The city of Fort Worth broke ground Tuesday on a long-awaited public safety training center.
Fort Worth's fire and police chiefs say the Public Safety Training Facility, which will house both departments' needs, is badly needed.
"This facility will help us get ahead of the game and provide state-of-the-art training," Fire Chief Rudy Jackson said.
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The site is on West Felix Street near Hemphill Street near the Federal Emergency Management Facility. The city will demolish two older wood-constructed buildings on the west side of the 76-acre site, but will refurbish two structures on the eastern side for the training facilities.
"Fort Worth is a state-of-the-art city, and this will be a state-of-the-art training center," Mayor Betsy Price said.
State of the art is not the term you would use to describe the current facility. It has been in use for 48 years and the city and its public service departments have long outgrown it.
"We have a burn building that's been out of service for over 15 years, as well a burn tower," Jackson said. "We have to go to different places and different counties to train just to get the basics."
"We're struggling to complete two (cadet) classes a year," Police Chief Jeffrey Halstead said. "Right now, with the growth of the city, we need to have those class sizes range between 40 and 50, and it's impossible to house that many police recruits in our current facility."
But the $97.4 million project, financed in part by the sale of the old building and the use of grants, will change that. The new facility will including classrooms and offices, a vehicle course, a burn building and an indoor gun range.
In addition to recycling two 70-year-old buildings, many of the new features of the facility are designed at being environmentally friendly. That includes the indoor gun range.
"We can recycle all the materials that we utilize and we can possibly make money from the recycling effort with all the volume of lead deposits," Halstead said.
The mayor said the city could also profit from having other agencies contract to train at the facility. And with citizens wanting improved public safety throughout the city, that is what they will get, Price said.
"The benefit to the citizens is better trained officers, quicker responses," she said. "It's a win-win as we leverage our tax dollars here."
City leaders anticipate that the facility, which will last for another 50 to 100 years, will benefit the neighboring community as well.
The facility is set to be completed by the end of 2014.