A new way to train: Columbus’ Public Safety Training building taking shape

Columbus hopes its new Public Safety Training Facility will become a regional destination for fire and police departments to provide state-of-the-art training methods to first responders around the state.

A sneak peek of the new facility under construction in the Columbus Municipal Airpark shows that there is plenty of interior work and landscaping still ahead, with the facility possibly being finished early this summer.

Columbus Fire Chief Mike Compton led several first responders, police officers and city officials through the 12,000-square-foot building under construction at 2670 Verhulst St. on March 15.

When groundbreaking was held one year ago this month, it was estimated the project’s first phase, which included the building’s shell and roof, would cost about $274,000.

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Compton said with assistance from the city’s Department of Public Works, the phase one expenses were limited to about $207,000.

Another organization that helped keep the price tag down was the Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE) local chapter, Columbus Mayor Jim Lienhoop said.

The cost of the second and final phase of construction, which includes site plan items, is expected to reach $513,000, which will raise the investment into the entire project to about $720,000, Compton said.

“The cost is more than initially estimated,” said Columbus Finance Operations and Risk Manager Jamie Brinegar. “However, the facility has grown about 50 percent larger than anticipated. So our costs are between 50 to 60 percent higher that we initially anticipated.”

The city is still within the budget it established for the project, and the facility has been constructed to require a minimum amount of maintenance, Brinegar said.

By expanding the training facility 50 percent larger than planned, the city will ensure it will attract a wide variety of first-responder organizations from throughout a large section of Indiana, said Mary Ferdon, the city’s executive director of administration and community development.

Besides firefighters, potential clients include police officers, emergency medical technicians and even companies who need to train their own public safety personnel, Ferdon said.

Similar training facilities for Hoosier first responders are in Valparaiso and Terre Haute, Ferdon said.

“There is a big void in having a high-quality training facility in this region,” Ferdon said. “We have had a lot of agencies who have been talking to us about potentially using this facility.”

By building on a six-acre campus with an already established burn tower and firing range, rentals of the state-of-the-art public safety training facility will mean the city can expect to eventually make its entire investment back, as well as as establish funds for possible expansion, Lienhoop said.

As visitors walk in the front door, they see administrative offices to the right, with a break room just beyond the front lobby.

Two classrooms capable of each holding about 30 students each will be used for conventional instruction, but one room on the west side will contain a police shooting simulator with video screen, said Columbus Police Chief Jon Rohde.

CPD already rents out these types of simulators on a regular basis because it proves effective in officers sharpening in their decision-making capabilities and improving their accuracy, Rohde said.

A similar room on the east side of the building will serve as an Emergency Medical Services lab, where different levels of training ranging from refresher courses to full emergency medical technician instruction may be offered, including responding to coronary problems, Compton said.

At this stage, the northern half of the building currently appears similar to an 8,000 square foot gymnasium. That area will be where agility and other physical testing can be done on a year-round basis, Compton said.

[sc:pullout-title pullout-title=”About the building” ][sc:pullout-text-begin]

What: Columbus’ new Public Safety Training Facility

Where: 2670 Verhulst St., in the Columbus Airpark on the north side of the city

Size: 12,000-square-feet

Estimated total cost: $720,000

Estimated time of completion: By summer