Crestwood board approves design of police building
By MIKE ANTHONY
A schematic design for a new police station with a total project budget of $8.7 million recently was approved by the Crestwood Board of Aldermen.
Aldermen voted 6-1 last week to approve the schematic design and the pro-ject budget. Ward 3 Alderman Don Maddox was opposed, while Ward 2 Alderman Gary Vincent was absent.
Before the vote was taken, Maddox had voiced concerns about the $505,000 estimated cost of a firing range proposed for the new police station, saying he didn't believe the need for the firing range could be justified.
But City Administrator Don Greer, who also serves as police chief, said the firing range is a very valuable training tool. The firing range would include a simulator, a computer-based program that provides a more realistic approach to training, he said.
The schematic design calls for a 29,197-square-foot police station and a re-configured and improved parking lot between the new station and the existing City Hall.
The $8.7 million project budget also includes more than $963,000 for renovations to City Hall.
In November, the city issued $9.83 million worth of bond-like certificates of participation to fund the project. The certificates will be retired over a 20-year period with revenue from the city's half-cent capital-improvement sales tax.
Noting the cost of $505,000 for the firing range, Maddox asked, "What is the justification for us having a firing range?''
Greer said, "The justification is that it's a training facility. It's something that we've used for a number of years to train, I would hesitate to compare us to someone else, I have a tendency to hold the officers of the Crestwood Police Department to a higher standard than most do. It's a well-used product. We train on it. We use it frequently. Almost any new police officer that comes to us has to be re-trained because of the difference in the manner that they're trained at the academy because of the type of weapon that we carry. So I find that to be very useful.''
Maddox said, "... I know that our officers need to carry weapons. They need to know how to use their weapons, but I frankly question a cost of almost 10 percent of this facility for that purpose, especially when you consider that $500,000 really costs us probably an additional $400,000 in interest costs for the life of this bond ... because the cost is not just $500,000, it's the interest cost for 20 years.''
Maddox continued, "... To have the firing range costs over $900,000 for the term of this project. I just don't see that it's justified. Our officers need to know how to use their weapons. I presume that they learn how to use their weapons when they're going through their initial training. I'm sure that they need to fire their weapons occasionally to keep in sync. Other police departments I'm sure also fire, but they probably go to some course nearby. I know that there is one in the county nearby. My guess is our officers and hopefully they don't, but they've probably not drawn their weapons in the line of duty for a considerable period of time, you know, much less fire them in the line of duty.''
Greer said, "I would disagree with that. I mean I'm with you on the firing, but I'm not so sure that I would agree with you that they have not drawn their weapons in the line of duty.''
Noting that Crestwood has an "extremely low'' crime rate, he continued, "We're very fortunate. We're all residents and we all enjoy that. But please do not make the assumption of thinking that the Crestwood Police Department does not come in contact with real criminals ...''
In response to a question from Ward 1 Alderman Richard LaBore, Greer later noted that when other departments use Crestwood's existing firing range, the city is reimbursed for the time of one city officer who monitors the use of the range, but wear and tear on the facility has not been recovered in the past.
But Greer added, "... The entire concept of the firing range simulator was one of providing an opportunity to enhance or increase the opportunities for the police officers to train under different circumstances and I would approach that, should we move in the direction of acquiring that piece of equipment, I would approach that with the idea of recovering the costs associated with that by allowing other departments to come in and use that and come up with a rate to try to recover the costs or at least a major portion of that over the life expectancy of the unit ...''
LaBore also asked Greer, "If what amounts to about 8.5 percent of the total cost, namely the $505,000, were removed from the budget and the plan, what impact does that have on the whole financing of this program, which is already in place?''
Greer replied, "If the question is related to whether we would be able to reduce our debt-service payment, then the answer is 'no,' we would not — not in the immediate future ... I do believe there might be some point down the road, several years down the road, where we could prepay or pay back, use that money to pay back.''
Ward 4 Alderman Tom Fagan later asked, "... Is the firing range a luxury, a necessity or somewhere in between?''
Greer said, "Somewhere in between. It's a very valuable training tool and it's one we take advantage of. I mean it does not sit empty. It's very widely and popularly used. It affords us the opportunity to train and test. Yes, police officers come out of the academy having been schooled on firing a weapon — in some cases, even the same weapon that we carry. My officers also retrain those new employees to carry the weapon and then fire it in the manner in which I prefer it be carried and fired, and I think the difference is incredibly important for both the safety of the public and the officer.''
After further discussion, LaBore noted the simulator involves more than shooting practice, but "practice in judgment. I've had some little small experience with the simulator here in the academy and it is overwhelmingly judgment. And, no offense ...''
Greer interjected, "None taken.''
LaBore continued, "... to anybody, but my observations in the larger community here (are) a lot of police need a lot more practice with judgment and I would hope that they're practicing their judgment a lot more than an hour a month, but I leave that up to you do to. If the board directs you to include the simulator, I would give you maximum urging for maximum judgment practice over there.''
"Thank you. I mean that's its intention ... What the simulator does is it creates an opportunity for a different type, a different style, a different approach to training ...,'' Greer said, adding the simulator allows an officer to interact with a computer-based program, providing a more realistic ap-proach to training.
"... The more realistic and judgmental that we can make the type of training, I think the better rounded our officers are. To me, that translates into a safer public,'' he said.