Officials wonder who will pay for HERO Center

  • Article by: Libor Jany
  • Star Tribune
  • May 24, 2014 - 2:00 PM

Plans to build a po­lice, fire and em­er­gen­cy train­ing center to serve the south­east met­ro are mov­ing a­head, though the ques­tion of how to split the bulk of the pro­ject’s $20 mil­lion tab re­mains un­re­solved.

The pro­ject inched clos­er to re­ali­ty last week when the Leg­is­la­ture al­lo­cat­ed $1.46 mil­lion for pre-de­sign work on the state-of-the-art HERO (Health and Em­er­gen­cy Re­sponse Oc­cu­pa­tions) Center, which will in­clude class­rooms, labs, a driv­ing sim­u­lator and an in­door shoot­ing range in Cottage Grove.

The money was part of the $846 mil­lion bond­ing bill that Gov. Mark Dayton signed on Tues­day.

Construction of the fa­cil­i­ty on a 9-acre site ad­ja­cent to City Hall and the Washington County South Government Center could be­gin some­time af­ter 2017, said Craig Woo­lery, the city’s po­lice chief. Project of­fi­cials plan to seek ad­di­tion­al state fund­ing for the build­ing phase dur­ing the next legis­la­tive ses­sion, Woo­lery said.

Al­though the Cot­tage Grove Police Department has formed a joint ven­ture with Inver Hills Community College and Re­gions Hospital Em­er­gen­cy Medical Services to run the new center, pro­ject of­fi­cials still ha­ven’t worked out how they will pay the $18.54 mil­lion cost of con­struc­tion, said state Sen. Kat­ie Sieben, DFL-Newport.

“How those dol­lars are going to be split up a­mong the dif­fer­ent part­ners and the state is not yet clear,” said Sieben, who lob­bied hard for the program during the legislative session.

Sev­er­al po­lice de­part­ments from Washington and Dakota coun­ties, in­clud­ing Woodbury, Hastings, Newport and St. Paul Park, have signed a let­ter of in­tent to use the fa­cil­i­ty for train­ing and ed­u­ca­tion. Un­der the a­gree­ment, the de­part­ments pledged their sup­port for the pro­ject, said Cottage Grove City Administrator Ryan Schroe­der. “When I say sup­port­ing, I’m talk­ing about mo­ral sup­port, I’m not talk­ing about mon­ey,” Schroe­der said.

The $1.46 mil­lion will be used for a space-needs an­aly­sis of the pro­posed 75,000-square-foot train­ing cen­ter, Woo­lery said. The de­sign phase will last about 18 months, he said.

Op­po­nents of the pro­ject have point­ed to its cost, but of­fi­cials in­sist that such a fa­cil­i­ty is critical for po­lice, fire and em­er­gen­cy ag­en­cies that in­creas­ing­ly pro­vide inter­dis­cip­li­nary train­ing to their employees.

“The only pushback has been re­al­ly un­der­stand­ing what we’re try­ing to ac­com­plish,” Woo­lery said. “I guess we’re col­or­ing out­side the lines, but we’re also try­ing to be good stew­ards of tax dol­lars.”

He said there is a need “for this vir­tual, flex­i­ble train­ing space that ac­tu­al­ly could han­dle train­ing a num­ber of dif­fer­ent dis­ci­plines, wheth­er it be po­lice, fire or EMS.”


Libor Jany • 651-925-5033


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