By Debby Woodin
Renovated space at the old Joplin Regional Airport terminal will become a temporary location for a public safety training center.
Police Chief Lane Roberts on Monday night received authorization from the City Council in its informal session to proceed with laying the groundwork for setting up the training center.
Roberts told the council that the center, one of the projects to be financed with the half-cent public safety sales tax, was to have been started by now. But the land where the city intended to build the training center, along Missouri Highway 171 south of the airport grounds, has been used for temporary homes for residents displaced by the 2011 tornado.
Additionally, once the property is available again to the city, it will take about 18 months to build a permanent center, Roberts said. The rest of the mobile homes placed on the property by the Federal Emergency Management Agency are to be removed after June. All of the displaced residents will have been relocated into more permanent homes by then.
The city has made repairs to the former airport terminal on the airport’s general aviation grounds. Recently, the city advertised a request for proposals for a college to operate the training center. No proposals were received.
“While there may still be some potential for cooperation with the colleges on specific items or programs, the envisioned collaboration with the public safety training center is apparently not feasible,” Roberts told the council. “Nonetheless, the need to properly train Joplin public safety personnel remains critical.”
Roberts presented a proposed floor plan that shows much of the main floor of the old terminal converted to classrooms, offices and a conference center. It is estimated that the cost to build walls and do the finish work would be $31,000 above what the city has spent on the building’s rehabilitation. Roberts said that money could come from the public safety tax fund.
Desks, chairs and other furnishings and equipment will have to be purchased, but they can be moved to the permanent center later, Roberts said.
Training fields would have to be set up. Those would include an open field search area, props for hazardous materials training, metal and glass wreckage areas, obstacle courses for SWAT officers, and a K-9 training site.
In order to get ready to start a temporary center, the chief said, a lease agreement would have to be prepared between the city and the center for use of the airport terminal. There would be construction of classrooms, office space and training fields along with budgetary planning.
Fire Chief Mitch Randles said the fire training section of the center would require that a driving pad be set up this year. Other fire training fields could be put in next year with the city’s regular budgeting steps, he said.
The council voted informally to proceed with preparations. Roberts intends to have the center ready for occupancy in July.
The half-cent public safety sales tax was approved by voters in 2006 in order to fund more police officers and firefighters, and to equip and train them.
Old terminal tenants
OTHER TENANTS at the old airport terminal will be Alpha Air, a fixed-base operator for private aircraft; and the Civil Air Patrol, which will have training and meeting space in the basement.