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City Council approves $9.6M land buy for new police and fire training facility

After more than three hours of debate,  City Council’s Committee on Housing and Real Estate authorized, on Nov. 3, the payment of $9.6 million for the 30.4 acres of land at 4301 W. Chicago Ave. where a $95 million public safety training campus will be constructed.

Funding for the land will be sourced from the surrounding tax-increment financing district while construction of the two-building campus, proposed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel , will be financed by the sale of  the following: $20 million from a North Side fleet maintenance facility, $5 million from a River North fire station, and $23 million from existing police and fire facilities.

As for the remaining $37 million, the city will work with the Chicago Infrastructure Trust to close the budget gap. Commissioner David Reynolds of Fleet and Facilities Management said they are considering securing a straight loan, a lease buy-back agreement, or “to pay for it ourselves” by issuing government bonds.

Council member Ameya Pawar opposed the lease-buyback option, arguing, “Chicago should always maintain ownership of its assets, particularly those used for police and fire training.”

Pawar also pointed out how the Fraternal Order of Police condemned a U.S. Justice Department report that found Chicago Police officers are lacking in training, supervision and discipline. “It’s hard for me to stomach spending $95 million when our negotiating partner doesn’t believe a problem exists,” Pawar said.

On the other hand, aldermen Walter Burnett and Emma Mitts believe the new facility will benefit the West Side in terms of economy and public safety. “As I go through the community, that’s one thing I’ve heard: ‘We don’t feel safe to come out of our homes.’ I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that having this academy is gonna put more police presence in the neighborhood,” Mitts said.

The new facility will replace the existing police training academy built in 1976 at 1300 W. Jackson Blvd.; the fire prevention training facility built in 1950 at 1010 St. Clinton St.; and the Fire Academy South built in 1965 at 1338 S. Clinton St. Construction is scheduled to commence in 2018 and is expected to be completed after two years.

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