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Public-safety training facility being discussed for Renton property

| Wednesday, June 26, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Plum officials are eyeing multiple public-safety-related uses for the borough-owned property in Renton.

Plans are taking shape for a building to house a new fire station for the Renton Volunteer Fire Department and a new base for Plum Emergency Medical Service (EMS).

Officials also are discussing the possibility of building a public-safety training facility at the site — between Renton and Old Leechburg roads — which is the new home of the public-works facility. Plum's fire departments, EMS and police would use the facility.

Manager Michael Thomas said borough officials and members of the Plum Fire Chiefs Association have talked about a project that could include an outdoor training area that would include fire hydrants for training drills, an indoor training facility with conference rooms and a burn building.

Thomas said there is no funding in place for a proposed training facility, unlike an anticipated $1.6 million officials plan to use from refinancing a $7 million bond to build a new fire station and EMS building on the property. The Renton Volunteer Fire Department and Plum EMS would be responsible for paying about half the $55,000 increase in the borough's total annual debt payment. The two also would be required to reimburse the borough for the cost of the building.

“We can accomplish (a training facility), but not as part of ($7 million) bond issue — not in 2014,” Thomas said. “It wouldn't be adjacent to the Renton (fire station) and EMS station. There are other areas on the property to do it. We can and will look into the feasibility.”

Thomas also said the addition of a training facility potentially could lower residents' homeowners' insurance rates.

“One factor (in rates) is training programs and the availability of training opportunities for the fire companies,” Thomas said.

Thomas said he has no estimate of the cost of such a facility or how it would be financed.

Logans Ferry Heights Volunteer Fire Department Chief Ray Brenner said he is pleased with the proposal.

“We always support anything that would benefit the borough and help train and serve our personnel,” Brenner said. “We are still evaluating how we would utilize such a facility.”

Unity Volunteer Fire Department Chief Jeff Currie said Plum's volunteers would benefit from a training facility.

Currie said volunteers train at schools but typically cannot enter the buildings. They also at times train at Monroeville's training center and at the Allegheny County Fire Academy at North Park.

“It would be nice to have a dedicated facility,” Currie said.Renton Volunteer Fire Department Assistant Chief David Bender, who also is a paramedic for Plum EMS, said a training facility would provide “endless opportunities.”

“We don't always get a building we can safely and efficiently train in on a regular basis,” Bender said.

Holiday Park Volunteer Fire Chief Larry Glass also endorses the project as separate from the fire station/EMS building.

“It would have separate off-street access and entrance to ensure its own identity,” Glass said.

Karen Zapf is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8753, or kzapf@tribweb.com.

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