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Cops, EMS Say They Need New Training Facility


Law enforcement officers are asking the public to build a new training facility. At an online meeting Thursday, engineers will review 10 possible sites in the Fairbanks area for a new shooting range and ambulance driver training area, and they are looking for public input.

As North Pole’s police chief, Steve Dutra wants to keep current with firearms and emergency preparedness training. But getting the right conditions is difficult. There is a public outdoor range on South Cushman Street near the Tanana River, but training there means closing it to recreational users. And other local ranges, even on military bases, don’t allow such actions as drawing from a holster, or firing from a kneeling or prone position.

“Eielson and Fort Wainwright both have restrictions on their ranges. And we have hundreds of law-enforcement officers in this area, federal, state and local, and there’s not a facility around that can manage all of those agencies, all the requirements, with the facilities they have.”

Dutra has been advocating for a new training range for about three years. Now he is representing the Alaska Peace Officers Association in asking the public to build a new shooting range and emergency vehicle training facility. He wrote a grant to pay for DOWL, an Alaskan engineering and construction support company, to find the best configuration for the facility.

“Right now, there’s nowhere the City of Fairbanks and the state troopers and all the EMS people... they can’t all get together and bring all their equipment and train together.”

That’s Alexa Greene, who works in DOWL’s Fairbanks office. She says 10 sites around Fairbanks and North Pole have been identified by the company, and they will show them to the public at the meeting tonight.

“We did a lot of things, determined by criteria that they gave to us: Availability of the parcel, if it’s a borough parcel or a federal parcel, if it was suitable for the site. The site is humongous.”

Maps of the 10 proposed sites are in the report on the DOWL website.

Greene says the new facility will have outdoor shooting ranges for firearms training, but also classrooms, and heated storage. But another feature is a large, paved area for training with fire trucks and ambulances.

Dutra says he and his staff have trained in rock quarries and gravel pits and the Tanana River dike, and tried driver training and mass casualty training on airport runways, and he says those options are not safe enough.

Credit Alaska Peace Officers Association
Alaska Peace Officers Association
Steve Dutra is North Pole's police chief and president of the Alaska Peace Officers Association.

Officers have gone to Fort Greely or as far as Anchorage to comply with law enforcement license and certification requirements.
“Maybe our messaging on why it’s needed needs to be better. And I think that’s the part we’re going to focus on at this meeting is why do we need a range like this? Well there’s a lot of reasons that I think folks may not consider, because they don’t live in our world.”

Dutra says estimates to build the facility start at $6 million for the first phase of construction that could begin in two years, and about $14 million for the later construction phase after 2023. Then there will be operational and maintenance costs.

“We understand that the funding is tight, currently, at the state level, and we don’t expect all the funding to come at once, or from one source. But we’re starting the process. We’re starting the conversations.”

Online access to tonight’s meeting is on the DOWL website, go to DOWL dot com, slash “outreach.”