MOUNT OLIVE -- After nearly 60 years of service to the military and community, the town's N.C. National Guard armory will soon be serving other purposes.

What those will be have yet to be determined.

During a brief Tuesday morning ceremony inside the armory's assembly hall, Lt. Col. Rodney Newton, construction and facility management officer for the N.C. National Guard, handed over the keys to the armory to Mayor Joe Scott.

This transition is a part of the Installation Strategic Action Plan where the N.C. National Guard is consolidating the facility footprint throughout the state into larger, multi-unit facilities based on demographic shifts in population centers over the last few decades.

"When it comes time to give an armory back ... it is kind of sad you know," Newton said. "This facility, based on my records, goes back to 1961. So you have had a lot of soldiers in and out of here over the years.

"It makes it sad to me. Our plan really is to consolidate and build bigger. If you can consolidate three, four, five units into one larger facility ... then you are getting more use of it. That is our master plan so to speak."

However, that was not the case behind the Mount Olive transfer, Newton said. Rather, the 1132nd MP Co. assigned here was deactivated, he said.

More than 150 soldiers were assigned to the 1132nd MP Co. and stationed in Rocky Mount, Tarboro and Mount Olive until it was deactivated last August.

"We didn't really lose guardsmen, some other areas picked up some," he said. "So the decision was made to give it back to the community. We had had it for a long time. It served us well."

The armory sits on slightly more than 5.5 acres on Witherington Street, just off of North Breazeale Avenue.

The facility and property are valued at $2.4 million by the National Guard.

The land adjoins the Mt. Olive Pickle Co. plant property.

"I just want to say, colonel, how much we appreciate the Guard and what it stands for, and the role they played here in Mount Olive," Scott said. "For many, many years it gave the men of this town and this community an opportunity to serve their country."

Scott said he has relatives and friends who served in the unit over the years.

"We want to thank the National Guard for the jobs that it created here," he said. "We thank you for this building. It has a lot of memories and meanings to a lot of folks.

"There is so much potential here. Everybody has an idea, especially our townspeople who are invested in this Guard unit who have come to us and said it would be great for a civic center, great for a fire department, great just for a community center."

But nothing has been decided, the town needs to look at costs associated with doing any of those things and weigh them out, Scott said.

"It is close to the pickle plant, and they are landlocked," he said. "There is a lot of potential here. It is a nice building, and I hope it is utilized."