TONOPAH — Nye County Commissioners voted 4-1 to allocate $401,600 for a sheriff’s department Simunitions House training facility.
Commissioner Frank Carbone cast the sole vote against.
County Commissioner Dan Schinhofen said he received a lot of calls about the project. He asked Sheriff Tony DeMeo to explain newspaper accounts it was his paintball course.
“It’s a lot more than that. Basically what it does is allows us to establish realistic scenarios in order for us to be in compliance with, that are already established Supreme Court case law regarding realistic training,” DeMeo said.
DeMeo said deputies would use military-grade paintball equipment. The cost of the ammunition would be six cents, much cheaper than 75 cents for other types of equipment, he said.
The rooms can be rearranged to allow law enforcement agencies to set up different scenarios, entering a family dispute, hostage situations, a school, store or other building, DeMeo said. It will train deputies to use simulated guns and simulated situations to be better at protecting the public, he said.
Fire departments and emergency services can also use the facility, the sheriff said.
Assistant Sheriff Rick Marshall assured Carbone public works didn’t need to look at the plans, the county planning department already reviewed drainage and water issues. The facility will be powered by a generator.
Marshall told Carbone the sheriff’s department wouldn’t have to pay more for more training with the new facility.
Commissioner Butch Borasky asked if the sheriff’s department had money in their budget to pay for permits and inspections required by county code, Marshall said there was.
Commissioner Lorinda Wichman had problems with the scope of work not being included in the backup material, a contract that said the project shall be governed by the laws of the state of Utah and quotes in the original backup material that didn’t match the agenda item.
District Attorney Brian Kunzi said the contract was changed in response to commissioner’s comments at the last meeting, and clarified who was responsible for site preparation.
“Sheriff DeMeo says we need to do these things because it’s kind of mandated by law, etc. That means apparently we haven’t been doing this up to standards at this point?” Commissioner Donna Cox asked.
Marshall said the sheriff’s department had been using a school district house which has since been sold. DeMeo said they were limited in what they could do inside a building that belongs to somebody else.
“Part of the court cases deal with realistic training. You have to provide realistic training to your officers to be able to defend those cases later in court and without those buildings we’re not able to simulate training,” Marshall said.
Cox asked about the Front Sight Firearms Training Center, which has offered to allow the sheriff’s department free use of their facilities. Marshall said it would cost travel time for deputies to travel there, DeMeo said they’d also have to go by their schedule. Likewise, DeMeo said traveling to Las Vegas to use their facilities would take two hours of a deputy’s travel time each way.
Cox asked if the money, which comes from impact fee money paid by developers, could be used to help pay off the jail bonds instead. DeMeo said no. The county collected $137 from the construction of every single-family residence in impact fees for the sheriff’s department from the time of the enactment of the impact fee ordinance in 2005 until a two-year moratorium took effect Jan. 1, 2011. That moratorium expired as of Jan. 1.
Cox couldn’t understand why the county isn’t requiring electrical hookups. Marshall said that would be very expensive, but Nye County Emergency Service Director Vance Payne has a long-term plan to bring power to the facility.
Cox also asked about using laser tag instead of paintball. Marshall said purchasing laser guns would be an additional cost, whereby they have the equipment for the simunitions training.
Cox also wanted assurances there wouldn’t be requests for more money for cost overruns. “As far as the sheriff going back for more money, we’re not coming back, saying there is a cost overrun,” Marshall said.
County Manager Pam Webster had a concern about the payment schedule. The county will pay 90 percent of the cost before anything is assembled, only the earth work would be done, she said.
Schinhofen was an advocate for the project.
“I don’t want this money going back to the developer,” Schinhofen said. “I think this will work out good for the training that needs to be done.”
“You’re spending money like it’s going out of style again. Why isn’t this put out for bid? Just like the parking lot they built to park their impound vehicles on, these things are not put out for bid, then we pay for the cost overruns,” resident Frank Wilson asked. “I don’t think we’re smart enough to write a contract to avoid cost overruns.”
He added, “who’s going to be responsible when one of our cops out there, playing with a paintball gun, gets hit in the eye? He’s going to sue the county.”
DeMeo said his deputies are already doing force-on-force training and there’s safety equipment already for their protection.
Wilson said he talked to retired law enforcement officers who went through training and said there were virtual programs that could be set up.
“We have one of the most advanced virtual training in the State of Nevada. The problem with that is, it’s static. You’re watching scenarios develop around you,” DeMeo said. “The idea behind this is doing force-on-force training without anyone having the ability to come behind you with live fire.”
The sheriff added there’s only three companies in the U.S. that erect these type of facilities. Kunzi said he was concerned over the lack of going out for bids from the beginning, he said the county is piggybacking on another bid for a General Services Administration contractor, that was requested by another agency.
Wilson said under state law, the facility as defined can’t be used by more than one police station. Wichman said the Nye County Sheriff’s Department covers the entire county.
The Simunitions Training Facility will be located on 40 acres the county owns at 2871 E. Mesquite Ave. In April 2010 county commissioners without comment approved a request by former Commissioner Gary Hollis to spend $293,705 on a multi-purpose emergency responder training facility on 10 acres for the fire department, sheriff’s department, EMS, search and rescue teams, even animal control. That facility includes rappelling from a tower, an all-terrain vehicle course and a tactical building unit with a maze to replicate hotels, motels or apartments for SWAT team training.
DeMeo said it’s a small building, only about 8-feet by 40-feet, that is used primarily for fire training.