BENTONVILLE -- Work has started on a new fire training facility, a city official said.
Bentonville is the only city in Northwest Arkansas without its own training facilities for emergency personnel, according to the city.
The fire training center will take up a little more than 2 acres on Southwest Aviation Drive. The center will be next to the city Public Works and Maintenance building. The Bentonville Municipal Airport is across the street.
The City Council in October approved three contracts in connection with the project: $150,000 with Jackson Brown Palculict Architects, $40,500 with Morrison Shipley for the civil engineering services and an agreement with Clinard Construction for preconstruction and phase one construction work, which includes geotechnical, grading and dirt work for $70,000, according to council documents.
Plans are being submitted to the city by the project's civil engineer, and the construction manager is working on a cost analysis, Fire Chief Brent Boydston said.
The training building has been purchased with a delivery date of this summer, Boydston said. The building will come mostly preconstructed.
The 7,860-square-foot, five-story fire training/burn building would increase firefighter safety during training, provide training flexibility and consistency, meet regulatory standards and reduce environmental impact, according to the city. The facility also would provide the ability to train personnel on high-risk, low-frequency events and improve firefighter safety during fire training.
Smoke would be generated using a theatrical smoke system that's Environmental Protection Agency-compliant with no harmful effects to the environment or firefighters, according to information from the city.
The department completed 45,598 hours of training in 2021, of which 65% (30,496 hours) was specifically done in fire training, said Joey Bequette, division chief/training officer. The department has 102 firefighters who work three shifts, Bequette said.
"Our new training facility will allow us to meet training needs that we currently do not have on site, that as of now we are having to send personnel to other sites to accomplish certain courses," Bequette said. "However, the new training facility will not cover every training avenue or outlet that we use, as some classes or courses are only offered at certain facilities across the country. The new training facility will allow us to train more efficiently and safely, while providing us with expanded capabilities for training scenarios that we might encounter in the field."
The $3.9 million fire training center was part of the city's $266 million bond plan for capital projects and bond refinancing voters approved in April. The city will pay for the bonds by extending a 1-cent sales tax originally approved in 2003.
Police training center
Also in the works this year is a Police Department training center approved as part of the April bond issue. The cost is $1.65 million.
The facility will be built on 20 acres of city land near the Bentonville armory, just off Regional Airport Road.
Work has started on design of the property, said Debbie Griffin, director of city administration. Completion of the entire project is expected in the fall.
The City Council at its July 27 meeting approved a bid waiver to purchase VirTra's proprietary interactive virtual simulator training system, complete with equipment, installation, software and training. The city will receive the VirTra V-300. The cost was $233,377. VirTra is based in Tempe, Ariz.
The system helps prepare officers for real-life incidents. Each real-world, deescalation and judgmental use of force training simulator has realistic scenarios that provide an in-depth look into human performance. This will allow officers to use all tools available during simulation, which may be limited or unable to duplicate on just a live-fire range, according to information from the the city.
The city is still waiting for the equipment, said Cpl. Adam McInnis, department public information officer.
"Like many other things in our economy currently, there has been one piece of this simulator that has been on back order due to the supply chain," he said. "We have been in contact with the company and are expecting the simulator to be delivered later this month."
The department has budgeted for 92 officers this year, up from 84 last year, McInnis said.
The police training facility also will include a virtual, live outdoor range, a K-9 training area and a training building used to house range equipment. It also would be used as a bomb squad/special response team training area. The bomb squad covers Northwest Arkansas and into Missouri.
"Both facilities will make training more efficient and effective, and its schedule will be more flexible and easier to prepare, with less travel and planning times, greatly improving the operability of both departments, for the benefit of all residents of Bentonville," council member Octavio Sanchez said.