Closings leaving holes in Linden

Published 7:18 pm Tuesday, May 29, 2012

LINDEN — After learning of the impending closure of the Marengo County Technology Center, city and county leaders are preparing for a pair of holes to the business landscape of the county’s seat.

Linden Mayor Mitzi Gates, along with a group of local leaders, also received final word last week that their efforts to save the city’s long-standing National Guard Armory had failed.

“I know we are still going to enjoy those privileges, but it just not going to be the same. There will be an economic impact on the entire county,” Gates said of the loss of the National Guard unit that occupied the Linden armory. “When the unit comes in, they eat here and they pretty much all stay in hotels in Demopolis.”

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The Demopolis Times reported in November on the Alabama National Guard announcement that it would close 13 armories across the state, a list that included the Linden armory as well as the Thomasville facility, which is named in honor of Demopolis resident Jack Kerby.

The closures are expected to save the Guard approximately $7 million in maintenance and operational costs.

The Linden facility is expected to close its doors by June 10, a date that will fall within two weeks of the closure of MCTC, which is located adjacent to the armory.

“We are really just finding out about MCTC as well as about the definite closing of the armory,” Gates said. “It’s terribly disheartening to see both of them close almost in the same week. I’m as upset about one as the other, but the National Guard Armory has been a part of Linden’s landscape and a vital part of our community since the 1950s. So, it is a devastating blow to see that facility close. I know that we’re not the only community facing that. I know that we’re in the company of 12 others. But that doesn’t make it any easier to see that facility close.”

Brenda Tuck, executive director of the Marengo County Economic Development Authority, is still adjusting to her new role but was optimistic about what the future could hold for Linden if community leadership can properly market the city’s assets.

“It is always unfortunate when any existing entity closes. But change is inevitable, and we must deal with it,” Tuck said. “The Army National Guard is working with us to make this a smooth transition and I am sure the technical center property will do the same.”

While Tuck was unable to speculate about the possibilities that could exist for future inhabitants of either facility, she was clear in her focus on the future for Linden and the rest of Marengo County.

Making that local future a bright one and bringing potential jobs to a pair of suddenly empty facilities will mean a concerted effort on the part of county and municipal leadership as well as other invested entities.

For Gates and the Linden City Council, conversations about the future will start soon enough. First, however, Linden and its leadership are going to tackle the task of adjusting to life without two entities that have been staples of the community for decades.

“The conversation that I’m going to have at our next council meeting is just about the fact that both of them are definitely closing,” Gates said, noting that there is still an adjustment period as the air of disbelief around the rapid-fire closings begins to thin. “We have not had that conversation.”