City And County Officials Work Out Plans For Law Enforcement Training Center
Members of the Wichita City Council and Sedgwick County Commission met Tuesday morning to discuss the location of a new, shared law enforcement training center. The current facility is housed in a former elementary school, and city officials say the space is too small and outdated.
The City of Wichita and Sedgwick County have been trying to build a new joint law enforcement training center for years, but an agreement has been elusive. Back in March, the city expressed interest in placing the center on Wichita State’s campus. However, the county was still weighing that option with three other bids, including two that were cheaper.
To clear up the confusion and finally nail down a location, the city and county called a rare public meeting.
Tuesday's meeting started with Wichita Police Chief Gordon Ramsay, who said the current training center, which has been housed in a school building since 1985, isn’t meeting the department's needs.
“You can also notice that the sinks and facilities are really built for [an] elementary school," Ramsay said. "They never changed out many of the internal items. This was supposed to be a short-term plan.”
Photographs show mold on piping, cracks in walls and water leaks from the roof. Above all else, Ramsay says the building is just too small. So, the county put out a request for bids. They received four unique plans for a new training center. The option that included Wichita State wasn’t the cheapest, which concerns Commissioner Jim Howell, but he’s now on board.
“The best deal for the taxpayer is probably to get the best, state of the art facility for the least cost to the taxpayers," Howell said. "But WSU offers some things that the other sites didn’t offer, in terms of its location and its connection with the criminal justice program at WSU.”
By the end of the meeting, both the city and county voted unanimously to go ahead with the Wichita State plan. The agreement was significant, as the two parties have had disagreements about other joint ventures, like funding levels for the low-income health care program Project Access, as well as a countywide sales tax that the city wanted a larger share of. Wichita Mayor Jeff Longwell says the meeting was a success and that he’s happy with the outcome.
“The most important aspect of this is to provide the best training that we can possibly provide for those public safety officials that risk their lives every day," he said.
Although the city and the county have endorsed the Wichita State plan, both will need to formally vote on the matter to make it official. The city has stated previously that they’re willing to pay $5 million of the roughly $9.5 million bill; Wichita State also plans to help with operating costs.
The county will have more access to the City of Wichita’s firefighter training facility as a result of Tuesday’s meeting.
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