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Opinion: I used to run the El Paso Fire Training Academy. Don’t build the new facility in the mountains

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By Alan G. Parsons

As information regarding the proposed site for the new combined training facility for the fire and police department has become available to the public, I have some strong opinions and ideas I want to express.

Alan G. Parsons

I am concerned about the further defacing of the Franklin Mountains as they stretch into and past beautiful Northeast El Paso. I am also concerned that not all available options were considered when determining where to properly locate the academy so that it will have minimal impact on the environment and no further adverse development on El Paso’s greatest visual attraction, the mountain in the middle of our great city.  

I feel the proposed site fails to take into account a fundamental tenet of building training facility in a setting that buffers it from residential development and commercial occupancies, where its presence could adversely impact property values. I concur wholeheartedly that both departments are in dire need of training facilities that meet the needs of a Class I ISO fire department and a top tier police department, but don’t think this is the ideal site.

The location of the city of El Paso’s planned police and fire training center. (Image courtesy of city of El Paso)

I am also aware that there was a time, 10 to 15 years ago, when there was discussion of building a regional training facility on airport property or perhaps even federal land somewhere off Loop 375. The idea was to serve the city police and fire departments, the Fort Bliss Fire Department and the El Paso Community College Firefighter Training program. It was to be a joint venture will all entities participating in financing the project. I am curious as to what happened with that potential plan.

Even if building a joint use facility with other governmental agencies is off the table, could building the new academy off Loop 375 still be considered in lieu of the site in Northeast El Paso, away from the mountain?

Also, ask if the current chiefs of their respective departments agree with this location. Even if the decision to build it in the Northeast part of town were to stand, there are numerous locations in the Northeast to consider that would not further scar the mountains and would buffer it from the residents that currently live directly south of the proposed area.

Alan G. Parsons walks with his dogs in the Franklin Mountains. (Photo courtesy of Alan G. Parsons)

Perhaps the location could be moved further north near the Jobe rock quarry, or near the vacated McCombs landfill. The city might also consider obtaining land off of Stan Roberts Sr. Avenue near the Newman power plant as well.

I ask the following:

  1. What were/are the properties that were identified and evaluated? Please share those locations with the public.
  2. Why not consider another location and preserve the Franklin Mountains for future generations?
  3. What major transportation thoroughfares were considered for the proposed site? Currently the only direct access to the proposed site would be through Martin Luther King Boulevard.
  4. In light of the city’s current underperforming utility and storm water infrastructure, what will be done to ensure the public that water runoff from fire training activities will not have a negative impact on the environment and the public?
  5. Wherever the combined training facility ends up being built, will it reflect the renderings being shown to the public or fall short as do many of the projects built by the city often do?

I would also be remiss if I fail to mention while discussing this proposed joint police/fire training academy that the relocation of the Fire Department fire apparatus maintenance and logistics facility as well as potentially other Fire Department facilities to the proposed location will only increase traffic flow to the area, which would also have a negative impact on the nearby residential community.

With all I have expressed, I firmly believe there is no reason to rush into building the training facility until all viable options are considered and shared with the public. I would offer that other options could and should be considered that would impact the public in a more positive way.

Alan G. Parsons retired from the El Paso Fire Department in 2011 after almost 30 years of service, including 10 years as director of the Fire Training Academy. He lives in Northeast El Paso, near the site of the proposed training facility.

Cover photo: Alan G. Parsons walks with his dogs in the Franklin Mountains. (Photo courtesy of Alan G. Parsons)

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