While the current tenants of the former National Guard Armory on College Street have said they would like to continue using the building, veterans advocate Jack Mattingly asked the Harrodsburg City Commission to evict them and allow the building to be used as a veterans’ hall of fame.
Two weeks ago, representatives from Mercer Area Family Education and Wellness (MAFEW) said they would like to continue running the armory as a community center and were looking for partners. At the city commission meeting on Monday, Nov. 27, Mattingly questioned some of the possible uses MAFEW had proposed for the armory, including as a homeless shelter.
Mattingly said he had owned Parkview Guesthouse on College Street for 27 years, which he said had given him more insight than most people.
“We see them on a daily basis,” Mattingly said. “I have to question that.”
Mattingly said the homeless, “don’t want a hand out, they want a hand up.”
“They can only help themselves,” he said. “If they don’t want to help themselves, we can’t help them.”
Mattingly is a Vietnam veteran and one of Kentucky’s leading advocates for veterans. He appeared before the city commission in September asking for support in using the armory as a home for the Kentucky Veterans Hall of Fame. Mattingly, who has appeared before the Mercer County Fiscal Court and the Harrodsburg-Mercer County Tourist Commission, said the hall of fame would draw visitors to the area.
A former helicopter door gunner in Vietnam, Mattingly brought the Traveling Vietnam Memorial Wall to Anderson-Dean Community Park in 2013, drawing 60,000 visitors, Mattingly said. In 2017, they built the Traveling Kentucky Vietnam Wall to honor the 1108 Kentuckians who served in Vietnam, with the goal of stopping at every county in the commonwealth.
Mattingly has said he would like to make the armory the permanent home of the traveling wall. He said he wanted to honor Mercer County’s veterans.
“I think they’re due that, and the family members,” Mattingly said.
At the last city commission meeting, MAFEW representatives said they would be willing to partner with anyone who would like to make use of the building. City officials have said MAFEW’s lease on the property still has years to run. While noting he was not a lawyer, Mattingly questioned the legal validity of that lease Monday.
“It was my understanding they owe the city several thousands of dollars,” Mattingly said. He said MAFEW owes the city $14,000.
“I have rental property too,” Mattingly said. “If they’re late on the rent, I evict them.”
“If they’re not paying their bills, they’re not holding up to their contract,” he said.
Mattingly also said the armory building was not in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, which prohibits discrimination based on disability. The armory has no elevator.
“Either the city or them has to put an elevator in,” said Mattingly.
“They are null and void in the armory,” Mattingly said. “They cannot do business in the armory.”
He handed out copies of the text of ADA to city commissioners.
“I’m not a lawyer,” Matingly said.
“I did have a semester of business law,” he said. “I do have some understanding of what a legal contract constitutes.”
There are numerous buildings in Mercer County that are not fully ADA compliant, including the Diamond Point Welcome Center and many of the historic structures at Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill. Mattingly has said an elevator would be installed at the armory at no cost to the city if it to become the home of the veteran’s hall of fame.
City Attorney Norrie Currens was not present at the commission meeting.
“There’s not really anything we can answer from that standpoint,” said newly elected Mayor Bob Williams.
“We are still under contract,” Williams said. “We can’t do anything.”
Williams said he’d like to talk with Mattingly about his plans, as well as other issues Mattingly raised at the meeting. No further action was taken on the issue.