- Report Published -
|Development of a Statewide Driver Training Facility|
|Department of Criminal Justice Services; Department of State Police; Department of Military Affairs|
|SJR 412 (Regular Session, 1999)|
|During the 1998 legislative session, the General Assembly directed the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC) to study the quality, consistency, and standardization of training offered by the state’s ten regional criminal justice academies. As a result of that study, JLARC determined there was a critical need for a facility to conduct comprehensive driver training for law enforcement personnel. Based on a recommendation in JLARC’s report, the 1999 General Assembly passed a resolution directing DCJS in conjunction with the Department of State Police (DSP) and the Department of Military Affairs (DMA) to study the feasibility of building a driver-training track at Fort Pickett.|
In order to facilitate this study, DCJS convened a committee consisting of representatives from DSP, DMA, the Office of the Attorney General, and the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). Also included on this committee were members of the consultant firms of K. W. Poore & Associates, Inc., planning consultants; and Dewberry & Davis, engineers. The committee addressed the following issues:
• Site selection and evaluation;
• The most effective and least costly method of property transfer;
• Facility design for maximum utilization;
• Potential use by state and local law enforcement;
• Cost for construction and ongoing operation;
• Facility management and operation; and
• Methods for financing the project.
Each of these issues will be summarized in seriatim.
Property selection was a result of a joint effort of the DSP, DMA, and DCJS with consultation by our contract engineers. After numerous alternatives were considered, three sites were chosen for evaluation: two at Fort Pickett, and one at Beaumont Juvenile Correction Center. The information on each site was presented to the Office of the Secretary of Public Safety (see Matrix in Appendix B). The ultimate site chosen was a tract in Area 40 at Fort Pickett.
This tract contains approximately 720 acres located on the southwestern edge of Fort Pickett on Ridge Road just off of State Route 46. This site was chosen because of its central location, lack of environmental problems, and its lack of impact on existing military training efforts. Additional information on the site selection is provided in the Study section of this report.
Because the property is owned by the federal government, the matter of property transfer to the Commonwealth becomes a critical issue. Initial efforts to incorporate the property in the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) process or the local Land Reuse Authority (LRA) were unsuccessful. As a result, the best option became transferring the property by special federal legislation. Because of his involvement with other Fort Pickett issues and as the representative from that area of the state, Congressman Norman Sisisky was approached to carry forward the needed legislation. Working in conjunction with Senator Warner’s office, Congressman Sisisky expects to have this legislation passed by October of 2000. DCJS and Military Affairs will assist in providing needed approval and documentation needed to effect this legislation.
Design and Construction Costs
The design of this facility was a result of a joint effort between DSP and DCJS. Utilizing previous plans from the previously proposed Elko Public Safety Complex, features from other states’ driver-training tracks, and input from driver-training instructors in the Commonwealth; preliminary plans were designed by the consulting firms of K. W. Poore & Associates, Inc., and Dewberry & Davis. This design is provided on the Proposed Site Development Plan map, Appendix C, with the illustrative plan drawing included in the Comprehensive Driver Training Study section of this report.
The facility is designed to provide maximum flexibility for multiple-station training. A minimum of six stations is required:
1. high-speed 1.5 – 2.0 mile oval track (to include interstate highways, secondary and primary roads, and dirt/gravel road surfaces);
2. 1,000’ x 1,500’ urban-response course;
3. 300’ x 300’ precise-skills course;
4. 200’ diameter skid-control area and a 400’ x 400’ skid-car area (both wet and dry surfaces);
5. off-road recovery area; and 900’ long serpentine course.
6. 4-wheel-drive 1.25 mile dirt road course through forested area.
NOTE: All dimensions are subject to change.
Additionally, the complex will include the following:
1. classroom/administration building, two-stories, 12,000 square feet; student parking, 75 – 100 spaces;**
2. observation/control tower;
3. covered parking for 20 – 25 vehicles;
4. maintenance garage (3-bay minimum), with gas and oil stations; storage facility;
5. housing and cafeteria facilities for 100 trainees;**
6. underground sprinklers for skid pan and one ¼-mile section of the high-speed track;
7. berms for noise abatement;
8. exterior lighting for course night-use;
9. staging areas, with parking for 20 cars along access roads; and covered observation stands; rest and bathroom shelters.
**Initial consideration was given to using existing buildings at Fort Pickett. However, after examination of available facilities on the track site. Additionally, the buildings would be located on state property and not subject to reclamation.
(Specifications and facility requirements are subject to change, pending additional input from subject matter experts and/or site design constraints.)
An Environmental Impact Review (EIR) and a Phase I Environmental Site Assessment (ESA) has been completed by the consulting firms and are referenced in Appendix H of the report. No significant environmental problems have been identified with the proposed development plan.
Based on surveys of certified criminal justice training academies, it is estimated that between 3,000 and 5,000 officers will be trained at this facility each year. Additionally, the facility will be opened to local emergency, rescue, and fire departments on the weekends as schedules permit. It is anticipated that training operations will be conducted seven days a week, 50 weeks per year.
Construction costs considered many factors including track utilization, state-of-the-art training design, site topography, and ancillary support functions to mention a few. The firms of K. W. Poore & Associates, Inc., and Dewberry & Davis assisted with the determination of these cost estimates. The preliminary findings are provided in Appendix D and the Comprehensive Driver Training Study section of this report.
In Biennium 2000-2001, Initial estimates indicate that first-year architectural and engineering costs will be approximately $850,000. Second-year Phase I construction will be approximately $12.7 million with Phase II construction being $2.6 million. Estimated operating cost including personnel is between $2.5 and $3 million.
Facility Management and Operation
From the inception, DCJS and State Police have worked as partners to ensure the successful completion of this project. As a result of the ongoing cooperation between these two agencies and the need to balance the training opportunities between State Police and local law enforcement academies, it is envisioned that the administration of the facility be conducted jointly between DCJS and DSP.
As a “statewide” driver-training facility, availability for local use must be assured. However, as DSP is the lead agency for traffic enforcement in the Commonwealth, they are considered to have a significant training need and will be a primary user of the facility. Therefore, it is the committee’s recommendation that DCJS be responsible for the overall administration of the “physical plant” operation and DSP handle the training operational function. Scheduling would be handled jointly by a DSP first sergeant and a DCJS training coordinator. Mutual cooperation between DCJS and DSP has been and will continue to be an essential element in the ongoing operation of this project.
Methods of Funding
One of the greatest challenges of this study was to address how to fund this project from both a construction cost and operational perspective. Many alternatives were considered and evaluated for political sensitivity, ease of implementation, and for dollars generated. Given the project scope, any funding source would be required to generate a fairly substantial amount of capital, but with as little a burden as possible on the citizens of the Commonwealth.
Eight options were explored, each having their own benefits and drawbacks. These options included utilizing General Fund monies; a charge-back to users; a special fee attachment to driver’s licenses; lottery profits; 599 Fund; court fines; a nominal fee assessment on automobile insurance premiums, and a fee attachment to vehicle registrations. After evaluating the pros and cons of each option and the amount of money each would generate, the committee recommended a combination of Option 1 (General Fund) and Option 7 (insurance assessment).
The initial funding for architectural/engineering design and planning will be a short-term expense, thus not necessitating a special funding situation. This first-year expense should be derived from the state’s General Fund. However, the more extensive costs for construction and operation would necessitate a larger ongoing resource.
Funding considerations indicated a large amount of revenue could be generated with very little citizen impact by assessing a .25 percent (1/4 of one percent) fee on automobile insurance premiums. This nominal assessment would generate almost seven million dollars. Because the percentage is so low, cost are virtually imperceptible. The committee felt that these two options generate the most revenue with the least amount of burden on the general public.
In general, the study has determined that the need for a comprehensive statewide driver-training facility is critical to the safety and well-being of not only law enforcement officers, but to the general public as well. At this time, the state has both the means and opportunity to move forward and begin to close the circle on quality law enforcement training in Virginia. The Fort Pickett site will provide all law enforcement officers with access to quality state-of-the-art training virtually unmatched in the country. By utilizing the strengths of both State Police and DCJS to manage this facility, the State can accomplish the level of quality and consistency needed in driver training. In addition, by implementing the funding options recommended, the financial impact on state government and the general population as a whole will be nominal. It is time for the state to take a leadership role and apply the resources needed to accomplish these goals.