Fort Worth breaks ground on $97.5 million police, fire complex

Posted Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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City officials broke ground Tuesday on a $97.5 million police and fire training center and headquarters in south Fort Worth.

The center, to open next year, will give the police and fire departments more training capacity, improve and consolidate training now done at an outmoded city facility and outsourced at others, and move the city closer to adding a sixth police patrol division to the fast-growing far North, city officials said.

"This is a great investment and a great way to get a lot of bang for our buck," Councilman Joel Burns, whose district includes the new center, said during a ground-breaking ceremony.

"We will be the envy of the nation," Mayor Betsy Price said.

The city is building the center, scheduled to open next year, on the grounds of the former 75-acre Federal Depot at Hemphill and Felix streets, which Fort Worth purchased for the project.

The city will demolish a half-million square feet of warehouse space, renovate another half-million in two buildings, and add a 60,000-square-foot administration building.

The new indoor police firing range will open by the summer next year, with the remainder of the project scheduled to open later in the year.

The city last year sold its 48-year-old public safety training complex at 1000 Calvert St. to the Tarrant Regional Water District to make way for the Trinity River Vision.

For the police, the new center will add more classroom space, greater technology, and the ability to sell training to outside police agencies. It will include a driving track, enabling police and fire to move that training from Texas Motor Speedway parking lots and other facilities.

The indoor gun range will reduce noise for the complex's neighbors and allow more flexibility in when recruits and officers can use it, Police Chief Jeff Halstead said.

The police "Tactical Alley" will have movable walls, allowing changes in the configuration and letting officers drive into it for simulations.

The current complex has an outdoor range and a simulation center without movable walls. Catwalks in the new center will allow trainers to evaluate recruits and officers from above.

The new center will allow the police to run more and bigger recruit classes - three to four classes of 40-50 recruits per year, Chief Jeff Halstead said. The police today typically run two classes per year of 30 recruits apiece. The latest class graduated 16 recruits Friday, and started at 30, Halstead said.

For the Fire Department, the new center will have facilities for training in confined space, high-rise and other high-angle emergencies, and hazardous materials and other "heavy rescue" situations. It will have burn facilities - that training now is done at TCC and in Cleburne - and pools for swift-water training and dive teams.

The Fire Department now runs much of its classroom training at the Calvert Street complex, and it can still use the drill tower's stairs for training. But the city hasn't run burn training at the complex for years.

The new center will also improve the training Fort Worth's public safety employees do with MedStar, the city's ambulance provider, Fire Chief Rudy Jackson said.

The city is paying for the public safety complex through the sale of certificates of obligation, money from the Fort Worth Crime Control and Prevention District fund, and proceeds from the sale of the police headquarters downtown.

On the plan for the complex, but unfunded, is a fire station. "If there's enough savings in the contract, it would be a top priority," said Randle Harwood, the city's planning and development director.

Also unfunded, but included on the plan, is a children's public safety village and police and fire museum that would be privately funded, said Mark Rauscher, program manager.

The city last year awarded the design and construction contract for the public safety center to The Cornell FW Co. Llc., which designed and built Fort Worth's James Avenue Service Center fleet maintenance facility in 2005.

Scott Nishimura, (817) 390-7808

Twitter: @JScottNishimura

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