Construction is underway for the new public safety training facility adjacent to the Denton police station on Hickory Street.
The project has been on the sidelines for several years because of a lack of funding and poor economic conditions, but for the past six weeks, construction crews have been on site after the City Council awarded a $1.6 million contract to Schmoldt Construction in April.
Dating as far back as 1999, the Denton police and fire departments decided it was more efficient to have a joint training facility as opposed to each having its own.
Lt. Mike Beutner, who oversees administrative services for Denton police, said that while the facility is scaled down from what was previously discussed, there are always future opportunities to cover more training needs, especially for the fire department.
Fred Geiser, project superintendent with Schmoldt Construction, said he has previously overseen construction of the Alabama State Department of Corrections and this would be his second “public safety” project.
Once construction is complete, more than 26,000 square feet in a 40,000-square-foot building will be renovated. In addition to the construction costs, $1.9 million in grants form the Department of Justice will help outfit the building with new equipment.
The renovations will include a fitness room, a defensive tactics room, four classrooms that can be opened up to form two larger rooms and a “use of force” room, to name a few.
The defense tactics room, Beutner said, will have thicker walls and wrestling mats will cover the floors and go up the walls.
“This will help in many ways — it gets rough in there,” he said.
Beutner said officers currently train at the Optimist Club on North Elm Street and he is very grateful for their hospitality.
“It will be nice though once we have our own room to provide to officers or any surrounding agency,” he said.
While the facility is primarily built for Denton police and fire personnel, the Denton County Sheriff’s Office provided $300,000 last year in drug forfeiture money with an agreement they could use the center for five years.
Sheriff William Travis said in a prepared statement that he appreciates the city of Denton for partnering with the sheriff’s office to offer the best and most up-to-date training possible.
“I certainly look forward to this joint training venture,” he said.
The simulation room, where two side-by-side driving simulators will be, is something Battalion Chief Mark Mason said he is looking forward to.
As a member of the evaluation committee representing the fire department, Mason said he believes the driving simulators will be very effective for training purposes at the fire station.
“Studies have shown they [the simulators] can help produce fewer accidents on our roadways,” he said.
The simulators can represent a fire engine, fire truck, ambulance and various police cars, officials said.
Sgt. Brian Simmons, training coordinator for Denton police, said once the facility is fully operational, the classroom space will allow the city to host specialized training experts from around the country.
“With us hosting, it will save us training costs and our officers can attend for free,” he said.
The facility is expected to be able to host classes by the fall and fully equipped no later than February of next year, city officials said.
MEGAN GRAY can be reached at 940-566-6885 and via Twitter at @MGrayNews.