There are many creative ideas and strategies when planning a fire or police department training center. Fire and Police Chiefs are continually searching for ways to generate funds for new or improved training centers, improve technologies, and prepare for the eventual unexpected expenses that come with facility operations.
In past articles I have outlined the importance of planning for the two cost groups that must be addressed; 1) Money for construction and design, 2) Money for operations and maintenance (O&M).
When considering funding for a new public safety training facility neither expense groups can be overlooked. Both of equally important. Construction and design come first of course and on many occasions are provided by CIP budgets, or bonds. O&M funding is an on-going expense that will continue and increase with each budget cycle.
Following are outlines and key points for consideration during the Strategic Business Planning stage:
#1 – Money for Land, Design and Construction
The Strategic Business Plan will identify these costs very early in the project planning process.
- Land Cost (acre is around the size of a football field)
- Design Cost (10% of construction)
- Other Costs, such as permitting, (10% of construction)
- Cost for actual construction (this can vary depending on location). In most cases construction costs are based on costs and building square footage. For example a 20,000 square foot administration/classroom building may cost $3.00 per S. F.
- Infrastructure cost should be identified early in the planning process. For example roads, utilities to the site, earth moving, etc.
#2 – Annual Operations and Maintenance (O&M)
Both Expense Groups are important, however many times the O&M costs are overlooked or misunderstood in the early stages of planning.
The cost to operate a police or fire training center is often difficult for departments to determine. For example:
How many staff members or sub-contractors are needed to keep a training center operational and running efficiently?
What are the estimated yearly expenses for necessities such as electricity, water, janitorial services, maintenance and other elements necessary for a smooth-running operation?
What are the true costs of fuel for the live-burn fire props or the cost to run the air ventilation system at the indoor shooting range?
- Utilities; electrical , water, etc
- Training consumable costs, such as shooting range air ventilation, live fire burn props
- Specialized training equipment warranty programs
- Unexpected damage cost – barrier walls, leaking roof
- Future Improvements
- Dedicated staffing costs
- “Capital Reserve Fund” for equipment replacement/modernization
It’s Gonna Happen !
The core mission and challenges of maintaining and operating a public safety training does not change. There are these guarantees:
- Costs will go up.
- Budgets will go down.
- Training delivery can never be compromised.
- Job risks will never diminish.
- No day is ever the same.
- Challenges never cease.
Based on our twenty-plus years of experience of developing Strategic Business Plans for Public Safety Training Centers we have assisted many agencies in developing their training centers. In many cases money for construction was the easy part. Now with possible budget cutbacks and layoffs, departments are faced with finding creative ways of maintaining training mandates and at the same time trying to pay the utility bills, and keep training equipment operational. We have helped training center managers re-think and modify their daily operational activities and policies. There is no one solution or “silver bullet” that can be applied to all training center sustainability challenges. As with most things successful training center operations will come down to hard work and commitment.