By Cecilia Chan GSN Managing Editor
Gilbert’s proposed Public Safety Training Facility is taking shape with proposed color schemes, landscaping, floor plans and lighting.
The Planning Commission recently gave input on the police and fire facility planned on 50 acres of town-owned land near Power and Pecos roads.
“I’m excited to see this come forward,” said Commissioner Brian Johns at the Oct. 3 study session.
But before any dirt can be turned, Gilbert needs voters to pass a $65.3 million bond in the Nov. 6 general election to help pay for the facility – estimated to cost $84.6 million.
If voters agree to tax themselves to pay off the debt, Gilbert property owners would see their secondary property tax raised to $1 from 99 cents of assessed value. That would mean a homeowner with a $250,000 home would pay $3 more a year, according to town officials.
The town will fund the remaining $19.6 million. Early voting kicked off Oct. 10 and ends Nov. 2.
Staff presented commissioners three color schemes for the administration building and the shooting range with commissioners favoring Scheme A, which included blue glass, grays and a reddish-color called purple hart.
Commissioner Greg Froehlich said Scheme A has more color and Johns said it continued the color theme of buildings at the town’s municipal complex.
Johns said the other two-color schemes – largely different shades of gray – resembled a prison’s.
Planner Nathan Williams noted the town has put out the three color palettes for a vote from the public, which ended Oct. 8.
The town did not share how many residents cast a vote and what color scheme was the most popular.
Town spokeswoman Jennifer Alvarez said the project team will present the final color choice to the Planning Commission Dec. 5.
The public safety facility also includes a driving training track and areas for K-9 training, hazardous materials training, classroom space and a five-story apartment tower for firefighters to practice simulated burns and police to practice rappelling skills.
Commissioners raised questions with the safety of the driving track, which would be located on the northern portion of the site near the 115-acre Desert Sky Park under construction.
Williams said the entire track would be fenced-in with no public access.
Police Commander Randy Brice added that concrete highway barriers would be placed at areas of the track where vehicles would turn. Also, the track would be recessed 13 to 15 feet below grade.
Brice said there are plans down the road to allow other government agencies to use the track and perhaps driver education course would be offered to the public for cost-recovery.
He said the public can only access the complex through the administration building and cameras would be mounted on the perimeter of buildings and at key locations.
If voters approve the measure next month, construction could begin as early as spring and would take two years to complete.
According to officials, the need for a public safety training facility was first identified in 2005 but the Great Recession put that plan on hold.
Since then, Gilbert has further grown both in size and population to where it is now the fourth largest municipality in the Valley.
From 2000 to 2018, Gilbert has more than doubled in population, from 109,697 to over 247,000 residents and projections are the town will see more than 80,000 new residents over the next decade.
The facility would help prepare the department to meet an expected large of public safety employees. Within the next seven years, approximately 85 percent of Gilbert’s firefighters and police officers will be eligible to retire, according to the town’s ballot language on the bond.
The town’s firefighters and cops currently travel to other training facilities in the Valley, which drives up training costs with fuel and overtime.
Continued dependency on other agencies’ training facilities is not be feasible for Gilbert as other agencies also are trying to meet their own public safety training needs.
Gilbert has made efforts to partner with surrounding jurisdictions but was unable to secure guaranteed long-term use of the necessary facilities.