Union city officials have pledged initial support for a training facility to be utilized by both fire and police personnel.
The city’s personnel, finance and public works committee told Union Fire Protection Chief Russ Hamilton and Police Chief Norman Brune to move forward with plans to evaluate city property adjacent to the city’s wastewater lagoon and treatment plant facility.
The site is near the city’s shooting range located off Highway 47 south of Highway 50.
Plans call for a training tower with entry-level stackable modular buildings and a classroom building.
“The idea behind the training facility is for realistic training,” said Hamilton. “It adds to good performance in real-life situations.”
Hamilton said the district already has budgeted for the estimated $350,000 training and rappel tower, but there have not yet been any in-depth discussions of cost-sharing the facility.
He noted that upgrades to infrastructure, including roads, utilities and parking, will be needed.
Furthermore, the city and fire district will enter into a “lease-style” agreement that includes insurance for the property.
“We’ve done our homework and we are ready to pull the trigger,” said Hamilton.
The project would be built in phases. The first phase would include site evaluation and site plans, building plans and training tower construction.
A second phase would include the construction of the classroom building. The cost of the classroom building has not yet been determined, Hamilton said.
Police officers could use the training center for low-light scenarios, active shooter type situations and stairway negotiations in regard to domestic disturbances, tactical training, formation training for dynamic entries.
The facility also could be used for training during a meth lab raid, according to Union Police Detective Sgt. John Biser.
“We do get meth labs in confined spaces and this would be a good place to train for it,” he said.
Fire crews could use the facility to train for live fires, self-contained breathing equipment, high-angle rescues and many other scenarios.
Hamilton said the fire district had planned to build a training facility off Highway 50 on the western portion of the district, but reconsidered the location to combine resources with the Union Police Department.
“We always thought that is where our training tower would be (west of Union),” said Hamilton.
He explained that if the facility is built in Union, it will allow for a quicker response time to emergency in the eastern parts of the district while training sessions are under way.
Hamilton further added that proposed location is a remote area and the police shooting range already is on site.
“It is out of view and is not going to create a distraction to citizens,” he said.
Hamilton said there is a natural gas pipeline that is buried underneath the property near where the proposed training facility would be located, and there is a cell tower also in that area.
He said it still needs to be determined if the pipeline or cell tower would cause any problems during construction or use of the facility.
Committee members said they supported the plans and recommended that the entities continue work toward site preparation and planning construction.
“I think this is a great idea and you should move forward with it,” said Alderman Karen Erwin. “It will give these guys a lot of experience that they wouldn’t get anywhere else.”
She asked if the site would be secured.
“We will require it to be secured, said Hamilton, “and our insurance company will require it to be secure.”
Alderman Vicki Jo Hooper questioned if there are any long-range plans to use the city property where the facility is proposed to be built.
City Administrator Russell Rost said the 25-acre lot where the wastewater lagoon is located could eventually have other uses if the city continues toward mechanical wastewater treatment.
He explained that mechanical treatment facilities have a smaller footprint than lagoon plants. Those changes are not likely to occur soon.
“I would say that is way in the future and with huge technological changes for us to use the entire property for wastewater,” he said.
Hamilton said the modular building could be relocated if necessary.
Alderman Dustin Bailey asked if there would be plans to allow access to the Franklin County Sheriff’s Department of Union Ambulance District.
Rost said the sheriff’s office has a training facility and shooting range, and most likely would not need to use the facility.
Brune said he would not object to the ambulance district using the training facility.
He added that the proposed classroom could be utilized in a “major case situation” in which investigators from throughout the area need a place to meet.