process in January.
DeVivo said it has been cleaned of lead in all public areas such as the offices and bathroom. The work done by Demolition and Asbestos Removal Inc. out of Raleigh for a cost of about $66,650.
Final clearance tests should be completed by the month.
The amount of lead was less than the EPA standard for contamination which is surface lead levels above 200 ug/ft2 are unsafe for adults and at 40 ug/ft2 is unsafe for children six and younger.
DeVivo expects residents to be pleased that the facility will reopen. The armory is used for a number of public events including job fairs and as a voting precinct.
“It’s another part of the community,” he said.
Once reopened, Dell Parker, the director of the county Board of Elections, said the facility can be used by voters of Precinct 4. The voting station had moved to the nearby fire station.
“We’ve been bouncing around that we need to move Precinct 4 for the primary,” Parker said. “At this point, I’m going forward with thinking that the armory will be open and we won’t have to spend all that money in postage and we can just move back.”
The facility has continued to be used by around 80 National Guard members for drill and for one of the guard’s engineer companies.
“It is safe for industrial and drill work,” DeVivo said.
The big push for lead testing came in 2016 when the Oregonian newspaper released an article after an 18-month investigation which revealed a National Guard Armory in Montana to have gotten at least 20 people sick from lead poisoning. There have been no lead-related illnesses associated with the local armory.
More than 1,000 armories nationwide underwent testing, with inspectors finding alarming levels in armory guns, drill halls, conference rooms, hallways, stairwells, kitchens, pantries, offices, bathrooms and a daycare center, according to press accounts.
The process will take five years at a cost of $20 million a year nationwide funded by the Sustainment, Restoration, and Modernization Fund.
Reach Katelin Gandee at 910-506-3171