Public safety training center proposed for Paso Robles

Neighborhood impact fees paid by builders would pay for the facility, which would include a shooting range, fitness course and classroom

tstrickland@thetribunenews.comAugust 22, 2013 

A new public safety training center with a steel fire training tower, urban search-and-rescue training equipment and a police shooting range is in the works on Paso Robles’ east side.

Now in its initial stages, the vision is to build a facility for the city’s firefighters, paramedics and police. The project would be built in phases over the next five to 10 years as money becomes available, according to the city.

Funding would come from neighborhood impact fees that builders pay for fire services when new developments come to town. The city will also likely seek grants, officials said.

“It’s going to be quite an addition, a great utilization of property we already own and a great benefit to all of northern San Luis Obispo County,” said Mayor Duane Picanco.

Preliminary plans also call for a fitness course, K-9 training area, classroom with office space and parking. Emergency personnel from other local communities could use it, too, officials said.

The project, which city planners say doesn’t have an estimated cost yet, would be built on a nearly 13-acre plot that once contained the sewer plant for the state’s former Paso Robles Youth Authority juvenile detention center near Airport and Dry Creek Roads.

The plant, percolation ponds and other related infrastructure would be removed to make way for the project.

The fire training tower and police shooting range were originally slated to go into the city’s downtown Emergency Services Center, where the Police and Fire Departments operate today.

“Both were eventually eliminated from the plans as we worked to bring the project in at budget. That occurred in approximately 1999 during the design phase,” said Fire Department Battalion Chief Kevin Taylor.

Eventually, the need for better police training services prompted city planners to find a new site that everyone could use. Transfer of the property from the state to the city was dependent on it becoming an emergency services training facility, city planners say.

And the need for one is evident in the city.

Firefighters train currently in city streets and at occupied or vacant buildings within the community, according to Taylor, which isn’t ideal. Meanwhile, police train at what Lt. Ty Lewis describes as a dated firing range near the Paso Robles Municipal Airport.

“We hope the new training area will provide for more contemporary training opportunities such as a (indoor) shoot house (and) configurable targeting systems,” he said.

At its Aug. 20 meeting, the City Council awarded a $102,500 contract to HMC Architects to start planning the center. The San Francisco-based firm was one of seven companies that submitted proposals after the city sought bids in May.

The agreement will determine the estimated cost of the project and lay out other function and design plans. The contract money also came from impact fees builders paid for fire services. A construction timeline is not available yet.

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