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Training Center Funding; New Ideas and Old Favorites

It has been my experience of that federal and state funding avenues for public services training facilities are generally difficult to come by. Many government agencies take the approach that facilities (bricks and mortar) are the responsibility of the local jurisdiction. Most government grants address equipment, public education, and consumable supply needs. Below are descriptions of alternative funding resources that Ifeel are worthy of review and consideration.

Local and State Bonds

Many governmental entities commonly fund capital projects through the issuance of bonds. There are many advantages to bonds for both the issuer and the buyer (or investor). BACKGROUND - Bonds are issued by state and local governments, also called municipalities, to raise money for public works projects like the construction and maintenance of bridges, public safety training centers and water treatment facilities. A bond issuer (the municipality) sells the bond to the bond holder (the investor). The bond holder lends the issuer a fixed amount of money for a certain amount of time in exchange for regularly scheduled interest payments. Municipal bonds are one of the safest long-term investments. Municipal bonds are exempt from federal, state and local income taxes if you live in the issuing municipality. Since 1913, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has allowed investors to withhold paying income tax on any earnings from municipal bonds. When the interest rates for municipal bonds are higher than for Treasury bills, an investor earns significantly more especially money since earnings are not taxed.

An excellent resource of a successful training center bond is the West Metro Fire District in Lakewood Colorado. In 2006 voters approved an initiative which allowed the fire district to sell $43 million dollars of construction bonds for new fire stations and a fire training center. A synopsis of the West Metro bond effort may be found at: Identifying Alternative Funding Sources To Ensure Sustainability

State Funding Alternatives

Some states, such as Wyoming, have developed specialized funding programs that are available to county and local governments. Sources of the funding vary from state to state; in Wyoming it is derived largely from mineral resources. For example: In Wyoming the State Land Investment Board (SLIB) administers the Mineral Royalty Grant (MRG) Program and the Countywide Consensus (CWC) Grants Program. The MRG awards grant to:

  • Alleviate an emergency situation which poses a direct and immediate threat to public health, safety or welfare.
  • To comply with federal or state mandates.
  • To provide an essential public service.

Special Legislation

Minnesota - Funding for a public safety training facility was included in an $846 million bonding bill in the state of Minnesota. Within the bond was $1.46 million for a public safety and education training center. The funding can be used for design plans. The overall training center project is budgeted at $20 million. A key consideration (and important selling point) was the regional aspect of the project. The center will cater to EMS, police and fire personnel, the local community college, and regional hospital.

Oregon - In Oregon a 280-acre land mass was zoned as farm land. By special state legislation the land was re-considered as an essential location for a public services training facility. This legislation will allow for the construction of a public services training center on the 280-acre parcel.

Federal Grants

A large share of grants for emergency service agencies comes from the federal government. This funding generally flows through to each state and then on to local governments. Below is a summary of the popular, and now considered the more traditional, federal grant programs for emergency responders.

Assistance To Firefighters Grants Program (AFG) - The AFG program office offers three grant opportunities in each year. AFG "fire grant" funds are used by the nation's firefighters and first responders to increase the effectiveness of firefighting and emergency response operations. The government web site for the AFG grant program is: http://www.fema.gov/firegrants/

“Primary Goal —To provide assistance to meet the emergency response needs of fire departments and nonaffiliated EMS organizations.”

The three current grant programs within the AFG are:

  • Assistance to Firefighters Grants - The primary goal of the Assistance to Firefighters Grants (AFG) is to meet the firefighting and emergency response needs of fire departments and nonaffiliated emergency medical service organizations. Since 2001, AFG has helped firefighters and other first responders to obtain critically needed equipment, protective gear, emergency vehicles, training, and other resources needed to protect the public and emergency personnel from fire and related hazards. The Fiscal Year (FY) 2014 appropriation for this grant was $306,000,000, the proposed FY 2015 appropriation is also $306,000,000.[1]
  • Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response Grants - The Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response Grants (SAFER) was created to provide funding directly to fire departments and volunteer firefighter interest organizations in order to help them increase the number of trained, "front line" firefighters available in their communities. The goal of SAFER is to enhance the local fire departments' abilities to comply with staffing, response and operational standards established by the NFPA (NFPA 1710 and/or NFPA 1720).
  • Fire Prevention and Safety Grants - The Fire Prevention and Safety (FP&S) Grants support projects that enhance the safety of the public and firefighters from fire and related hazards. The primary goal is to reduce injury and prevent death among high-risk populations. In 2005, Congress reauthorized funding for FP&S and expanded the eligible uses of funds to include Firefighter Safety Research and Development.

Law Enforcement is fortunate to have a long standing history of grant programs. Most grants are listed two specific web sites.1) the Department of Justice Funding Resource Center and 2) the Department of Justice Training Assistance Program.

Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) office is currently administering a study to assess the rural law enforcement training needs. The study will support the Rural Policing Institute, FLETC, US department of Homeland Security in determining how to most effectively allocate federal resources for training law enforcement professionals. The results of this study were published in the fall of 2010. These are just a few of the resources available to law enforcement, but it is the best place to start.

Unique Funding Partnerships

Community College/Public Safety Partnerships - Once a new trend, this has now become a common avenue for potential training center funding. An excellent example of a Community College/Public Safety Partnership is in California. During the project the community college paid for the construction of a new multimillion dollar training center on land owned by the local fire district. In exchange for the land, the district will receive priority access to a state-on-the art facility.

Regional training benefits and funding opportunities through a community college partnership can also lead to offsetting annual Operations and Maintenance (O&M) costs. For example, a community college can offer a variety of education and training opportunities from a regional level. Several forms of revenue, including community college full-time equivalent (FTE), certificate fees, and continuing education fees could be derived from those classes and that revenue could help offset a portion of the training center’s operation and maintenance costs.

Non Public Safety Partnerships

Partnering by way of joining public safety agencies (police/fire) with “civilian departments” is a solid concept that should be explored. For example, a metropolitan city in the northwest has a training center that is shared by the fire department and city public works. Both entities can share in the use and maintenance of the classroom and training props.

Trade Apprentice Programs

In California a police agency needed an expansion of its EVOC track. They had land available but no funding for capital improvements to their training center. The agency created an agreement with the local heavy equipment earth moving apprentice program. In exchange for space to train new apprentice workers the union graded land for the new driving track. This resulted in a savings of several hundred thousand dollars and valuable work experience for the apprentice student workers.

Public Private Partnerships (P3)

A P3 is an arrangement whereby a government (city, county or state) enters into a business venture with a private business. A P3 can take several forms. For a training center project the private business may take the responsibility for construction of the center in exchange for the government entity’s commitment to use and pay fees over a set period of time, say 25-to-30 years. An example of a training center P3 is underway in Fort Worth, Texas. The city has released a P3, Request for Proposal, which includes indoor and outdoor firing ranges, indoor tactical training, classrooms, administrative offices, an emergency vehicle operators course, gym, fitness area, dive training, K-9 training, and a two-story and eight-story burn building.

[1] http://www.fema.gov/media-library-data/1409324940967-80130c67e7d97dd49225983e9e4a0d59/FY14%20AFG%20Workshop_508.pdf

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