The city of St. Paul and the St. Paul Port Authority plan to seal a partnership next week to develop a long-awaited police training facility near police headquarters that will include an indoor firing range, classrooms and maintenance areas.
The $18 million project, which will renovate and expand an office-warehouse building at 600 Lafayette Road, will begin next year and be finished by 2017, city finance director Todd Hurley said.
And it will be launched with a $3 million gift from an anonymous donor “that cares deeply about the safety and security of the city of St. Paul and about the police as well,” Police Chief Tom Smith said.
A new training facility for the department, Smith added, “has been languishing out there since 2003 when we moved our main headquarters building from downtown to Grove Street. This is a big need for the organization.”
Police for years used the annex across the street from the downtown headquarters for training, maintenance and communication purposes.
But the Penfield apartment complex now occupies the former headquarters site, and city officials have been anxious to clear the deteriorating annex to make room for adjacent Pedro Park.
St. Paul has sought state bonding for a new facility for years without much luck. Some suggested that the city share space with the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office, but police insisted they needed their own facility to ensure an adequate amount of shooting time for the department’s 615 sworn officers and 170 civilians.
Several sites were looked at and rejected, either because they were taxpaying properties or expensive to develop. Then the owner of the Lafayette Road property, which is tax exempt, indicated a willingness to sell. The anonymous donation covered the $1.485 million price tag.
“It’s only a stone’s throw away from headquarters,” Smith said, just northeast of downtown St. Paul.
Under the terms of the deal, the Port Authority on Tuesday will contract to buy the building, pull a $15 million construction loan to renovate and expand it, and then sell the facility to the city.
The authority also will arrange for demolition of the downtown annex building.
On Wednesday, the City Council is expected to pass a resolution to buy the finished building from the Port Authority with the proceeds of public safety bonds it will issue in 2017. Hurley said that the city is hiring the authority, in effect, for its development expertise.
“We’ve got a ton of confidence that the Port Authority will do a nice job delivering this project,” he said.
Besides the firing range, the new facility would provide classrooms and space to train police in such areas as crisis intervention, data practices, child protection and report writing. The department’s maintenance work also would be done there.
Last year, St. Paul officers and civilians underwent more than 30,000 hours of training. Besides St. Paul, 10 other local law enforcement agencies use the department’s firing range. More than 200 agencies also take classes through the St. Paul Police Professional Development Institute.
“We really have some sort of training going on every day, not only our own staff but other departments. The entire training unit is crammed right now,” Smith said.