$1.5 million renovation to remove asbestos, remodel Cape armory

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Monday, March 30, 2009
Matt Stewart of Langford Mechanical works on the heating system at the Missouri Armory National Guard in Cape Girardeau as Staff Sgt. Joe Dilley looks on.

CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. -- A $1.5 million renovation of the Missouri Army National Guard armory in Cape Girardeau will provide Citizen-Soldiers with newly refurbished offices, a state-of-the-art kitchen and newly paved parking spaces.

But perhaps most important: The work provides an opportunity to remove asbestos -- a health hazard if its fibers become airborne -- from the armory that was built at 2626 Independence St. in 1953.

"We knew we needed to get that done," said Master Sgt. Michael Schnurbusch, battalion operations NCO for Headquarters Company of the 1140th Engineer Battalion. "The architects drew up a plan for an addition to the armory to accommodate the kitchen and from there it grew to a renovation for asbestos removal."

Planning for the work began two years ago, stemming from the need for a new kitchen and repaved parking, Schnurbusch said. The Guard owned $30,000 in new kitchen equipment that had been sitting idle for six years because of a lack of space in its existing 18-square-foot kitchen. The parking spaces were basically just eroded blacktop with several potholes, he said.

Also, the armory was simply ready for an update, Schnurbusch said.

"We needed to bring it into the 21st Century," he said. "We're going from '60s and '70s model paneling to drywall, adding new energy-efficient lighting, all new heating and air, all new electrical. Before, some rooms had paneling, painted cinder block, some were dry-walled -- and some were a configuration of all three."

When the armory was built, it met the needs of the National Guard, but as the units have been reconfigured and needs have changed, remodeling the armory became increasingly important, Schnurbusch said.

The armory is home to several units, including the 1140th Engineer Battalion's Headquarters Company and Forward Support Company, the 735th Quartermasters, Troop Medical Company 2 and the Recruitment Sustainment Program's Echo Company.

More than 30 rooms are being remodeled, meaning new offices for the 33 full-time personnel who work at the armory every day. Also the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System office, or DEERS, is getting a make-over. DEERS offers family support and assistance to getting military benefits.

"That's another driving factor," Schnurbusch said. "We're a DEERS site. That's something the public sees, on the average of a dozen people a day, civilians or retired veterans and their dependents."

The work also encompasses complete asbestos abatement in the armory, removing the silicate material that was once popular in construction because it is more resistant to acid and fire than other material. But asbestos is a potent carcinogen, or cancer-causing substance, and is a serious health hazard if its fibers are airborne.

But the asbestos wasn't a health risk at the armory because it wasn't airborne, said Mark Bonney, owner of Trutest Environmental Solutions, which handled the asbestos testing at the armory.

"Asbestos is really not a health hazard in place," Bonney said. "It's when it's disturbed that it becomes a hazard. That's why it has to be removed. To renovate the area, you have to remove the asbestos first."

Bonney inspected the armory for asbestos several times and said "hot areas" were in the flooring and in some of the walls and ceilings. An asbestos-abatement company was then hired to remove the asbestos. But Bonney said it's not uncommon for asbestos to be found in buildings that were built before 1980.

"That was the style back then," he said. "For the most part, any commercial building or public building built back then is going to have some asbestos probably."

When the work is completed in late May at the armory, it will be 99 percent asbestos-free, which is well below state and federal requirements.

But what people will notice when the work is done -- scheduled for completion May 27 -- isn't that it's asbestos free, but that it's a remodeled armory that looks nicer than it ever has, said Scott Satterlee, senior project manager with Image Architects.

"It was more or less an upgrade of infrastructure of the armory," he said. "It's going to be more modern, it's going to have better lighting, better air conditioning, better heating. It's just going to be a lot nicer."

For more information about the Missouri National Guard, please call 1-800-GoGuard or visit www.moguard.com.

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For more information about this release, please contact Scott Moyers at 573-339-6237 or at scott.moyers1@us.army.mil

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