Spokane County Sheriff Mark Sterk is proposing the development here of a law-enforcement training complex that could cost as much as $75 million to $100 million.
As envisioned, the training center would occupy a site of 100 to 150 acres on the West Plains and include multiple structures and training areas. It would be called the National Institute for Public Safety Leadership.
We anticipate that 500 to 1,500 individuals would cycle through this training center each week. Obviously, this would bring economic stimulus to the Spokane area, Sterk says in recently circulated documents describing the proposed project.
At a West Plains Chamber of Commerce luncheon last week, Sterk said the facility would be designed to attract law-enforcement trainees not just regionally, but nationally. For that reason, he said, It needs to be a world-class project and facility.
Tentative plans call for the training complex to include pistol, shotgun, and rifle shooting ranges; a firearms-training simulation center; a training village; and areas for hostage-rescue, bomb-technician, and K-9 police dog training. It also would include a large driver-training area, classroom building, 300-seat auditorium, gymnasium, cafeteria, and dormitory housing for 250 to 300 students.
Sterk says his office has submitted a letter to U.S. Rep. George R. Nethercutt, of Spokane, seeking a $10 million appropriation in the 2005 federal fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1, to conduct a feasibility study and plan for the project.
Project backers would seek to tap Homeland Security, anti-terrorism, and other federal funds to cover at least some of the project costs, while also looking for local in-kind matches, documents show.
One big match Sterk is hoping for is a donation by the county of land on which to develop the training center. Tentative plans call for the center to be located on county-owned land west of Spokane International Airport, on the south side of Thorpe Road.
Sterk says his office has set a meeting for next Tuesday at which identified stakeholders in the project will begin hashing out the details of the proposed training center. Thus far, those stakeholders include representatives from a host of local, state, tribal, and federal law-enforcement agencies, and a few others, such as Joanne Murcar, interim dean of instruction at Community Colleges of Spokanes Institute for Extended Learning.
Sterks proposal calls for his office to manage and operate the facility and for Spokane Community College to offer educational training there, including by using culinary-arts and hospitality-program students to provide services at the dormitories. The dormitories would be reserved for students with financial limitations, and most students would stay in Spokane-area hotels and motels, Sterk says.
Because of the potential economic stimulus the training center would provide, the sheriff says project backers will seek the involvement of the Spokane Area Economic Development Council.
We want some private partnerships in this thing, Sterk says.
He contends the proposed facility makes sense because current law-enforcement training facilities are isolated by jurisdiction, which doesnt allow for cohesive, unified training, or are costly for Pacific Northwest agencies to use because they are so far away. He says, for example, that he currently has to send deputies to Alabama for bomb-related training, and would prefer to see that money spent here.
Also, he says, none of the law-enforcement agencies in Eastern Washington, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, or Wyoming has professional weapons-training facilities.
Of the longtime Spokane police academy, located at 2302 N. Waterworks, near Felts Field in East Spokane, he says, Thats a good facility, but its almost at the end of its time.
Tribal law-enforcement agencies simply dont have a training facility available to them, Sterk asserts. He says tribal partners who are supporting the proposed training center here anticipate bringing officers to this facility for training from all of the northern tier states, including Alaska.
Sterk says Spokane County Commissioner Phil Harris is on board on this project, and he says he also has met with and garnered the support of Spokane Airports CEO and Executive Director John Morrison.
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