By: Marisa Herman Associate Editor
Delray Beach will soon be able to train its firefighters and paramedics at home, inside the city’s limits.
In a 4-1 vote, with Commissioner Shelly Petrolia dissenting, commissioners approved spending $2.9 million to purchase land at 15 SE 10th St. to be used as a training facility for the Fire Rescue Department.
Currently, the city pays to send its employees outside of the city to maintain training requirements and certifications. Delray personnel can be called to any facility that has an opening.
Because those facilities can be located in northern Palm Beach County or even Broward County, fire chief Neal de Jesus said the department’s response times to emergency phone calls increases.
“We are already challenged to cover calls for service and we are sending [units] out of the city for training,” de Jesus said. “Regardless of the cost to provide our own training center, my recommendation as your fire chief would be that we have a training center so we can provide a level of service that residents of this community expect and demand. We can’t continue to roll the dice.”
Commissioner Petrolia said she had concerns with the cost of the land and the proximity to the Osceola Park neighborhood.
Mayor Cary Glickstein said the training center has been a priority for the city for the past three years and there is no perfect location for the facility.
“This whole conversation about public safety starts and ends with life and death,” he said. “Our response times are far too high because we are sending personnel and equipment out of this city. There is no location in this city that isn’t going to have ramifications for a training center.”
With a training center of its own, de Jesus said the department can control what units train when and if they need to be called in to assist, they are already located within city limits.
The 2.5 acre site already has two buildings that can be used for classrooms, offices and storage. The department would build a fire tower for fire suppression training.
He said it will take a while before the facility receives the certifications it needs to invite other departments to train there. But once that happens, he said the city can charge other departments to use the space training. He said the city’s would be modeled off of the training facility in Coral Springs.
“This isn’t predicated on making a profit,” he said. “I have a responsibly for the health, safety and welfare for those we serve. If this didn’t generate a dime my recommendation would be to still move forward.”