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City, county move forward with early design work on range and fire training facility

Auburn police officers practiced their shooting skills for years on the outdoor range on 15th Street Northwest at the base of the West Hill.

But as development crept closer, residents started to complain about the noise.

Auburn is not the only city grappling with the central problem: keeping police skills sharp even as governments across the region place greater and greater limits on existing outdoor ranges. Some places are losing their ranges, or they are being restricted.

At the same time, the Valley Regional Fire Authority, which has a facility for firefighter training, wants to expand what it has into a site where it can store hazardous materials, for example seized firecrackers, complete with the vessels necessary to burn them at high temperatures.

The City's Municipal Services Committee on Monday passed along to the full city council for its approval a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between King County and Auburn for money to proceed with early design work for just such a new training facility.

King County and the City of Auburn will contribute $35,000 each toward this early stage.

"It's very preliminary," said Auburn Police Chief Bob Lee.

The site is City-owned property at the GSA Region 10 facility on 15th Street Southwest. The City has been casting a wide net to determine potential regional partners willing to pool resources.

At this early stage, the VRFA is not contributing, but as the project progresses, it will.

"The Valley Regional Fire Authority is very interested in additional training facilities, and very supportive," said Carolyn Robertson, government relations manager for the City of Auburn. "Because of the estimated costs, and that we were able to get half from the King County Sheriff's office, we didn't feel it was necessary to make sure that they paid a contribution at this particular time."

Robertson added that any additional contracts will certainly have numerous parties.

That will be necessary for a project with an estimated $20 million pricetag.

"We have almost no latitude whatsoever in any single bolt, screw or nut that goes into this place," said Mayor Pete Lewis. "The major cost is the facility itself ... We have the Clean Air Standard because there's lead in the air, literally. That's the kind of stuff that's really adding to the cost of it."

"This is just to get the design on the table," Councilman Bill Peloza said of the MOU.

Fifty-seven law enforcement agencies are first responders to all criminal events and natural and man-made disasters affecting the citizens of King and Pierce County. The training mandates that officers must meet are extensive, performance based and demand specific resources to meet the performance objectives.

Auburn police play a vital role as a regional service provider by participating on the Valley Special Weapons and Tactics Team (SWAT), the Valley Crisis Communications Unit (VCCU) the Valley Civil Disturbance Unit (VCDU) the Tacoma Narcotics Enforcement Team and the Valley Narcotics Enforcement Team. The proposal range would provide a facility to be used to conduct on-going training for SWAT, VCCU, VCDU, law enforcement officer weapons qualifications and defensive tactics training and tactical training.

The proposed facility would be equipped with:

• Indoor firearms ranges for up to 100 yards, which could include public access and use

• Live-fire training house with moveable partitions for scenario-based training

• Classrooms offering the latest in audio-video training technology

• Vehicle access for vehicular assault training.

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