Round Rock officials propose facility to keep city safe

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by SHANNON MURRAY / KVUE NEWS and Photojournalist DENNIS THOMAS

Bio | Email | Follow: @ShannonM_KVUE

kvue.com

Posted on June 18, 2013 at 6:22 PM

Updated Tuesday, Jun 18 at 6:41 PM

ROUND ROCK, Texas -- Round Rock police and fire officials are asking voters to spring for a new multi-million dollar training facility. They say it will keep the growing city safe.

The city proudly holds the title of "the 2nd safest city in America."

"Love our police department, fire department. Just love them," said Round Rock resident Sommer Mckee.

As more people move to town, the city plans on keeping it that way.

"It's grown so much in the past few years," remarked another resident Annette Santiago.

"As the city and the area grows, crime will grow with it," said Round Rock Police Department Training Sgt. Sean Johnson. "We know that's going to happen, and we have to be prepared for that."

One way the first responders prepare is through high-risk training.

"That encompasses things we don't typically deal with on a day-to-day basis," Sgt. Johnson explained. "But those are the things that get us injured or killed most often."

The large-scale scenarios are practiced outside of the city four times a year, often in Fort Hood or San Marcos.

"We're at the mercy of their schedule to be able to use the facility," said Sgt. Johnson.

Now Round Rock officials are proposing something a little closer to home. A new joint training facility would sit on 72 acres of land behind the police department on North Mays Street.

"By keeping our resources in our city if something high-risk occurs, and we need to take them immediately right then and there, they can drop out of training, respond to the situation, and they can always go back," said Sgt. Johnson.

"I think it's a good idea because they'll be here training instead of going somewhere else further away," Santiago said.

While there's no doubt safety is a priority for most Round Rock residents, it's the multi-million dollar price tag that has some on the fence.

"Seems like a lot of tax dollars to me," added Mckee.

The training facility would cost more than $38.3 million, but the City says in the long run they would save money, since the first responders wouldn't have to travel for training. The departments already spend more than $600,000 every year on training outside of Round Rock.

"We already have reoccurring costs for travel, for overtime, for hotels, for per diem," said Sgt. Johnson.

Ultimately, Sgt. Johnson believes no matter what the cost is, it's worth it.

"Yea it's an investment up front. It's an investment in the future of the police department. It's an investment in the future of public safety altogether," he said. "If a training facility like this can save an officer's life, how do you actually put a cost on that?"

They're hoping for a bond proposal on the November ballot, giving voters the final say.

The City of Austin has a joint training facility already, but Sgt. Johnson says it's typically in use by Austin first responders so training there isn't an option.

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