Opinion: Former El Paso fire training director continues to oppose plans for new academy site

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By Alan G. Parsons

I recently attended a meeting hosted by the City of El Paso Capital Improvement Department regarding the Joint Training Center for Police and Firefighters to learn more about the project, share ideas and meet the team designing the new joint training center for police and firefighters. This done, my opinion remains the same. Don’t build the new facility in the mountains.

Alan G. Parsons

There are many in municipal government who would have us believe that the Joint Police and Firefighter Training Center should be located in North Hills. They operate behind closed doors which lack the transparency that we as a community not only deserve but demand.

The proposed location will occupy 50 to 100 acres against Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and will be surrounded by 1,400 acres of dedicated open space at a cost of $ 3 million. Compare that to the Lost Dog project which saved 1,200 acres at a cost of $ 12 million. Although 50 to 100 acres were mentioned in the proposal with an initial use of 65 acres, it should now be understood that 300 acres were purchased by the city for the facility.

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The Lost Dog area was decided by a municipal citizens’ vote after an extensive petition process. Why can’t North Hills location be saved the same way?

Sadly, some of those who were instrumental in the Lost Dog process have now joined and are participating in this lack of transparency initiative they were so opposed to. They would have us believe that they are speaking on behalf of all the citizens of El Paso and that this is a golden opportunity to locate the public safety facility which is not only reasonable but a synergistic agreement between all parties involved.

Not so. It is their synergistic accord that suggests that it is only a small sacrificial imprint (their words) on the mountain for a necessary project.

How many small footprints of our beautiful Franklin Mountains must be sacrificed? That’s a good question as we continue to grow as a city. One of the most attractive attractions in El Paso is our magnificent Franklin. When will the decimation end?

Let’s start by looking at all the information provided on this project. There is a lack of valid information, and much of what has been provided is misleading.

I am adamant against this location for a number of reasons, many of which contradict National Fire Protection Association standards which are commonly adopted by the city as necessary for public safety.

The NFPA is a global nonprofit organization established in 1896. Its mission is to reduce the global burden of fires and other risks on quality of life by providing and advocating scientifically based consensus codes and standards, research, training and education. The NFPA is the leader in fire, electrical and life safety standards in this country.

The location of the future training center for police and firefighters in the city of El Paso. (Image courtesy of the City of El Paso)

These standards were trivialized by a member of the administrative staff of the Fire Department. When asked what consideration of the NFPA standards had been analyzed when choosing a location for this project, a deputy chief of the fire department replied that the standards are only suggestions.

They are written and adopted as standards and not as suggestions. Should the fire department follow the standards only when they meet the needs of the department and as suggestions when they do not? The NFPA 1402 Standard for Fire Training Installations and Associated Accessories provides a long list of consensus codes that are not commonly referred to as suggestions. I will focus on those that are most relevant to the location of the site.

The NFPA states that fire training and associated accessories should not be “located next to neighbors who cannot tolerate noise, smoke, lights at night or other disturbances inherent in fire training.”

The Academy’s approved location is 1,162 feet north of the North Hills neighborhood.

The NFPA also states that fire training should be accessible via roads that are not located near residential areas and that the location should be “away from the center of community life to minimize the negative impact on the community. use of adjacent land ”.

The academy’s current approved location is adjacent to the community of North Hills and will be across from the 2,300 acre development of Paul Foster and his partners, a self-contained residential area with 9,500 housing units, schools, stores. , parks, recreational facilities, and commercial. Nearby will be the municipal management district recently approved by the city council, which would be similar to the development of Monticello.

The NFPA says fire training facilities should be “as central as possible to the departments and staff who will use them, to minimize travel time and distance from protection districts.”

I don’t think anyone in El Paso would say the approved location is centrally located. It is not far from the border between Texas and New Mexico.

According to the NFPA, “Vehicle traffic patterns should be investigated and the most convenient route to the training facility should be identified. Heavy and noisy devices should be routed to avoid residential areas. Travel time to the user training center should be taken into account.

The approved location for the academy is only accessible through Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. There are no other options for traffic to access the academy.

The current location was not part of any past or current master plans that I am aware of.

In addition to the NFPA standards, two interesting questions were asked during the meeting.

One question asked for the opinion of police and fire officials as to whether they thought this was a good location. The fire department representative said he thought it was an “excellent” place, saying that since police and firefighters work closely together in the field, they should practice together. Although he answered the question, his answer did not address the question of whether departments can effectively train together elsewhere?

The second question was posed by the president of the El Paso Firefighters Association and referred to funding and whether the increase in costs due to current economic conditions would result in the use of part of the funds provided for joint installation if the site was moved further north near the quarry. The answer was no; the city had to provide and pay for public services wherever they were.

Alan G. Parsons walks with his dogs in the Franklin Mountains. (Photo courtesy of Alan G. Parsons)

Also in attendance were representatives of the City’s Open Space Advisory Board and the Oversight Oversight Advisory Board, who expressed concern that at the 1,500-acre site, the joint facility was at the site. origin more distant from neighboring houses than it seems to be now.

In addition, I am concerned that the stormwater master plan for El Paso Water shows that the two dams in Northeast North Hills are at risk of failing. One dam has a risk value of priority A, the greatest risk, and the other dam has a risk value of priority B, the second greatest risk.

Sadly, the city has once again paved the way for the anger and anger of voters over disrespecting those who try to do good to the citizens of El Paso.

Alan G. Parsons retired from the El Paso Fire Department in 2011 after nearly 30 years of service, including 10 years as Director of the Fire Training Academy. He lives in northeast El Paso, near the site of the proposed training center.

Cover illustration: Artist’s impression of a joint fire and police training facility project in northeast El Paso, courtesy of the City of El Paso.

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