WICHITA, Kansas – KSN has been investigating why the Heartland Preparedness Center in Wichita is not being used by the county and city.
Both the city and county kicked in nearly $4 million for infrastructure that they’re not using.
The Kansas National Guard is in, but the city and county remain out.
“We can make a more intelligent decision than spending what was in partnership with the city, originally, $30 million dollar investment,” says Sedgwick County Commissioner Dave Unruh. “The original idea was for several law enforcement agencies to partner and that’s totally changed now.”
Unruh says the price tag is still about $30 million for the city and county to build a building on the site for training cops and sheriff’s officers. He says a cost analysis should be considered for moving the training facility to Southeast High School.
“That building will soon be empty,” says Unruh. “And for seven or eight million we could have the building up to speed for joint training for city and county.”
Sheriff’s officers and police both gave KSN a tour of the old Law Enforcement Training Center at I-235 and North Meridian.
It appears to need some work.
“Well, the roof is in very bad shape,” says Captain Brent Allred with the Wichita Police Department. “And the boiler is just about shot. It’s already 20 to 25 years past its life expectancy. It if goes out, we are in real trouble. It could be $250,000 to replace that alone.”
Allred also shows busted pipes, a dark, cramped weight room for training and metal ceiling tiles that are falling down.
“We just can’t get parts for these ceilings anymore,” says Allred. “We rent this old building from Wichita (USD 259) schools, and they’ve done a great job of working with us on this finding parts. But it’s time for something different.”
Allred says a new, shiny facility would be nice. But, even if it’s not a new facility, he says something has to be done.
Sheriff’s officials agree.
“We back each other on calls. This is the quickest way we have to learn the same tactics, the same techniques,” says Lt. Mark Pierce with the Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Department. “We have to train together. It has to be a joint effort. But this building, yes, it needs work.”
“I would say this, I understand the economics of it, but we’re going to keep doing what we’re doing with what we have,” explains Pierce.
From asbestos tiles in the floor, to asbestos in the boiler room, there is a lot of remediation that would have to be done on the current old facility to make it work.
County commissioners say that proposed joint training facility with the Kansas National Guard is a great idea, but they just don’t like the price tag.
“We just have to do a better job of cost analysis,” says Unruh. “$30 million is just not a good use of taxpayer money.”
Unruh is quick to point out he does not speak for the entire commission, but says something has to be done.
“We need to find a spot, that is for sure,” says Unruh. “I don’t want to make this sound like I’m just pitching the idea of Southeast High School. But that’s definitely a possibility.”