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City shows off evolution of safety academy

By Benjamin Lanka | The Journal Gazette

Five months before it officially opens its doors, the $27 million Public Safety Academy of Northeast Indiana is already making an impression.

City, state and federal officials were given a tour of the 132,000-square-foot academy Thursday, almost a year after its construction started.

Brent Johnson, academy director, showed off the many features that prompt city leaders to tout the academy as being the first of its kind. The building will provide training and education for police, fire, emergency medical services and homeland security.

The city is partnering with Ivy Tech Community College, Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne, Indiana Tech, Taylor University, the University of Saint Francis, Tri-State University and the Anthis Career Center at Fort Wayne Community Schools.

Mayor Graham Richard said the center not only will provide training for existing first responders, but it will also provide a better way to recruit young people into public safety.

“I see this as a talent factory,” he said.

The academy will have an indoor firing range, an auditorium, a full gym and weight room, 17 classrooms and two computer labs. Johnson said many of the features will be open to public use when not being used for training.

Security officials from across the nation lauded the academy Thursday. Michael Miron, director of the State and Local Officials Senior Advisory Committee at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, said the center could serve as an example of initiatives other states could take.

He said the key part of the center is that it allows people from different security agencies to train together. It would not be a good situation if police and fire officials meet each other at an emergency and hadn’t trained together, he said.

“It’s all about building trust and relationships,” he said.

J. Eric Dietz, executive director of the Indiana Department of Homeland Security, said his department’s top goal is to get different security agencies to work together more.

“We don’t want them to train on the incident scene,” he said.

The City Council approved a $24 million bond in 2006 to construct the project. It will be paid from a combination of sources, including $15 million from the state through Ivy Tech, $6.5 million in local income tax money and $3 million in cash on hand, primarily from selling land at the Southtown site. It will not be paid with property taxes, Richard said.

Johnson said the grand opening is scheduled for Nov. 29, and classes are set to begin in January.

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