Training facility for police officers gets county’s OK
Law-enforcement officers will be chasing “criminals” across about 80 acres in Whitewater by this summer, after Mesa County signed off this week on a construction project to build a new public safety facility that will include a three-quarter-mile pursuit track.
It’s the first phase in a project nearly two decades in the making — creating the region’s only large-scale training campus for law enforcement and related agencies.
The concrete track, skid pad, rubberized barriers and instructor’s tower are initially planned for the property near the intersection of Colorado Highway 141 and U.S. Highway 50, a plot secured by Colorado Mesa University from the Bureau of Land Management.
The track is the central first piece of the project and, when finished, will give police a chance to hone their emergency driving skills at real-life speeds.
“Over the last decade, the second-leading contributor to line of duty deaths for law enforcement officers was actually traffic accidents, just behind gunshot wounds,” Grand Junction Police Chief John Camper said. “So this is extremely critical to us, and extremely critical to the safety of our officers — that they are trained in this kind of emergency driving.”
Mesa County Undersheriff Rebecca Spiess told commissioners Monday the new training campus will be unique and used often by local law enforcement.
“It is so important to our officers to have a place to train,” Spiess said. “Folks don’t realize where we train now — we train in parking lots, abandoned buildings ... wherever we can find a place to train our officers is where we go.”
Subsequent, yet-to-be-funded phases include construction of a pistol range, a simulated city block area with paved cul-de-sacs and roundabouts, a “shoot house” for firearms training, fitness courses, all-terrain vehicle courses and possible live burn areas that local fire departments could use for training.
A roughly $1.38 million contract for the first phase of the project was awarded to Sorter Construction.
Part of that money, $400,000, is coming from a state Department of Local Affairs grant that was awarded in 2007 and extended three times.
The clock is running out on those grant funds, though, as documentation on the project is due by June 30 in order to receive the money.
Seizure funds from the local forfeiture board totaling $630,000 also are being used for the project.
A “funding shortfall” of about $240,000 meant that both the city of Grand Junction and CMU were approached to each contribute $80,000 to the project. The City Council approved the money during its regular meeting Wednesday night, though not without comment from council members.
Councilors Sam Susuras and Tom Kenyon said they supported funding for the training facility, but wanted to know how much more the city would be asked to contribute in future phases. “I just think it’s going to entail a lot of spending in the future,” Susuras said.
The $80,000 was taken from a fund set aside by the city to potentially host a stage of the USA Pro Cycling Challenge, which last year decided against Grand Junction being a stage city for the 2013 race.