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Center would pool resources for emergency training

May 21, 2010|By HEATHER KEELS
  • Washington County Sheriff Douglas W. Mullendore spoke Thursday at a meeting where about 100 people heard details on a proposal to establish a public safety training center at Hagerstown Community College
By Joe Crocetta, Staff Photographer

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- A combined facility for police, fire and emergency medical training would allow public safety agencies to pool their resources, improve coordination and help keep pace with the demands of a growing county, public safety officials said at a meeting Thursday night.

About 100 people attended the meeting at Hagerstown Community College to hear details about the proposed training facility, which would be built on the HCC campus. A 58-page concept paper prepared by a study group was distributed at the meeting.

HCC President Guy Altieri said Maryland Fire and Rescue Institute (MFRI) training programs would continue to be offered for free, but would be held in a more convenient and upgraded facility.

In addition to the free courses, Altieri said HCC would consider offering a for-credit fire science certificate or associate degree program.

HCC already offers an associate degree and two certificate programs in administration of justice, including a certificate in correctional services. Police academy training would be held at the new training center and could be applied toward certificate or degree programs, the report says.

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The center would train more than 2,000 people per year, Altieri said.

The report recommends building the training center in two phases. The first phase -- a 16,000-square-foot building with classrooms, a computer lab and a large meeting room -- would cost about $8.3 million, the report says. The second phase -- a 8,000-square-foot building with a fitness room, simulation room, defensive tactics training space and audio/visual studio, would cost about $4.4 million, for a total project cost of about $12.7 million.

HCC would donate the land for the center, Altieri said.

Funding the project will require a combination of federal, state and county dollars, Altieri said, calling for local officials to work together to lobby for state and federal support.

"My sense in talking to a number of those people, both at the state of Maryland and at the federal level, is this is the kind of thing they would love to champion, so I think the opportunities are very, very good for getting the dollars we would need for this," Altieri said.

The fact that Washington County does not already have a combined training facility will help put its funding request ahead of requests from other locales seeking funds to upgrade existing training facilities, he said.

The report estimates the training facility will cost about $644,727 per year to operate. It calls for local government to establish a public safety training fund that would contribute $250,000 to $350,000 a year. Other operational support would come from HCC and from tuition and fees, the report says.

Sheriff Douglas W. Mullendore said local officials visited a training center in Howard County, Md., to get ideas for the project. That facility includes simulation settings such as a motel room, convenience store and prison cells for use in training exercises, Mullendore said.

Howard County's facility also includes tabletop replicas of different areas of the county and a workout area where members of different emergency agencies get to know each other, Hagerstown Police Chief Arthur Smith said.

Smith said the training facility would allow the department to increase its in-service training, which he said is "minimal" now.

Glenn Fishack, president of the Washington County Volunteer Fire and Rescue Association, said he was "pretty sold on the idea" of the combined facility because it would be centrally located, top-notch and would continue to offer MFRI training for free.

Currently, much fire training involves out-of-county travel to Cresaptown, Md., in Allegany County, and to College Park, Md., according to the report.

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