PLATTSBURGH - Firefighters will have a new place to train for real-world emergency situations when the construction of a new training tower is complete.
Representatives from the Clinton County Office of Emergency Services and local elected officials were on hand June 4 for a groundbreaking ceremony for the tower on Emergency Services Drive.
According to Eric Day, director of the county Office of Emergency Services, the construction of the tower has been under discussion for the past seven years, starting with his predecessor, Jim King. It wasn't until about three years ago, however, serious plans were made to make the tower a reality.
"Since then, there's been serious planning and examining securing funding," said Day.
In the end, the county's Board of Legislators stepped up to the plate to fund the approximately $650,000 project. But, it didn't come easy.
During the groundbreaking ceremony, Legislator Keith Defayette, R-Area 5, was credited by Legislature chairman James R. Langley Jr., R-Area 7, for his dedication to seeing the project through.
"Keith Defayette couldn't make it here today but he really pushed for this," said Langley, who said the biggest hurdle was budgeting the money.
"We don't spend every nickel we have, so we don't have a whole lot of debt," he said. "We were able to pay down what debt we had and set money aside. That's what's brought us to today."
"This is something you've earned and something that is definitely an appreciation from the legislature and the taxpayers to the fire service," Legislator Robert W. Butler, R-Area 6, told the firefighters in the crowd. "We know [volunteer] numbers are down and we know you travel all over the state of New York for training. You shouldn't have to do that as much any more."
The structure, said Day, will actually consist of a one-story room for simulated fires and an adjacent two-story tower for search and rescue training.
Construction is expected to be complete by September. Once the structure has been safety-tested, fire departments and even law enforcement agencies like the Clinton County Sheriff's Department and the Plattsburgh Police Department will be able to utilize the tower for training.