The Webster Parish Police Jury is drafting a resolution to Gov. John Bel Edwards, Sen. Bill Cassidy, Sen. John Kennedy and Rep. Mike Johnson in support of obtaining federal funding for the Regional Training Institute at Camp Minden.
Col. Carl Thompson, (RET), spoke to the jury about a meeting Edwards was set to have with the chief of the National Guard Bureau Tuesday about federal funding for military construction in Louisiana – among them Camp Minden’s RTI.
“This is the time to re-energize this project,” he said. “I met with a deputy assistant in February and he agreed that it was a good time to get funding restored. This is not a minor project. There’s no negative. It’s all positive for our community.”
Thompson explained Gen. Bennett C. Landreneaux (RET) initiated the RTI, a school to train soldiers in the mission of the Louisiana National Guard, with individualized training in the technical field each guardsman will serve, whether it is military truck driving, operating heavy equipment or logistics.
Phase I of the RTI was approved by the National Guard Bureau and Congress and completed to the tune of about $23.8 million. An additional $77.2 million is needed to complete phases 2 through 4.
With Phase I complete, Camp Minden Installation Commander Lt. Col. Brad Kendall said Department of Defense funding for the remaining three phases would finish out the $100 million project. All four phases are completely funded by DOD.
“When we went through all the budget cuts and sequestration four or five years ago, that’s when we lost the funding,” he said. “I can tell you that the National Guard leadership is working diligently to get us back on the funding plan.”
The RTI, once all four phases are complete, is designed to cycle about 10,000 soldiers through annually. Also at the completion of the fourth phase, the noncommissioned officers training is set to be moved from Camp Cook in Ball to Camp Minden.
Thompson said he understands there is construction the National Guard Bureau is obligated to fund, but “there’s always some money floating around the DOD and the NGB that is available because a project has been delayed…There’s certainly an opportunity there.”
Police Jury President Jim Bonsall said he’s eager to have a resolution drafted and sent to Edwards and the congressional delegation in support of obtaining the funding.
“This is a really important deal,” he said. “It’s really important.”
The RTI, once complete has the potential to have a $25 million economic impact on the area – $9.5 million in tax revenue over 10 years, $12 million in the purchase of goods and services, $5 million in operating costs and $8 million in payroll.
Calls for comment from the governor’s office were unreturned as of press time.