Highway Patrol suggests new training centerBISMARCK (AP) — North Dakota’s Highway Patrol wants to replace its Bismarck training center, a proposal that arrives just months after the Legislature refused to approve spending $4.1 million for a new driving course and shooting range at the facility.
By: Dale Wetzel, The Dickinson Press
BISMARCK (AP) — North Dakota’s Highway Patrol wants to replace its Bismarck training center, a proposal that arrives just months after the Legislature refused to approve spending $4.1 million for a new driving course and shooting range at the facility.
The idea may touch off competition among North Dakota cities to host the center, which would be equipped to train law enforcement officers, firefighters and other emergency workers.
Among those already lobbying is Grand Forks, which recently built a public safety training center that would satisfy almost all of the patrol’s needs, said state Rep. Curt Kreun, R-Grand Forks. He is also a Grand Forks city councilman who oversees the city’s police and fire departments.
“Right now, I believe we have just about a complete training facility, as far as classrooms go, as far as outdoor facilities go, for both police and fire, to accommodate almost all of the needs of the Highway Patrol,” Kreun said.
The existing 40-year-old facility is formally known as the Law Enforcement Training Academy. It is used primarily to school new Highway Patrol officers, who live in dormitory space while undergoing more than 20 weeks of training. The academy graduated its newest class of a dozen troopers last week.
Eager to keep the center, the City of Bismarck has agreed to donate 25 acres of land to the proposed replacement project. The property on the eastern outskirts of Bismarck, south of the city landfill, is valued at $2 million, Bismarck City Commissioner Parrell Grossman said.
The existing academy is on the south edge of the Bismarck State College campus. Lawmakers approved $1.2 million in additions in 1995, which included new dorm rooms, classrooms and an administrative office.
Because the center lacks a firing range, the Highway Patrol relies on a private range and a facility operated by the state Department of Corrections. The patrol uses a college parking lot to provide emergency driving instruction to troopers and other law officers.
Gov. Jack Dalrymple’s budget recommendations to the 2011 Legislature included $4.1 million to build the gun range and driving course. Lawmakers opted instead for a study of law enforcement training needs.
Rep. Jeff Delzer, R-Underwood, chairman of the North Dakota House’s Appropriations Committee, said the study will explore what training resources are available in the state, including police and National Guard facilities, that might suit the Highway Patrol’s needs.
A new training complex, with equipment and features needed for police, firefighters and emergency workers, could cost $26 million or more to build, Delzer said.
Rep. Todd Porter, R-Mandan, said the project could include space for the state Bureau of Criminal Investigation, the Highway Patrol’s district offices and precincts for the Bismarck police department and the Burleigh County sheriff’s office.
“It’s something we should look at as being a one-time project that covers all of those areas, rather than have those increased costs of doing something over periods of time,” Porter said. “That whole thing, wrapped into one project, makes way more sense to me than to just do little pieces here and there.”
Kreun said the Grand Forks Public Safety Center, which opened in July 2008, has most of the features the Highway Patrol and other emergency services personnel would need.
It has a firing range; a tower where police can practice building entries and firefighters can train to fight fires in taller buildings; and structures designed for practicing rescues from ponds, collapsed trenches and confined spaces, such as sewer pipes and tunnels beneath buildings.