Grand Forks seeks space for rail-disaster training
The city of Grand Forks is seeking more space for emergency responders to train for rail disasters, and it's looking at city-owned land in the Industrial Park. The 10-acre parcel in the Industrial Park is owned by the city's Jobs Development Auth...
The city of Grand Forks is seeking more space for emergency responders to train for rail disasters, and it’s looking at city-owned land in the Industrial Park.
The 10-acre parcel in the Industrial Park is owned by the city’s Jobs Development Authority. On Tuesday, the JDA’s Growth Fund Committee recommended the group transfer the land to the city’s Public Safety Center, used to train firefighters and police.
The city is also pursuing a partnership with BNSF Railway on the project. The railroad company could provide training and expended rail cars for use as props.
Typically JDA land and money are used for economic development, but city staff told the committee the 10 acres is of limited interest to businesses, in part because of poor rail access.
Brad Gengler, director of Planning and Community Development, said the land would likely be best used by the Public Safety Center, which doesn’t have any other immediate options for expansion.
The idea of expanding the center into a regional emergency training center was inspired by recent discussions about rail safety as oil is increasingly transported by trains, some of which have derailed and resulted in explosions. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., has told city officials federal funding may become available for such projects.
City Administrator Todd Feland said BNSF has expressed interest in providing training if a site is ready and if entities from around the region are there to be trained.
“They don’t want redundant training,” he said.
Before the Growth Fund Committee recommended transferring the land to the Public Safety Center, committee member Dwight Thompson asked if the city was eyeing any other Growth Fund land, because, he reiterated, the land is supposed to be used for economic development.
Feland said the land discussed Tuesday is “the final piece the city would look at” for the foreseeable future.
City Council President Dana Sande, who also sits on the Growth Fund Committee, inquired about the expanded emergency training, including what kind of training it would provide and if the city would make money from other entities using the center for training.
Gengler said most of those details haven’t been completely figured out yet.
City Attorney Howard Swanson added that in current city law, any revenue from the center would go to the city’s general fund.
Other partners being pursued in the emergency training center project are Grand Forks County and Grand Forks Air Force Base.
The JDA, which is owned by the city but is not a part of city government, must still agree to transfer the land to the city.